Bouncing back: Speedy Joel Booker struggled between Birmingham and Charlotte in 2019, but was on the fast track in prior seasons. (@BhamBarons)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
This is quite the small list, with Joel Booker as the only player still in the organization who finished the season as the primary left fielder in either Birmingham or Charlotte. (Charlie Tilson, who finished the season in Charlotte and played more games in left than anywhere else, is now a free agent.)
(age as of April 1, 2020)
Other positions played: Center field, Right field
After spending his first two collegiate seasons at Indian Hills (Iowa) JC, Booker played his final two years with the University of Iowa. As a senior for the Hawkeyes, he slashed .370/.421/.532 in 56 games with 19 doubles, two triples, five homers, 37 RBIs, and 23-for-25 stolen bases. The results were good enough for the speedster to be selected in the 22nd round of the 2016 draft. He immediately paid dividends, as he slashed an impressive .312/.403/.404 in 65 combined games with the AZL Sox and Great Falls with 16 doubles, one triple, two homers, 31 RBIs, 41-of-43 stolen bases, 27 walks (8.9%) and 49 strikeouts (16.2%).
The 2017 season saw Booker split his time with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, combining to slash .274/.329/.349 in 123 games with 17 doubles, two triples, five homers, 44 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 27 walks (5.1%) and 107 strikeouts (20.2%). And it was in 2018 when Booker began seeing his name on a few prospect lists, as he earned the Carolina League’s All-Star Game MVP while concluding the season with Birmingham. Although he did struggle a bit with the Barons, he still finished the year with a combined 26 stolen bases and a career-high 44 walks.
After beginning the 2019 season well with Birmingham (.351/.400/.446 and eight stolen bases in 20 April games), Booker was promoted to Charlotte. However, he had difficulty hitting there, slashing just .203/.276/.304 in 26 games. After his demotion to Birmingham on June 21, Booker continued his struggles by hitting just .222 for the remainder of the year. In a combined 102 games with both teams, he slashed .245/.308/.322 with 13 doubles, one triple, four homers, 36 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 24 walks (6.2%) and 89 strikeouts (22.8%).
It was a disappointing year for Booker, as thanks to the struggles of most of the Birmingham outfielders this year, he had an opportunity to make a case for himself as at least a potential reserve outfielder in Chicago. He likely will begin the 2020 season with Charlotte, provided he isn’t selected in this year’s Rule 5 draft.