Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis left-handed relievers

Vision quest: Jacob Lindgren made huge inroads in his goal to return to the majors. Will he be able to complete the journey in 2020? (@WSDashBaseball)

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

The Winston-Salem southpaw bullpen arms are especially interesting — especially Andrew Perez and Jacob Lindgren. While Perez should begin next year with Birmingham, Lindgren could move up the ladder even more quickly, with perhaps an outside shot for the White Sox to begin the 2020 season.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020

Winston-Salem Dash

Andrew Perez
196 pounds
Age: 22

Perez, after a typically unsuccessful freshman season, excelled out of the pen for the University of South Florida during his sophomore and junior years. As a junior for the Bulls, he posted a 2.34 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 24 relief appearances. In his 42 innings, he surrendered just 37 hits (.233 OBA) and 12 walks (6.9%) while striking out 50 (28.6%). As a result, the White Sox selected Perez in the eighth round of the 2018 draft.

As an encore with Great Falls and Kannapolis after the draft, he combined with both teams for a 2.59 ERA and 1.18 WHIP by allowing 24 hits (.214 OBA) and 13 walks (9.8%) while striking out 31 in 31 1/3 innings (23.3%).

This year saw Perez split his time nearly evenly between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. While his numbers were good throughout, he gave up more hits with the Intimidators but relinquished more free passes with the Dash. Combined with both teams in 41 relief appearances spanning 67 1/3 innings, Perez posted a 1.74 ERA and 1.37 WHIP by allowing 63 hits (.239 OBA) and 29 walks (9.8%) while fanning 86 (29.0%). Perez actually fared better against righties (.230 OBA) as opposed to lefties (.265 OBA).

Perez features a 95 mph heater according to Baseball America, along with a slurvy breaking ball. Perez seems primed to begin next season with Double-A Birmingham.

Jacob Lindgren
210 pounds
Age: 27

Lindgren, a starter during his sophomore season with Mississippi State, was converted to the bullpen during his junior season in 2014 with spectacular results. In 26 appearances for the Bulldogs that year covering 55 innings, Lindgren compiled an incredible 0.81 ERA and 0.87 WHIP by surrendering just 23 hits (.124 OBA) and 25 walks (10.7%) while fanning 100 (44.6%). It was no surprise with those kinds of results that he was selected the second round by the New York Yankees in the 2014 draft. Lindgren quickly worked his way up to Double-A Trenton before the end of the year, as he excelled at each of his four stops.

After a great start to begin the 2015 season, Lindgren earned a call-up to the majors and posted a 5.14 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in seven games that year, with stops on the injured list due to a bone spur and subsequent rehab games in the minors in-between. He recovered from the bone spur surgery in order to come back to start his recovery in High-A, but while his ERA looked fine, Lindgren struggled to locate, even in spring training. After taking time off the hill, he ended up needing Tommy John surgery, effectively ending his 2017 as well. In his six appearances in the Florida State League, he threw seven innings with a 2.57 ERA and 1.29 WHIP but with an uncharacteristically high walk ratio.

The Atlanta Braves signed him on Dec. 4, 2016 with the hopes of his potential availability for 2018. Unfortunately for Lindgren and the Braves, he underwent a second Tommy John surgery on March 29, 2018 and missed the entire season. Lindgren signed a minor league contract with the White Sox on January of this year and finally was healthy enough to pitch in some games in June.

If you exclude his games with the AZL White Sox when he was shaking off more than three years of rust, Lindgren looked exceptionally sharp. In his work with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem this year, which amounted to 15 games and 21 innings, Lindgren combined to post a 1.29 ERA and 1.09 WHIP by allowing 19 hits (.247 OBA) and five walks (5.7%) while striking out 20 (23.0%).

Lindgren’s repertoire includes a fastball-slider mix. His fastball pre-surgeries registered as high as 98 mph but is likely a tick or two slower now. His slider is arguably an even more effective pitch than his fastball and was ultimately graded at 60 by FanGraphs. It works well, as it offers a nice change-of-speed in comparison to that hard fastball.

Because of his major league experience, Lindgren isn’t eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The White Sox will either need to re-sign Lindgren to a major league deal or, more likely, re-sign him to a minor league deal in order to prevent losing him via free agency. If he’s healthy, Lindgren could be seen as a darkhorse candidate to begin with the White Sox on Opening Day (provided he has a great spring). If Lindgren doesn’t make the White Sox on Opening Day, he may begin the season with either Birmingham or Charlotte depending upon their roster needs.

Kevin Escorcia
170 pounds
Age: 25

Escorcia, a native of Colombia, has taken the slow arduous journey through the White Sox minor league system since signing a minor league contract back in January 2013. His first two seasons were spent with the DSL squad, his third with the AZL team and his fourth with Great Falls. Finally in his fifth year of ball in 2017, he got a full-season call with Kannapolis, and did reasonably well with a 4.14 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 42 relief appearances.

Escorcia had perhaps his best season of full-season ball last year when he repeated Kannapolis. In 27 games totaling 44 innings for the Intimidators in 2018, he posted a 2.66 ERA and 1.32 WHIP by ceding 39 hits (.238 OBA) and 19 walks (10.1%) while striking out 62 (33.0%). Escorcia struggled out of the gate this year with Winston-Salem, and despite good results once the calendar hit June, posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.67 WHIP by relinquishing 38 hits (.286 OBA) and 21 walks (13.2%) while fanning 37 over 35 1/3 innings (23.3%). After May 1, however, his numbers were far better (1.86 ERA, 1.50 WHIP).

According to FutureSox, Escorcia’s fastball tops at 92 mph but typically runs 89-90. Other pitches in his repertoire include a 79-81 mph slider with a late break and a mid-70s curveball with a serious break that may be his best pitch. It’s interesting to note that in his seven years in the organization (2013-19), Escorcia has only pitched for one team in each of those years. It seems likely that Escorcia begins 2020 with Birmingham, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he returns to Winston-Salem. He will eliigble for selection in this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Kannapolis Intimidators

Tyler Watson
200 pounds
Age: 26

Watson began his college career with the University of Kansas, but transferred to McClennan CC after only pitching three innings during his freshman year with the Jayhawks. Although he enjoyed a good strikeout-to-walk ratio (4:1) with McClennan, Watson simply gave up too many hits. As a result, he only posted a 5.09 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 13 relief outings (23 innings) by relinquishing 31 hits and six walks while striking out 24. The Angels saw enough potential in Watson to select him in the 38th round of the 2014 draft.

Watson got as high as Single-A Burlington through 2016, but was released and subsequently signed by the Seattle Mariners in early 2017. He pitched just over a year in the Mariners organization until he was released and later signed by the Braves in early 2018. Then, in September of that year, Atlanta traded him to the White Sox for cash considerations.

Aside from one emergency appearance with Charlotte in 2018, Watson hasn’t pitched any higher than the High-A level. In 10 outings this year with Kannapolis spanning 13 2/3 innings, Watson posted a 9.88 ERA and 1.69 WHIP (his FIP was much kinder at 5.17) by surrendering 16 hits (.286 OBA) and seven walks (10.0%) while fanning 13 (18.6%). Watson was placed on the temporarily inactive list on July 12 and didn’t return. If he returns to the White Sox organization, he’s likely just organizational depth for Kannapolis. He is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft, but won’t be selected.

3 thoughts on “Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis left-handed relievers

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