South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 45: Craig Dedelow

Grinder, redux: With a projectable body, plus power, and a focus on the intangibles, Dedelow still presents a case for optimism.(Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Craig Dedelow
Left Fielder
6´4´´
195 pounds
Age: 25
SSHP rank among all left fielders in the system: 4
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 86
2020 South Side Sox Top Prospect Vote: 41

Dedelow was a three-sport athlete in high school for a short time, before a broken arm ended his prep football career as a freshman. However, he continued to excel in both basketball and baseball. Dedelow played power forward on the No. 1-ranked basketball team in his home state of Indiana during his senior year, but when he failed to garner collegiate recruiting attention he realized baseball was his sport.

At IU, Dedelow made the most of his opportunity, and after his junior year was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 34thround of the 2016 draft. Instead of signing a professional contract, he opted to return to college for his senior season. There, his hard work and dedication to strength training resulted in a power surge, as Dedelow hit 19 long balls during his final season, surpassing his previous three year’s combined total. The power surge opened some eyes and Dedelow was selected by the White Sox in the 10thround of the 2017 draft.

Dedelow continued mashing during his rookie ball debut at Great Falls, authoring a fantastic .321/.353/.574 slash line that included a dozen round-trippers.

He came into the 2018 season with high hopes, kicking off his first full pro season as the primary left fielder for the Kannapolis Intimidators. At the end of the first half, Dedelow was one of eight Intimidators earning a selection as a SAL All-Star, and he showcased his plus raw power by finishing as the runner-up in the Home Run Derby. But after the All-Star break Dedelow’s stat line dropped off precipitously, as he slashed .214/.261/.381 in spite of doubling his first half home run total.

Dedelow advanced to Winston-Salem for the 2019 season and fairly well duplicated his 2018 numbers from Low-A, slashing ,245/.307/.445 and driving out a personal professional-best 18 homers.

While he’s going to have to start making a move up the prospect charts quickly, with a projectable body, plus power, and a focus on the intangibles, Dedelow still presents a case for optimism.

Jonathan Stiever: Ace in the hole

Quick change: Thanks to tips from pitching coach Matt Zaleski, Stiever had a second half for the ages. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)


On Feb. 17, 2017, 19-year-old Indiana University starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever flashed a glimpse of the future as he was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich.

The powerhouse Oregon State lineup featured four future MLB first round draft picks: Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach, Cadyn Grenier, and Adley Rutchsman. For good measure a fifth Oregon hitter, KJ Harrison, would be selected in the third round of his prospective draft class. Although the Hoosiers came away on the losing end of a heartbreaking 1-0 game, these five batsmen were absolutely stymied by Stiever and his relief mate Pauly Milto (who like Stiever would also end up being a future White Sox farmhand). The Beaver’s Murderers Row ended up going 1-for-14 with two walks and three strikeouts. Stiever’s first brush with stardom saw him pass with flying colors.

The rest of Stiever’s sophomore campaign was somewhat uneven, as he went 4-4 on the season with a 4.31 ERA. However, per IU baseball’s website, he finished 11th in the nation with 1.05 walks per nine innings and 14th in strikeouts per walk (6.33).

Stiever’s junior season featured a statistical rebound, as the righty finished 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA while striking out a Big 10-leading 97 hitters. Upon completion of his 2018 college season, the Hoosiers’ Friday night starter heard his name called on Day 2 of the draft, as the White Sox scooped up the 6´2´´, 220-pound hurler with the 138th overall pick. MLB Pipeline had him ranked as the 88th-best prospect from his draft class, while Baseball America had him 125th, making him quite the bargain for the South Siders.

Stiever had caught the eye of White Sox scout Justin Wechsler, telling South Side Hit Pen “What I liked about [Stiever] was his competitiveness, the way he challenged hitters and that he never backed down, he just pounded the zone.”

Stiever’s signing bonus matched the assigned slot value of the pick ($386,800). After reporting to the White Sox advanced rookie league affiliate in Great Falls, Stiever continued to fill up the strike zone (70% strike rate) while missing bats at an impressive rate (12.5 K per 9 IP), opposing hitters were able to muster a meager .221 batting average against him.

Expectations were high as Stiever reported to the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators for his first full-season assignment in 2019, where he served as the Opening Day starter. From a statistical standpoint, Stiever’s 14 Kannapolis starts were very misleading. He was rock-solid in 10 of his outings, but the other four can best be described as clunkers.

Stiever feels that his overall statistics in Kannapolis were probably a little skewed by a couple of bad innings in which things got a little ugly and his opponents put a few “crooked numbers” on the scoreboard. Taking a deeper dive into his game logs illuminates that in his four poor starts, Stiever combined to throw just 16 innings allowing 35 hits and 24 earned runs (13.50 ERA) while surrendering seven homers. In his other Kannapolis work, Stiever fashioned an impressive 58 innings, allowing 53 hits and 15 earned runs (2.33 ERA) while yielding only three long balls. His 4.74 ERA didn’t prevent the perceptive White Sox player development staff from believing that Stiever was ready for a promotion to the A+ Winston-Salem Dash.

At Winston-Salem the proverbial lightbulb clicked on for Stiever, as he began working with pitching coach Matt Zaleski (who he credits for much of his developmental evolution).

“[Zaleski] explains why and gives you the data to backup what he’s telling you,” Stiever says. “He gives you feedback when you explain your thoughts about the things you are feeling out there. In Winston I felt that I was better able to sequence pitches and understand my stuff.”

This newfound confidence led to immediate success, as Stiever went seven strong innings in his debut with the Dash, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out seven. His side work with Zaleski which focused on removing a crossfire throwing action also yielded a spike in velocity that he began carrying from start to start. In Kannapolis, Stiever worked mostly in the low nineties while occasionally touching 95, and — in the same season, as the dog days approached — suddenly he was consistently sitting in the mid-nineties and flashing 97-98. With Zaleski’s guidance, Stiever also began working in the top half of the strike zone and played off of that with his second-best pitch, the curveball.

On the bump, Stiever works from a three-quarters arm slot, and his 80-83 mph curve displays 12:6 shape and hard bite. Additionally, his arsenal possesses a slider thrown 84-86 that also flashes plus, but occasionally eludes him, and a changeup that maintains 10-12 mph separation from his four-seam fastball.

Stiever takes the mound like a bulldog, with a simple approach: “Throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count makes it so much easier. If I can get ahead 0-2 or 1-2 and get guys on four or five pitches, it allows me to be able to go deep in starts.”

Battery mate Evan Skoug adds, “He showed signs of stardom last year because he learned to hit his spots at will. He had days where I didn’t have to move my mitt.”

Just to put the elite level in which Stiever threw strikes last season into context, it is important to note that Justin Verlander led all qualifying MLB pitchers in strike percentage last season, throwing 68.3% of his pitches for strikes. Stiever threw 69% of his pitches for strikes. Only one of the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in the game, Sixto Sánchez, was able to edge Stiever in strike throwing prowess (70%).

The Winston-Salem numbers for Stiever were nothing short of dominant, in 12 starts he went 6-4 with a 2.15 ERA. Stiever pitched 71 innings allowing 56 hits while walking 13 and striking out 77. Although his strikeout, walk, and innings pitched totals nearly mirrored his Kannapolis numbers, opposing batsmen at High-A only managed a paltry .215 batting average against the newly unleashed ace.

When asked to explain the difference in competition between the two Class A assignments Stiever offers, “It’s not that noticeable, but the elite hitters in High-A are a little better than A-ball. With better approaches and more takes, they are less likely to chase. I would say the difference is incremental, but I was pitching much better in Winston so I also think I had a lot more confidence.”

Thus far, Stiever’s developmental arc has been quite similar to Philadelphia Phillies farmhand Spencer Howard. The two pitchers share a nearly identical build, have gained fastball velocity and displayed marked improvement as they have advanced. Howard is currently a Top 100 prospect and ranks ninth overall among right-handed pitchers. If Stiever can continue to make strides like he did last year at Winston-Salem, a similar ascension through the prospect ranks will be not only possible, but inevitable. He just needs to continue to refine his slider and changeup to give him a reliable plus third pitch.

Have any doubts Stiever will find that refined slider and changeup? Don’t. The powerful pitcher has a track record of multifaceted athletic ability, dating back to Cedarburg High (Wis.), where Stiever was an All-State football player (defensive back and wide receiver) and also played varsity basketball through his sophomore year.

With his athleticism, competitive nature, high-octane heater and hammer curve coupled with pinpoint control, Stiever offers a very high floor for the South Siders. Look for him to advance to Double-A Birmingham in 2020 and continue to build off of the progress he made last season.

Stiever’s outlook for 2020? You can imagine, it’s straightforward, and aggressive.

“I want to stay healthy and get the ball every fifth day,” he says. “I want to be able to be at or near my best every start, and I’d like to be one of the guys in the organization that throws the most innings. I was glad that I finished strong [in 2019], and I really want to continue that trend.”

As the fastest-rising starter in the White Sox system, there’s little doubt Stiever is going to leave it all out on the mound all summer long.


Scout’s Eye: Justin Wechsler

Stiever’s grades:
Fastball 60 (now)/65 (future)
Curveball: Fringy but flashed plus
Slider: Also fringy but showed promise to be an average pitch, flashed plus at times (50).
Changeup (50)
Command 55 (now)/60 (future)

“He’s athletic and strong, I figured he’d get more strikeouts once he learned to harness his stuff,” Wechsler says. “Being a kid from the Midwest he obviously had less experience [than kids from warm-weather states]. I saw a lot of upside and room for growth. He’s a competitor and threw a ton of strikes — that skill will play anywhere.”

 

 

Kannapolis unveils new moniker

On Wednesday, October 23 the Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox formerly known as the Kannapolis Intimidators announced their team’s name change in front of an exuberant crowd that had gathered at one of the town’s most iconic landmarks, the Gem theater.

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Once the audience was seated, it was treated to a screening of a slickly- produced documentary from Temerity Baseball, about the city of Kannapolis and its rich minor league baseball history. The production also paid homage to Kannapolis founding father J.W. Cannon, and the city’s favorite son, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, whose highlights on the screen elicited an appreciable roar from the attendees.

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At 7 p.m., with great anticipation, the “Kannapolis Cannon Ballers” were revealed, along with their bushy-mustachioed mascot who is currently awaiting a name. In using the word “Cannon” along with the new mascot (who bears a resemblance to Earnhardt), the Ballers appear to have made a cognizant effort to meld the city’s origins and proud history to its baseball team.

After the “Big Reveal,” baseball fans were given access to the team store for a first chance at purchasing new gear. A fireworks show lit up the night sky over the footprint of the construction site that will be home for the Cannon Ballers beginning on Opening Day 2020. Judging from the size of the crowd and the overwhelmingly favorable feedback heard at the event, it was a great night for the city of Kannapolis and its baseball team.

Under the Radar: Tyler Osik

Killer finishing kick: Osik came on strong at the end of his first professional season. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


Part of the pleasure of covering minor league baseball is being able to share with the members of White Sox Nation, information about “who’s next” in the pipeline of talent between the Arizona Rookie League and Guaranteed Rate Field. There are players whose names are well-known throughout the fan base long before they make their debut on West 35th Street, and others who emerge seemingly out of nowhere.

One of these under-the-radar prospects who is likely to receive far more attention in 2020 is Kannapolis Intimidators outfielder Tyler Osik.

Although he is a young man at 22 years old, it has been a long path for Osik to traverse into the minor league ranks. He began his college baseball career at D-2 Coker College in 2015 before transferring to JUCO baseball powerhouse Chipola (Fla.) for his sophomore season in 2016. He missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery before redshirting his junior year at his third school, the D-1 University of Central Florida.

Osik was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th round of the 2018 draft, but instead opted to return to school as a fifth-year senior before being taken by the White Sox. (Osik to the White Sox may have been meant to be, according to Osik: “The day before the draft my girlfriend Emily was wearing all black and white and jokingly said that it was a sign and I was going to be with the White Sox, so it was crazy when I got drafted by them.”)

Drafted in the 27th round of the 2019 draft, Tyler is the son of 10-year major league veteran Keith Osik. As a typical senior signee with no negotiating leverage, he was inked to a modest $2,500 signing bonus. He quickly reported to the AZL White Sox, where he received his introduction to minor league life before finishing the season with the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators.

Although many players wear down in their first exposure to professional baseball due to the culture shock of the schedule, travel, and dog day weather, Osik finished his season firing on all cylinders. As others were hitting the proverbial “rookie wall,” Tyler was hitting home runs (five in his last 12 games after hitting none in his first 45 games).

Osik recognized the impact of the Intimidators hitting coach and shared with South Side Hit Pen, “Cole Armstrong taught me a couple of cues to practice with my swing every day that helped me get to where I needed to be for games.”

Armstrong’s advice coupled with Osik getting comfortable in his new environs seemed to be the magic elixir, as the right-handed hitting outfielder appeared to have enabled cheat codes for his last 22 games in slashing an impressive .321/.380/1.020 OPS over that span.

Although it’s far too early in the young outfielder’s development to discuss platoon options, it is worth noting the way he laid waste to left-handed pitching. In a small sample size of 54 at-bats, Osik hit .370, with all five of his home runs coming against southpaws. Of the tools baseball scouts look for, Osik stands out in his potential to hit for both average and power. It’s also noteworthy that along with his statistical prowess during the season’s last 22 games even his outs were generally of the “loud” variety; he hit numerous balls to the warning track while also displaying a penchant for generating exceptional exit velocities.

Osik notes that one of the biggest differences between the college and pro game is the “consistent velocity you see in minor league baseball,” adding that he prepares for this aspect of the game by taking batting practice against an 85 mph pitching machine from 45 feet. (To put that in perspective, the equivalent speed from a major league 60´6´´ pitcher’s mound would be an Aroldis Chapman-like 105 mph.)

Some of baseball’s biggest brightest stars and prospects are the progeny of former professional players; Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatís Jr. and Bobby Witt Jr. are some of the names that quickly come to mind. Of course, possessing big league DNA often comes coupled with great expectations.

“Growing up with my dad playing was a blessing,” he says. “I have a lot of great memories being around the ballpark with him. I had the opportunity to take ground balls with Pokey Reese and hit in the cages with guys like Scott Podsednik, Jason Kendall and Brian Giles.” Osik also fondly shared a childhood memory of running in the sausage race at Miller Park while his dad was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers (side note: he didn’t win).

Rather than grumble about the pressure of being the son of a major leaguer, Osik praises his father for helping him become the player he is. “Having a dad who played has helped me so much,” he says. “He has put in countless hours helping me improve my swing since I was a little kid, and still to this day.”

In the offseason, Osik’s daily hitting routine consists of tee work, front toss and batting practice. During the season, the Osiks speak on a daily basis, with Tyler discussing his games and minor league life in general while seeking advice from his father about how to continuously improve.

During the White Sox recent instructs, the team began experimenting with Tyler at catcher, the position his father manned for a decade in the big leagues. “I have been learning to catch, so having a former catcher as a dad is a blessing,” Osik says. “He is always helping me by showing me drills and getting me where I need to be. He has been a great role model, not only in baseball, but also as the type of man and father I aspire to be in the future. He always tells me to push myself and to work my hardest on and off the field, as well as to be a good teammate.”

Tyler’s father seems to embrace the catching experiment and offers, “Tyler has always hit. If he can get the catching down, the sky is the limit. I can see him catching and driving in runs at the big-league level.”

As a hitter, Osik says that he isn’t really into the analytics of launch angle or swing path. Instead, he takes his cues from watching video of the best hitters in the game. He utilizes small-bat drills such as top hand/bottom hand to ingrain a tight, connected swing while maximizing the amount of time he keeps the barrel in the hitting zone. One of the adjustments he has made is to look to do damage with every swing he takes and avoid being passive when he’s in a favorable count. Osik expounds: “The defense will continue to get better as you move up levels, so it is important to not get cheated when I’m in a hitter’s count.”

With the current state of the White Sox system there appears to be a glut of outfield talent, with Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert likely to be stalwarts at the major league level for the foreseeable future and several high-profile prospects waiting on the periphery. The White Sox catching situation is similar, with the system’s top three catching prospects all spending significant time at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019. Having the positional versatility of being able to catch, play first base or man a corner outfield spot can only enhance Osik’s development, as it will afford his manager options to keep his potent bat in the lineup.

Another intangible in Osik’s skill set that may not be getting the credit it warrants is his even demeanor, as he seems to possess the innate ability to avoid getting caught up in the gravity of any particular situation. Having grown up around pro ball players might be some of the reason that Osik seemingly can rise to the occasion without being affected by the pressure.

In 2018, Osik’s UCF baseball team knocked off the Florida Gators, who were ranked #1 in the nation. In front of a sold-out home crowd, Tyler went 4-for-5 with four RBIs, leading the Knights to a 9-7 win.

He also displayed this trait late in the Intimidators season when facing off against one of the Washington Nationals top prospects, 2019 first round pick Jackson Rutledge. Rutledge, a 6´8´´ righthander, has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation ace and displays a very impressive, three-pitch arsenal (fastball, slider, curveball), with a fastball that sits comfortably in the 94-96 mph range and touches 99. When facing Rutledge, Osik showed absolutely no problem handling the fireballer’s exceptional velocity as he was able to square up a two-strike, 95-mph offering and send it deep to his pull side warning track. It was an out, but only because it was struck with too much launch angle; the hang time on this fly ball was awe-inspiring and would have made Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy envious. Later in the same game, Osik broke a 1-1 tie by launching relief pitcher Alex Troop’s offering for a two-run homer, as the hometown Intimidators went on to win, 3-1.

In the field, the 5´10´´, 203-pound, well-muscled Osik is not a burner, so he tries to maximize his defensive ability by getting good reads on fly balls and taking efficient routes when tracking them down. He spent the 2019 season alternating between designated hitter, first base, and left field.

During this offseason Osik plans to continue to work in the weight room to get stronger and faster. After the lengthy combined college and professional season, he understands the importance of his conditioning in maintaining both health and stamina. He has always been a hard worker in the weight room, but credits his friends (fellow minor leaguers Bowden Francis and Junior Harding) for helping him take his training to the next level when they played together at Chipola College.

When asked about his goals for 2020 Osik succinctly states, “I don’t make statistical goals or focus on promotions. I genuinely love playing baseball so I just try and work my hardest and be a good teammate. When I step in between the white lines I just compete as hard as I can and let whatever happens happen.”

Although 27th round draft picks signed to happy meal budget bonuses aren’t the kind of players who typically make it to the show, White Sox fans have multiple reasons to be excited about Osik. He possesses a special bat, high motor, positional flexibility and major league genetics. After all, as a similarly-drafted 24th rounder, Tyler’s father Keith was able to grind his way into a 10-year big league career.

The early results suggest this apple didn’t fall far from the tree.


Hot Seat Questions

Favorite baseball movie The Sandlot

Are you a gamer? “I’m a big Call of Duty player, the new one is coming out this month so I’m pumped up for that.”

What are you watching on Netflix these days? Dave Chappelle standup specials.

If the Intimidators locker room turns into a dance battle, who wins? Ramon Beltre or Lenyn Sosa.

If you could have a superpower what would it be? Teleportation, so I could go wherever I want, whenever I want.

You grew up a son of a pro ballplayer, so do you have any cool baseball memorabilia? I have some signed balls from guys like Jim Thome, Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez], [Albert] Pujols, and a signed jersey from Pedro Martinez.

Who are the guys you played with that White Sox fans should be excited about? In the AZL, two guys who stood out were DJ Gladney and Jose Rodriguez. I really like the way they swing the bat with power, as well as how they are super athletic. Once I got to Kannapolis, Alex Destino, Ian Dawkins and Lenyn Sosa really stood out to me. They are great all-around players. They hit, field and play the game hard every day.

What song is the guilty pleasure on your playlist? “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith.

Best part of being a minor league player Getting to travel the country and do what I love every day.

Worst part of being a minor league player Being away from my family and loved ones for several months of the year, which can seem like forever.

Toughest pitcher you faced: Grayson Rodriguez, he had some electric stuff with good command as well.