Deep Dive: rookie league left-handed starters

Hidden diamond: Avery Weems struck out 74 and only walked 10 while pitching for the AZL Sox and Great Falls this year (@GFVoyagers).


“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

While the list of southpaw starters who finished the 2019 season with White Sox rookie league affiliates isn’t very long, there are some pitchers to keep an eye on. They include the organization’s two top college hurler picks in 2019, not to mention a pitcher in the DSL who has one of the highest upsides of anyone in the system.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020


Great Falls Voyagers

Avery Weems
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 22

Weems, a native of Flagstaff, Ariz., spent his first two years in college with Yavapai Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona. Used primarily as a swingman for the Wildcats, he pitched in far more games as a reliever during his junior and senior seasons (34) than as a starter (17).

Weems, despite showing better control during his senior season, was far more hittable and his numbers suffered for it. As a senior, he posted a 7.06 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 25 games (eight starts) spanning 58 2/3 innings — relinquishing 80 hits (.316 OBA) and 16 walks while fanning 44 in the process. Being a likely option for an under-slot sign as a senior, Weems was an attractive target for the White Sox after they drafted varsity pitchers Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist in the second and third rounds in 2019. Weems was chosen in the sixth round and ultimately signed for $10,000 ($286,400 less than slot value).

For what seemed to most fans as a throwaway pick, Weems actually surprised for the White Sox. He stayed close to home for his first four games (with the AZL White Sox), posting an otherworldly 0.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 13 innings as he surrendered just 10 hits (.217 OBA) and three walks (5.9%) while striking out 14 (27.5%). Weems then held his own in the more challenging Pioneer League, as he compiled a 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP for Great Falls in 47 1/3 innings as he allowed just 43 hits (.239 OBA) and seven walks (3.7%) while fanning 60 (31.7%). While it’s true that Weems was older than the average Pioneer League player, it wasn’t by all that much (five months). Thus, his great results shouldn’t be taken too lightly.

Baseball America’s scouting report at the time of the draft, said that “he’s a pitchability southpaw who throws strikes.” Also according to BA, Weems features a low-90s fastball that touched 94 this year. The fastball is complemented with an average curveball and an infrequently-used changeup that comes in straight. Not exactly an enticing scouting report, but the White Sox must’ve seen something in him others did not. Perhaps with a few tweaks, Weems simply added more movement to his curve and change while adding more oomph to his fastball? Regardless, with the numbers he posted this year, Weems should be in line to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis.

Dan Metzdorf
5´10´´
165 pounds
Age: 23

Unlike the aforementioned Weems, Metzdorf enjoyed a more successful senior season in 2019. For Boston College, Metzdorf posted a solid 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 11 starts. In 73 innings for the Eagles, he surrendered just 56 hits (.204 OBA) and 28 walks while striking out 65. Because of his diminutive size, and also because he doesn’t have top-notch stuff, Metzdorf was expected to be drafted much later. However, Metzdorf was selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft for the same reason Weems was selected in the sixth — signability. Metzdorf received a $10,000 signing bonus from the White Sox, which was around $384,000 less than slot value (which aided the Sox in signing Thompson and Dalquist).

Metzdorf, because of his better college credentials, started the season with Great Falls and acquitted himself quite nicely. In 14 starts spanning 40 innings (the White Sox don’t usually extend their starters too much in their first pro seasons) for the Voyagers, he posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP by ceding 44 hits (.286 OBA) and eight walks (4.8%) while striking out 36 (21.4%). Despite giving up some hits, Metzdorf limited the damage by keeping the ball down (55.1% ground ball rate) and throwing strikes.

Baseball America’s scouting report says “Metzdorf’s stuff isn’t huge, but he’s a solid strike thrower and has a fastball that sits 86-89 mostly, though he did ratchet that up to 93 late in the season. His slider and changeup are both fringe-average pitches at best.” Metzdorf is definitely undersized, so questions about his durability as a starter may persist for the next couple of years as a result. He’s also a year older than Weems, so if Metzdorf performs well at Kannapolis next year, he could earn a quick promotion to Winston-Salem.


AZL White Sox

Hector Acosta
6´4´´
200 pounds
Age: 21

Acosta, a Dominican native, was one of nine players who signed on 2016’s International Signing Day (along with notables Josue Guerrero, Anderson Comas, Luis Mieses, Anthony Coronado and Lenyn Sosa, to name just a few). While Acosta performed quite well for the DSL White Sox in 2017 and the beginning of 2018, he has struggled badly since his promotion to the team’s AZL squad in late June 2018.

This year for the AZL White Sox, Acosta appeared in 12 games (10 starts) and posted an unsightly 6.32 ERA and 1.96 WHIP in 47 innings, allowing 74 hits (.346 OBA) and 18 walks (7.6%) while striking out 23 (9.7%). Lefties hit him even more loudly (.368) than righties (.336) These numbers are so far short of Acosta’s DSL numbers, it seems to indicate he’s either battling through injuries and/or a lack of confidence in his new environment. This year, Acosta was about a half-year younger than the league average. If he does return to the organization, it likely would be for another AZL stint, and perhaps one last shot to prove himself.


DSL White Sox

Ronaldo Guzman
6´0´´
150 pounds
Age: 17

Guzman, a native of the Dominican Republic, received a $75,000 signing bonus on Oct. 29, 2018, which may turn out to be the best under-the-radar signing of an international pitcher ever for the White Sox. In his first taste of professional ball this year, Guzman posted a 4.53 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 14 outings (12 starts) spanning 51 2/3 innings. In those innings, he relinquished 43 hits (.221) and 29 walks (12.8%) while striking out a whopping 76 (33.5%). While those numbers are outstanding for someone who didn’t turn 17 until late August, Guzman’s numbers would’ve been even better if not for one bad relief outing; you throw that bad boy away and you get an 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Keep in mind, also, that Guzman was approximately 2.3 years younger than the DSL average. Certainly his walks were an issue, in addition to a low ground ball rate (37.9%). With his youth, however, Guzman has plenty of time to work on those things.

Ben Badler of Baseball America said this of Guzman prior to this season: “fastball that gets up to 89 mph with easy arm action and an athletic delivery that repeats well to throw strikes with an advanced changeup for his age.” As Guzman gets older, you’d expect him to gain more height and weight, which can only help with durability and velocity. Of the pitchers listed in this post, Guzman has easily the highest ceiling.

While it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Guzman returns to the DSL White Sox for the 2020 season due to his age, he seems a great bet to begin the season with the AZL affiliate instead.

 

Deep Dive: Lucas Giolito’s past, present and future with the White Sox

Ace, ascendant: Lucas Giolito was easily the best pitcher on the White Sox staff in 2019. Will he get help going forward? (@whitesox)


“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 career of Lucas Giolito through 2018, his 2019 season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like with the team.


How did he get here?

Giolito, a native of Santa Monica, had an outstanding senior year with Harvard-Westlake High School (Studio City, Calif.) when he posted a 9-1 record in 70 1/3 innings before being sidelined in March due to a sprained ligament in his right elbow. After several of the top doctors in the area gave his elbow’s health a thumbs-up, Giolito was selected by the Washington Nationals with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Nationals handled Giolito cautiously that year, as he only pitched two innings for their Gulf Coast squad. The following year, he combined for 11 games and 36 2/3 innings with the GCL and New York-Penn League affiliates. In those innings, Giolito posted a splendid 1.96 ERA and 1.15 WHIP by surrendering just 28 hits (.217 OBA) and 14 walks (9.5%) while striking out 39 (26.5%).

In 2014, Giolito’s stock really escalated. In 20 starts totaling 98 innings, he posted a sensational 10-2 record, 2.20 ERA and 1.00 WHIP for the Nationals “A” team in Hagerstown over 98 inning,s as he ceded 70 hits (.197 OBA) and 28 walks (7.3%) while fanning 110 (28.5%).

The next year saw him spend time with A+ Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, and his results were still quite good if not quite as terrific — quite understandable when considering he was pitching against hitters that were usually about three years older. In 2015, Giolito combined with those squads to post a 7-7 record, 3.15 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 117 innings as he surrendered 113 hits (.253 OBA) and 37 walks (7.5%) while striking out 131 (26.5%).

The 2016 season was quite full for Giolito, as he pitched for Hagerstown, Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. In 22 starts totaling 115 1/3 innings, he combined with those three teams to produce a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP by allowing 104 hits (.239 OBA), 44 walks (9.0%) and 116 strikeouts (23.8%). He then earned his first MLB promotion, but struggled for the Nationals in six appearances spanning 21 1/3 innings as he surrendered 26 hits (.295 OBA) and 12 walks (11.9%) while fanning just 11 (10.9%). With Giolito’s struggles for the playoff-bound Nationals, and the fact that their pitching staff was already loaded, he became expendable and was traded along with pitchers Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning for outfielder Adam Eaton after the season.

Giolito, who was considered an overall Top 20 prospect at the time of the trade, had an uneven season for the Charlotte Knights in 2017, as he struggled with both command and control. In 24 starts spanning 128 2/3 innings, Giolito posted a 4.48 ERA and 1.41 WHIP by relinquishing 122 hits (.253 OBA), 59 walks (10.7%) and 134 strikeouts (24.3%). However, he showed significant improvement (including a no-hitter against his former team, Syracuse) as the season progressed, which ultimately landed him a promotion to Chicago by late August. In seven starts for the White Sox totaling 45 1/3 innings, Giolito produced an outstanding 2.38 ERA and 0.95 WHIP by allowing just 31 hits (.190 OBA) and 12 walks (6.7%) while striking out 34 (19.0%).

Giolito suffered through easily his worst year as a professional last year with the White Sox, as he struggled immensely with both his command and control. In particular, he had difficulty avoiding the big inning. In 32 starts totaling 173 1/3 innings, he compiled an ugly 6.13 ERA and 1.48 WHIP by relinquishing 166 hits (.250 OBA) and 90 walks (11.6%) while fanning just 125 (16.1%). Giolito’s 90 walks and 118 earned runs were both league worsts. On the positive side, his FIP was only 5.56 so it appears that a little bad luck combined with his poor control contributed to his troubles.


With the White Sox in 2019

Despite exiting the 2019 season a couple weeks early due to a lat strain, Giolito not only enjoyed a terrific bounce-back, but was one of the best righthanders in the majors. In 29 starts totaling 176 2/3 innings, he posted a 14-9 record with a 3.41 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, as he surrendered just 131 hits (.205 OBA) and 57 walks (8.1%) compared to 229 strikeouts (32.5%). The biggest damage to his stat line was that he had a professional career-worst 36.0% ground ball rate, which largely led to his 24 homers allowed. That blemish aside, Giolito’s year was off-the-charts, and he was easily the league’s most improved pitcher.

What were the major factors for his improvement? Overhauled pitching mechanics, offseason work on the mental aspect of the game, a sinker that’s been mothballed in favor of more four-seamers, and increased use of his changeup, particularly against lefties — there is no shortage of factors that have contributed to Giolito’s turnaround. Giolito gets ahead of hitters far more often, gets them to chase outside the zone more often, and his strikeout rate practically doubled, from 16.1% to 32.1% while his walk rate fell from 11.6% to 8.3%. Despite Giolito’s fairly high homer total, he still managed to cut his homer rate from 1.4/9 innings to 1.08. Even while becoming a fly ball-oriented pitcher, he’s cut his homer rate from 1.4 per nine to 1.08. It all adds up to one of the most impressive turnarounds of any pitcher in recent memory.

As mentioned above, Giolito increased the usage of his four-seam fastball from 39% to 55% while he didn’t throw his sinker at all in 2019 (he threw it 20.5% of the time in 2018). Off his four-seamer, hitters slashed just .203/281/.364, which was a major improvement from the year before (.274/.412/.524). Losing his sinker was a great career move, as hitters slugged .445 against it last year. Giolito increased his changeup usage from 15.7% in 2018 to 26.2%, and hitters slashed just .190/.270/.360 against it this year. He used the slider 14.7% of the time this year, a nearly identical rate from last year; opponents slashed just .213/.251/.362 against it this year. Finally, which comes as a surprise to many since the pitch was graded 70 by MLB Pipeline when he was still a prospect, Giolito’s curveball usage fell from 10.1% to 4.1% and with good reason — hitters rocked that pitch this year to the tune of a .318/.426/.682 slash line. According to Baseball Savant, Giolito’s four-seamer averaged 94.2 mph, with obviously lower speeds on his slider (84.6), changeup (81.7) and curveball (79.4%).

Giolito posted a 5.1 fWAR for the year. Considering each fWAR is worth approximately $7.7 million free agent dollars per FanGraphs, when measured against his 2019 salary of $573,000, Giolito produced a whopping net value of nearly $38.7 million. Giolito won’t be eligible for arbitration until the end of the 2021 season.


What does the future have in store?

It’s hard to believe, but Giolito won’t even turn 26 until next July, and he won’t be eligible to become a free agent until the 2024 season. While there’s no rush to give Giolito an extension quite yet, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to consider if he repeats his performance next year. The lat strain, which caused a premature end to this season, would typically put someone on the shelf for just three or four weeks during the season, so Giolito’s injury shouldn’t have any effect on him next year.

As for 2020 and beyond, Giolito could be part of a young mix that includes some combination of López, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodón, Dunning and Jonathan Stiever just to name a few. Giolito is the only one with any viable track record of production, experience and durability — all the other aforementioned pitchers have either battled inexperience, inconsistency, or injuries.

Of course, Giolito only has one full season of success to date, but he’s easily the staff ace. Of course, this doesn’t even include the possibilities of adding a starter or two via free agency if the White Sox decide to finally open their pocketbooks for premier hurlers. Later Deep Dives will delve into right-handed and southpaw rotation options available in this year’s free agent class.

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham right-handed starters

Long wait: Michael Kopech should be a key cog in next year’s White Sox starting rotation. (@KopechDad)


“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

For all the hand-wringing over lack of majors-ready arms in the upper levels, there are at least a few names here you’ll be seeing on the South Side soon.

All players’ ages listed below are as of April 1, 2020.


Charlotte Knights

Michael Kopech
6´3´´
205 pounds
Age: 23

OK, I’m cheating here! Kopech is actually on the major league roster, but since he still is rookie-eligible he’s listed here instead. Kopech, a native of Mount Pleasant, Texas, enjoyed a terrific prep career, culminating with an 0.44 ERA, 18.14 K/9, and .115 OBA in his senior season. With those results and a fastball already reaching 94 mph, Kopech was unsurprisingly ranked among the top prep prospects entering the 2014 draft. When he fell to the 33rd selection, the Boston Red Sox couldn’t resist choosing him and signing him to a $1.5 million bonus in order to pry him from his verbal commitment to the Arizona Wildcats.

In his first three years in the Red Sox system, Kopech combined to post a 2.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while posting 11.49 K/9, 4.60 BB/9, and .201 OBA over a combined 135 innings. Kopech made headlines in Single-A ball when one of his fastballs was clocked at 105 mph.

However, during his Red Sox tenure, he also made the wrong kind of news. On July 15, 2015, he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for oxilofrine, a banned stimulant that was hidden in many dietary supplements sold over the counter. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse when, in early March 2016, he broke a bone in his pitching hand during an altercation with a teammate. As a result of those two incidents, the most he pitched in the minors in his first three seasons was in 2015, when he pitched just 65 innings.

Perhaps in part due to concerns regarding his maturity, the Red Sox traded Kopech, Yoán Moncada, Luis Basabe, and Victor Diaz to the White Sox on Dec. 6, 2016 for southpaw ace Chris Sale. In 2017 for Birmingham, Kopech maintained a 2.87 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 119 ⅓ innings, allowing just 77 hits (.184 OBA) but 60 walks (4.53 BB/9) while striking out 155 (11.69 K/9). Despite vastly exceeding his combining inning totals from the previous three years, Kopech got better as the season went along; In July and August, Kopech threw 44 ⅓ innings with 26 hits (.166 OBA), 11 walks (2.23 BB/9) and 58 strikeouts (11.77 K/9). As a result, he finished the season with three solid starts in Charlotte.

Struggles, primarily with control, haunted Kopech in 2018 — particularly in May and June. In those two months (totaling 58 ⅓ innings), he allowed 45 hits (.216) while striking out 76 (11.73 K/9); however, he walked a whopping 45 hitters (6.04 BB/9) which gave him an ERA of 5.25 and WHIP of 1.54 for that stretch. However, just like in 2017, Kopech kicked it into overdrive during July and August by ceding just 42 hits and eight walks over 47 innings and fanning 65 — posting a tidy 2.49 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in the process. His control paid dividends, as he finally earned a promotion to Chicago for his first career start, on August 21. Unfortunately, after doing well in three mostly rain-abbreviated starts, Kopech tore his UCL and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery.

Kopech currently ranks second among White Sox prospects, and 18th overall, according to MLB Pipeline. MLB also grades Kopech as 80-fastball, 65-slider, 50-changeup, and 45-control; what MLB Pipeline doesn’t say is that Kopech was actually getting great results from another pitch — a curveball. The key for Kopech, other than of course staying healthy when he returns in 2020, is to maintain his command while providing a nice speed variance between his fastball and off-speed pitches. If his fastball can return to pre-surgery levels while trusting his secondary offerings and maintaining the command he showed from July to September in 2018, the White Sox will indeed have a perennial Cy Young contender on their hands.

Odrisamer Despaigne
6´0´´
200 pounds
Age: 32

Despaigne, after posting a 61-43 record with a 3.55 ERA and 1.75 K/BB ratio over eight seasons in Cuba before defecting, signed a $1 million pact with San Diego on May 2, 2014 as a 27-year-old. After beginning that season in Double-A San Antonio, he made his MLB debut with the Padres less than two months later. In what’s turned out to be his career year in the majors to date, Despaigne posted a 4-7 record with a 3.36 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 16 starts. In his six-year career, which has seen him spend more time in the minors than the majors, Despaigne already has pitched for the Padres, Orioles, Marlins, Angels and White Sox with a combined 13-26 record, 5.11 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

After signing a minor league deal with the White Sox this May after opting out of his contract with the Reds, Despaigne performed quite well for Charlotte, earning a prompt promotion due to the majors. After three disastrous starts spanning 13 1/3 innings for Chicago in June (9.45 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, .407 OBA, 10.3 BB%, 10.3 K%), he was demoted to Charlotte, where he actually finished as that team’s best right-handed starter by season’s end, and by a wide margin. In 16 appearances for the Knights this year (14 starts), Despaigne posted a decent 3.25 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 83 innings by relinquishing 83 hits (.263 OBA), 28 walks and 84 strikeouts. Considering the weak state of the Knights rotation, combined with the knowledge that southpaw Bernardo Flores may be the only lock for promotion from Birmingham to begin the season due to injuries in the system, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Sox ink Despaigne to another minor league pact for 2020.

Donn Roach
6´0´´
195 pounds
Age: 30

Roach began his college career with the University of Arizona, but transferred to the College of Southern Nevada to be closer to home. After excelling during his sophomore season, Roach was selected in the third round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Angels. After spending parts of three years in the Angels organization, Roach was traded to the Padres, where he eventually made his MLB debut in 2014. Over the years, he’s pitched for a myriad of organizations, including the Cubs and Mariners (for whom he also pitched briefly in the majors). In 21 games spanning 39 innings at the highest level, Roach has posted a 5.77 ERA and 1.77 WHIP by allowing 51 hits and 18 walks while fanning 20.

The White Sox signed Roach to a minor league pact in 2018 and he pitched quite well for the Charlotte Knights, earning a spot on the Triple-A All-Star team with a 2.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. In 16 outings spanning 95 innings, he relinquished just 95 hits (.262 OBA) and 21 walks (5.4%) while striking out 61 (15.6%). He then asked for his release in order to play professional ball in Japan.

Roach returned to the Knights this year, but with far worse results. In 18 appearances totaling 79 1/3 injury-marred innings, he surrendered 127 hits (.362 OBA) and 26 walks (6.8%) while fanning 53 (13.9). His results likely suffered not just to injuries but thanks to the live (MLB) baseball as well. It’s a shame for Roach that he didn’t have the 2018 season this year, because he likely would have found a spot in the back of the White Sox rotation. As it is, Roach can only hope he’ll have another opportunity to pitch for Chicago next year.

Spencer Adams
6´3´´
171 pounds
Age: 23

After a spectacular senior season for his varsity baseball team in the Atlanta area, the White Sox happily pounced on Adams with their second round selection in the 2014 draft. After a terrific season for the AZL Sox that year, in which he struck out 59 batters while walking just four in 41 2/3 innings, it certainly looked like the sky was the limit for Adams.

Adams continued to post solid numbers with every new stop in the organization, but his stuff seemed to back up as his strikeout rates continued to plummet. In 2017 for the Birmingham Barons, he posted a 4.42 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 152 2/3 innings by relinquishing 171 hits (.281 OBA) and 40 walks (6.1%) while fanning just 113 (17.2%). He again posted decent overall numbers with Birmingham and Charlotte for 2018, but with concerning peripherals: 3.79 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 159 innings allowing 162 hits (.267 OBA) and 58 walks (8.6%) while fanning 95 (14.2%).

Adams’ 2019 just never got off the ground, due to a combination of ineffectiveness and injuries. Of course, the injuries caused many of the issues, but a combination of a lack of overpowering stuff and the live Triple-A ball didn’t help matters any. In five games (three starts, with his last outing on April 28), Adams posted an 8.00 ERA and 2.39 ERA over 18 innings as he allowed 35 hits (.412 OBA) and an unusually high eight walks (8.3%) with 10 strikeouts (10.4%). A back injury is what finished Adams’ season prematurely, and it’s hoped that he could return to Charlotte in 2020.

Adams, who was a former Top 10 prospect in the White Sox organization, did have 50 grades with his low-90s fastball and changeup, while he graded a bit better according to MLB Pipeline with his control (60) prior to his injury.


Birmingham Barons

Dane Dunning
6´4´´
200 pounds
Age: 25

Dunning had a successful three-year run with the Florida Gators, beginning as a reliever in his freshman season, transitioning to starter, and finally switching to a swing-man role for his junior season. Why a swingman, instead of an ace? It may have had something to do with the fact that A.J. Puk, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Alex Faedo (all eventual first-round picks) were in the Gators rotation as well. Dunning did, however, post his best collegiate marks in his junior season, with a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 77 ⅔ innings. In his 33 outings (five starts), he allowed just 68 hits (.235 OBA) and 12 walks (1.39 BB/9) while striking out 88 (10.20 K/9). Due to those results and obvious potential, the Washington Nationals selected him in the first round (29th overall) of the 2016 draft.

Dunning pitched well for the Nationals short-season affiliates in 35 ⅔ innings over eight starts, posting a combined 2.02 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts (8.07 K/9) while relinquishing just 26 hits (.198 OBA) and seven walks (1.77 BB/9). Following the season, on December 7, he was traded to the White Sox, along with Reynaldo López and Lucas Giolito, for Adam Eaton.

To say Dunning dominated Kannapolis in his four starts there in 2017 was like saying the earth is round. In 24 ⅓ innings for the Intimidators, he posted a microscopic 0.35 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts (11.42 K/9) in 26 innings while allowing just 13 hits (.143 OBA) and two walks (0.69 BB/9). His results with Winston-Salem, while not quite as fantastic, were still top-notch. In 22 starts for the Dash totaling 118 innings, he posted a 3.51 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 135 strikeouts (10.30 K/9) while ceding just 114 hits (.250 OBA) and 36 walks (2.75 BB/9).

Dunning started 2018 with Winston-Salem in four starts, before earning an early promotion to Birmingham. In 15 starts covering 86 ⅓ innings for both squads, he posted a nifty 2.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. In those innings, he allowed just 77 hits (.235 OBA) and 26 walks (2.71 BB/9) while fanning 100 hitters (10.42 K/9). Unfortunately, Dunning began suffering through elbow issues in late June that year, ultimately leading to Tommy John surgery in mid-March of this year.

As evidenced by his low walk numbers throughout college and the minors, Dunning has exceptional control, and with the relatively low number of hits allowed for a control pitcher, he has exceptional command as well. His fastball peaks at 95-96 mph, but is extremely effective due to its heavy sinking action. He also features an above-average slider, which grades slightly higher than his improving change.

Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned surgery, Dunning will be expected to miss some time in 2020. There’s a possibility he begins the season with Charlotte upon his return, but it’s much more likely Dunning starts with Birmingham. Though he ranks fifth among all White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline, he (unlike the aforementioned Kopech) has fallen out of MLB’s Top 100 list entirely. If recovery goes well and he doesn’t miss a beat upon return, Dunning likely will earn a promotion to Charlotte if not Chicago before 2020’s end.

Jimmy Lambert
6´2´´
190 pounds
Age: 25

Lambert spent the majority of his three years for the Fresno State Bulldogs in the team’s starting rotation, and his junior season was easily his best with a 3.13 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 97 2/3 innings, as he relinquished 98 hits and just 19 walks while striking out 78. Those results were good enough for the White Sox to select him in the 2016 draft. After the draft, he pitched well for the AZL White Sox but unsurprisingly struggled with Kannapolis to end the season.

Jimmy, older brother of Rockies hurler Peter Lambert, mastered Kannapolis in 12 starts spanning 74 innings to begin the 2017 campaign with a 2.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, as he surrendered 77 hits (.274 OBA) and 11 walks (3.7%) while striking out 43 (14.3%). Just like the previous year, Lambert struggled with his midseason promotion to Winston-Salem as he posted a 5.45 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 76 innings as he ceded 86 hits (.290 OBA) and 29 walks (8.7%) while fanning 59 (17.7%). Lambert returned to the Dash in 2018 and fared much better in 13 starts, totaling 70 2/3 innings as he compiled a 3.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, allowing just 57 hits (.217 OBA) and 21 walks (7.3%) while striking out 80 (29.0). Lambert earned a promotion to Birmingham, and excelled with this promotion to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 25 innings as he relinquished just 20 hits (.217 OBA) and six walks (5.9%) while striking out 30 (29.7%).

Lambert started 2019 with Birmingham well, as he turned six quality starts in his first eight outings. However, his final three outings (May 23 to June 3) were vastly subpar — ultimately dropping his numbers to a 4.55 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 11 starts spanning 59 1/3 innings, allowing 62 hits (.272 OBA) and 27 walks (10.4%) while striking out 70 (27.0%). It turned out Lambert needed Tommy John surgery, which was done in late June.

Lambert presently ranks 18th among White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, thanks in part to increasing oomph on his fastball over the past couple of years due to an arm slot change that altered his delivery to more over-the-top. The heater (which usually runs 91-94 mph and tops out at 96) and curveball are considered by MLB Pipeline as his two best offerings with grades of 55, while his slider and changeup are given a solid 50 grade. Because of his late surgery, it’s possible Lambert may not even pitch in the 2020 season. If he does, he may be given a rehab assignment in the AZL before returning to Birmingham. Lambert is eligible to be selected in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Blake Battenfield
6´3´´

220 pounds
Age: 25

Battenfield, a resident of Tulsa, remained in his native state to play with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. His first three years were primarily spent in the bullpen, where Battenfield crafted a respectable 2.60 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 97 innings. During that time, he allowed 86 hits while posting a mediocre K/BB ratio (1.47), with 45 walks and 66 strikeouts. He split time evenly with the Cowboys as a senior (2017) between the rotation and bullpen, posting middling results: 4.91 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 69 2⁄3 innings, while walking 31 and striking out 58.

These results obviously weren’t spectacular, which explains why Battenfield slipped all the way to the 17th round of the 2017 draft. Battenfield served exclusively out of the bullpen that year for Great Falls, where he posted mediocre ERA (4.88) and WHIP numbers over 31 1⁄3 innings in the high altitude, but some of his peripherals stood out. Opposing hitters batted .271 against his offerings, but he punched out 40 hitters (28.6 K%) while walking only eight (5.7 BB%). Partly based on those numbers, the Sox decided to convert him to a starter for 2018.

Battenfield pitched outstandingly for Kannapolis in his 13 starts in 2018: 2.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 52 hits (.210 OBA), 16 walks (6.0 BB%), and 69 strikeouts (25.8 K%) over 67 innings, earning a promotion to Winston-Salem on June 21. As expected, Battenfield’s numbers declined a bit in nine starts (53 1⁄3 innings) for the Dash, but were still respectable: 4.22 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 50 hits (.248 OBA), 13 walks (6.0 BB%), and 46 strikeouts (21.1%).

After a terrific six starts to begin the season with the Dash, Battenfield earned an early promotion to Birmingham where he did struggle with his command. In 19 starts for the Barons totaling 95 2/3 innings, he posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.38 WHIP by allowing 107 hits (.287 OBA) and 25 walks (6.1%) while fanning 69 (16.9%). He especially labored against lefties (.299 OBA, 1.59 WHIP) in comparison to righties for Birmingham (.278 OBA, 1.23 WHIP). His 36.8% ground ball rate didn’t do him any favors, either.

Battenfield has an impressive repertoire that includes a natural sinking fastball, a rising four-seamer, an effective slider, a big-breaking curveball with good spin and depth, and a changeup that still needs work. He doesn’t appear to throw especially hard. I haven’t seen any projections, but we’re probably looking at the low 90s, as he was in the mid-80s as a varsity athlete according to Perfect Game and has gotten stronger since then. But the righthander’s movement and speed variations help his fastball play up. His changeup has yet to be mastered, as evidenced by the success Double-A lefties enjoyed against him this year. Success with the changeup may dictate how Battenfield will progress going forward.

Expect Battenfield to return to the Barons for the 2019 season, with an opportunity for midseason promotion if he does well.

Lincoln Henzman
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 24

With the exception of two starts in his freshman season, Henzman was exclusively a reliever for the Louisville Cardinals. His best season was as a junior, when he pitched in 27 games (saving 16) totaling 37 23 innings with a terrific 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP — allowing just 22 hits (.169 OBA) and 10 walks (2.39 BB/9), striking out 37 (8.84 K/9). With those results, the White Sox drafted Henzman in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, with the intention of converting him into a starter. After receiving a signing bonus of $450,000, Henzman pitched for the AZL Sox and Great Falls. In 11 combined outings (seven starts), he maintained a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 28 innings, allowing 27 hits (.262 OBA) and nine walks (2.89 BB/9) while striking out 17 (5.46 K/9).

Henzman went deeper into games in 2018 for Kannapolis, starting 13 and pitching 72 23 innings, with better-than-expected results. For the Intimidators, Henzman posted a 2.23 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and allowed just 68 hits (.241 OBA) and eight walks (3.0%) while striking out 60 hitters (20.4%). He was promoted to Winston-Salem on June 21, but was held to pitch counts as Henzman had already far exceeded his career high in innings. In 14 outings totaling 34 23 innings for the Dash, he posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, ceding 34 hits (.256 OBA) and 10 walks (6.8%) while striking out 20 (13.7%).

The 2019 season saw Henzman go through some struggles — particularly with putting hitters away. In nine starts spanning 41 innings for the Dash, he posted a 4.61 ERA and 1.37 WHIP as he relinquished 46 hits (.288 OBA) and 10 walks (5.8%) while fanning just 18 (10.4%). He did earn a promotion to Birmingham in early June, and struggled against his more advanced opponents. In 15 starts totaling 79 1/3 innings for the Barons, Henzman compiled a 5.56 ERA and 1.44 WHIP as he surrendered 96 hits (.301 OBA) and 18 walks (5.2%) while striking out 44 (12.7%). While he maintained his above-average control this year, his command was lacking as he didn’t miss many bats due to a high OBA and low strikeout rate. On the positive side, he finished his last three starts with a combined 1.76 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, so he may have figured some things out.

Henzman features a heavy sinking fastball that runs anywhere from 90-95 mph according to MLB Pipeline, and despite his struggles this year, still induced a 53% ground ball rate. He throws an upper-80s cutter, while also throwing an above-average changeup. That changeup has helped Henzman, as lefties have consistently hit him for a lower average than have righties during his young career. MLB Pipeline grades his fastball as 60, changeup at 55, and control and cutter at 50. Expect Henzman to return to Birmingham to begin the 2020 campaign.

Felix Paulino
6´1´´
200 pounds
Age: 25

Paulino, who turns 25 next March, is a Dominican native and started his career with the Phillies organization in 2014. His best year was with their Gulf Coast League squad in 2015, when he posted a 2.34 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 50 innings as he relinquished just 41 hits (.223 OBA) and five walks (2.5%) while fanning 46 (23.0%). He’d actually been a useful swingman, as his career numbers have generally been good if unexceptional. On Aug. 22, 2018, he was traded to the White Sox for southpaw reliever Luis Avilán. With Birmingham, Paulino finished the year with two rocky starts as he battled through some uncharacteristic wildness — no doubt trying too hard to impress his new team.

In six outings (five starts) this year for the Barons, Paulino certainly held his own as he posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 35 innings as he ceded 36 hits (.265 OBA) and 13 walks (8.4%) while striking out 30 (19.5%). In all six of his outings, he pitched at least five innings. Unfortunately, his last outing was on May 5 as he was then placed on the injured list, from which he never returned.

According to Baseball America, Paulino works 91-96 mph with his fastball and has a sinker in the lower end of that velocity band. His low- to mid-80s slider flashes plus potential but is inconsistent, and he has a firm changeup that lacks deception. Paulino shows flashes of everything working together, but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. His ability to tighten up his control and firm up his secondaries will determine how high he climbs. Paulino is eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft, and if healthy, would likely return to Birmingham to begin the 2020 season.

A.J. Puckett
6´4´´
200 pounds
Age: 24

Puckett is an interesting story. He was a promising two-sport athlete in high school before a car accident left him in a medically-induced coma for two weeks to slow his blood loss. After that accident, he made a a full recovery and went to Pepperdine University, where he was the West Coast Conference pitcher of the year in 2016 after fashioning the third-longest (45 23-inning) scoreless streak in NCAA Division I history. All Puckett did in his junior season was pitch 99 innings over 14 starts, posting an incredible 1.27 ERA and 0.92 WHIP; he allowed just 65 hits and 26 walks (2.36 BB/9) while fanning 95 batters (8.61 K/9). As a result of his efforts, the Kansas City Royals selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft, signing him to a $1.2 million bonus.

For the AZL Royals and Lexington (Royals A-affiliate) immediately after the draft, Puckett held his own in 13 starts, with a combined 3.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP and respectable .231 OBA and 2.30 BB/9, but his strikeouts were down at 6.90 K/9. For the Royals A+ team (Wilmington) in 2017, he was posting a 3.90 ERA and 1.41 WHIP through July 30 when he was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Melky Cabrera, in the Royals’ ill-fated run at the playoffs. Puckett struggled a bit at hitter-friendly Winston-Salem in his five starts, as he posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 27 13 innings. In those innings, Puckett surrendered 35 hits (.327 OBA) and five walks (1.65 BB/9) while striking out 21 (6.91 K/9).

Puckett began 2018 as the 23rd-ranked prospect in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, and was slated to begin with Birmingham. However, due to an ailing elbow, he missed the entire season (just like Andre Davis, the other player acquired in the Cabrera deal).

Puckett, when healthy, is more about pitchability than power. His best assets are his tumbling changeup, a legitimate plus pitch, and his advanced command. His fastball usually ranges from 90-94 mph (according to MLB Pipeline) with some run and sink, and his curveball can be an average third offering at times, but lacks consistency.

Like fellow highly-touted righthander Dunning, Puckett arrived in Glendale this spring to try working through the elbow pain that sidelined him in 2018. And like Dunning, Puckett ultimately opted for Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2019, and will likely miss a good part of 2020 as well. When ready to return, Puckett likely will undergo a rehab assignment before pitching for Birmingham.


Deep Dive: White Sox right-handed A-ball starters

Big move: Jonathan Stiever is ranked seventh among all White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline, and is the highest-ranking pitcher who actually pitched in 2019. (@WSDashBaseball)


“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

Single-A boasts some very intriguing RHSP prospects, including the guy who is almost without doubt now the most exciting pitcher in the White Sox system.

All players’ ages listed below are as of April 1, 2020.


Winston-Salem Dash

Jonathan Stiever
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 22

Jonathan Stiever capped a great three-year run with the Indiana Hoosiers when he posted a 3.41 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 16 starts spanning 100 innings, surrendering just 94 hits and 32 walks while striking out 97. Alhough MLB Pipeline ranked him 88th among all draft prospects, Stiever mysteriously fell to the fifth round (138th overall) in the 2018 draft, where the White Sox happily snatched him up. Despite only pitching in just two- or three-inning spurts last year for Great Falls, he held his own for the Voyagers with a respectable 4.18 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 28 innings as he surrendered just 23 hits (.258 OBA) and nine walks (7.2%) while fanning 39 (33.2%).

In 2019, Stiever struggled unexpectedly for Kannapolis in 14 starts (77 innings) with a 4.74 ERA and 1.38 WHIP as he ceded 88 hits (.293 OBA) and 14 walks (4.4%) while fanning 77 (24.1%). A promotion on June 20 to Winston-Salem, against more advanced hitters and in a hitting-friendly ballpark to boot, saw Stiever turning in an incredible 12 starts for the Dash. Although his walk (13) and strikeout totals (77) were eerily similar to his Kannapolis numbers in nearly the same number of innings (71), hitters only batted .216 against his offerings. With the Dash Stiever elevated his fastball, which made it far more difficult for opponents to hit. Thus, while he maintained his solid walk (4.7%) and strikeout rates (28.0%) in A+ ball, his ERA and WHIP dropped precipitously, to 2.15 and 0.97.

MLB Pipeline has Stiever’s fastball typically averaging 92-96 mph with a peak of 98, and features plenty of running and sinking action. This actually is an increase of two mph from earlier in the year. Like his fastball, Stiever’s upper-70s spike-curveball is graded at 60 and varies significantly by shape and speed. Stiever’s third hard pitch is a hard slider that currently grades at 55 by MLB Pipeline, and he features a changeup as well (currently grading at 50, which he used to help stifle lefties to a .178 average while pitching for the Dash).

It’s really an incredible repertoire, and Stiever seems to be a morph between the harder-throwing Dylan Cease and more control-oriented Dane Dunning. With the control, stuff and power he displayed for the Dash, Stiever seems to be a lock to begin next year in Birmingham’s rotation. Stiever is ranked seventh among all White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline, and is the highest-ranking of the team’s prospects who actually pitched in 2019.

Kade McClure
6´7´´
230 pounds
Age: 24

A recent “Under the Radar” post was published regarding McClure. He should be pitching in Birmingham in 2020.

Jorgan Cavanerio
6´1´´
155 pounds
Age: 25

As a 16-year-old from Venezuela, Cavanerio signed a minor league contract with the Marlins organization. The diminutive righthander progressed ever so slowly in their organization, reaching as high as Double-A Jacksonville in 2015 and 2018. Through 2019, Cavanerio has made a total of 191 appearances (106 starts) with a career 3.97 ERA and 1.29 WHIP — all respectable numbers. He’s been hit hard on occasion, as reflected by his career OBA of .282, but that’s perhaps because he doesn’t have tremendously overpowering stuff and is more of a control specialist. His low career walk and strikeout rates (4.1% and 16.6%) attest to that.

Now that his career numbers are out in the open, how’d Cavanerio do this year? He signed as a free agent with the Mariners organization and played for their Double-A squad in Arkansas. Things did not go well for Cavanerio in seven outings totaling 16 innings, as he posted an uncharacteristically high ERA (7.88) and WHIP (1.81) due to opponents hitting .372 against his offerings.

After being released on May 7, the White Sox claimed him three days later and inserted him into the Winston-Salem rotation, where he finished the year. For the Dash, he posted a 9-3 record with a 3.13 ERA and 1.11 over 112 innings by allowing 102 hits (.242 OBA) and 22 walks (4.8%) while fanning 73 (16.0%). Though the walk and strikeout numbers are just a tad worse than his career averages, Cavanerio performed far better because he simply allowed fewer hits. It’s unclear whether he simply pitched in better luck or he figured out some way to induce less violent contact.

According to a Baseball Prospectus scouting report from three years ago, Cavanerio’s fastball typically runs 89-91 mph with a peak of 93; it was graded 55 at the time due to some sinking action in the lower part of the zone. His changeup was rated his best pitch at 60 due to its plus depth and his arm speed. A third pitch, a curveball, was given just a 45 due to its inconsistency and slurvy action. Cavanerio’s control (50) was graded well above his command (40), which makes sense because of of his low walk totals but high OBA. Because of Cavanerio’s lack of results at the Double-A level over his career, he may just be considered organizational depth at this point, as he is plenty older than the league average. As a result, he could end up being the right-handed version of Tanner Banks.

Expect Cavanerio to return to Winston-Salem to begin 2020, but if he begins the same way that he ended 2019, he could force his way into either a starting or long-relief role for Birmingham at some point.

Zach Lewis
6´3´´
205 pounds
Age: 24

Lewis, a native of suburban Palos Heights, pitched two years for JUCO powerhouse Wabash Valley College before transferring to Wichita State for his junior and senior seasons. After a senior season for the Shockers in which he posted a solid 3.07 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 15 outings totaling 82 innings, he went unselected in the 2017 draft. After signing with the White Sox about three weeks after the draft, Lewis then proceeded to put up exemplary numbers in 2017 for the AZL White Sox (2.72 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) and 2018 for Kannapolis (2.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP).

Unfortunately for Lewis, he had a difficult 2019 for the Dash, as he posted a 5.83 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 109 2/3 innings and surrendered 126 hits (.292 OBA) and 41 walks (8.2%) while striking out 97 (19.4%). His strikeout and walk rates were close to career norms, so the difference was that Lewis simply didn’t have the command this year and was hit hard as a result.

His scouting report, per 2080 Baseball as of August 2018, graded Lewis’s fastball at 40 due to an 86-88 mph fastball that does have some sinking movement and actually moves in toward right-handed hitters. Other pitches in his repertoire include a slider with sharp, late slant and a changeup he occasionally dusts off against lefties. With a lack of power stuff, especially against more advanced hitters, Lewis has to have pinpoint control and command in order to succeed.

Those attributes certainly weren’t in abundance for the Dash this season, but Lewis has enjoyed a sold organizational track record previously and merits another chance. Because of his lack of success this year, however, expect a return to Winston-Salem but perhaps a switch from starter to long reliever.


Kannapolis Intimidators

Johan Dominguez
6´4´´
190 pounds
Age: 24

Dominguez has pitched exceptionally well since signing a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on May 8, 2016 as a 20-year-old. Even though he pitched well for the Brewers DSL squad, with a 2.91 ERA combined over three years, it wasn’t until his third year that he finally earned a promotion to their AZL squad (June 24, 2018). Dominguez dominated the AZL in his 15 outings, posting a 0.00 ERA and 0.62 WHIP over 19 1/3 innings of relief. Shortly after yet another promotion, to the Brewers Pioneer League affiliate in Helena, he was traded along with outfielder Bryan Connell to the White Sox for southpaw reliever Xavier Cedeño during last year’s August trade deadline. After the trade, Dominguez pitched two scoreless innings while striking out four, pitching for his fourth team in 2018.

In his first year pitching in a full-season league, Dominguez certainly held his own. While he had pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen in his first three years of professional ball, he was used primarily as a starter in 2019. Because his career high in innings was 58 1/3 prior to this year, Kannapolis limited his workload and even inserted him into the bullpen from time to time to keep him from doing any damage to his arm. In 90 2/3 innings for the Intimidators spanning 24 outings (15 starts), Dominguez posted a rock-solid 2.98 ERA and 1.28 WHIP by relinquishing 83 hits (.239 OBA) and 33 walks (8.5%) while fanning 90 (23.1%). He allowed just two homers this year, which is quite an impressive figure even when considering Dominguez was pitching in a pitcher’s ballpark.

In striking out basically a batter per inning, Dominguez has shown the stuff to put away hitters when he needs to. While his numbers were quite both good in both roles, Dominguez’s stats were slightly better as a reliever this year. Lefties hit .213 against his offerings in 2019 compared to .259 against righties, which seems to indicate Dominguez has an above-average changeup to help neutralize lefties. Dominguez was about a year older than the average South Atlantic League player, so expect him to begin the 2020 campaign at Winston-Salem, with an eventual promotion to Birmingham (where he’ll be more age-appropriate) if all goes well.

Jason Bilous
6´2´´
185 pounds
Age 22

Bilous was ranked among the Top 200 draft prospects by MLB Pipeline prior to the 2018 draft, but slipped to the 13th round due to concerns about his control. His fastball was graded 65, slider 55, changeup 50 and control 40 by MLB Pipeline at the time.

Bilous, in his junior season with Coastal Carolina, fanned a whopping 103 hitters but walked an incredibly-high 66; Bilous’ 7.13 BB/9 rate in 2018 for the Chanticleers was nearly identical to his overall college rate of 7.12. Upon being drafted, Bilous was immediately inserted into the Great Falls rotation, where he suffered through a 7.81 ERA and 1.95 WHIP, with 46 hits (.324 OBA) and 24 walks (13.9%) while striking out 31 (17.9%) in 39 innings.

The 2019 season was kinder to Bilous, as his ERA and WHIP improved to 3.70 and 1.39 respectively in his 31 appearances (17 starts) spanning 104 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .220 against this year, while he improved his strikeout rate to 24.5%. Bilous’ walk rate did improve a bit, but was still way too high at 13.2%.

Bilous is athletic but has a long arm action in the back of his delivery that hampers him from repeating his release point and keeping his mechanics in sync. It’s that which hampers his control, which could ultimately force him into a bullpen role going forward. Bilous’ ERA out of the bullpen this year was 2.86 compared to 4.01 as a starter. Thanks to his ever-improving changeup, lefties hit just .184 against him while righties fared better at .242. If Bilous ever finds that release point, he could move up the system quickly. In the meantime, he may begin next season at hitting-friendly Winston-Salem.

Davis Martin
6´2´´
200 pounds
Age: 23

Martin, who was projected to be drafted much higher in 2018, slipped to the 14th round as he struggled with Texas Tech to the tune of a 4.87 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. Martin did hold his own, however, with the AZL Sox and Great Falls as he combined to post a respectable 4.29 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in nine outings spanning 21 innings.

The 2019 season was fairly rocky for Martin, but it wasn’t a lost campaign by any means. In 27 starts totaling 144 2/3 innings, Martin allowed 152 hits (.266 OBA) and 38 walks (6.1%) while striking out 156 hitters (25.0%). Lefties and righties fared equally against his offerings, but aside from a fairly high batting average, Martin’s biggest issue was that he surrendered 17 homers — a high number considering the ballpark he pitched in. Martin’s first-half ERA, WHIP and OBA were awful at 6.35, 1.91 and .291 respectively; thankfully his second-half numbers improved to 3.87, 1.15 and .243. Thus, it appears that while Martin maintained his control throughout the season, he improved his command as he hit the locations he wanted.

According to MLB Draft Countdown in 2018, Martin’s fastball runs 89-93 mph while his curveball runs 80-83. He does feature both a four-seamer and a two-seamer, while his changeup helps neutralize lefties somewhat (although it was graded at just 40 prior to his draft selection). Martin features sound mechanics, and has seemingly improved upon his 45 grade command. With the significant improvement he showed at year’s end, Martin should be able to win a promotion to Winston-Salem for 2020.

Kevin Folman
6´2´´
215 pounds
Age: 25

Kevin Folman was signed by the White Sox last year as an undrafted free agent from North Dakota State, where he served as the team’s closer for the final two years. Folman performed well as a starter for the AZL Sox upon being drafted, and finished the season with two starts for Great Falls. After beginning this season in the bullpen, he was thrust into a starting role in mid-July. In 17 appearances for Kannapolis (10 starts) in 2019, Folman struggled with a 5.04 ERA and 1.46 WHIP as he relinquished 73 hits (.261 OBA) and 29 walks (9.1%) while fanning 71 (22.4%).

The above numbers weren’t good, especially when considering that Folman was more than two years older than league average. He did have one thing going for him however: his relief work. Out of the bullpen this year, Folman maintained a 2.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and .217 OBA — far better than as a starter when he posted numbers of 6.26, 1.61 and .282 respectively. Since those splits repeated his trends last year in the rookie leagues, it’s possible that Folman could establish himself as organizational bullpen depth going forward.

Deep Dive: White Sox right-handed rookie league starters

No. 2 in your hearts: Matthew Thompson is ranked 14th among White Sox prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. (Sean Williams/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

While most of the top right-handed starting pitching prospects finished the season with Winston-Salem or higher, there are some intriguing arms in the rookie levels as well — especially in the AZL. The players’ ages listed below are as of April 1, 2020.


Great Falls Voyagers

Jason Morgan
6´5´´
175 pounds
Age: 24

Morgan had the ill fortune of missing the entire 2018 season, both collegiately and professionally, due to injury. His stats were consistent for the North Carolina Tar Heels up to that point, averaging a 4.01 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 9.7 BB% and 15.4 K%. Those relatively modest numbers, along with his injury, caused Morgan to fall to the 35th round of the 2018 draft.

Once healthy, Morgan had the unenvious task of beginning his professional career in 2019 at hitting-friendly Great Falls, but held his own despite not possessing overpowering stuff. In 14 starts totaling 75 innings, Morgan posted a 4.68 ERA and 1.37 WHIP by allowing 83 hits (.285 OBA), 20 walks (6.3%) and 33 strikeouts (10.3%). While allowing many hits and inducing few strikeouts, Morgan limited the damage against him by keeping the ball down (54.5% ground ball rate) and allowing few free passes. Baseball Draft Report in 2017 listed Morgan’s arsenal as including a low 90s fastball, good firm changeup (83-87 mph) and two average off-speed pitches — a 75-81 mph curveball and low-80s cut slider. Based on the fact that lefties hit him far better (.327) than had righties (.262), Morgan’s changeup may need more work.

So Morgan didn’t have a bad initial campaign, especially considering he hadn’t pitched in 2018. However, he will need to find a way to miss more bats in order to succeed in the full-season leagues.

Chase Solesky
6´3´´
201 pounds
Age: 22

Solesky struggled in his sophomore season at Tulane, as he tried to rush back from Grade 1 spinal spondylolisthesis — a slipping of vertebra that occurs most commonly at the base of the spine. As a result, Solesky’s results tanked. While Solesky enjoyed a better junior season, it still wasn’t as good as he had hoped because he was trying to alter his delivery. But a 5.05 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, to go along with 66 strikeouts in his 67 2/3 innings in the Green Waves rotation, was enough to convince the White Sox to select him in the 21st round of the 2019 draft.

A first look at Solesky’s numbers with Great Falls (6.17 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) would tell you there’s not much to get excited about. However, when looking at his strikeout and walk totals, there may be something there after all. With 45 strikeouts (24.6%) and just 12 walks (6.6%) over just 42 1/3 innings, Solesky managed a nifty 3.75 K/BB ratio. He’s clearly got the stuff and control, but he obviously needs the command to limit damage. It may also help to have a little good luck as well, as Solesky vastly underperformed his 4.77 FIP.

With more repetition using his new delivery, Solesky should attain far better results in 2020. Solesky was about five months younger than the average Pioneer League player this year, so a return to Great Falls for next year wouldn’t be out of the question. With that said, expect to see him pitch for Kannapolis before 2020’s end.

Sean Thompson
6´3´´
190 pounds
Age: 24

Despite having solid and consistent numbers (each season saw his ERA in the low threes) for all four years, Sean Thompson was undrafted as a senior from Virginia Commonwealth. The White Sox signed him as an undrafted free agent (UDFA), and he performed well in 2018 for the AZL Sox (3.68 ERA and 1.34 WHIP) despite peripherals showing a much bleaker picture.

Though many of Thompson’s peripherals were eerily similar to last year’s, his 2019 results have been far less pleasing. In 14 starts spanning 80 innings, Thompson posted a 6.08 ERA and 1.45 WHIP while surrendering 101 hits (.301 OBA) and 15 walks (4.2%) as opposed to 66 strikeouts (18.6%). Thompson’s FIP was just 4.51, so he likely pitched in bad luck (the Great Falls defense this year was atrocious). Thompson’s repertoire features an upper-80s fastball and a power curveball with a 12-6 break according to Baseball Draft Report. To succeed in the future, Thompson will need to find a way to neutralize lefties as they hit him at a .321 clip.

He was 17 months older than league average this year, so it’s difficult to imagine Thompson returning to Great Falls for 2020. The best he could hope for would be a promotion to Kannapolis 2020, with a likely switch to a long-relief role.

Carter Love
6´6´´
225 pounds
Age: 24

Like the aforementioned Thompson, Love was also an UDFA last year — in Love’s case, a graduate of the College of Charleston. This was a bit surprising, since as a senior in 2018, Love posted an incredible 1.38 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings of relief as he surrendered just 54 hits and nine walks while fanning 57. More than likely, the reason was that Love’s fastball rarely exceeded 92 mph although it was complemented with an above-average changeup and curveball. Love enjoyed a terrific year (primarily with the AZL Sox) in 2018, surrendering 51 hits (.254 OBA) and just five walks (2.4%) while fanning 62 (29.8%) as he compiled a superb 2.66 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 50 2/3 innings.

This year was a different story, though, as Love posted a sky-high 7.92 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in just four starts at Great Falls totaling 13 2/3 innings. In those innings, he ceded 22 hits (.361 OBA) and two walks (3.1%) while striking out 13 (20.3%). His last outing was on July 3, and since Love finished the year on the active roster, it’s assumed he was injured for the last two months of the season. (Players in the rookie leagues don’t get placed on the injured list because they have have expanded rosters that could easily absorb the loss.)

Anyway, an injury would explain Love’s struggles this year. With his age and ability to throw strikes, Love could have the future of an organizational swingman or long reliever going forward — provided he remains healthy.


AZL White Sox

Matthew Thompson
6´3´´
195 pounds
Age: 19

Thompson, a graduate of Cypress Ranch High School in Houston, certainly dominated in his senior year. Dominated, you say? Try this: He was 13-0 in 15 starts with a 0.87 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 72 2/3 innings, allowing just 23 hits (.095 OBA) while fanning 124 (42.6%). The only real blemish against Thompson this year was his high walk total of 41 (14.1%). To sign an over-slot bonus with the White Sox after being selected in the second round, Thompson eschewed his verbal commitment to Texas A&M.

The White Sox are treading carefully with this young arm, and have thereby limited his work on the professional level. In two starts totaling just two innings, Thompson relinquished two hits and no walks while fanning two — not much to go on. It’s likely that he’ll be given extended spring training before earning a call-up to Kannapolis by either May or June next year, in order to limit his innings. With the high elevation at Great Falls, it’s unlikely Thompson will be sent there and suffer through unnecessary lumps.

Thompson’s fastball currently tops out at 96 mph according to MLB Pipeline, but typically runs in the low-to-mid 90s. There’s not much movement to it, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Thompson develop a two-seam fastball to complement it. He possesses an easy, fluid delivery, throws from a high three-quarter slot with electric arm speed that provides a bit of deception to an otherwise straight fastball, and shows great feel to spin the baseball.

Thompson throws a low-80s slider that has hard, late break and two-plane action that routinely draws whiffs and causes batters to expand the zone. He also showed some feel for a solid, 76-79 mph curveball with 11-to-5 break, according to Baseball America. Many scouts consider the curveball Thompson’s best pitch thanks to its tight spin, good power and depth, and his ability to throw it for strikes. The curveball is a knee-buckler and is especially devastating to right-handed batters. MLB Pipeline grades Thompson’s fastball at 60, curveball at 55 and changeup at 50. His changeup is still in the rudimentary stage, as he really hasn’t had to throw it much against his lesser prep competition.

Despite his high walk total in high school, Thompson has solid command for his age — graded 50 by MLB Pipeline. Speaking of MLB Pipeline, Thompson is currently ranked 14th among its Top 30 White Sox prospects.

Andrew Dalquist
6´1´´
175 pounds
Age: 19

Dalquist’s 2019 prep stats for Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif. are difficult to come by. His junior stats were nice (1.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 25.8 K%), but that was when he possessed a slightly above-average fastball. It’s likely those numbers improved greatly during his senior season, however, not just because Dalquist was another year older but because his fastball velocity jumped to 91-95 mph during offseason tournaments and varsity competition. Dalquist was verbally committed to the University of Arizona, but reneged on it to sign an extremely over-slot deal with the White Sox as the team’s third-round selection in this year’s MLB draft.

Like the aforementioned Thompson, Dalquist was handled delicately by the Sox organization. In three starts totaling the same number of innings for the AZL squad, Dalquist allowed nary an earned run as he surrendered just two hits and two walks while striking out two. He likely will begin next season with Kannapolis, but probably won’t begin work there until May or June in order to protect his arm.

Dalquist’s repertoire features both the four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and while his fastball doesn’t have elite velocity at this time, the extension on his delivery is deceptive enough to seemingly add a bit more oomph on the fastball. His mid-70s curveball, like his fastball, is graded at 55 by MLB Pipeline thanks to its depth. He also features a 50-grade changeup and slider, which should only get better with increased usage at the professional level. Like Thompson, Dalquist’s command also grades at 50, which isn’t a surprise due to his youth.

Nevertheless, it seems Dalquist has an above-average arsenal from which to work on. He just needs the experience to harness his repertoire effectively. MLB Pipeline currently ranks him 15th among White Sox prospects.

Jeremiah Burke
6´2´´
195 pounds
Age: 21

As a freshman at Georgetown, Burke struggled mightily out of the bullpen with a 10.12 ERA and 2.53 WHIP. However, he elevated his game as a swingman during his sophomore campaign and enjoyed a solid junior season for the Hoyas in 2019 with a 4.66 ERA and 1.27 WHIP as he relinquished 83 hits and 25 walks while fanning 86 during his 85 innings. This earned him the notice of the White Sox, who selected him in the 17th round of this year’s MLB draft.

Burke’s overall numbers were decent but unexceptional. In his 12 games for the AZL Sox (eight starts), he posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.50 WHIP by ceding 63 hits (.288 OBA) and 18 walks (7.5%) while striking out 42 (17.4%). The numbers can be taken with a grain of salt, however, as Burke’s 139 combined collegiate and professional innings nearly tripled his combined totals of his freshman and sophomore years. With that said, his best monthly numbers came in August, when he posted a 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 18 strikeouts during his 20 innings.

Lefties hit him especially hard (.311), while righties held their own against him, at 2.76. His starting stats (3.31 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) easily bested his relief work (6.27 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) for the AZL squad, which essentially echoes his work at Georgetown. Burke, with his strong finish, should be a strong candidate to begin next season with Kannapolis.

Cooper Bradford
5´11´´
180 pounds
Age: 21

Bradford had some of the most underwhelming college stats in this year’s White Sox draft class. While his freshman year with North Florida was actually quite respectable (2.79 ERA, 1.51 WHIP), Bradford slipped badly in his sophomore season to a 6.41 ERA and 1.78 WHIP as he allowed 48 hits and 25 walks while fanning 35 over his 39 innings.

Bradford transferred to Florida Southern for his junior season, where his numbers again disappointed despite healthy strikeout totals: 5.58 ERA and 1.67 WHIP over 80 2/3 innings while relinquishing 78 hits and 57 walks in striking out 89. Sox scouts saw enough in Bradford, however, to select him in the 13th round of this year’s draft.

For the AZL Sox, Bradford actually outperformed his college stats — especially with his control. In eight starts totaling 30 innings, Bradford posted a 4.80 ERA and 1.53 WHIP by surrendering 37 hits (.303 OBA) and just nine walks (6.8%) as opposed to 35 strikeouts (26.5%). His control certainly improved as evidenced by his reduced walk total, although command still needs work as shown by his high OBA. In looking closer at Bradford’s numbers, his OBA and WHIP were actually quite good with nobody on (.253 and 1.18 respectively). However, with runners on base, his OBA and WHIP soared to .383 and 2.00. Thus, in order to improve his future results, Bradford will need to focus on perhaps improving his mechanics while in the stretch. This also means he’s best suited as a starter for the time being. Expect him to begin next season with Great Falls, although a return trip to the AZL Sox certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

Luis Rodriguez
6´6´´
220 pounds
Age: 19

Rodriguez, a native Venezuelan, signed an international contract with the White Sox on June 1, 2018 and promptly found his way to that year’s DSL squad. Unsurprisingly, for someone of his combination of youth and size, Rodriguez struggled with his control in his first professional season. In 16 games (10 starts) encompassing 50 innings, he relinquished just 44 hits (.238 OBA) but walked 38 (16.5%) while fanning 48 (20.9%).

In seven outings this year for the DSL squad spanning 30 innings, Rodriguez’s numbers improved greatly, to the tune of a 4.34 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, as he allowed 30 hits (.256 OBA) and just nine walks (7.0%) while striking out 29 (22.5%). He earned a promotion to the AZL Sox on July 8, but struggled with a 6.54 ERA and 1.83 WHIP over 31 2/3 innings. In those AZL innings, Rodriguez surrendered 39 hits (.300 OBA) and 19 walks (12.5%) while striking out 24 (15.8%). Rodriguez actually held his own against lefties (.250 OBA), but struggled immensely against righties (.322 OBA).

It’s difficult to learn a new culture and language at midseason, and it’s possible that impacted Rodriguez’s results somewhat. Based on the numbers, he’s got good stuff but it’ll be his ability to command that stuff will impact what he can achieve. Rodriguez likely will return to the AZL Sox for 2020.

Honorable Mentions:
Isaiah Carranza did not pitch in 2019 due to injury, which is the second year he’s missed since being selected in the 12th round of the 2018 draft.


DSL White Sox

Ray Castro
6´3´´
165 pounds
Age: 22

Since signing a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2016 season, Venezuela native Castro has done nothing but excel in the Dominican League in both relief and starting roles. After enjoying a sensational 1.25 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 43 1/3 innings for the DSL Rangers in 2016, he began the 2018 season with the AZL Rangers. After a rocky three outings, he returned to their DSL squad where he continued to excel with an ERA hovering around 2.02. Then, on July 31, Castro was traded to the White Sox along with Joseph Jarneski for veteran reliever Nate Jones.

In three outings for the DSL White Sox, of which two were starts, Castro dazzled with a 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, allowing just seven hits and two walks while fanning 13 in nine innings. His combined stats with the DSL Rangers and White Sox were a 2.01 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over 12 games spanning 44 2/3 innings, allowing just 30 hits (.183 OBA) and 17 walks (9.2%) while striking out 45 (24.5%). Castro really hasn’t pitched many innings in his career, which may speak more to the depth of the Rangers DSL squad than anything else. That depth may explain why Castro was given so little leash in 2018, when he got off to a sluggish three-game start.

Due to his age, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Castro begin the 2020 season in Kannapolis as a reliever. He’d be way too old to begin next year with the AZL Sox, and Great Falls wouldn’t be beneficial to a pitcher whose ground out rate was less than 30% last year. Since he’s pitched less than 111 combined innings over his four-year professional career, it’d make the most sense to have Castro begin next year in a relief role.

Homer Cruz
6´0´´
175 pounds
Age: 20

Cruz, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed with the White Sox in October 2018. Cruz acquitted himself relatively well this year in his first season of professional ball, as he posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in his 63 innings. During that span, he allowed just 57 hits (.237 OBA) and 25 walks (9.3%) while striking out 65 (24.1%). Lefties were his bugaboo as they hit .278 against Cruz’s offerings; righties, however, hit just .208 against him. While his control wasn’t great, it was decent enough for his first year. At 53.6%, Cruz’s ground out rate was particularly impressive. Cruz should begin next season with the AZL White Sox.

Dionicio Jimenez
6´4´´
190 pounds
Age: 19

Jimenez didn’t have an especially great year, but he improved in nearly all areas from his difficult initial 2018 campaign. That year, Jimenez posted a 6.81 ERA and 2.12 WHIP over 39 2/3 innings as he relinquished 35 hits (.235 OBA) and a whopping 49 walks (23.7%) while fanning 46 (22.2%). This year, Jimenez improved to a 4.82 ERA and 1.45 WHIP as he surrendered 39 hits (.273 OBA) and 15 walks (9.2%) while striking out 30 (18.4%). Also, his ground out rate improved from 45.0% to 51.9% this year. By sacrificing a few more hits and fewer strikeouts, Jimenez improved his game by simply throwing the ball over the plate. It’s likely he’ll return to the DSL White Sox for 2020, but he could earn a promotion to the AZL White Sox later in the season if he continues to progress.

Francisco Benitez
6´2´´
187 pounds
Age: 19

While the aforementioned Jimenez improved from a difficult rookie campaign of 2018, the same cannot be said of Benitez. Last year, Benitez attained a 6.10 ERA and 1.80 WHIP over 38 1/3 innings by ceding 26 hits (.200 OBA) and 43 walks (22.9%) while striking out 43 as well (22.9%). For 2019, Benitez suffered through an even worse 8.06 ERA and 1.79 WHIP over 22 1/3 innings by allowing 19 hits (.238 OBA) and 21 walks (19.3%) while fanning just 14 (12.8%). What’s more, his ground out rate worsened from an already low 46.3% to an abysmal 26.7%. Benitez finished the season on the restricted list for undisclosed reasons, and if he returns to the organization in 2020, it’d likely be with the DSL White Sox for a third year.

Cristian Mena
6´3´´
180 pounds
Age: 17

Mena, who won’t turn 17 until December, could be next year’s right-handed version of Ronaldo Guzman for the DSL White Sox. Mena didn’t pitch for the DSL Sox this year, but should join the rotation in 2020. He struck out six of the 11 batters he faced at the Mejia Top 10 Showcase in Las Vegas, and threw 86-88 mph at the event with a devastating curveball, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.

Honorable Mentions:
Erick Bello like Mena, signed with the White Sox in International Signing Day on July 1, 2019 and didn’t pitch for the organization. Little information is availabe about the 5´11´´, 170-pound Dominican native.