Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham left-handed relievers

Leaning in: Bennett Sousa, in just his first full season, already reached Birmingham. What will 2020 have in store for him? (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)

“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

There are some major league (and experienced) arms at Charlotte, but the two most enticing southpaws in the White Sox system may reside in Birmingham.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020

Charlotte Knights

Caleb Frare
210 pounds
Age: 26

After Frare dominated his Montana varsity team, the New York Yankees selected him in the 11th round of the 2012 draft. After a solid campaign with the Yankees rookie league squad, Frare underwent Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the 2013 and 2014 campaigns.

After a good start for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs in 2015, Frare was promoted to High-A in Tampa, where he struggled in seven outings (5.59 ERA, 2.07 WHIP). The following year, Frare returned to Tampa, where he dominated with an ERA of 0.92 and WHIP of 1.14 while allowing just 33 hits and 23 walks in 49 innings of relief work.

While Frare’s control was mediocre to that point in his career, it really tailed off in 2017 for Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Frare struck 78 hitters in 62 23 combined innings, for a nifty 28.6 K%; however, he walked 52, for an atrocious 19.0 BB%. Despite having a 1.60 WHIP that year, his combined ERA was surprisingly low at 4.02 (which likely was the result of a solid bullpen).

The 2018 season was entirely different for Frare. In 43 23 innings for Trenton, Frare enjoyed a 0.62 ERA/0.92 WHIP/33.7 K% by striking out 57 hitters while only allowing 25 hits and 15 walks. This earned him a promotion earlier to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he pitched in just one game prior to the Yankees trading him to the White Sox on July 29 for $1.5 million in international bonus pool money. After 11 games with a 0.71 ERA for Charlotte, Frare made his major league debut on September 2 and pitched respectably for the White Sox in 11 games.

Frare began the 2019 season on the opening day roster but struggled out of the gate. In only five outings spanning just 2 2/3 innings for the White Sox this year, Frare compiled an ugly 10.13 ERA and 2.25 WHIP as he allowed two hits and four walks while fanning three. He was demoted to Charlotte on April 11 and was largely ineffective, and like most White Sox hard-throwing minor leaguers, was eventually placed on the injured list. Frare did OK during his rehab stints with the AZL squad and Winston-Salem, but struggled in his final appearances with Charlotte. In 27 total minor league appearances, Frare posted an uncharacteristic 6.35 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 27 outings totaling 28 1/3 innings. During that span, he surrendered 25 hits (.231 OBA) and 23 walks (17.2%) while striking out 42 (31.3%).

MLB Pipeline gives Frare a 60 grade for his fastball, which runs 92-96 mph with a peak of 98, while his slider is also graded 60 and arrives at 87-91 mph with some tilt. Control, however, is graded at 40 for good reason; not only did Frare have control and command issues this year, he was averaging 4.6 BB/9 prior to 2019 as well. As of this writing, Frare is still on the 40-man roster, and the White Sox would risk losing this power arm if they tried to remove him so he could clear waivers. Thus, expect Frare to remain on the 40-man roster for now. However, don’t expect him to return to Chicago until he reins in his control somewhat.

Hunter Schryver
200 pounds
Age: 24

As a four-year starter with Villanova, Schryver improved with each passing year. Ultimately as a senior in 2017, he posted a solid 2.44 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 12 starts spanning 73 2/3 innings. For the Wildcats that year, he ceded 56 hits (.213 OBA) and 37 walks (11.8%) while striking out 91 (29.0%). Because Schryver was a senior with good results, he was selected in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Rays but was paid an under-slot bonus. He started his minor league career with Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League and provided a respectable 3.12 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in just under 35 innings of work.

Schryver pitched excellent ball for A-level Bowling Green and the A+ Charlotte Stone Crabs in the 2018 season. Then, just two days after the White Sox acquired the Caleb Frare, they also picked up Schryver in exchange for international bonus pool money. Schryver pitched well for Winston-Salem after the trade, posting a microscopic 1.20 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in nine appearances with the Dash. Overall for 2018 with three teams, Schryver combined to post a 2.12 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 40 appearances. In his 63 2/3 innings that year, he relinquished just 47 hits (.203 OBA) and 17 walks (6.6%) while striking out 80 (30.9%.

Birmingham was Schryver’s first stop in 2019, and he continued to fare well despite the stronger competition. In 30 appearances for the Barons spanning 48 2/3 innings, he allowed 47 hits (.261 OBA) and 17 walks (8.5%) while striking out 39 (19.4%). He ultimately received a promotion to Charlotte, and he scuffled there for the first time in his minor league career. In 11 outings for the Knights totaling 13 2/3 innings, Schryver surrendered 16 hits (.291 OBA) and 12 walks (17.4%) despite a high punchout total of 23 (33.3%).

Baseball America assesses Schryver’s fastball at typically 87-91 mph with a peak of 93. Additionally, he features a spike curveball and a changeup. He was able to keep the ball down at Birmingham (51.0% grounder rate), but struggled to do at Charlotte with a 30.3% grounder rate. Lefties hit .259 against Schryver this year, while righties fared better at .273. Schryver has the potential of a middle reliever for the White Sox if he can improve his command while at Charlotte next year.

Colton Turner
215 pounds
Age: 29

Turner enjoyed arguably his best college season as a junior with Texas State in 2012, as he posted a 2.46 ERA with 87 strikeouts over the same number of innings. However, because he allowed more than his fair share of hits and walks, he slipped to the Blue Jays in the 21st round of the draft. Turner slowly worked his way up Toronto’s farm system, ultimately reaching Double-A New Hampshire before being traded to the White Sox on Aug. 26, 2016 for catcher Dioner Navarro. After the trade, he entered three games with Birmingham before the season concluded.

The 2017 season saw Turner split time with Birmingham and Charlotte; while he performed well for the Barons (2.45 ERA and 1.12 WHIP), he struggled mightily with the Knights for whom he compiled a 6.85 ERA and 1.61 in a similar number of games. Last year Turner dominated Birmingham with an 0.86 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, while he again struggled a bit with Charlotte with a 4.76 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Overall, Turner combined for both teams with a 2.23 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 37 games. In his 64 2/3 innings, he allowed just 44 hits (.190 OBA) and 20 walks (7.8%) while striking out 65 (25.4%).

This year saw Turner pitch exclusively for Charlotte. Though his numbers weren’t pretty, they could’ve been much worse if not for a sensational August in which he pitched scoreless ball in 12 2/3 innings. In 37 games for the Knights (nine starts) totaling 93 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.48 ERA and 1.45 WHIP as he allowed 101 hits (.278 OBA) and 35 walks (8.7%) while striking out 102 (25.4%). Not surprisingly in Charlotte’s bandbox, he compiled a 6.23 ERA while he had a 4.83 ERA elsewhere. Righties hit him particularly hard this year at .298, while he held lefties to a respectable .240.

Baseball America lists Turner as having an upper-80s fastball peaking at 91, along with a mid-70s slurve with a 2-to-8 break and a changeup with some fading action. Turner has enjoyed a long career as an organizational southpaw, but he’ll have a difficult time finding a role next year due to the high number of lefties who could have roles with Charlotte at various times next year (Frare, Schryver, Bennett Sousa, Kodi Medeiros, Jacob Lindgren and Andrew Perez). Turner, therefore, could be the odd man out. He is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft in December.

Birmingham Barons

Bennett Sousa
185 pounds
Age: 24

While Sousa had a decent four years with the University of Virginia, especially in the strikeout department, his numbers were hampered by his relative lack of control. His senior season was a microcosm of this, as he posted a 5.23 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 23 games; in 43 innings, he relinquished 36 hits (.220 OBA) and 22 walks (11.2%) while striking out 61 (31.1%). When he was available in the 10th round in last year’s draft, however, the White Sox couldn’t resist selecting him.

Last year in 20 combined games with Great Falls and Kannapolis spanning 35 1/3 innings, Sousa compiled a nifty 1.27 ERA and 0.88 WHIP by allowing 24 hits (.195 OBA) and just seven walks (5.2%) while fanning 42 hitters (31.3%). This year was split among three squads (Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham) with the lion’s share of the outings spent with the Intimidators and Dash. Sousa again had a solid campaign, as he combined with all three teams to post a 2.49 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his 43 games encompassing 65 innings — relinquishing 62 hits (.249 OBA) and just 13 walks (4.9%) while striking out 74 (27.8%).

Sousa’s repertoire includes a 90-94 mph fastball according to Baseball America, in addition to a low-80s slider with promise per Baseball Draft Report. With his control much improved since his college days, Sousa has definitely begun tapping into his potential. Lefties struggled against him this year to the tune of a .205 average, while righties fared much better at .269. Because he only pitched in two games for the Barons this year, it’s expected he’ll return to Birmingham for the 2020 season. However, don’t rule out a promotion to Charlotte by midseason if he continues doing well; Sousa’s selection for Arizona Fall League play might indicate the White Sox are fast-tracking him.

Kodi Medeiros
205 pounds
Age: 23

Medeiros was the highest prep baseball pick to ever come out of Hawaii, when he was selected in the first round (12th overall) in the 2014 draft. Progress has been slow for Medeiros, however, as he’s seemingly struggled at every stop. With the 2014 AZL Brewers, he posted a 7.13 ERA and 2.09 WHIP in an albeit small sample size of 17 2/3 innings. The 2015 season saw him pitching for the Brewers A-level squad in Wisconsin, while the next two years saw him struggle with command for the Brewers A+ teams. Through 2017, these were Medeiros’ combined numbers: 5.19 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, .258 OBA, 11.5 BB% and 20.8 K%

In 20 appearances (15 starts) for AA Biloxi in 2018, Medeiros was off to a great start with a 3.14 ERA and 1.31 WHIP as he was beginning to throw more strikes. On July 26, however, he was traded along with pitcher Wilber Perez to the White Sox for reliever Joakim Soria. Perhaps trying to do too much after the trade, Medeiros started seven games and struggled with a 4.98 ERA and 1.54 WHIP, losing his earlier-season control.

The 2019 season was an adventure for Medeiros, as he again struggled to throw strikes to begin the season. In his first nine appearances (all starts), he posted an unsightly 7.75 ERA and 2.04 WHIP by allowing 57 hits (.333 OBA) and 26 walks in the span of 40 2/3 innings. He fared much better, however, after heading to the bullpen. In his last 19 outings totaling 42 1/3 innings, Medeiros compiled a much-improved 2.55 ERA and 1.13 WHIP by surrendering just 23 hits (.164 OBA) and 25 walks. While his control wasn’t any better out of the pen, he allowed far fewer hits. Lefties hit just .220 against his offerings this year while righties hit him at a .275 clip.

Medeiros features a 92-95 mph fastball with life and is graded 55 by MLB Pipeline. An even better pitch, a slider with significant lateral break, was given a 60. A third pitch, which has good sinking and fading action, is rated 50 by MLB Pipeline.

With all that said, it’s all about throwing strikes for Medeiros, as his control and command have been lacking at times. Even though the control hasn’t improved since his conversion to the bullpen, his command is better, as evidenced by the significant reduction in OBA. Medeiros is still a little young for Birmingham, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him continue honing his skills in Birmingham next year. As a side note, he is currently on the White Sox 40-man roster; it’s conceivable that the White Sox would risk losing him to waivers if they wanted to make room to add a different player this offseason.

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