Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham shortstops

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

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

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

(age as of April 1, 2020)

Charlotte Knights

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

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

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

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

Birmingham Barons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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