South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 62: Kyle Kubat

Solid option: The Triple-A beach ball kicked Kubat’s hiney just as it did everyone else. He’s still on track to steal a spot start on the South Side in 2020. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)



Kyle Kubat
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´1´´
195 pounds
Age: 27
SSHP rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system: 6
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Rank: 88

Kyle 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 ⅓ 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 ⅔ 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.

 

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.

2019 Winston-Salem Dash season recap

Surging starter: Jonathan Stiever had the best season of any White Sox pitching prospect in 2019. (Winston-Salem Dash)

The Dash had one of the better records for the MiLB White Sox teams (72-61), as they barely missed out on a “wild card” playoff berth. It may not have been the most prospect-heavy team to to start the year, but by the end, there were some big names, especially on the pitching side.

This recap will start a little differently because, well, we have our first manager snapshot. Justin Jirschele was the manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators in 2017 and 2018 — both of those teams made the playoffs, so was promoted to the Dash for this season. Jirschele’s MiLB record so far is 217-198. He will only be 30 next season, but that would fit the recent mold of teams in the majors hiring younger managers. He also fits the Jerry Reinsdorf hiring mold, since he has been in the White Sox organization since 2012, when he was a player. Jirschele has managed most of the top prospects over his tenure, so he has familiarity with the important parts of the rebuild. There is not really much else to add about his managing style and philosophies, but here is an MLB.com from 2017.

But I’m sure you all care more about the players more than the manager, right?

The Dash had the two best hitters in the farm system to start the year, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, who made it all the way to Charlotte by season’s end. Robert was clearly too good for High-A (and basically every other level) but he left the Dash with a 305 wRC+. Madrigal started out slower but got going enough to get an early promotion. But that was really it for hitter promotions. Zach Remillard is not in the same talent conversation as those other two, but he was promoted as well. After hitting .289 in 95 games (a personal MiLB best), he was sent up to Double-A.

There was a bit more positive movement for the Dash on the pitching end. Kyle Kubat also started here and earned his way all the way up to Charlotte. He was one of the quicker promotions, and left after four starts with a 1.23 ERA. We forget now, but Alec Hansen looked far better with the Dash than the Barons. Hansen only played nine games and left with a 2.13 ERA, but carried a walk problem that traveled with him to Birmingham.

A trio of starters got promotions later in the season after a good first part of the season. Blake Battenfield, Lincoln Henzman, and John Parke each got the call to the Barons, where they finished the year. Battenfield had the best season of the bunch, with a 2.83 ERA. Parke does not get much fanfare, but keeps chugging through the system. He averaged just about a quality start over 12 starts. Henzman, after an injury blip, finally got his skills together to get himself to Double-A. The stats don’t look great overall, but a 1.89 ERA in his final 19 innings was good enough.

On the reliever side, there were three promotions of note. As mentioned in the Kannapolis recap, Vince Arobio made it all the way to Double-A. Well, he had an 8 2/3 innings stint with the Dash and didn’t allow a run. It was apparently good enough to earn his second promotion. Codi Heuer is a converted starter from college and his rookie league season, and thrived in the reliever role. He left High-A with a 22% K-BB rate and a 2.82 ERA. Bennett Sousa had two promotions during his season as well. After pitching 30 innings with a 2.70 ERA in A+, he got into two games for the Barons. There is a chance he ends up in Chicago next season. More on all these guys later, but it’s time for the holdovers.


Dash Mashers

Of the hitters who spent most of their season with the Dash, Steele Walker is by far the most heralded prospect. He is currently rated as the sixth-best White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, and earned a quick promotion from Kannapolis to Winston-Salem. He started out strong and did slow down later in the season, which is what should be expected from a player in his first full professional season. His 2019 stats still look great, though. He finished with a 124 wRC+, and showed some decent pop over the season. His increased walk rate from his days with the I’s stayed with the Dash, but Walker was able to drop his K-rate even further as he continues to show his advanced plate discipline and coverage.

Of the hitters that ended their seasons with the Dash, Andrew Vaughn is the best prospect. He’s rated as the best first base prospect in baseball and 21st overall by MLB Pipeline. The 2019 first round selection looked fine in his first stint in professional baseball. With all the movement and it being Vaughn’s first time playing baseball this late in a year, him just being healthy is really the most important takeaway. From the scouting reports out of college, Vaughn is a very good hitter, and it did show. The pop and the fantastic eye was there, as he was an above-average hitter at every stop. Vaughn has a chance, though slim, to be on the South Side next season but it will depend on whether he starts 2020 in Birmingham or Winston-Salem.

After Vaughn and Walker, there is a huge drop-off in terms of hitting talent that ended the year with the Dash. Most just have one kind of tool, like Craig Dedelow. He showed good power, with a .198 ISO and 18 home runs. The same thing with Tyler Frost, although Frost’s power dipped compared to his time in rookie and Low-A ball. Both players are old for the their level and there’s not much draft capital/money tied to them. Jameson Fisher, a former fourth round selection, did have that draft hype, and he did do well with the Dash. But he was sent down from Double-A after a bad 2018 campaign, and will be 26 next season.

Yeyson Yrizarri and Evan Skoug are guys who also had some value in the past, but have since fallen flat. Yrizarri is just 22, even though his professional debut was in 2014. This past season was his third in High-A, and he has only gotten worse. His batting average has fallen to .218 to go along with an increased strikeout rate, and his defense has gotten worse too (31 errors at third this year). Skoug is kind of a worse Zack Collins. Skoug has power, walks a lot, and strikes out a lot, but routinely hits far worse than the Mendoza line. Skoug hit .172 with the I’s, and then .165 with the Dash. This should be a big offseason for him, because he has some good tools — he just has awful bat-to-ball skills.

A little note for a 2019 draft pick who played in two games for the Dash, Jonathan Allen. The 32nd rounder played in both rookie leagues — not particularly well, but he did get himself to High-A. He clubbed two homers in his two games, for a 420 wRC+. I’m guessing that won’t hold next season.


Dash Hurlers

Dash pitchers were led by a big three in terms of prospect pedigree in the starting rotation to end the year. Jonathan Stiever is now by far the most hyped, and had the best season.

Stiever should win MiLB pitcher of the year for the White Sox after finishing with a 2.15 ERA in 71 innings with the Dash. He made 12 starts, and 10 of them were quality starts, as he rode his superb stuff to a great season. He 23.3% K-BB rate and only allowed a .215 batting average against. It was a truly dominant year.

Kade McClure is next up in terms of season success. He also started 12 games, but finished his time with a 3.39 ERA. McClure did finish earlier than other starters, possibly because he was at his innings limit after a season-ending injury from last season. But McClure was great during his time. The strikeouts were down and the walks were slightly up after his promotion, but .284 BABIP really helped. McClure also kept runners on base at an 81.3% clip, so his peripherals are not as kind. But he got through this season and looked very good, again.

Last on the top starting pitching end is Konnor Pilkington. He did not have as good a year as the others, with a 4.99 ERA. His strikeouts fell, but it was still better than one K per inning. The walks also rose, but it was not a significant rise. What hurt Pilkington was a .341 BABIP, because he didn’t really allow many homers (just seven in 95 1/3 innings). Therefore, FIP and xFIP liked Pilkington much better. Hopefully he can have a Stiever-like season in 2020, where the FIP and ERA more closely align.

For relievers, there are a couple to keep a close watch on prospect-wise and a couple more who just overmatched their competition. Jacob Lindgren is probably the most interesting, because he has the most arm talent. This was the first time Lindgren had pitched in pro ball since 2016, and he was all right. Lindgren is 26 and obviously has advanced stuff, but his success, and health, were promising. He threw 17 1/3 innings with the Dash, for a 1.53 ERA. Lindgren might not be the pitcher he was before (you know, the one who made it to the majors in one season), but the potential could still be there.

Andrew Perez is the other. The eighth round selection in the 2018 draft was lights-out with the Dash for his final 31 1/3 innings of 2019. The lefty had a 1.15 ERA, though he does allow a concerning amount of baseballs into the air (a 50% fly ball rate). The walks also went up quite a bit while the strikeouts fell, but Perez was very successful overall. With the three-batter minimum coming soon, his ability to go multiple innings as a lefty could come in handy in the future.

Will Kincanon and Luis Ledo may not be big names, but they had big seasons. Both served time as a closer, with both getting eight saves. Kincanon is probably the better prospect because he has a better arm. Kincanon had a 1.86 ERA, and though the walks slightly went up the strikeouts improved, so it seemed to be a negligible difference. Kincanon will need to cut down on his walks as he continues up the ranks, but he is a guy to watch moving forward. Ledo is a bit older, and had a good year as well. He has a 1.83 ERA and is not as big a strikeout pitcher, but still has the walk issues. Ledo’s walk issues improved significantly from last season, but he still has work to do.


Some big names from the manager to the players graced the diamond in Winston-Salem, earning the Dash the best MILB record of all White Sox affiliate. Most of the big names actually worked out pretty well this season, especially Madrigal, Robert, and Stiever. It is a possibility that when it is all said and done with the rebuild, the 2019 Winston-Salem Dash was the start of something special.