Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham third basemen

Faint praise: With a modest OPS of .660, Ti’Quan Forbes led all White Sox upper-level minor league third basemen. (@TiquanF).

“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 third basemen who finished the year with Charlotte and Birmingham are a microcosm of the lack of depth in the White Sox system, as nobody seems primed to fill in any time soon at the major league level should any kind of injury befall Yoán Moncada. With the possible exception of Camilo Quinteiro, these guys appear to be only organizational depth pieces unless they bounce back in a big way in 2020.

(age as of April 1, 2020)

Charlotte Knights

Trey Michalczewski
220 pounds
B/T: S/R
Other positions played: First base, Second base
Age: 25

As a switch-hitting third baseman with power, Michalczewski was prepared to stay in his home state to play baseball for the University of Oklahoma. However, when the White Sox offered an over-slot bonus of $500,000 to pry him from his verbal commitment to the Sooners, the seventh round pick from 2013 opted to join the White Sox organization. He played his post-draft ball with the Bristol squad, where he struggled a bit with a .236/.324/.328 line with three homers in 56 games.

Michalczewski enjoyed an above-average year with Kannapolis in 2014, as he slashed .273/.348/.433 in 116 games with 25 doubles, seven triples, 10 homers and 70 RBIs in 116 games; however, he struggled in a 19-game stretch with Winston-Salem at the end of the season. Since then, Michalczewski has ever so slowly worked his way up the system’s proverbial ladder. His best power season came in 2017, which was split between Winston-Salem and Birmingham; that year, he combined to slash .243/.317/.388 with 13 homers. When he returned to the Barons in 2018, he slashed .253/.302/.377 in 126 games with 26 doubles, six triples, six homers, 65 RBIs, four stolen bases, 27 walks (5.4%) and 131 strikeouts (26.0%).

With his struggles, Michaelczewski was essentially a part-time player in 2019. In 48 games for Birmingham spanning 149 at-bats, he slashed just .208/.300/.309 with two homers. However, he received his long awaited call-up to Charlotte in late June but didn’t really run with it, as he slashed just .224/.327/.365 in 30 games with three homers. Thus, in a combined 78 games with Birmingham and Charlotte this year, Michalczewski slashed .214/.310/.329 with 12 doubles, five homers, 24 RBIs, one stolen base, 30 walks (11.2%) and 88 strikeouts (32.8%).

On the plus side, Michalczewski provides versatility as he has played all infield positions and left field throughout his minor league career; in addition, he does draw his fair share of walks. However, his inability to hit for a high average, along with his relative lack of game-power and high amount of strikeouts, have certainly limited his capability to latch onto a major league roster. Michalczewski is now a minor league free agent, so his return to the White Sox organization is in doubt.

Birmingham Barons

Ti’Quan Forbes
220 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Second base, First base
Age: 23

Michalczewski isn’t the only esteemed prep star who has failed to gain much traction in the minors. Forbes was a second-round pick out of Columbia, Miss. drafted by the Texas Rangers back in 2014. He slowly worked his way up the Rangers ladder, as he finished the 2016 season with Hickory (A). During the 2017 season, he received a mid-year promotion to Down East (AA), where he was slashing just .227/.280/.308 when he was traded to the White Sox that August 31 for Miguel González.

Forbes’ season with Winston-Salem in 2018 has been his best statistically to date, at least in the OPS department. In 119 games for the Dash, he slashed.273/.313/.391 with 21 doubles, six triples, six homers, 51 RBIs, four stolen bases, 21 walks (4.5%) and 74 strikeouts (16.0%). With Birmingham in 2019, Forbes slashed just .242/.333/.327 in116 games as he produced 18 doubles, three triples, three homers, 31 RBIs, four stolen bases, 45 walks (10.0%) and 106 strikeouts (23.6%).

For someone his size, you’d expect more power. While Forbes has played second base frequently throughout his minor league career, he profiles much better as a third baseman if he could begin hitting for power. On the positive side, Forbes more than doubled his walk total from the year before, so it’s possible he may be coming into his own. In the meantime, however, expect Forbes to return to Birmingham for 2020.

Camilo Quinteiro
180 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Second base, Shortstop
Age: 22

Quinteiro, a native Cuban, signed a minor league contract with the White Sox on September 2017. He began his professional ball not with the DSL Sox but with the AZL squad in 2018 and actually did quite well. In 46 games last year with the AZL Sox, he showed terrific plate discipline as he slashed .286/.436/.320 with two doubles, one homer, 11 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 36 walks (18.9%) and 39 strikeouts (20.5%).

After a terrific 10 games with Great Falls to begin the 2019 season in which he slashed .361/.425/.389, Quinteiro struggled in his subsequent two stops with Kannapolis and Birmingham. Combined in 32 games with those two teams, he slashed just .170/.308/.210. Realistically, he should begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis but be granted an early opportunity for promotion to Winston-Salem if he gets off to a good start. Though Quinteiro has played more third base during his young minor league career, he really profiles more as a second baseman due to his smaller build, speed, and lack of power. He may still have a future with the White Sox as a utility infielder going forward.

Luis Valenzuela
179 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Second base, Shortstop
Age: 26

Just weeks before the 2012 DSL was set to begin, the Dominican native Valenzuela received an international signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox. However, after less than three weeks with their DSL team, he was released after hitting just .133/.235/.267 in just nine games. The Royals signed the minor league free agent, and from 2013-15, he advanced through the ranks and reached as high as Lexington (A). Then, on Aug. 31, 2015, he was traded to the Braves for outfielder Johnny Gomes and cash.

Valenzuela played in the Braves system through Aug, 5, 2019, when he was unceremoniously released. Though he did spend 34 games with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2017, Valenzuela spent most of his time with Double-A Mississippi. His best year arguably was in 2018 which was split between Mississippi and Gwinnett, when he slashed .278/.321/.404 in a combined 78 games with 19 doubles, five triples, two homers, five stolen bases, 15 walks (5.0%) and 48 strikeouts (16.0%).

The White Sox signed Valenzuela to a minor league deal just four days after his release from Mississippi. In 17 games for Birmingham, he slashed .236/.276/.327 with two doubles, one homer, four RBIs, two stolen bases, three walks (5.2%) and 11 strikeouts (19.0%). Those modest numbers actually inflated his overall season’s totals to .202/.23/.291 over 96 games with 14 doubles, two triples, three homers, 28 RBIs, two stolen bases, 13 walks (4.1%) and 66 strikeouts (20.7%). With his ability to play the hot corner and both middle infield spots, Valenzuela appears to be organizational infield depth at best.


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