GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox prospect Tyler Danish has drawn comparisons to Jake Peavy, in that he features a fastball with some sink and a good slider while throwing from a three-quarters arm angle.
But in talking with Danish for about six minutes at Camelback Ranch, it's apparent there's more to the Peavy comparison than just in what Danish throws.
The word "bulldog" was thrown around quite a bit to describe Peavy, and since it started with an off-the-cuff Ozzie Guillen remark it eventually morphed into somewhat of a joke. But Danish embodies that bulldog nature — this is a second-round draft pick out of high school blessed with an arm about 99 percent of prep ballplayers wish they had. And yet, he has an edge to him, a competitiveness that relishes being an underdog.
"I'm sure there's going to be doubters every time I step on the mound just because I've heard it since I was in high school," Danish said outside the minor league clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. "But this year, I got a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong, that I can do what the White Sox want me to do on the mound."
Danish has heard the detractors, the scouts and analysts who say he doesn't have the body type or arm action to be a starting pitcher. But the White Sox think he can do it, and plan to start him at Single-A Kannapolis and have him throw about 100 innings this season. The Sox love his low-90's fastball that has some good sink to it and his plus slider, as well as a changeup that's still coming along.
A former shortstop, Danish is a gifted athlete. White Sox director of player development Nick Capra raves about his pickoff move and ability to field his position. But going back to the Peavy comparison, Capra similarly likes how Danish marries that competitive streak with composure on the mound.
"For being that young, he's got a lot of poise," Capra said. "He has a plan when he takes the mound, he executes his plan pretty well. For a young kid that locates his pitches as well as he does, it's impressive."
Danish's three-quarters delivery is the product of his days as a shortstop. He didn't always pitch like that — until he was 14, Danish said he threw over the top pitching in little league — but when he moved from shortstop to pitcher his sophomore year of high school, he brought a shortstop's throwing motion to the mound.
It worked pretty well, giving Danish that sink on his fastball. In fact, he was so good his senior year of high school that he didn't allow a single earned run in 94 innings.
Danish held scholarship offers from plenty of high-profile college baseball programs. But the opportunity with the White Sox (as well as a signing bonus over $1 million) was too good to pass up. Plus, Danish said being able to concentrate only on baseball has been a boon for his development.
"It's definitely easier now that I just have to focus on one thing instead of focusing on baseball and school, trying to get into college," Danish said. "Now I focus on one thing, and in my spare time I just enjoy being with all the guys. It's a great organization, we got great guys, enjoying offseason with family and enjoying every single moment since I know a lot of people wish they could be in shoes and dreams of being a minor league baseball player. I'm just enjoying every minute that I have."
Danish is soaking everything in during his first spring training, and certainly recognizes the opportunity in front of him. He worked all offseason on developing his changeup, which may be the biggest key to him sticking as a starting pitcher.
Heading into his first full season as a pro, Danish has absorbed all the positive and negative comments. He wants to prove his doubters wrong, but he also wants to prove the White Sox right. And sure, just about every professional athlete has a competitive streak — but there's something different about the one Danish has. It's innate.
"In school, my mom used to tell me when I was younger I would try to finish my tests as fast as possible so I'd be the first one done," Danish said. "I think it's just, I was born with the competitiveness."