Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham center fielders

No. 1 with a bullet: Luis Robert, with a 30-30 season under his belt, is arguably the most exciting player in the White Sox organization. (@KnightsBaseball) 


“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

This list includes the three of the organization’s Top 12 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Oddly enough, they all share the first name of Luis. Should we call this group “Tres Luises?” All have plus arms, good speed and decent power, although Luis Robert is the only one to consistently shine thus far. It’ll be fun to see how these three fare in 2020.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Charlotte Knights

Luis Robert
6´3´´
185 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Right field, Left field

Age: 22

A native Cuban, Robert was easily the most sought-after player on the international market in 2017. After all, when playing for Ciego de Avila in the Cuban League earlier that year against players typically 10 years older, Robert slashed .401/.526/.687 with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 40 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 38 walks (16.4%) and 30 strikeouts (12.9%) in just 53 games. When the White Sox ultimately signed him to a $26 million bonus (the second-highest in baseball history behind only Yoán Moncada), it sent shock waves throughout the country that the recently-minted White Sox rebuild was going full speed ahead. Was it the recruiting by the likes of José Abreu, Moncada and Ricky Renteria that won him over, or was it simply cash that was just slightly more than what the St. Louis Cardinals were offering? Perhaps a little of both. Robert did play for the DSL Sox that year for tax reasons, and did quite well (he missed significant time due to injury) in slashing .310/.491/.536 in 28 games with eight doubles, one triple, three homers, 14 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 22 walks and 23 strikeouts.

The 2018 season was a difficult one for Robert. He was primarily hampered by thumb injuries during the year, and as most players can attest, it’s hard to do much damage when that’s the case. It’s not like Robert was atrocious; he just simply couldn’t hit with the power expected of him. For the year split between the AZL Sox, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he slashed .269/.333/.360 in 50 games with 11 doubles, three triples, no homers, 17 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 12 walks (7.2%) and 52 strikeouts (25.0%). On an encouraging note to end the year, he played exceptionally well for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League as he slashed .324/.367/.432 in 18 games with two doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs, and five stolen bases.

To put it mildly, Robert played out of his mind in 2019. All he did in 19 games with Winston-Salem was slash .453/.512/.920 with five doubles, three triples, eight homers, 24 RBIs, eight stolen bases, four walks (4.8%) and 20 strikeouts (23.8%). After earning a promotion to Birmingham on April 30, all he did for the Barons (with half his games in one of the best pitching parks in the minors) in 56 games was slash .314/.362/.518 with 16 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 29 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, 13 walks (5.3%) and 54 strikeouts (22.1%). After laying waste to Double-A pitching Robert received a promotion to Charlotte, where he slashed .297/.341/.634 in 47 games with 10 doubles, five triples, 16 homers, 39 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 11 walks (4.9%) and 55 strikeouts (24.7%).

Combined with all three teams, Robert slashed an amazing .328/.376/.624 in 122 games with 31 doubles, 11 triples, 32 homers, 92 RBIs and 36 stolen bases while making fantastic defensive plays on the diamond. The only minor quibble is he walked only 28 times while striking out 129, but it’s hard to argue with that when his production was otherwise outstanding. This was Robert’s longest season to date and he seemed to only be getting stronger as the season waned. He was one of just two minor leaguers with 30-30 seasons (joining Houston’s Kyle Tucker). While I mentioned plate discipline before, it’s OK if he doesn’t walk too much provided he finds himself in good hitting counts. After all, he did slash .398/.545/.892 when he was ahead in the count this year.    

Needless to say, Robert deserved plenty of fanfare after such a terrific season. Baseball America, MLB Pipeline and MiLB.com all named him this year’s Minor League Player of the Year, and he was named the Double-A All-Star Game MVP earlier in the year as well. Now ranked third on MLB Pipeline’s top prospect list (behind only Tampa’s Wander Franco and L.A.’s Gavin Lux), Robert has all the tools to succeed at the next level. MLB Pipeline grades his running at 65, power and arm at 60, fielding and hitting at 55. His only weakness may be a lack of patience at the plate, which could be exploited in the majors; with that said, Robert is likely be the preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year in 2020. Of course, he may be held back for three weeks in April in order for the Sox to control him an extra year, but perhaps a preseason extension may resolve that issue.  


Birmingham Barons

Luis Basabe
6´0´´ 
160 pounds
B/T: S/R
Other positions played: Left field, Right field
Age: 23

For his 16th birthday on Aug. 26, 2012,  he (along with his twin brother Luis Alejandro) received a signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox as his gift. Basabe’s first two seasons in that organization were spent in the DSL, where the Venezuelan posted decent but unspectacular numbers. After playing in the New York-Penn League in 2015, Basabe started moving up the prospect charts in 2016 with Salem (A) and Greenville as he combined to slash .264/.328/.452 in 110 games with 26 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers, 53 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. Then in December of that year, Basabe was traded along with Moncada, Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz for ace hurler Chris Sale in a blockbuster deal.

In Basabe’s first year in the White Sox organization, he struggled with Winston-Salem at .221/.320/.320 in 107 games with 12 doubles, five triples, five homers, 36 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 49 walks (11.3%) and 104 strikeouts (23.9%); the struggles were due in large part to a torn meniscus. At the end of the season, Basabe was added to the 40-man roster to prevent him from being snatched from another squad via the Rule 5 draft. The 2018 season was Basabe’s most successful in the White Sox system, as he combined with Winston-Salem and Birmingham to slash .258/.354/.445 in 119 games with 21 doubles, eight triples, 15 homers, 56 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 64 walks (12.4%) and 140 strikeouts (27.2%). 

Injuries (Basabe broke the hamate bone in his left hand during spring training and lost more at-bats to a recurring quadriceps injury during the season) greatly impacted Basabe in 2019. As a result, he slashed just .246/.324/.336 in 69 games for Birmingham with 12 doubles, one triple, three homers, 30 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 29 walks (10.0%) and 85 strikeouts (29.2%).

Basabe is still ranked eighth among all White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, based more on talent than production levels at this point. If healthy, he certainly has significant tools as his running and arm are both graded 60, fielding 55, power 50 and hitting 45. Despite his low homer output (likely due to that hamate injury), Basabe does indeed have 20-homer power as evidenced by his blast off a 102-mph fastball from Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The biggest concern is Basabe’s bat, as like earlier versions of  Moncada, he strikes out far too often after taking way too many called third strikes. Like fellow Barons outfielder Micker Adolfo, Basabe is now down to one option remaining, which means the Sox would like to see what he can do. Expect him to begin the season with Birmingham, though because of his few options left, Basabe could begin with Charlotte instead. Even if Robert is the long-term future at center, Basabe definitely has the sufficient arm to play right field. 

Luis González
6´1´´
195 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Right field, Left field
Age: 24

Born in Mexico, González payed high school ball in Arizona before playing collegiately with the University of New Mexico. He was a solid and consistent performer for the Lobos during his three years, and enjoyed arguably his best year as a junior by slashing .361/.500/.589 in 55 games with 22 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 42 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 58 walks (20.0%) and 32 strikeouts (11.0%). Due to his consistency and the fact that he did a lot of things well, González was selected in the third round of the 2017 draft by the White Sox. Combined with Great Falls and Kannapolis, he slashed .236/.351/.348 in 63 games with 14 doubles, four triples, two homers, 15 RBIs, two stolen bases, 42 walks (14.0%) and 53 strikeouts (17.7%).

González enjoyed an outstanding 2018 split evenly between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, as he combined to slash .307/.367/.498 in 117 games with 40 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 71 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 48 walks (8.9%) and 103 strikeouts (19.0%). However, like many of the other highly-rated outfielders on the Birmingham roster to begin 2019, González struggled badly out of the gate. Prior to the All-Star break, he slashed just .230/.288/.324; he did improve a bit during the second half by slashing a more respectable .266/.345/.397. For the year, González slashed .247/.316/.359 in 126 games with Birmingham with 18 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 59 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 47 walks (9.9%) and 89 strikeouts (18.8%). Likely nearly every hitter on the planet, González fared far better with a favorable count (.314/.479/.600) than when he was behind (.216/.220/.263). Unlike many lefties, he actually fared better against southpaws (.263/.342/.361) than versus righties (.241/.305/.359). 

Despite his struggles this year, Gonzalez still ranks 12th among the White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline. His throwing arm (60 grade) is easily his best tool, and would work especially well in right field. González’s run, hit and field skills are all rated average while his power tool is weakest (40 grade) despite the fact he clubbed a respectable 14 homers in 2018. Like many of the Birmingham outfielders last year, González is a borderline choice to begin the season with Charlotte. Based in part because three of those outfielders (Basabe, Adolfo and Blake Rutherford) are now on the 40-man roster, that may mean González will be asked to repeat in Double-A. Regardless, he should get plenty of at-bats with Charlotte before the end of the year.  


 

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham left fielders

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:

  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

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)


Birmingham Barons

Joel Booker
6´1´´
190 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Center field, Right field

Age: 26

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.


 

 

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham shortstops

Rivera 2020: After a terrific 2018, Laz crashed to earth with Birmingham in 2019. Will he be able to bounce back? (@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:

  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

All three shortstops at the upper levels seem to fit the bill of utilityman profiles, but don’t have the upside of a Lenyn Sosa, Lency Delgado or Yolbert Sánchez.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Charlotte Knights

Ramon Torres
5´11´´
190 pounds
B/T: S/R
Other positions played: Second base, Third base, Left field, Right Field, First base
Age: 27

Torres, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed with the Kansas City Royals as a 17-year-old. He ever-so-slowly worked his way through their system, and finally made it to the majors in 2017 where he slashed .243/.291/.284 in 33 games. He spent much of the 2018 season in Triple-A Omaha, though he did play nine games for the Royals but struggled with a .179/.207/.214 slash line.

Last year saw Torres play 58 games for Birmingham, and when fellow ex-Royal Alcides Escobar was released in Charlotte, was promoted to the Knights for his final 21 games. While his results were mediocre with the Barons (.210/.244/.318), the switch-hitter was absolutely fire with the Knights as he slashed .343/.352/.612 in the more friendly hitting environment. For the year combined with both teams, he slashed .250/.277/.406 with 15 doubles, four triples, four homers, 25 RBIs, eight walks (3.4%) and 38 strikeouts (16.0%).

Torres is now a minor-league free agent, so he can sign with any team of his choosing. If he opts to return to the White Sox, he would likely begin the 2020 season with Charlotte.


Birmingham Barons

Laz Rivera
6´1´´
185 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Second base
Age: 25

After a college career that spanned three years with different levels (University of Miami, Chipola JC and Div. II University of Tampa, Rivera was selected by the White Sox in the 28th round of the 2017 draft. He was immediately inserted into the AZL lineup, where he slashed .296/.374/.446 in 47 games with 12 doubles, five triples, two homers, 24 RBIs, three stolen bases, eight walks (3.8%) and 26 strikeouts (12.2%).

Rivera enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2018. In his 63 games with Kannapolis, he slashed an impressive .346/.395/.502 with 15 doubles, two triples, six homers, 24 RBIs, seven stolen bases, six walks (2.3%) and 48 strikeouts (18.1%). While not as sensational, Rivera performed quite well for Winston-Salem in 61 games by slashing .280/.325/.458 with 15 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 37 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, seven walks and 44 strikeouts. Overall, Rivera finished with a terrific slash line of .314/.361/.481.

Baseball America said of him at the end of the season, “He is part of the new breed of infield prospect who hits first and asks questions later, a la Brandon Lowe and Nick Solak with the Rays. He brings above-average bat speed and a short path to the ball, which he used to post excellent numbers at both Class A levels. He’s an aggressive hitter who crushes fastballs but needs to work on not chasing offspeed pitches. He played almost exclusively at shortstop, though his 40-grade arm profiles better at second base.”

Of course, as with nearly every Sox hitter not named Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Yermín Mercedes, Rivera struggled bigtime with Birmingham in 2019. In 121 games totaling 424 at-bats, Rivera slashed just .248/.287/.318 with 22 doubles, one triple, two homers, 39 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 17 walks (3.7%) and 81 strikeouts (17.8%). A former organizational Top 30 prospect, he has fallen off most lists due to his lackluster offensive performance.

As of now, Rivera seems to be destined for a utility infield role going forward. However, barring the Sox signing a minor-league free agent for Triple-A next year, he could be slated for the much more hitting-friendly confines of Charlotte, where he can hopefully reclaim his prospect status.

Zach Remillard
6´1´´
200 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Third base, First base, Right field, Second base
Age: 26

Remillard was a four-year starter for Coastal Carolina, but it wasn’t until his senior year when he really boosted his profile. That year for the Chanticleers, he slashed .345/.392.617 in 72 games with 17 doubles, two triples, 19 homers, 72 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 19 walks (6.0%)and 81 strikeouts (25.4%). As a result of his efforts, Remillard was selected by the White Sox in the 10th round of the 2016 draft.

After splitting time in 2016 with the AZL Sox and Kannapolis, Remillard played the entire 2017 season with the Intimidators and slashed .246/.281/.353 in 133 games with 27 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 50 RBIs, four stolen bases, 19 walks (3.6%) and 124 strikeouts (23.4%). Last year was spent exclusively with Winston-Salem, where Remillard played all positions aside from the battery and slashed .250/.316/.395 in 110 games with 16 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, 52 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 30 walks (7.2%) and 103 strikeouts (24.6%).

Remillard got off to a great start with Winston-Salem in 2019, ultimately slashing .289/.358/.378 in 95 games with 15 doubles, one triple, five homers, 37 RBIs, six stolen bases, 33 walks (8.2%) and 89 strikeouts (22.2%). However, he did struggle in 27 games after his promotion to Birmingham as he slashed .232/.321/.326 for the Barons in 27 games with three doubles and two homers.

While it doesn’t look like he’ll ever fulfill the power potential shown during his senior season, he has still proven to be a valuable player nonetheless. Remillard is an athletic infielder with a plus arm, soft hands and good raw power. He has defensive versatility all infield positions, as well as the corner outfield spots in a pinch. Remillard will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. If undrafted, he likely will begin the season with Birmingham but it wouldn’t be surprising if he finds his way to Charlotte by year’s end.


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
6´4´´
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
6´3´´
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
5´11´´
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
5´10´´
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.




Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham second basemen

Star in the making: Nick Madrigal, the White Sox first-round pick in 2018, hit .311 for three teams last year. Did we mention he stole 35 bases, walked 44 times as opposed to 16 strikeouts, and won a minor league Gold Glove? (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)


“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

It’s time to take a look at the second basemen who finished the year with Charlotte and Birmingham; even though Danny Mendick finished the year with the White Sox, he still has rookie eligibility and is thus detailed in this post. These two players are by far the best second basemen in the White Sox system.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Charlotte Knights

Nick Madrigal
5´7´´
165 pounds
B/T: R/R
Age: 23

Madrigal enjoyed a terrific run with Oregon State University, which culminated in a NCAA World Series championship. For his sophomore season, he slashed .380/.449/.532 in 60 games with 20 doubles, two triples, four homers, 40 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 27 walks (9.6%) and 16 strikeouts (5.7%). Despite missing much time to a broken wrist early during his junior year, Madrigal still managed to slash .367/.428/.511 in 42 games last year with nine doubles, four triples, three homers, 34 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 16 walks (8.0%) and just seven strikeouts (3.5%). Due to his unique combination of speed, defense and hitting ability, the diminutive Madrigal was selected by the White Sox with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Madrigal played for three affiliates last year (AZL, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem) and fared reasonably well for his first professional season. In 43 combined games in 2018 totaling 155 at-bats, he slashed .303/.353/.348 with seven doubles, 16 RBIs, eight stolen bases, seven walks (4.0%) and five strikeouts (2.9%).

Like last year, Madrigal played for three squads in 2019 (Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte). Ironically, the least success he enjoyed was with the Dash, where he still posted a respectable .272/.346/.377 line in 49 games with 10 doubles, two triples, two homers, 27 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 17 walks (7.8%) and six strikeouts (2.8%). After being promoted to Birmingham on June 6, he slashed an impressive .341/.400/.451 in 42 games, including 11 doubles, two triples, one homer, 16 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 14 walks (7.8%) and just five strikeouts (2.8%). Finally, for an encore, Madrigal was promoted to Charlotte where he slashed .331/.398/.424 in 29 games with six doubles, one triple, one homer, 12 RBIs, four stolen bases, 13 walks (9.7%) and five strikeouts (3.7%). For the year, Madrigal combined to slash .311/.377/.414 in 120 games with 27 doubles, five triples, four homers, 55 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, 44 walks (8.3%) and 16 strikeouts (3.0%).

Madrigal ranks as the system’s best second base prospect, fourth-best prospect overall and 40th in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. His hit tool is graded 65 which actually seems conservative, while his field and run skills are also graded highly at 60. This year, Madrigal won the minor league Gold Glove award for second base — which likely had something to do with his terrific range and his committing only four errors in 488 changes (just one error in 77 games with Birmingham and Charlotte). Madrigal’s arm is graded 50 by MLB Pipeline which is satisfactory for second base, while his power grades out weakest, at 40. FanGraphs published an excellent piece regarding the difficulties of evaluating Madrigal’s abilities.

In part because he played just 29 games in Charlotte this year, Madrigal may well begin 2020 there. However, one should expect an early promotion to Chicago for this future South Side dynamo.

Danny Mendick
5´10´´
189 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Shortstop, Third base, Left field
Age: 26

After playing his first two years of college ball with Monroe CC (Rochester, NY), Mendick transferred to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for his final two years. For his senior year, he slashed .321/.408/.455 in 43 games with 16 doubles, one triple, one homer, 30 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 19 walks (10.3%) and 16 strikeouts (8.6%). As a result, the White Sox took a flier on this River Hawk and selected him in the 22nd round of the 2015 draft. Mendick played that season with the AZL squad and slashed a respectable .256/.340/.394 in 49 games.

Mendick enjoyed a solid season with Kannapolis in 2016 by slashing .274/.343/.355 in 98 games with 22 doubles and two homers, but struggled with Winston-Salem in his 15 games there by slashing just .125/.208/.167. However, upon his return to the Dash in 2017, Mendick slashed a more robust .289/.373/.468 with 18 doubles, seven homers, 30 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 31 walks (10.2%) and 40 strikeouts (13.1%) in 84 games. Unfortunately, he struggled with a midseason promotion to Birmingham, where he slashed just .197/.280/.293 in 41 games.

The 2018 season was spent exclusively with Birmingham, as Mendick slashed .247/.340/.395 with a career high 14 homers, 59 RBIs, 20 walks, 57 walks (10.8%) and 90 strikeouts (17.0%). He was available for the 2018 Rule 5 draft, but went unselected.

Then, in 2019 in the more hitting-friendly confines of Charlotte, Mendick re-established new career bests in most categories by slashing .279/.368/.444 in 133 games by producing 26 homers, one triple, 17 homers 64 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 66 walks (11.8%) and 96 strikeouts (17.2%). The White Sox called him up on September 3, which obviously meant they didn’t want to risk losing him in this year’s Rule 5 draft. In 16 games totaling 39 at-bats for the Sox, Mendick acted like he belonged by slashing .308/.325/.462 with two homers, four RBIs, one walk (2.5%) and 11 strikeouts (27.5%). Most players who get selected in the later rounds struggle at some point as they advance through the system, but Mendick actually has seemed to improve with each passing year.

Ranked as the organization’s No. 2 second baseman according to MLB Pipeline, Mendick is now regarded as the team’s 26th overall prospect. None of his skills stand out highly per MLB, as his arm and fielding skills are graded the highest at 50. With that said, Mendick does a lot of the little things well: (1) despite playing multiple positions frequently, he only committed four errors for the entire season (two were in Charlotte’s season-ending game); (2) he picks his spots to run, and has attained double-digit steals for each of the past three seasons; and (3) limits his strikeouts while coaxing a fair share of walks (not including the limited sample size with the White Sox).

Mendick has an excellent chance of beginning the season in the majors, as it’s quite possible that long-time defensive stalwart Yolmer Sánchez may not return to the White Sox for the 2020 campaign. Mendick’s future seems to be that of a solid infield (and perhaps even outfield) reserve.


Birmingham Barons

Since Nick Madrigal played much of the year but finished in Charlotte, and other players who played second base this year for Birmingham actually played at other positions more frequently, not one player who finished the year at Birmingham spent the year primarily at second base.


Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham first basemen

Birmingham burst: Gavin Sheets hit more homers in 2019 than in his previous two years combined. (Sean Williams/South Site 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

This article delves into the first basemen who finished the year with Charlotte and Birmingham. Despite the fact that two of these first basemen actually played for the White Sox this year, the entire Charlotte crop consists of essentially AAAA players. The true prospect on this list is Gavin Sheets, who enjoyed his best power season to date this year at pitching-friendly Regions Field in Birmingham.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Charlotte Knights

Matt Skole
6´4´´
220 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Third base
Age: 30

Skole enjoyed a fantastic sophomore season with Georgia Tech in 2010, when he slashed .335/.446/.682 with 15 doubles, 20 homers, 63 RBIs, 45 walks and 34 strikeouts. While his other numbers were similar as a junior, his home run production fell by half. That, and concerns about his defense, caused him to slip to the fifth round of the 2011 draft when the Washington Nationals selected him with the 157th overall pick.

After a productive first two years in the Nationals system, where he advanced through their A+ affiliate in Potomac, Skole had difficulty hitting for a high average afterward. In fact, in his last five years in their organization, Skole’s best season-ending average was .244 in Triple-A Syracuse. When his slash line dipped to .222/.303/.453 with 11 homers in an injury-marred 2017, the Nationals let him loose via free agency.

In January 2018, the White Sox signed him to a minor league contract. When he got off to a fast start with Charlotte, and the White Sox needed help in late May last year, Skole made his major league debut and did respectably in his four-game stint. After being demoted to Charlotte in early June, he finished the season with Charlotte with his typical .237/.336/.404 line with 14 homers.

Despite a low average for the Charlotte in 2019, Skole was able to get on base via on a regular basis and mashed in the hitting-friendly BB&T Ballpark. With the Knights, Skole ended up slashing .248/.384/.497 in 92 games as he produced 15 doubles, 21 homers, 56 RBIs, 70 walks (17.9%) and 99 strikeouts (25.3%). Unfortunately, he couldn’t translate that work into major league success. In 27 games totaling 72 at-bats for the White Sox, he slashed just .208/.275/.236 with two doubles, six RBIs, seven walks (8.8%) and 31 strikeouts (38.8%).

The White Sox designated Skole for assignment this past Monday, making him a free agent after the World Series. While it’s possible that Skole could re-sign with the White Sox, it’s difficult to see any way he receives significant playing time in the White Sox organization going forward. The team will likely either use Zack Collins, or some acquisition via trade or free agency, to fill their DH spot. As for Charlotte, Gavin Sheets will likely be next year’s starter while the younger A.J. Reed would handle the DH role. If Skile does re-sign with Chicago, the likeliest scenario for Skole to return to Charlotte would be as a third baseman.

A.J. Reed
6´4´´
275 pounds
B/T: L/L
Age: 26

Reed was one of the best two-way college players during his career at Kentucky, where he served as the Wildcats ace and first baseman. In fact, as a junior for the Wildcats, he went 12-2 on the mound with a 2.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. As a first baseman that year, he also excelled as he slashed .336/.476/.735 with 18 doubles, 23 homers, 73 RBIs, 49 walks (16.9%) and 48 strikeouts (16.6%). His prolific play in both facets of the game helped him win the 2014 Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in the country. With success like that, it was no wonder that the Houston Astros selected him with the first pick in the second round of that year’s MLB draft.

Reed progressed rapidly through the Astros system, and did well at every stop. For example, in 2015 with Single-A+ Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, he combined to slash .340/.432/.612 with 30 doubles, 34 homers, 127 RBIs, 86 walks (13.8%) and 122 strikeouts (19.6%). After performing well with Triple-A Fresno (.291/.368/.556 in 70 games with 22 doubles and 15 homers) in 2016, he was promoted to the Astros and failed miserably in 45 games (.164/.270/.262 with three homers, 18 walks and 48 strikeouts). While performing decently with Fresno the following two years, his numbers did slip a bit and he struggled with his very limited opportunities with the Astros.

After struggling with Houston’s new Triple-A squad in Round Rock this year, with a .224/.329/.469 slash line and 12 homers in 56 games, he was designated on waivers and the White Sox picked him up less than a week later, on July 8. It seemed like an opportunity to swoop in on a bargain, because as recently as 2015 Reed had been one of the top prospects in the game with 55 hit and 60 power tools according to MLB Pipeline. Unfortunately for Reed and the White Sox, he scuffled in 14 games by slashing just .136/.204/.205 with a homer, four RBIs, four walks (8.2%) and 21 strikeouts (42.9%). He was subsequently outrighted to Charlotte in August, and struggled with his demotion by slashing just .179/.238/.282 in 10 games. It seems that Reed’s bat just isn’t fast enough to catch up with the advanced heat.

As of now, it seems Reed will be penciled in the DH spot for Charlotte as Sheets will likely be its everyday first baseman. There’s always the possibility of the White Sox converting him into a reliever, much like they’re trying to do with former Tampa Bay first-rounder catcher Justin O’Conner. In the meantime, Reed is a cautionary tale that “can’t miss” prospects sometimes do.

Damek Tomscha
6´2´´
200 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Left field, Third base, Right field
Age: 28

Tomscha, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, played his first two years of college ball with Iowa Western CC before transferring to Auburn for his junior and senior seasons. As a senior for the Tigers, he did quite well as their third baseman as he slashed .313/.436/.443 over 54 games with five homers, 29 RBIs, 26 walks (11.7%) and just 23 strikeouts (10.4%). Despite his lack of power, Tomscha was selected in the 17th round of the 2014 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Baseball Draft Report said of him at the time, “He’s a really good athlete with a pretty swing, plus arm, and good raw defensive tools.

After producing solid numbers for the Lakewood (Single-A) and Clearwater (Single-A+) in 2015 and 2016 respectively, Tomscha enjoyed a terrific 2017 split between Clearwater and Double-A Reading as he combined to slash .307/.386/.439 by producing 16 doubles, 11 homers, 52 RBIs, 38 walks (9.0%) and 57 strikeouts (13.4%) in 109 games. Last year saw Tomscha’s numbers slip a bit with Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, as he combined to slash a still-respectable .272/.334/.443 in 119 games with 16 doubles, 17 homers, 62 RBIs, 33 walks (6.9%) and 74 strikeouts (15.5%).

After getting off to a terrible start with Lehigh Valley this year by slashing .219/.301/.399 in 53 games, the Phillies released him on June 20. The White Sox inked him eight days later and assigned him to Birmingham, where he fared much better with a .269/.333/.410 line in 42 games. Tomscha spent his final two games this year with Charlotte, and got one hit in seven at-bats. Though he played more games at first base this year, those appearances were mostly spent with Lehigh Valley as he spent more time at third and left with the Barons. With Sheets and Reed expected to handle first base/DH duties in Charlotte this year, Tomscha could be vying with Trey Michalczewski for playing time at the hot corner.


Birmingham Barons

Gavin Sheets
6´4´´
230 pounds
B/T: L/L
Age: 23

Gavin, the son of former Oriole slugger Larry Sheets, showed great plate discipline during his three years with Wake Forest. After hitting a combined 11 homers in his first two seasons, his junior year saw him turn it up a notch as he hit 21. That year with the Demon Deacons, Sheets slashed .317/.424/.629 in 63 games with those 21 homers, 10 doubles, 46 walks (15.6%) and just 37 strikeouts (12.5%). With numbers like that, it was no wonder that the White Sox selected him in the second round of the 2017 draft. After the draft, combined with the AZL squad and Kannapolis to slash .279/.365/.397 in 56 games with 12 doubles, four homers, 28 RBIs, 23 walks (9.8%) and 34 strikeouts (14.5%).

Against stronger competition in 2018 with Winston-Salem, Sheets produced similar numbers to the year before. In 119 games totaling 437 at-bats, Sheets slashed .293/.368/.407 with 28 doubles, two triples, six homers, 61 RBIs, 52 walks (10.5%) and 81 strikeouts (16.3%). Just like his junior season, however, Sheets turned his power up a notch in his third professional campaign. In 126 games totaling 464 at-bats, of which half were spent at pitching-friendly Regions Field, he slashed .267/.345/.414 with 18 doubles, 16 homers, 83 RBIs, 54 walks (10.2%) and 99 strikeouts (18.8%) for Birmingham. His numbers would’ve been even better, if not for a difficult April in which he slashed just .207/.286/.293.

Sheets is ranked second among White Sox first base prospects, and 13th overall, by MLB Pipeline. They give him 50 grades for his power, hit and fielding tools while giving him a 55 for his throwing arm. The site also says of him, “The White Sox believe more home runs will come as he starts incorporating his legs more in his left-handed swing and makes an adjustment to stop hooking balls foul down the right-field line. He has a smooth stroke and controls the strike zone well for a big man, so he should hit for average and draw a healthy amount of walks.”

Sheets will be expected to get the lion’s share of Charlotte’s first base duties in 2020, and his success there may well determine his role going forward. With Andrew Vaughn now also in the picture, Sheets will also be vying with players like Zack Collins and (perhaps) Yermín Mercedes for the 1B/DH role beginning in 2021. This doesn’t even include the possibility of the White Sox signing a full-time DH like J.D. Martinez during this offseason. At the very least, if Sheets should rake for the Knights, he could be an attractive trade piece during next year’s trade deadline.


Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham catchers

Zack attack: After a solid September in a White Sox uniform and a terrific year in Charlotte, Zack Collins is hoping to be a fixture in the White Sox lineup for 2019. (Tom Borowski/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

The three best catching prospects in the entire White Sox system finished the year in Charlotte, Yes, they’re mostly offensive players who happen to play catcher; however, Zack Collins and Seby Zavala received their first taste of the majors last year. Meanwhile, Yermín Mercedes looks to be a future offensive force as well, but it’s unclear if his future production will be in a White Sox uniform. The rest of the players on this list essentially serve as organizational depth at best.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020


Charlotte Knights

Zack Collins
6´3´´
220 pounds
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: L/R
Other positions played: First Base

Collins had a terrific three years with the University of Miami, but his junior season was absolutely terrific. In 62 games for the Hurricanes spanning 190 at-bats, he slashed .363/.544/.668 by hitting 10 doubles, 16 homers and 59 RBIs while walking 78 times as opposed to 53 strikeouts. Despite concerns about his defense, it wasn’t surprising to see the White Sox select Collins with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft. For Winston-Salem that year, Collins slashed .258/.418/.467 in 36 games with seven doubles, six homers, 18 RBIs, 33 walks and 39 strikeouts.

By contrast, 2017 was a bit of a disappointment for Collins, as his slash line dropped to a combined .224/.370/.445 for Winston-Salem and Birmingham with 20 doubles, three triples, 19 homers, 53 RBIs, 87 walks (23.2%) and 129 strikeouts (34.4%). The next year with Birmingham was even more disappointing, however, as his stats had fallen significantly; in 2018, he slashed .234/.382/.404 in 418 at-bats with 24 doubles, one triple, 15 homers, 68 RBIs, 101 walks (19.0%) and 158 strikeouts (29.8%). On the positive side, Collins’ high walk total kept his OBP relatively high.

The 2019 season saw Collins’ numbers significantly improve in hitting-friendly Charlotte, leading to his best numbers as a professional. In 294 at-bats for the Knights, Collins slashed .282/.403/.548 with 19 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, 74 RBIs, 62 walks (21.1%) and 96 strikeouts (32.7%). The numbers were good enough for him to earn his first shot at the majors, but when he struggled in part due to lack of consistent playing time, he returned to Charlotte and worked on his swing with future White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino. In the final month of the season, Collins produced a respectable .233/.333/.417 slash line back on the South Side. Overall for the White Sox in 27 games totaling 86 at-bats, Collins slashed .187/.306/.349 with three doubles, one triple, three homers, 12 RBIs, 14 walks (13.7%) and 39 strikeouts (38.2%).

Collins still has rookie eligibility for the 2020 season, and is currently ranked 10th by MLB Pipeline of all White Sox prospects. MLB Pipeline has noted that his game-calling has improved significantly, but he lacks soft hands and is a shaky receiver. Though Collins has good arm strength, it plays down due to his slow release — although he did throw out would-be basestealers at a fairly respectable 30% rate. This year for Charlotte, Collins only hit lefties at a .224/.327/.447 clip as opposed to righties at .306/.433/.589. Collins has played some first base with Charlotte and Chicago, which he may do more frequently in future years.

It looks like Collins’ future may be as someone who could play first base/catcher/DH due to defensive limitations, but his bat (provided he cuts down on strikeouts) may well be worth it. With his struggles against lefties, a platoon role may eventually be in store for him as well.

Seby Zavala
5´11´´
215 pounds
Age: 26
Bats/Throws: R/R
Other positions played: First Base

Zavala was part of the final recruiting class of MLB Hall-of-Famer and San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn. After hitting a combined four homers in his first two years with the Aztecs while spending significant time in the outfield, Zavala became a full-time catcher during his junior season which, along with a boost in power, significantly improved his draft position. In that 2015 season, Zavala hit .290/.399/.537 in 231 at-bats with 13 doubles, one triple, 14 homers, 67 RBIs, 30 walks (10.6%) and 52 strikeouts (18.3%). After the White Sox selected him in the 12th round, Zavala did damage to the AZL by slashing .326/.401/.628 in 129 at-bats by hitting 17 doubles, five triples, four homers, 35 RBIs, 15 walks (10.2%) and 27 strikeouts (18.4%)

Zavala spent the entire 2016 season with Kannapolis, where his numbers unsurprisingly dipped against the stronger competition, as he slashed .253/.330/.381 with seven homers in 93 games. The next year, 2017, saw Zavala really begin his ascent up the prospect rankings. With Kannapolis and Winston-Salem that year, Zavala combined to slash a more robust .282/.353/.499 in 107 games as he produced 21 doubles, 21 homers, 72 RBIs, 37 walks (8.5%) and 104 strikeouts (24.0%). Zavala struggled through injuries that sapped his overall production during the 2018 season with Birmingham and Charlotte, but he still managed to slash .258/.317/.418 in 104 games while producing 22 doubles, 13 homers, 51 RBIs, 33 walks (7.8%) and 109 strikeouts (25.7%).

This year, more than any year in his career, Zavala had difficulty putting his bat on the ball. In 82 games with Charlotte, he slashed just .222/.296/.471 with 14 doubles, 20 homers, 45 RBIs, 26 walks (7.9%) and 116 strikeouts (35.0%). Zavala did see action in five games for the White Sox, but had just one single in his 12 at-bats with no walks and a whopping nine strikeouts. He ranks as the second-highest White Sox catching prospect (behind Collins) and the 25th-best organizational prospect per MLB Pipeline. His arm was graded 50 by MLB, largely due to his quick release. His leadership and game-calling skills seem to stand out, while his power is graded at 50. Unless the White Sox plan on carrying three catchers on next year’s (expanded) 26-man rosters, it’s likely Zavala will return to Charlotte to begin the 2020 season. He is more advanced than Collins and Mercedes defensively, but Zavala’s strikeouts (which is a huge contributor to his declining average) is particularly worrisome.

Yermin Mercedes
5´11´´
225 pounds
Age 27
Bats/Throws: R/R
Other positions played: First Base, Third Base

In late August we ran: this Under the Radar piece on Mercedes. Unless he’s added to the 40-man roster, Mercedes will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. If he remains in the White Sox organization, he could be a dark-horse pick to graduate to the majors and be at least a platoon DH against lefties, if not more.

Daniel Gonzalez
6´1´´
190 pounds
Age: 24
Bats/Throws: R/R

Just a couple months after signing as a free agent from the Dominican Republic, Daniel Gonzalez started his professional career with the DSL White Sox. After spending the first two seasons there, he moved Stateside and split time with the AZL White Sox and Kannapolis during the 2015 season, combining for a .263/.321/.323 slash line in 32 games with three doubles, one homer, 20 RBIs, eight walks (7.3%) and 15 strikeouts (13.8%). The 2016 season, split between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, actually saw him produce his best career slash line, of .315/.351/.371 in 30 games, with five doubles, 11 RBIs, four walks (4.3%) and 21 strikeouts. (22.3%)

Daniel Gonzalez saw his most playing time in 2017 as he returned to Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, as he slashed .242/.266/.302 in 51 games with eight doubles, one homer, 15 RBIs, five walks (2.7%) and 31 strikeouts (16.5%). Due to injuries in 2018, he only played in 24 games for the Dash while slashing .241/.328/.296. In 2019, despite playing for three teams (Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte), he entered only 18 games due to injuries and produced an unsightly slash line of .149/.212/.170. He did an excellent job stifling would-be base stealers, cutting them down 9-of-20 times (45%). He is a good defender, but isn’t seen as more than organizational depth at this point due to his relatively weak bat and inability to stay healthy.


Birmingham Barons

Alfredo Gonzalez
6´0´´
220 pounds
Age: 27
Bats/Throws: R/R

Alfredo Gonzalez signed with the DSL Astros out of Venezuela all the way back in May 2009. It took several years for him to move up the system, as he didn’t even begin full season ball until 2015. That year, he not only played for A-level Quad Cities but also for A+ Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. With those three teams, he combined to slash .321/.409/.378 in 72 games with six doubles, two homers, 35 RBIs, 37 walks (12.6%) and 51 strikeouts (17.3%). However, after struggling for Corpus Christi in 2016, the Astros designated him for assignment on June 25; the White Sox picked him up a week later. For the Barons in 39 games, he hit a respectable .296/.358/.341 but with little power to speak of (six doubles).

Alfredo Gonzalez struggled offensively for Birmingham in 2017 in 71 games, as he slashed just .208/.306/.301 with six doubles, four homers (a career high), 24 RBIs, 29 walks (13.4%) and 41 strikeouts (19.0%). 2018 saw him begin the season with the Charlotte Knights, but after struggling to begin the season, was demoted to Birmingham where he posted solid numbers. Combined with both teams, he slashed .244/314/.310 with six doubles, two homers, 17 RBIs, 19 walks (8.0%) and 63 strikeouts (26.5%). However, his highlight came on May 24 when he was an emergency call-up and he attained his first major league hit.

This year, Alfredo Gonzalez split time again with Birmingham and Charlotte and slashed just .238/.339/.317 in 67 games with a combined 11 doubles, two homers, 31 walks (14.9%) and 52 strikeouts (25.0%). He had a rare off-year behind the plate, as he threw out just 26% of would-be basestealers (over his long career, he’s been successful 38% of the time). He has the profile of a career minor-leaguer who can walk a bit, not embarrass himself offensively, produce little to no power, but fields his position well. There’s not much catching depth in the system beyond Triple-A, so it’s possible he could return to the White Sox organization in the same role for 2020.

Nate Nolan
6´1´´
210 pounds
Age: 25
Bats/Throws: R/R

Nolan flashed enough power, and enough arm strength at the catcher position, during his junior season with St. Mary’s to garner interest from various scouts, despite his propensity to strike out. In 58 games for the Gaels that season, he slashed .261/.360/.468 with 17 doubles, nine homers, 36 RBIs, 29 walks (11.2%) and 86 strikeouts (33.1%). Hoping to correct those strikeout issues, the White Sox selected him in the eighth round of the 2016 draft. That year with Great Falls and Kannapolis, Nolan slashed just .138/.241/.203 in 36 games with a combined two doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs, 14 walks (9.9%) and 62 strikeouts (43.7%).

Thanks in part to solid production with Great Falls, Nolan enjoyed his best season to date in 2017 with Kannapolis and Great Falls, where he combined to slash .215/.293/.395 with seven homers over 56 games. The 2018 season saw him spend the entire campaign with Winston-Salem, where he hit well below the Mendoza Line at .173. In 51 games spent last year among three teams (Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte), Nolan slashed just .183/.249/.314 with four homers, 17 RBIs, 12 walks (6.5%) and 71 strikeouts (38.4%).

During Nolan’s entire four years in the minors, his career slash line is just .182/.262/.310, with a whopping 40.9% strikeout rate that has sapped most of his offensive potential. He threw out just 13 of 71 would-be basestealers (18.3%) this year, dropping his career average to 24.6%. At this point, Nolan appears to be simply organizational depth at best and will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft in December.


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
6´1´´
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
6´1´´
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
6´3´´
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
6´3´´
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
6´2´´
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.


Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham right-handed relievers

Still on top: Despite an incredibly unlucky year in 2019, Ian Hamilton currently ranks highest among all White Sox right-handed bullpen prospects per MLB Pipeline. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)


“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

Many of the top organizational bullpen arms finished the season with Birmingham and Charlotte this year. Unfortunately, most were either hurt and/or ineffective. Hopefully with a little luck, some of these arms could be fixtures in the White Sox bullpen for years to come.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020


Charlotte Knights

Ian Hamilton
6´0´´
200 pounds
Age: 24

After two stellar seasons for Washington State University out of the bullpen in which he saved 28 games, Hamilton struggled with a 4.86 ERA and 1.47 WHIP when the Cougars converted him to a starter in 2016. As a result, he was available in the 11th round when the White Sox gladly snatched him up in that year’s MLB draft. He combined later that year with the AZL White Sox and Kannapolis for a 3.58 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and eight saves in 22 relief outings.

The 2017 season saw Hamilton excel with Winston-Salem in 30 relief outings (1.71 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, .179 OBA, 4.1 BB% and 26.5 K%) although he did struggle with Birmingham (5.21 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .317 OBA, 8.7 BB% and 23.9 K%). However, he bounced back in a big way in 2018 and performed consistently well for both Birmingham and Charlotte in 43 games totaling 51 1/3 innings. With both squads, Hamilton combined to post a 1.74 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 22 saves while allowing just 38 hits (.204 OBA) and 16 walks (7.8%) while fanning 62 hitters (30.1%). He even entered 10 games for the White Sox in 2018 and did a respectable job with a 4.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, as he surrendered just six hits and two walks while fanning five in his eight innings.

The 2019 season wasn’t kind for the Revolutionary Quartet of Hamilton, Ryan Burr, Spencer Adams and Jon Jay as they all missed significant time due to injury. Hamilton may well have been the unluckiest of the bunch, as he injured his shoulder in a car accident during spring training. As a result of that injury, he struggled badly and was demoted to Charlotte to begin the season. After an ugly 1 1/2 months when he posted a 9.92 ERA and 1.90 WHIP over 16 1/3 innings, Hamilton was struck in the face by a liner that made its way into the dugout. Ultimately, Hamilton needed multiple season-ending surgeries to reconstruct his fractured jaw.

Even though Hamilton got roughed up in the International League (largely because of his shoulder injury), he still threw strikes (3.8 BB%, 25.6%). He currently has the highest ranking of all White Sox right-handed bullpen prospects (16th) according to MLB Pipeline. His fastball is graded at 70 by MLB Pipeline as it typically runs mid-90s, and it has reached triple digits with heavy sinking action. His 60-grade slider runs 87-90 mph, and he also offers a 45-grade changeup which helps neutralize lefties when it’s on. Hamilton will likely remain on the 40-man roster and could find his way back onto the White Sox active roster if he has an excellent spring training.

Matt Foster
6´0´´
205 pounds
Age: 25

After starting for two seasons and performing well with Gulf Coast C.C. (Panama City, Fla.), Foster transferred to the University of Alabama and was immediately converted to reliever. In 25 innings for the Crimson Tide spanning 40 innings, he compiled a 2.93 ERA and 1.23 WHIP by allowing just 33 hits (.231 OBA) and 16 walks (9.6%) as opposed to 49 strikeouts (29.5%). Despite his gaudy stats and good stuff, Foster fell to the White Sox in the 20th round of the 2016 draft. He made an immediate impact with the AZL White Sox and Great Falls later that year, as he combined with both teams to produce a 0.61 ERA, 0.64 WHIP and 11 saves by relinquishing just 12 hits and seven walks while fanning 41 in 29 2/3 innings.

The 2017 season saw Foster dominate for Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, as he saved seven games while posting a combined 1.30 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, .168 OBA, 4.9% and 32.0% in 27 2/3 innings — all after a brief, self-imposed retirement for undisclosed reasons. Foster returned to the Dash to begin the 2018 season but struggled a bit with his promotion to Birmingham. Overall for 2018, Foster’s combined numbers were still quite good as he compiled a 3.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and eight saves over 60 innings by surrendering 58 hits (.258 OBA) and 20 walks (8.1%) while striking out 70 (28.2%).

After sailing through 9 2/3 innings and allowing just three hits and two walks while fanning 12 hitters with Birmingham, Foster received an early promotion to Charlotte. While his numbers weren’t up to his usual extraordinary standards, they were still quite good especially when considering the “active” Triple-A/MLB baseball he pitched with. In 37 games for the Knights encompassing 55 innings, he posted a 3.76 ERA and 1.18 WHIP by relinquishing 46 hits (.229 OBA) and 19 walks (8.5%) while striking out 62 (27.7%).

According to FutureSox, Foster’s three-pitch repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball, a sharp 82-85 mph slider and a changeup to help stifle lefties. He will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, unless the White Sox add him to the 40-man roster beforehand. Because of his success, good stuff and control, Foster may have an outside chance of winning a roster spot in spring training if unselected in the draft..

Juan Minaya
6´4´´
210 pounds
Age: 29

Minaya, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed an international deal with the Houston Astros all the way back in 2009. After struggling for a couple seasons in the low minors, he was converted to reliever in 2011. After a long, slow climb up the Astros system, he finally reached Triple-A Fresno in both 2015 and 2016. When the Astros placed Minaya on waivers in June 2016, the White Sox quickly snatched him up. After pitching 17 games for Charlotte, he earned was promoted on Sept. 1, 2016 and held his own with the White Sox for 11 relief outings.

The 2017 season was a rollercoaster for Minaya, as he split time with Charlotte and the White Sox. After struggling on the South Side for the first half of the season, he closed the season strong — especially after David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle were traded to the Yankees at the July trade deadline. For the year, Minaya posted a 4.53 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and nine saves in 40 games (43 2/3 innings) as he ceded 38 hits (.239 OBA) and 20 walks (10.9%) while fanning 51 (27.7%). Minaya again split time between Charlotte and Chicago during the 2018 campaign; in 52 outings for the White Sox totaling 46 2/3 innings, he compiled a 3.28 ERA but unseemly 1.46 WHIP by allowing 39 hits (.220 OBA) and 29 walks (13.9%) while striking out 58. (27.8%).

The revolving door continued for Minaya in 2019, as after a month in Charlotte, he pitched for the White Sox for more than two months. After getting off to a good start, his control let him down, which prompted a demotion (and removal from the 40-man roster) on July 13. For the White Sox in 22 games totaling 27 2/3 innings, Minaya compiled a 3.90 ERA but 1.55 WHIP by allowing 31 hits (.277 OBA) and 12 walks (9.5%) as opposed to 27 strikeouts (21.4%). For the Knights in 24 games spanning 34 innings, he posted a 3.71 ERA and 1.38 WHIP by allowing 32 hits (.250 OBA) and 15 walks (10.1%) while striking out 41 (27.5%).

With Minaya now off the 40-man roster, he’ll have a difficult climb back to the majors — at least as a member of the White Sox. The team will likely add one or two relievers via trade or free agency, and at least some of the team’s young flamethrower prospects are due to be both good and healthy in 2020.

Zach Thompson
6´7´´
230 pounds
Age: 26

As a three-year starter for Texas-Arlington, Thompson posted adequate results, but not the ones you’d expect from someone of his size and stuff. As a junior for the Mavericks, he posted a 4.64 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over 16 starts (87 innings) as he surrendered 97 hits (.282 OBA) and 32 walks (8.2%) while striking out 62 (15.9%). However, in part because of his stuff and imposing build, Thompson was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.

Over 353 innings in the White Sox system from 2014-17, in which he was primarily a starting pitcher, Thompson combined for a 4.31 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .258 OBA, 10.1 BB% and 18.9 K%. Finally converted to full-time reliever in 2018, Thompson posted sensational results for both Winston-Salem and Birmingham. In a combined 43 games and 75 1/3 innings, he posted a shiny 1.55 ERA and 1.14 WHIP as he surrendered just 57 hits (.206 OBA) and 29 walks (9.4%) as opposed to 76 strikeouts (24.5%). Many fans were surprised he wasn’t protected prior to last year’s Rule 5 draft, but he went unselected.

After dominating in four outings for Birmingham to start the 2019 season, Thompson received an early promotion to Charlotte but wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity. In 41 games spanning 70 1/3 innings for the Knights, he posted a 5.50 ERA and 1.45 WHIP by relinquishing 79 hits (.277 OBA) and 23 walks (7.3%) as opposed to 78 strikeouts (24.9%). He was especially victimized by the gopher ball (15), even though his home numbers (4.75 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) actually bettered his road ones (6.59 ERA, 1.43 WHIP).

Thompson sits 92-95 mph with fastball, and he also features an above-average curveball. Like last year, he will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. However, unlike last year, there are no expectations he’ll be selected.

Thyago Vieira
6´2´´
210 pounds
Age: 26

Vieira, a native of Brazil, always has amazed scouts with a fastball that averages 97-100 mph, with a peak of 103 mph. So it’s come as a bit of a surprise that he hasn’t enjoyed terrific success since he signed an international contract with the Seattle Mariners in 2010. After years of falling behind many hitters and walking a lot of them, it finally appeared that Vieira had a breakthrough season with Single-A+ Bakersfield in 2016. That year in 34 games spanning 44 1/3 innings, Vieira posted a solid 2.84 ERA and 1.24 WHIP by allowing 37 hits (.222 OBA) and 18 walks (9.5%) while striking out 53 (28.0%).

The 2017 season saw Vieira spend time with Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma, as he combined to pitch 41 games (54 innings) with a 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. In those combined stints, he ceded 48 hits (.236 OBA) and 22 walks (9.6%) while fanning 46 (20.1%). He even pitched an inning of one-hit ball for the Mariners that year.

Then in November, he was traded to the White Sox for $500,000 in international bonus pool money. Vieira struggled for Charlotte in 2018 with a 5.05 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, but still earned a promotion to Chicago where he posted an unsightly 7.13 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 16 games. During his 17 2/3 innings for the White Sox last year, he allowed 21 hits (.292 OBA) and nine walks (10.6%) while striking out 15 (17.6%).

Vieira continued to struggle for both Charlotte and the White Sox in 2019. In 37 games and 47 1/3 innings for Charlotte, he compiled a 5.70 ERA and 1.58 WHIP by ceding 53 hits (.288 OBA) and 22 walks (10.3%) while striking out 51 (23.9%). In six outings spanning seven innings for the White Sox, he posted a 9.00 ERA and 2.29 WHIP by allowing 11 hits (.344 OBA) and five walks (9.4%) while fanning eight (15.1%).

Vieira does feature a 50-55 grade curveball, but when he has trouble getting it over the plate, hitters simply gear up for the heater. As a result, he’s giving up more hits and striking out fewer batters than someone with his stuff should allow. Although he’s currently on the 40-man roster, that could change once more players are added to it for Rule 5 protection. If Vieira clears waivers (not a given, because another team surely would try to maximize his stuff), he likely would return to Charlotte for the 2020 season.

Other pitchers who finished the season with Charlotte
The only other right-handed reliever who actually finished the season with Charlotte was Connor Walsh. Walsh, who turns 27 in October, combined with Birmingham and Charlotte this year to post a 5.11 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 44 games totaling 61 2/3 innings. In that work, he surrendered 61 hits (.256 OBA) and 37 walks (13.0%) while striking out 64 (22.5%). He is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but likely won’t be selected.


Birmingham Barons

Tyler Johnson
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 24

Johnson pitched dominating baseball in his three years with the University of South Carolina. Even though his junior season wasn’t quite as good as his sophomore, it was still worthy of notice. In 19 games spanning 26 innings, Johnson saved 10 games for the SEC powerhouse with a 2.39 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. For the Gamecocks that year, he allowed just 20 hits (.204 OBA) and 15 walks (12.9%) while striking out 40 (34.5%). With stats like these, the White Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft.

Johnson split time with Great Falls and Kannapolis in 2017, and despite struggles with control, put up reasonably solid numbers considering he was just completing a long season. In a combined 22 games totaling 25 2/3 innings, he compiled a 3.86 ERA and 1.75 WHIP by relinquishing 26 hits (.263 OBA) and 19 walks (15.7%) while fanning 37 (30.6%). He started hitting many prospect lists after a terrific 2018 with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, as he combined to post a spectacular 14 saves, 1.40 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 41 outings. In his 58 innings for both teams, he surrendered just 35 hits (.172 OBA) and 16 walks (7.1%) while striking out a whopping 89 (39.4%).

After missing the first 2 1/2 months of the 2019 season with a lat strain, he pitched in 10 rehab outings with the AZL White Sox and Winston-Salem before finally donning the Birmingham Barons uniform on July 22. In 12 games for the Barons spanning 18 1/3 innings, Johnson posted a respectable 3.44 ERA and 0.87 WHIP by ceding just 10 hits (.154 OBA) and six walks (8.5%) while striking out 23 (32.4%).

MLB Pipeline ranks him 16th among all White Sox prospects, thanks to a 65-grade fastball which runs 92-96 mph but topping at 98. Other pitches in Johnson’s arsenal include a 50-grade slider and 45-grade changeup. Lefties hit only .156 against him while with Birmingham, so the changeup may actually be better than the grade. His control is graded at 50, as he has walked hitters at a 9.5% clip in his three-year professional career. However, his control can be tolerated as long as he maintains his career 35.8% strikeout rate. Because he wasn’t at Birmingham all that long this year, he may return there to begin the year. However, as long as he’s healthy, he’ll have a great chance to earn a promotion to Charlotte relatively early in 2020 and perhaps even a promotion to Chicago by season’s end.

Zack Burdi
6´3´´
205 pounds
Age: 25

Burdi, a native of suburban Downers Grove, excelled in his three years with the Louisville Cardinals. In his junior season, he saved 11 games with a 3.30 ERA and 0.87 WHIP by allowing just 17 hits (.167 OBA) and nine walks (7.7%) while fanning 47 (40.2%). Upon being drafted with the 26th pick in the 2016 MLB draft, Burdi quickly rose from the AZL White Sox to Charlotte. In this whirlwind year for Burdi, he pitched 26 games totaling 38 innings and posted solid 3.32 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. It certainly looked like he’d make it to the White Sox sooner rather than later.

Burdi scuffled a bit with Charlotte in 2017, which wasn’t totally surprising with it being his first full year in professional ball. In 29 games spanning 33 1/3 innings, he compiled a 4.05 ERA and 1.41 WHIP by relinquishing 30 hits (.231 OBA) and 17 walks (11.3%) while striking out 51 (33.8%). Unfortunately for Burdi and the White Sox, he underwent Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss nearly a full season of development. He did get in some rehab action late in the 2018 campaign with the AZL White Sox, but his velocity unsurprisingly wasn’t close to what had been pre-surgery.

This year saw Burdi at Kannapolis and Birmingham, but he struggled with a 6.75 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in 20 outings totaling 22 2/3 innings. He allowed 28 hits (.292 OBA) and 14 walks (12.6%) while fanning 30 (27.0%) in those innings. If you take away a three-game stretch in late May, Burdi’s combined ERA and WHIP would’ve been just 4.50 and 1.61 WHIP. His velocity was actually in the upper-90s when he went on the shelf in late June. This time, surgery was needed to repair a torn tendon in his patella.

MLB Pipeline still ranks Burdi 23rd among White Sox prospects, thanks in part to an 80-grade fastball that typically runs 95-100 mph when he’s on. His slider is considered an out-pitch and is graded 60 by MLB Pipeline, while he also features a plus changeup. Aside from health, control and command are his biggest weaknesses, although those factors should only improve with better health and experience. Burdi is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, and provided he’s added to the 40-man roster or goes unselected, he should begin the 2020 season with Charlotte.

Codi Heuer
6´5´´
195 pounds
Age: 25

After spending his first two seasons as a reliever with Wichita State, Heuer did reasonably well for the loaded Shockers as a starter during his junior season. In 16 appearances totaling 79 innings, he compiled a 4.31 ERA and 1.36 WHIP by ceding 71 hits (.238 OBA) and 37 walks (10.7%) while striking out 82 (23.6%). The White Sox liked his potential and selected the Montana native in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. Then, in 14 starts for Great Falls to close last season, Heuer scuffled a bit with the Voyagers in posting a 4.74 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 38 innings. In those innings, he relinquished 49 hits (.310 OBA) and 14 walks (8.0%) while fanning 35 (19.9%).

Heuer was given an aggressive assignment for 2019, as he skipped Kannapolis and began the year with Winston-Salem in a bullpen role. Not only did he do well for the Dash, he was promoted to Birmingham on June 20 and produced equally solid numbers for the Barons as well. As one of the few power righties who was healthy and effective during the entire season, Heuer combined for a 2.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 11 saves with both teams. In his 42 appearances totaling 67 2/3 innings, he allowed 59 hits (.234 OBA) and just 15 walks (5.5%) while striking out 65 (23.6%).

As a result of his efforts, Heuer now ranks 24th among all White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline. His fastball was graded 60 by MLB, as it peaked at 98 mph this year with sinking action; in fact, that sinking action forced hitters to beat the ball on the ground at an incredible 65.1% rate. Other offerings include a 55-grade slider which runs 82-85 mph with some bite, and a 50-grade changeup which helps neutralize lefties. His 50-grade control and command actually could increase to 55 if he can maintain that low walk ratio for another year. Heuer should see significant time at Charlotte in 2020, with a possible chance for promotion to Chicago if he obviously does well.

Alec Hansen
6´7´´
235 pounds
Age: 25

As a member of the Oklahoma Sooners which also included future White Sox pitching farmhands J.B. Olson and Jake Elliott, Hansen was actually considered a candidate for the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. That is, until control issues got the best of him. In 14 appearances (10 starts) in his junior season, he compiled a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP by relinquishing 44 hits (.228 OBA) and 39 walks (16.2%) while striking out 75 (31.0%) in 51 2/3 innings.

The White Sox, recognizing his vast upside, selected Hansen in the second round of that year’s draft. He immediately paid dividends, as he combined with three teams (AZL, Great Falls and Kannapolis) to post an incredible 1.32 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 54 2/3 innings by allowing just 24 hits (.133 OBA) and 20 walks (9.7%) while fanning 81 (39.3%) to finish the 2016 campaign.

Hansen enjoyed an incredible 2017 with Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham in which he combined for a 2.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 141 1/3 innings as he relinquished 114 hits (.216 OBA) and 51 walks (8.6%) while striking out an amazing 191 hitters (32.4%). Unfortunately, a 2018 spring training forearm injury led to mechanical issues which ultimately impacted his already-tenuous control and command. He lost all semblance of the plate, and walked more than a hitter per inning. He was eventually demoted to Winston-Salem but with similar disappointing results. Overall for this lost season, he posted a 6.31 ERA and 2.01 WHIP over 14 starts; in his 51 1/3 innings, Hansen allowed 44 hits (.242 OBA) and 59 walks (24.0%) while striking out 55 (22.4%).

In nine relief appearances with Winston-Salem to begin 2019, Hansen looked like his old self with a 2.13 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 44.7 K%. However, Hansen again struggled throwing strikes once he was promoted to Birmingham on May 4. In 30 appearances for the Barons totaling 39 2/3 innings, he compiled a 5.45 ERA and 2.02 WHIP by relinquishing 43 hits (.281 OBA) and 37 walks (19.1%) while striking out 45 (23.2%). Extremely notable is that Hansen did have one start this year for Birmingham and it turned out disastrously: he allowed four earned runs with five walks and a hit while only getting one out.

Has he been battling injuries all this time? Has it been mechanical issues (not uncommon for someone his size) that’s been the culprit, and is he simply rushing his delivery? Is it a lack of confidence, or is he simply trying too hard? Perhaps some combination of all the above.

Despite his struggles, Hansen has enough upside to be ranked 27th among all White Sox prospects according to MLB Pipeline. His fastball is graded 65, thanks to a 94-99 mph fastball with running action A 55-grade curveball, as well as a slider and changeup, complete his repertoire. Hansen is eligible for selection in this year’s Rule 5 draft, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the White Sox avoid adding him to the 40-man roster. Perhaps another team may claim him, but he’d be quite the risk due to his lack of control. If not selected in the Rule 5, Hansen likely will return to Birmingham for the 2020 season.

Danny Dopico
6´2´´
210 pounds
Age: 26

Dopico was a well-traveled collegian, as he pitched his first season for Siena College, his sophomore year with Broward Junior College and his junior season with Florida International University. While he posted fairly pedestrian numbers in his first two college years, Dopico really excelled with Florida International in 27 relief appearances totaling 45 innings. That year, he posted a 1.99 ERA and 0.99 WHIP by allowing 25 hits (.160 OBA) and 20 walks (10.6%) while fanning 57 (30.2%). Upon being drafted in the 11th round by the White Sox in the 2015 draft, he held his own for Great Falls that year with a 4.37 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 37.3 K%.

The 2016-18 seasons saw Dopico pitch primarily for the A-level squads in Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. The 2018 season was the best of them, as he compiled a 2.98 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for the Dash in 32 outings (57 1/3 innings), allowing 44 hits (.211 OBA) and 26 walks (10.8%) while striking out 76 (31.7%). Dopico pitched exclusively for Birmingham this year, and provided better results despite walking more hitters by allowing fewer hits. In 43 appearances for the Barons in 2019 spanning 62 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.13 WHIP by surrendering 36 hits (.168 OBA) and 35 walks (13.5%) as opposed to 73 strikeouts (28.2%).

2080 Baseball grades Dopico’s fastball at 55, as it typically runs 93-95 mph with terrific running action when elevated. He primarily uses a 50-grade slider against righties, while he uses his 55-grade splitter (arguably his best pitch) against lefties. The splitter worked especially well, as lefties only hit .145 against his offerings this year. Despite his splendid numbers, it’s unlikely Dopico will be added to the 40-man roster prior to this year’s Rule 5 draft. If unselected in that draft, Dopico has a good chance of beginning the 2020 season with Charlotte.

Other right-handed relievers who finished the season with Birmingham
Vince Arobio (3.80 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), Luis Martinez (4.26 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) and Mauricio Cabrera (4.50 ERA, 2.06 WHIP).


 

 

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
6´1´´
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
6´1´´
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
6´3´´
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
6´2´´
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
6´4´´
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
6´1´´
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.