Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham left-handed starters

Do-over: Bernardo Flores is the second-rated southpaw pitching prospect in the White Sox organization, according to MLB Pipeline. (@Bham Barons)

“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

Ages listed below are as of April 1, 2020.

Although the majority of players on this list are essentially organizational depth, there are a couple pitchers who could turn out to be something more.

Charlotte Knights

Matt Tomshaw
205 pounds
Age: 31

How long has Tomshaw been around? Well, he was pitching in college back when George W. Bush was President. Tomshaw pitched all four years of college ball (2008-11) with Jacksonville University, and enjoyed his best season as a senior starter by posting a 3.69 ERA and 1.32 WHIP 17 starts (102 innings). Being a college senior who lacked overwhelming stuff, Tomshaw lacked leverage and was ultimately selected in the 42nd round of the 2011 draft by the Minnesota Twins. The first four years of his minor-league career were spent with the Twins, reaching as high as High-A ball.

The Miami Marlins claimed him off of waivers, and though he reached Triple-A a couple of times, Tomshaw never received the ultimate promotion. His best year in their organization was his last one, 2017, in which he spent the full season with Triple-A Jacksonville. In 27 starts spanning 163 innings, he posted a solid 3.48 ERA and 1.26 WHIP by relinquishing 170 hits and 36 walks while striking out 114.

The White Sox claimed him as a minor league free-agent prior to the 2018 season, and he struggled badly with both Birmingham and Charlotte (combined 5.75 ERA, 1.54 WHIP , .320 OBP, 4.4 BB%, 17.8 K% in 148.2 IP).

The White Sox re-signed Tomshaw for the 2019 season, and the second time was a charm. For Birmingham in 15 appearances (12 starts) totaling 75 innings, he compiled a 2.40 ERA and 0.95 WHIP by allowing 62 hits (.218 OBA) and just nine walks (3.0%) while fanning 86 (28.8%). He also pitched well for Charlotte in 11 outings (five starts) over 36.2 IP by posting a 3.93 ERA and 1.34 WHIP by ceding 38 hits (.271 OBA) and 11 walks (7.2%) while striking out 32 (20.9%). Tomshaw finished the year strong, as he posted an amazing 1.57 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in four August starts.

By no means is Tomshaw considered a true prospect at this point in his career. However, as a southpaw without overpowering stuff, he’s managed to stick around because of his ability to throw strikes, durability and flexibility as a swingman-type. It’s possible the White Sox will re-sign him for 2020 and keep him in Charlotte, with the possibility of inserting him into an emergency role if the situation should arise. For this veteran hurler, a major league debut would be a long-awaited dream come true.

Kyle Kubat
195 pounds
Age: 27

Kubat ended his four-year career with the University of Nebraska on a high note, as he posted a superb 2.97 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 15 starts spanning 94 innings. However, because he only struck out 63 batters and he was a fourth-year senior, he wasn’t selected in the 2015 draft. He ultimately signed as a UDFA with the Kansas City Royals, and pitched well for the AZL Royals that year in 12 relief outings; he posted a spectacular 0.76 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 35 1/3 innings by surrendering 26 hits (.202 OBA) and just three walks (2.2%) while fanning 26 (19.4%). After another solid campaign in 2016 split between Low-A Lexington and High-A Wilmington, Kubat was traded in March 2017 to the White Sox for cash considerations.

Kubat split the 2017 season among three White Sox affiliates (Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham) and excelled at each stop. In 35 outings (three starts) totaling 74 2/3 innings, he surrendered just 50 hits (.184 OBA) and 12 walks (4.1%) while striking out 77 (26.5%) in posting a combined 1.69 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Despite that work, Kubat returned to Winston-Salem in 2018 and basically pitched there the entire year and did quite well despite some regression (3.55 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .279 OBA, 3.5 BB%, 20.7 K%).

The 2019 season was the first time Kubat started more than he relieved, and he acquitted himself exceptionally well. In four starts for the Dash spanning 22 innings, he posted a 1.23 ERA and 0.73 WHIP by relinquishing just 11 hits (.145 OBA) and five walks (6.0%) while striking out 19 (22.6%). He then started eight games for Birmingham, and in his 48 1/3 innings for the Barons, he compiled a 2.42 ERA and 1.03 WHIP by ceding 43 hits (.239 OBA) and seven walks (3.7%) while fanning 35 (18.4%). He did meet his match, however, due to the different baseball and the favorable hitting dimensions of BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte: Kubat posted a 5.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP for the Knights in 12 starts totaling 56 innings, as he allowed 60 hits (.278 OBA) and 17 walks (7.1%) while striking out 35 (14.7%). All nine homers he served up this year were with the Knights.

Kubat succeeds despite not having exceptional stuff because he throws strikes, keeps the ball down (47% ground ball rate), and isn’t afraid to use any of his four pitches (upper-80s fastball, curveball, slider, changeup) at any given time. While he succeeded against righties as a whole, he dominated lefties so it’s possible to see him in something of a Hector Santiago role for the White Sox if given the opportunity. In the meantime, expect him to begin the 2020 season in Charlotte if he goes unselected in this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Justin Nicolino
195 pounds
Age: 28

It’s hard to believe now, but Nicolino was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the 2010 draft out of University High School in Orlando. He didn’t pitch professionally until the 2011 season, but Nicolino pitched well for two seasons, ending the 2012 campaign in Low-A. Then, in November of that year, Nicolino was traded along with Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Anthony DeSciafani and Jake Marisnick in a blockbuster deal to the Marlins for Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes.

Nicolino continued to pitch well in the Marlins organization, and earned his first promotion to the majors in 2015. For the Marlins that year in 12 starts spanning 74 innings, he posted a respectable 4.01 ERA and 1.24 WHIP by relinquishing 72 hits (.267 OBA) and 20 walks (6.6%) but striking out a miniscule 23 (7.6%). From 2015 to 2017, Nicolino has compiled a 4.65 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 50 outings (33 starts) totaling 201 1/3 innings, allowing 234 hits (.297 OBA) and 60 walks (6.8%) while fanning 86 (9.8%). Since then, Nicolino has spent time in both the Reds and Twins organizations but didn’t get a call-up to the majors.

After the Twins released him on May 1, 2019, the White Sox picked him up four days later. In 24 appearances for Charlotte this year, Nicolino posted an unsightly 6.28 ERA and 1.44 WHIP covering 116 innings as he surrendered 134 hits (.290 OBA), 33 walks (5.6%), 84 strikeouts (14.5%) and a whopping 34 homers for the Knights. Nicolino serves up a marginal fastball with a curve and changeup, and he does provide decent control numbers. However, he has been way too hittable, as the numbers in Charlotte suggest. Lefties hit him even harder this year (.326) than righties (.276), so a situational role seems out of the question for now.

If Nicolino remains in the organization for 2020, it would be likely as a return to Charlotte for organizational depth — at least until the arms in Birmingham are ready for promotion.

Birmingham Barons

Bernardo Flores
190 pounds
Age: 24

Flores, a California native, spent his three years of college ball with the USC Trojans, and aside from a decent sophomore campaign, struggled in primarily a bullpen role. For his three years spanning 37 outings (eight starts) totaling 90 innings, Flores posted a pedestrian 5.32 ERA and 1.46 WHIP as he relinquished 98 hits and 35 walks while fanning 85. Yet the White Sox were intrigued enough to select him in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. Flores immediately made an impression that year with the AZL White Sox and Great Falls, as he combined to post a 3.46 ERA and 1.22 WHIP as he surrendered just 67 hits (.270 OBA) and 12 walks (4.5%) while striking out 55 (20.8%).

Flores has been consistently good since his draft season. In a 2017 split between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he combined for a 3.42 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 118 1/3 innings as he allowed 116 hits (.257 OBA), 32 walks (6.5%) and 103 strikeouts (20.8%). Flores fared even better the following year with Winston-Salem and Birmingham, as he posted a combined 2.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in a career-high 156 innings by relinquishing 154 hits (.261 OBA) and 31 walks (4.9%) as opposed to 105 strikeouts (16.5%).

This year, Flores was sidelined from late May through early August (not including some rehab stints in the interim) due to a strained oblique. He did do quite well, however, in his 15 starts this year for the Barons as he posted a solid 3.33 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 78 1/3 innings by ceding 74 hits (.243 OBA) and 15 walks (4.7%) while fanning 69 (21.5%). In fact, in 156 2/3 innings for the Barons spanning 28 starts since 2018, Flores has compiled a 3.04 ERA and 1.16 WHIP by surrendering 153 hits (.256 OBA) and just 29 walks (4.6%) while fanning 116 (18.2%)

MLB Pipeline ranks Flores 28th among White Sox prospects, and second (behind only Konnor Pilkington) among all the system’s southpaws. According to MLB, Flores’ fastball typically runs 89-92 mph with a peak of 94, while also displaying an adequate curve and slider. His changeup, with a 55 grade, is considered his best pitch although righties hit him better this year (.264) than lefties (.198).

Despite lacking an overwhelming fastball or out pitch, Flores succeeds by throwing strikes, keeping the ball down (as evidenced by this year’s 53.3% ground ball rate), fielding his position well and controlling the running game. Of all the starters who finished this season with Birmingham, Flores seems the likeliest to begin the 2020 season with Charlotte. He is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, so there would be a possibility he could be drafted away unless the White Sox add him to the 40-man roster.

John Parke
205 pounds
Age: 25

Parke was a recent subject of an Under the Radar article. He is likely to return to Birmingham for 2020, with an opportunity for early promotion if he does well.

Tanner Banks
210 pounds
Age: 28

Banks pitched for Salt Lake Community College for two years before transferring to the University of Utah for his junior and senior seasons. His draft stock fell after a difficult senior campaign for the Utes, however, as he posted a 5.71 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 18 outings (eight starts) totaling 52 innings, ceding 65 hits and 19 walks while striking out 39. As a result, he slipped to the 18th round of the 2014 draft, where the White Sox gladly snatched him up. He pitched well for the AZL White Sox that year, and certainly held his own with Great Falls and Kannapolis the following season.

The 2016 season saw Banks split time with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, combining for a respectable 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 159 1/3 innings by surrendering 164 hits (.265 OBA) and 31 walks (4.7%) while striking out 116 (17.6%). Parke pitched well for Winston-Salem in 2017 but struggled badly for Birmingham, which explains why he returned to Winston-Salem for the 2018 season. In 2018, however, Banks pitched exemplary baseball for both the Dash and the Barons as he combined to post a 2.59 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 146 innings by allowing 140 hits (.255 OBA) and 32 walks (5.4%) while fanning 100 (16.8%). Banks received the honor of pitching in the Arizona Fall League at the conclusion of the season, but finished with a 5.64 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.

Though Banks appeared in two relief outings for Charlotte, he spent the vast majority of the 2019 season as a starter for the Barons. In 30 outings altogether this year (21 starts), he combined for a 4.19 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 126 2/3 innings as he surrendered 136 hits (.274 OBA) and 22 walks (4.2%) while striking out 88 (16.6%). According to FutureSox, Banks’ repertoire includes an upper-80s fastball, an 85-to-87 mph cutter, seldom-used changeup and above-average curveball. He’s been able to succeed because he keeps the ball down (his ground ball rate has never fallen below 40% at the professional level) and he throws strikes. However, because he was a four-year senior without a blazing heater, it seems he’s considered as organizational depth.

Banks will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, and if unselected, he may begin the season with Charlotte. However, because of injuries to Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert to begin the season, a return to Birmingham wouldn’t be out of the question either.


Flores only gets two outs in Desert Dogs 10-3 loss

Nice start for a closer: Tyler Johnson hopes to put his injury woes behind him with a strong AFL season. (@BhamBarons)

Blake Rutherford: 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K (.167 BA, .536 OPS)
Bernardo Flores: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (54.00 ERA)
Tyler Johnson: 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (0.00 ERA)

Flores was hurt in the middle of the season and missed an opportunity to reach Triple-A and possibly Chicago, so he is here in Arizona making up some lost innings. Unfortunately, he didn’t get through one. He allowed four runs while recording just two outs in his first game action in the AFL.

Flores may not be off to a good start, but another injured player, Tyler Johnson, is.

Johnson went 1 1/3 innings of shutout baseball. He did allow two runners on, with a hit and a walk, but he worked through both of them. Only one White Sox hitter got the start today, with Blake Rutherford out in left. He only got one hit in four tries, but it was an RBI double. He came around to score after that double.

Since Flores got off to such a tough start, the Desert Dogs were never able to come back. Glendale looks overmatched early on, as they start the AFL 0-2.

2019 Birmingham Barons season recap

Two top position players in the system: One team. (@BhamBarons)

To start the year, the Birmingham Barons were the most talented team in the Chicago White Sox system. They had top prospects up and down the roster, but they all fell flat for the first month (or, for some, the entire season).

Because the Barons were underperforming for at least the first month, their record was awful, at 27-42. Once some prospects got going in May, and reinforcements came up from the lower levels, the second half was much better, at 37-30.

Like the Winston-Salem Dash, the Barons also have a managerial prospect: Omar Vizquel. From fans, he seems to be the favorite in the clubhouse to takeover for Rick Renteria. Vizquel was one of the many interviewees for the Angels’ opening for manager that eventually went to Brad Ausmus. Though he did not get the gig, Vizquel seemed to enjoy being considered — but there was some cause for Sox fans to be concerned. He stated on the Talk Beisbol podcast that transcribed, “I was surprised by a lot of the questions they asked me. There were a lot of sabermetrics involved in all of their questions. They’re apparently going far beyond what it means to be responsible and wise about the moves that you can make. They want someone who is very interested in the numbers and can weigh the percentages.” This apparent old-school approach is not a glowing look for Vizquel, but hopefully he took this as a learning experience to put to use with the Barons.

But it’s player time, and there are a lot of good ones who came through Birmingham.

Once Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal got to Birmingham, it was the talk of the White Sox prospect world because of how well both did. Robert was not as good as his High-A stint — it was almost impossible to be that good — but he still clobbered Double-A pitching. Robert slashed .314/.362/.518, for a 155 wRC+. He of course showed off a lot of power but also flashed speed, stealing 21 bases in 27 chances in Birmingham.

For Madrigal, his Double-A stint was what got some detractors to switch sides and support him as the South Side’s future second baseman. He hit .341, leading the team, and reached base in 40% of his plate appearances. Madrigal’s K-rate didn’t even increase, so his bat-to-ball skills are out of this world.

There were a couple other promotions for hitters, one good and one bad. Yermín Mercedes was the good one. He crushed in Birmingham, with a 157 wRC+, and fans started to clamor for a more fast-paced promotion schedule (didn’t happen). There was also no improvement on his defensive side, so Mercedes is kind of on the outside looking in as a prospect.

Joel Booker was the second promotion. For about a month, Booker hit .351 for the Barons and was looking like he could make it to Chicago. However, he was very bad with the Charlotte Knights, with just a 49 wRC+, and even lost playing time. Booker was eventually demoted back to Birmingham, but he was unable to save his season.

On the pitching side, there was not much movement, but a few arms of note did get a quick taste of Double-A before going to Charlotte. Three of those were relievers in Zach Thompson, Matt Foster, and Hunter Schryver. All three were great in Double-A, with Foster not even allowing a run in his six games and Thompson only allowing one in four games. Schyver was in Alabama a bit longer (30 appearances) and left a 2.77 ERA.

Kyle Kubat is the lone starter who got to Birmingham, after a promotion from High-A. He only needed eight starts to show he should be in Charlotte with his very good command/limited strikeout ability. As you will see in the Charlotte recap, the new ball took a toll on all of Birmingham’s arms when they reached the Knights. Now, on to the guys that finished with the Barons, and there were a lot.

Barons Bats

Because it took so long for Barons bats to get going, this one is a little different. First we take a look at Gavin Sheets, the only batter to end the year with the Barons and have a wRC+ of more than 100.

Sheets had a horrible April, but was able to come back enough to salvage his season; he also seemed to get quite motivated after the White Sox selected fellow first baseman Andrew Vaughn in the draft. Sheets ended the year with a 122 wRC+, and though his batting average was lower than last season, his power was better. Sheets hit 16 home runs, and 19 more extra-base hits. Those doubles he had last season basically turned to homers in 2019. He still doesn’t hit enough fly balls, but Sheets’ approach at the plate hasn’t changed. He still uses all fields and has a walk rate at 10%, with a better than average K-rate. Once Sheets gets a hold of the MLB ball, his power should skyrocket.

Second, here are the players that started out so bad that even much better play later in the year couldn’t eight their seasons. We start with Blake Rutherford.

Rutherford was awful for the first two months of the season, but his bat-to-ball skills helped lead him to a good finish. From June until the end of the season, Rutherford slashed .307/.364/.404 for a 122 WRC+. He really relied on a lot of singles, as his ISO was just .098, but Rutherford still got hits and got on base. The walk rate was decent (9%) over that stretch, but a 24% K-rate in Double-A when you’re hot is concerning. Rutherford will be in the AFL this season, to hopefully back up his good play in the last few months at Birmingham.

Luis González was also not looking the way he was supposed to for the first month. He did recover some, but it was an overall uninspiring year for the outfielder. Again, his best stretch started in June, but his success was not as good as Rutherford’s. González only had a 109 wRC+ from June until the end of the season … but there are some things that look better compared to Rutherford. González walked at about the same rate but he struck out far less, which is a good sign. González also did show some more power.

Luis Basabe had a tough year on the field and with his health. He only played in 74 games this season between rehab games and with the Barons. His power was down, plate discipline was worse and he only hit .246. Whenever Basabe looked like he was figuring it all out again, he would get hurt or slump. He finished the year with a 95 wRC+, which is not bad, but it was not the step fans and the organization wanted. Maybe it was because of the injuries, but 74 games is still a solid sample size to show something. This was Basabe’s second stint in Double-A, and a drop in production is concerning.

Then there was the outright poor seasons as Laz Rivera and Joel Booker floundered at a time to tell if they were real prospects or not. Booker actually started out very well as he hit .351 before being promoted to Triple-A. However, that was the high point, as Booker’s season tanked from there. He ended up losing his starting job in Charlotte and was eventually demoted. Unfortunately, Booker’s woes continued, and he could not get out of his rut.

Rivera was in Double-A the entire year, and was not inspiring. After hitting very well last season in both Single-A leagues, Southern League pitching seemed too good for the middle infielder. The power and batting average went down, and Rivera’s defense was not spectacular (14 errors in 102 games at shortstop).

Barons Pitching

Let’s just get the real bad out of the way here, the serious injuries! Dane Dunning was slated to be with the Barons but he had Tommy John surgery in the spring. Jimmy Lambert did actually pitch during the season before he too went under the knife for Tommy John. He was not all that great, but that could also be his injury talking. Zack Burdi was going through his TJS rehab process, but needed surgery again when he arrived with the Barons. This time the injury was not directly related to the arm; it was a torn tendon in his knee. Burdi was not very good before that, though, coming off time last season where his fastball velocity was way down. Burdi finished with a 6.75 ERA in 2019.

To the better news, kind of. Bernardo Flores did finish the season pitching, but he missed a huge chunk of it because of injury. That missed time probably prohibited him from reaching Triple-A to find out what he can do with a juiced ball. In 78 1/3 innings, Flores had his typical good ERA at 3.33. The strikeouts were up compared to last season (about a 7% rise) while the walks stayed near 4.5%. So it was a more impressive a season than 2018, but the injury really bit Flores and his development arc.

Lincoln Henzman had a down year compared to last season, but he also had injury troubles, though not as severe. He missed a few starts in April that set him back, and it took awhile for him to reach his 2018 level in High-A. Henzman’s last three starts at W-S were superb, but once he was promoted to Birmingham, those struggles resurfaced. Henzman will always have a low K and BB rate, so he will heavily rely on BABIP, and it was not kind in 2019. He had a .331 BABIP in Double-A, and that basically doomed him because Henzman does not have an out pitch. FIP and xFIP like him more because he has low home run, walk, and fly ball rates. However, in this case, ERA is more important, and Henzman’s was 5.56 to end the year.

Blake Battenfield and John Parke are the other starters to keep an eye on, though they do not have the prospect hype of Flores. Battenfield and Parke both started in High-A and earned their way to Birmingham. Parke was much better than Battenfield. He had a 2.59 ERA compared to Battenfield’s 4.52. Both will be in their age 25 seasons next year, so that is cause for concern because they are going up against younger talent. I cannot really make any sort of judgement on either player without them using the MLB ball. So next season in Triple-A will be big. Hopefully these older arms perform much better than, say, a Jordan Stephens.

The Barons actually had quite the interesting set of relief pitchers. Again, let’s get the bad out of the way first. Alec Hansen continued his struggles in Double-A, as his prospect capital just keep falling. He had a 5.45 ERA, with an 8.39 BB/9 — better than last season, but still awful.

Tyler Johnson did not have a bad season; he was just out for most of it because of a lat injury. He very well could have been in MLB at this point without the injury, but alas, he will settle for the AFL. Johnson finished his season with just 31 1/3 innings pitched for a 2.59 ERA (with the Barons, it was just 18 1/3 innings for a 3.44 ERA). Vince Arobio had a fantastic season, up until his final promotion to the Barons. Arobio had a 6.11 ERA in 28 Double-A innings after what was a breakout iILB season.

Now, to the much better and healthier years.

Codi Heuer, Bennett Sousa, and Kodi Mederios did their jobs, even if it came in a roundabout way in Double-A. Heuer was the most conventional. After his promotion to the Barons, he more or less served as Birmingham’s closer. He had a 1.84 ERA with nine saves in 13 chances. He has really risen up the iILB ranks quickly, after he was selected just last season in the sixth round. He has good command, but his strikeouts did fall drastically between High-A and Double-A — something to keep an eye on in 2020.

Sousa only pitched two games with the Barons, and didn’t allow a run. He will probably start 2020 in Birmingham, though he could be fast-tracked to the Sox if they do not have confidence in their other lefty relief options.

Finally, Medeiros. He started out the year in the rotation, and that did not work out at all. In 40 2/3 innings as a starter, Medeiros had a 7.75 ERA, with a whopping .333 batting average against. When he was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last season, some theorized Medeiros will end up in the pen eventually, and he did this season to great success. In 42 1/3 innings in relief, Medeiros had a 2.55 ERA and a much better .164 batting average against, in fact, that is a fantastic number. On a more progressive team than the White Sox, Medeiros could easily be an opener option. With the three-batter minimum coming, a lefty that can go longer like Medeiros could be a welcome sight.

The Barons unfortunately will have a lot more retreads from their 2019 team for 2020. For some, 2020 might be a last gasp to capitalize on what prospect hype they have left, but the Barons should be a team everyone will be watching again. Hopefully it will not be with horror ,like it was for much of this season.

White Sox Minor League Update: August 29, 2019

Future shock: After Thursday, Jonathan Stiever has 10 quality starts in 12 High-A outings. (Winston-Salem Dash)

Biloxi Shuckers 5, Birmingham Barons 3 (11)

Luis Gonzalez: 0-for-6, 0 BB, 4 K (.250 BA, .678 OPS)
Blake Rutherford: 2-for-3, 2 BB, 0 K (.262 BA, .673 OPS)
Gavin Sheets: 0-for-3, 1 BB, 1 K (.273 BA, .771 OPS)
Bernardo Flores: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K (3.33 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) *MVP*

The Barons tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but they ended up losing after a two-run 11th by the Shuckers. Bernardo Flores started the game, in what should be his final game action until the AFL. He showed a pretty good out pitch, with 10 strikeouts over six innings. He left with another quality start, and a much better performance than his last start. The bullpen was great behind him, too combining for five innings and just two runs. They also added eight more strikeouts, so Birmingham pitchers had 18 on the day.

The hitting started slow, but finally got going, with a little luck, when it mattered the most. For eight innings, the Dash only scored one run, off of a Nate Nolan double. In the ninth, Zach Remillard singled to drive in two runs to send the game into extras. Unfortunately, it was the Shuckers who scored runs in extras, as the Barons fell 5-3.

Salem Red Sox 1, Winston-Salem Dash 0

Steele Walker: 0-for-4, 0 BB, 1 K (.272 BA, .779 OPS)
Andrew Vaughn: 2-for-4, 0 BB, 0 K (.247 BA, .748 OPS)
Jonathan Stiever: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (2.15 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) **MVP**

Winston-Salem pitchers did all they could to win; it was just one little mistake from Jonathan Stiever that was the difference in this 1-0 loss. Stiever allowed a solo homer in the third inning, and it was the game’s lone run. He was fantastic besides that one big hit allowed, lowering his High-A ERA to 2.15 in what has been a breakout year. Unless the Dash make the playoffs, this might have been Stiever’s last game of the season, and he should be the minor league pitcher of the year for the White Sox. Obviously the hitters didn’t do anything, but at least Andrew Vaughn had two hits.

Kannapolis Initmidators 5, Hagerstown Suns 4

Ian Dawkins: 0-for-4, 1 BB, 1 K (.298 BA, .756 OPS)
Lenyn Sosa: 3-for-5, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K (.248 BA, .649 OPS)
Tyler Osik: 3-for-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K (.272 BA, .895 OPS) **MVP**
Devon Perez: 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (3.20 ERA, 1.10 WHIP)

Some scoring in the first half of the game led to a close 5-4 win by the end o the night. In the first five innings, the I’s scored all of their runs. Tyler Osik hit his fourth homer since his promotion, and added another RBI later. Corey Zangari accounted for an RBI as well, but it was on a bases-loaded walk, so it was more of a bad pitching thing. Cameron Simmons added the final two runs in the fifth inning: He drove in Lenyn Sosa, who had three hits on the night, as well as Osik on a double. This is was Devon Perez’s second start of the season, and he was just fine. The later bullpen arms of Caleb Freeman, in his Low-A debut, and Justin O’Conner kept the lead intact.

Great Falls Voyagers 9, Idaho Falls Chukars 6

Caberea Weaver: 0-for-4, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K (.256 BA, .695 OPS)
Harvin Mendoza: 1-for-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K (.292 Ba, .866 OPS)
Lency Delgado: 1-for-5, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K (.273 BA, .712 OPS)
Sam Abbott: 1-for-2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K (.230 BA, .798 OPS) **MVP**
Chase Solesky: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (6.75 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)

A big win for the Voyagers came after a big eighth inning put them on top for good. The first two arms out of the bullpen for Great Falls were not all that great. Solesky and then Rigo Fernandez allowed five runs in their six innings pitched. The offense was fine during that span with three runs, but they were down for the majority of the game. In the eighth inning, GFV put up six runs to take a commanding lead, but they were not conventional runs at all. Caberea Weaver opened up the scoring with a sacrifice fly, and Joshua Rivera scored on an error with the next batter. Luis Curbelo came home on a wild pitch, and then the Chuckars loaded the bases. Their pitcher proceeded to walk three straight batters for the final three runs of the inning. The new four-run lead quickly slimmed to three, but it was still enough to get the Voyagers the win.

Arizona Fall League: White Sox edition

Power ball: The closest player to the majors participating for the White Sox in the AFL is Gavin Sheets. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)

The AFL rosters are out, sort of.

Since there is a TBA, it is not officially official yet, but the majority of the Chicago White Sox prospects have already been announced. There will be two outfielders (Rutherford and TBA/Adolfo), a first baseman (Sheets), three relievers (Johnson, Sousa, and Arobio) and finally, one starting pitcher (Bernardo Flores). These guys certainly aren’t the cream of the crop in the system, but a few of these guys could be on the South Side pretty quickly — which is why we’ll see them in the AFL this season.

Before we dive into the announced players, first, let’s go over the new rules of the AFL. First off, the early start date. The first games will be played September 18. Not many of these prospects have to worry about playing in MiLB playoffs, so they should get a couple weeks of “rest” before starting up again. The positives besides the game-play rest is that prospects won’t have as long a layoff as before. Last season they started the AFL at the end of October. The negative is that it’s still really hot in Arizona, so it won’t be overly comfortable.

Just by peering at the White Sox prospects, it seems like the new rule of allowing any minor leaguer to participate in the AFL wouldn’t have mattered much. Most of the time in the past, it was players from the upper levels of the minors. Rutherford, Sheets, Flores, Johnson, Arobio, and Adolfo are all listed under the Birmingham Barons roster. Sousa is in Winston-Salem.

Also, a question I didn’t even think of beforehand was answered by Josh Norris, an associate editor at Baseball America.

Those baseballs, man, who would have thought that question would be so important? Thankfully, this baseball is something all of the White Sox prospects going to Arizona have been using the entire year. But enough about the league — the players are what matters.


In my opinion, Blake Rutherford going to the AFL is a little bit of a surprise. I thought another player who had injury issues and missed at-bats, like a Bryce Bush or Luis Basabe, would get the spot, but of late Rutherford definitely showed he can play in the AFL.

He started out, just like a lot of other Barons, with some really terrible play. In April, he only hit .156 and was able to do better in May, but still hit just .216 with no power at all. Though since June, it has been exponentially impressive. He slashed .300/.347/.396 in 71 games for a 116 wRC+. Rutherford still didn’t show much power, but the bat-to-ball skills are back. It was not an overwhelming performance, but it seems like the Sox are using the AFL to recoup some value for Rutherford.

If you thought Gavin Sheets was on the outs because of a lack of power last season, well, he showed he had some with the Barons. Sheets currently has 16 home runs and 19 more extra-base hits in 2019. He isn’t really selling out for more power, though his strikeouts are up slightly. He is still going the other way and isn’t hitting enough fly balls like a power-hitting first baseman should. But Sheets has a wRC+ of 126, which is a personal best, and he still has a good eye at the plate, with a walk rate near 10%. With Vaughn on Sheets’ tail, this could be a showcase for trade or Sheets might see some action in Chicago next season and extending his season should help that; he should probably be in Charlotte already.

Micker Adolfo rounds out the batters, and this is a classic “get the injured player more at-bats” scenario. However, in Adolfo’s case, it could also be used to get him much-needed game reps in the outfield, because he hasn’t played in right since 2017. He only played in 36 total games this season, so there isn’t much to read into, but all Adolfo really needs to do at this point is stay healthy and just play.


Two pitchers fall into the injured category of needing to pitch more innings, Bernardo Flores and Tyler Johnson. Flores so far has pitched in 87 1/3 innings this season. That will put him far lower than the previous year’s total of 156, so the AFL is to help get him just a few more innings. If Flores had stayed healthy, he would probably be in Chicago already. He did well in his Double-A stint. He has a 3.36 ERA, with a very low walk rate and a below-average K-rate.

Johnson started the year late because of a lat injury and again, if he didn’t get injured, he would probably be in Chicago along with Flores. It is tough to read his performance this year because he didn’t have a preseason due to injury, but Johnson has struggled recently in Birmingham. He has a 4.40 ERA and hasn’t been used in any closing situations.

The other two pitchers, Bennett Sousa and Vince Arobio, seem like this AFL is a congratulations on how well they did during the year. Sousa started his season in Kannapolis and continued his great run that started in 2018. He had a 22.4% K-BB rate and when he was promoted to the Dash, it improved again, to 23.9%. He currently has a 2.60 ERA between the two levels.

Arobio had a much more exciting time in MiLB, as he was promoted twice during the season. He started in Kannapolis and ended in Birmingham. He had a 3.34 ERA among the three levels, but has struggled with the Barons. He has a 5.40 ERA in Double-A, but his successful season overall earned him a shot at some of the better hitting prospects in Arizona.

White Sox Minor League Update: August 19, 2019

Bless our gal Laura Wolff, all offseason she ought make a mint off of these Yoán-Luis shots she’s taken over the past week or so. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

Charlotte Knights 13, Durham Bulls 11

Yoán Moncada (3B) 2-for-5, HR (2) 3 RBI (5), 2 R, K, E (1) (.353 BA, 1.059 OPS)

Yermín Mercedes (DH) 2-for-4, 2 R, HR (15), 2 RBI (52) BB (.312 BA, 1.050 OPS)

Luis Robert (CF) 1-for-4, HR (12), 3 RBI (31), 3 K (.305 BA, 1.002 OPS)
Nick Madrigal (2B) 2-for-5, 2 R, 2B (2), 2 K (.290 BA, .729 OPS)
Daniel Palka (RF) 3-for-5, 2 R, 2B (23) (.273 BA, .929 OPS)
Kyle Kubat (SP) 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 R/3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, W (5-1), 81 pitches/52 strikes (4.84 ERA)
Caleb Frare (RP) 1 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 K (7.58 ERA)
Thyago Vieira (RP) 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, BB, HR, 26 pitches/13 strikes (5.80 ERA)
José Ruiz (RP) IP, 2 K, Sv (5), 14 pitches/11 strikes (1.04 ERA)

A barnburner in Durham, where the Knights prevailed to take a one-game edge in the wild card race. Charlotte jumped out to a huge lead, up 11-1 at one point, courtesy of one very, very long ball.

Even as Durham climbed back into this one, the long balls continued.

Things got a bit hairy, as the ball was flying out and putting the bull in jeopardy all night. Hardest-hit among Charlotte’s corps were Caleb Frare and Thyago Vieira, who combined for leak six earned in fewer than two innings. But all’s well that ends, as José Ruiz brought the game to a merciful end with a lockdown ninth, for his fifth save.

Oh, and in the category of burying the lede, NICK MADRIGAL STRUCK OUT TWICE! ohgodohgodohgodohgod

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 3, Birmingham Barons 2

Bernardo Flores (SP) 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 8 K, HR, L (3-7), 79 pitches/56 strikes (3.12 ERA)

Kodi Medeiros (RP) 2 IP, H, K, 34 pitches/20 strikes (5.23 ERA)

Luis González (CF) 1-for-3, R, RBI (55) (.248 BA, .678 OPS)

Tough game for the home team, handcuffed on just three hits and five total baserunners. With no offensive highlights, let’s shine the light on a couple of strong pitching performances. Bernardo Flores was strong; while seven hits and a homer aren’t great over six innings, eight Ks and no walks sure are. Kodi Medeiros continues to shine out of the pen, with two clean innings tonight. Disappointing Birmingham falls to 56-67 on the season, and for the affiliate who looked strongest coming into the season, it’s a head-scratcher.

Missoula Osprey 4, Great Falls Voyagers 1 (Game 1)

Missoula Osprey 1, Great Falls Voyagers 0 (Game 2, eight innings)

Jason Morgan (SP) 6 IP, CG, 6 H, 4 R/3 ER, BB, K, 2 HR, L (2-5), 71 pitches/46 strikes (5.11 ERA) (Game 1)
Harvin Mendoza (1B) 2-for-5, RBI (24), BB, 2B (12) (.322 BA, .937 OPS) (Game 2)

Luis Curbelo (3B) 1-for-6, 3B (4), R, K, E (6) (.253 BA, .733 OPS) (Game 1)
Sammy Peralta (RP) 2 IP, H, K, pickoff, 30 pitches/20 strikes (1.69 ERA) (Game 2)

Caberea Weaver (CF) 1-for-5, 2B (11), BB, 4 K (.256 BA, .687 OPS)
Lency Delgado (SS) 1-for-6, 4 K, 2 E (13)

Seriously, these results are so terrible, I’m just going to combine the writeups. Gross. One run scored over 15 innings, six total hits, four errors. It was a second straight strong start for Jason Morgan in the opener, pitching a slightly sloppy but nonetheless complete game (seven-inning doubleheader game). The hitters behind him were godawful, trailed by Caberea Weaver’s rough 0-for-3, 3 K game at the leadoff spot. Game 2 wasn’t much better, although at least the Voyagers managed to squeeze another offensively impotent game into extras. However, in the eight inning, Luis Curbelo’s throwing error (his second of the twinbill) allowed the extras-opening runner on second to score — game over. The pitching lines were odd, in that GFV pitchers picked off three Osprey runners in the nightcap, and Caleb Freeman managed to get the loss (0-1) despite coaxing a strikeout and ground ball from the two batters he faced. Great Falls drops to 23-32 on the year, and it appears it will not have a chance to defend its Pioneer League title in this season.

AZL Royals 7, AZL White Sox 3

Micker Adolfo (DH) 4-for-5, 2B (4), HR (2), RBI (2) (.290 BA, 1.018 OPS)

Vlad Nuñez Jr. (RP) 3 IP, 2 H, 4 K (3.33 ERA)

Hector Acosta (SP) 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, K, L (1-8) (6.32 ERA)
James Beard (CF) 1-for-4, RBI (10), SB (7) (.189 BA, .511 OPS)
Bryan Ramos (1B) 2-for-4, R, K (.259 BA, .731 OPS)
Antbony Coronado (RF) 2-for-4, R, RBI (12) (.326 BA, .883 OPS)

It was not a great all-around game for any AZL Sox not named Micker or Vlad. Adolfo seems ready to perhaps take some cuts against better competition — although that may have to wait until the AFL. His four hits and eight total bases did as much as possible to keep our kids in league with the Royals, but ultimately, some poor pitching from starter Hector Acosta and reliever Joseph Jarneski did the club in. Acosta had just one bad inning, the second, but a crooked number like a 5 in a frame makes it tough for your club to rally. And rally, the AZL White Sox did not.

DSL White Sox vs. DSL Orioles1 (postponed, rain)