Spring training’s in full swing with split-squad games — and the White Sox split them

Predicting the future: The two games today seemed to be an indication of what the major league and Triple-A lineups could look like. (@WhiteSox)


Cleveland Indians 10, Charlotte White Sox 2

Luis Basabe: 1-for-3, 0 BB, 1 K
Danny Mendick: 1-for-3, 0 BB, 0 K
Zack Collins: 0-for-2, 1 BB, 0 K
Gavin Sheets: 1-for-2, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K
Andrew Vaughn: 0-for-1, 0 BB, 0 K
Micker Adolfo: 0-for-1, 1 BB, 1 K
Yermín Mercedes: 0-for-1, 1 BB, 1 K
Luis González: 0-for-3 0 BB, 0 K
Bernardo Flores Jr.: 1 IP, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 K

If you needed any more proof that this was the Triple-A team (well, besides the lineup), all you had to do was check in on the first inning. Cheslor Cuthbert, a utility infielder who may see some time in Chicago, committed two fielding errors at third base. Those led to three unearned runs for Bernardo Flores Jr., who was out of the game shortly after those two errors. At least the talent difference between Charlotte and White Sox players is growing at this point in the rebuild.

This game was only on radio so there is no video, so just play along in your head. Though the Triple-A team was on display for the White Sox, Cleveland had their star guys out there and seemed to almost have the everyday MLB lineup out there to start the game. On the pitching side, only the first two innings saw majors-level pitching, though, as Shane Bieber and Brad Hand are two of Cleveland’s best.

Unsurprisingly, they recorded outs on six of the seven batters they faced. On the plus side, it was Gavin Sheets who was able to force a walk from Hand; Sheets is a lefty, so a walk off of Hand is pretty impressive. It would not get much better for the Sox, though some fun names did appear, so let’s focus on that because nobody could actually see the game.

From the starting lineup, AAAA players shined: Danny Mendick, Zack Collins, Luis Basabe, Micker Adolfo, and Yermín Mercedes, all of whom are on the 40-man roster, started today. So, this is the lineup of players that need to do the best this spring to make the team. Mendick and Collins are probably the closest to the majors, but it might be significant that Madrigal was back at Camelback Ranch in the other game featuring more of the eventual 26-man roster. Each of those five  players reached base at least once over the course of the game.

The next step below are upper-minor league mainstays. Sheets and Luis González should be in Charlotte to start the year. After the walk, Sheets singled, then scored later on in the game, while González went 0-for-3. Three other guys appeared in the game, though they did not get an at-bat: Andrew Vaughn, Blake Rutherford, and Laz Rivera.

To round out some names for the prospect buffs, Lency Delgado and Lenyn Sosa, both just 20 years old, also appeared at Goodyear Ballpark, though they too did not bat.

The pitching, well, was not pretty overall, but also had a big variety of MiLB levels on display. Flores Jr., Caleb Frare, and Kodi Mederios seem destined for Charlotte, which will give the Knights a pretty good lefty trio. Flores Jr. and Frare did not do well, at all, as both saw three runs cross the plate.

Again, for the prospect buffs, Vince Arobio (who had a breakout season from the bullpen in 2019) and Kade McClure made appearances. Arobio did allow a run, and McClure came in for two batters. It was their first appearances in a competitive (I guess it’s relative) game this spring. It’s early, guys, but at least the White Sox picked the right game to put on TV.


Chicago White Sox 4, San Francisco Giants 3

Tim Anderson: 1-for-3, 0 BB, 0 K
Yoán Moncada: 0-for-2, 1 BB, 0 K
José Abreu: 1-for-3, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K
Edwin Encarnación: 0-for-3, 0 BB, 1 K
Eloy Jiménez: 1-for-2, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K
Nomar Mazara: 0 -for-3, 0 BB, 0 K
Luis Robert: 1-for-3, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K
James McCann: 0-for-2, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K
Leury García: 0-for-2, 0 BB, 1 K
Nick Madrigal: 0-for-1, 0 BB, 0 K
Kelvin Herrera: 1 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Steve Cishek: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Aaron Bummer: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Jimmy Cordero: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Zack Burdi: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Before we get started on this game, look who made it on the field… for the other team.

While one Gold Glover is gone from the team, will there be a new one from the outfield?

Yeah, that is Eloy Jiménez doing things in the outfield, and guess what, he didn’t hurt himself! All around, that was a pretty good play, but then again he set a low bar in the outfield last year. Jiménez also worked the opposing pitcher to a full count and walked. In his next at-bat, he took advantage of a Giants error and drove in a run with a single roped up the middle. All in all, a nice February appearance from Eloy, but we can’t draw any conclusions … yet.

On the other end of the spectrum, Luis Robert showed his youth and inexperience early. He struggled with some little things, but what else is spring training for than to be extremely critical about little things? In the bottom of the second, Robert rolled over on a pitch away instead of trying to go the other way with it or just laying off. In the next inning, as Kelvin Herrera had a hard go of things (three runs allowed), Robert took a bad route to a ball in the gap and seemingly allowed an extra man to score. Robert also ended his day with a bad at-bat with a swinging strike on a breaking ball low and away. These are just little things, but they will mean more if they continue into the summer, when the impatient fans might start criticizing over Robert in his rookie season.

On the other hand, if Robert just does this all the time it won’t matter.

(do not slide head first in February, please!)

or this:

The winners of the day for the White Sox came from the bullpen, though the team win would come later. First and foremost, Zack Burdi pitched and looked like a typical pitcher coming back for the first time. He got hit hard, battled back from a 3-0 count, and it all ended with for a 1-2-3 inning. Now, say what you will about the reliability of velocity from spring training, but that velocity looks fine. It is February, so hopefully that fastball gets up into the upper 90s regularly.

Meanwhile, Aaron Bummer (and his new money) and Jimmy Cordero looked like they were ready for the regular season. They combined for five strikeouts in two perfect innings, and both look like mainstays in the bullpen for 2020. In fact, Bummer could see himself become the closer if Alex Colomé falters this year. Both Bummer and Cordero kept the Giants lead at one run while the Sox tried to avoid the loss or a second straight tie.

In the ninth inning, two players trying to make the team delivered in the clutch. First, Adam Engel doubled to right field to tie the game. Though it would have been fun to tie, again, Seby Zavala put that story to an end. He shot one back up the middle to center field and Engel sprinted and dove home, in February … to win this critical preseason game. Did somebody else dump Gatorade on themselves?

SSHP Podcast 14: Cactus League opener!

Seby surprise: Zavala made a big impact in Sunday’s opener, earning the lead spot on this podcast. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)


Baseball is back! Our guy down in Arizona, Sean Williams, checks in from the Cactus League opener, a 7-2 win for the White Sox. We run down a bunch of standouts from that first game and project a little bit into the 2020 White Sox season.

Hell yes we are on Apple Podcasts!

Subs provide spark, pitching shuts down Reds in 7-2 win

Young blood: Yermín Mercedes, Luis Basabe, and Micker Adolfo all contributed to a key ninth-inning rally this afternoon. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


GOODYEAR, ARIZ. — After yesterday’s game was cancelled, the White Sox were able to squeeze in their first Cactus League matchup this afternoon, as they traveled to Goodyear to take on the Reds. The lineup was stacked, giving White Sox fans a look at most of the guys that will be playing regularly once the season starts on March 26.

However, it wasn’t the starting lineup that was the story of the day, but the subs who came in and helped seal a 7-2 victory.

Dylan Cease took the mound this afternoon for his first Cactus League start and came out of the gates firing, hitting 99 and 98 mph consecutively to start his day. Cease went for two innings, which is the norm for starters at the early stages of spring training. He allowed at least two batters to reach base in each inning, but they never amounted to anything thanks to his defense and three strikeouts.

All things considered, Cease’s command was pretty good for his first outing. There were moments where he struggled to find the strike zone, but those moments never hurt him — and for his first in-game action in months, his performance could’ve been a lot worse.

As for the rest of the White Sox starters, it was a very quiet day. At the start of spring training, it’s common for pitchers to be ahead of hitters, and that was evident this afternoon. Tim Anderson had an infield single in his first at-bat, but that was the only hit among starters until James McCann had a double to lead things off in the top of the fifth. Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, José Abreu, and Luis Robert all went a combined 0-for-11 on the day. Moncada, Abreu, and Robert each hit the ball hard on different occasions, but they have nothing to show for it.

But even though most of the starters struggled, they managed to give the White Sox 2-0 lead thanks to some timely hitting in the top of the fifth.

After Carson Fulmer put runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, Matt Foster entered the game in a tough situation. However, Foster would rise to the occasion. He generated a weak fly ball and a grounder to quickly get two outs after facing just two batters. McCann helped get Foster completely out of the jam by gunning down Shogo Akiyama trying to steal, for the third and final out. Foster went on to pitch in the following inning, where he once again shut down the Reds and didn’t allow a run.

At this point in the game, there were all new faces in the field for the White Sox — and when the fun began. Seby Zavala took over for McCann and blasted an opposite-field, solo home run to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead in the top of the seventh. A lot of hitters were aggressive today, wanting to make a statement early. Seby, however, was not. He was patient at the plate, wasn’t fooled by junk outside of the zone, and once he got his pitch he deposited over the wall in the right, center gap.

Zavala wasn’t the only sub who would come through for the White Sox this afternoon. After the Reds made it a 3-2 game in the bottom half of the eighth, the White Sox were looking to add insurance runs in the ninth and they would do just that.

Micker Adolfo got the rally started with a double, and would later come around to score on an error, the first of two unearned runs in the inning.

Nick Madrigal would also join the party by scorching a RBI single to left field. Madrigal made a few mistakes in the field this afternoon, but he made up for it with this RBI. All told, the White Sox plated four runs on four hits in the ninth and put the game out of reach for the Reds.

Tyler Johnson finished this one off with a 1-2-3 inning where he picked up two strikeouts and was sitting in the upper-90’s with his fastball.

The White Sox will be back in action tomorrow as they take on the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 PM CT, with Alex McRae taking the bump. This is the first of six games televised by NBC Sports this spring, so don’t miss it.

Hitter’s Camp Day 3: batting cages

The sights and sounds of sweet, sweet baseball: Among the players featured at Hitter’s Camp in Glendale is Seby Zavala, shown here working on his swing plane. (Chicago White Sox)


White Sox TV presents some raw looks at several young players at Hitter’s Camp, including Blake Rutherford, Luis González, Danny Mendick, Seby Zavala, Micker Adolfo, Gavin Sheets, Luis Basabe and Yermín Mercedes.

First taste of spring: Batting cages, Camelback Ranch

Meeting of the minds: New hitting coach Frank Menechino and prize free agent Yasmani Grandal offer Triple-A hopeful Blake Rutherford tips in the batting cage in Glendale on Monday. (Chicago White Sox)


With every White Sox fan drooling in anticipation of an exciting summer on the South Side, on Monday the White Sox released some batting cage footage of several earlybirds to spring training. An unofficial head count shows Zack Collins, Danny Mendick, Nick Madrigal, Seby Zavala, Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn, Yasmani Grandal, Blake Rutherford, top brass, manager Ricky Renteria and hitting coach Frank Menechino.

Enjoy your first taste of the signs and sounds of spring:

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham catchers

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



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

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

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

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020


Charlotte Knights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Birmingham Barons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2019 Charlotte Knights season recap

Boom town: It was a successful season, with an explosive ending, in Charlotte. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)


The Knights were overall a much better team than last season, as their hitters took full advantage of the MLB ball in Triple-A. It took until the final day for the Knights to be eliminated from playoff contention, in a 75-64 season.

The International League saw 2,440 home runs this season, compared to 1,555 last year, an 885 home run difference. The Knights went from hitting 103 homers and allowing 113 in 2018 to hitting 208 and allowing 203 in 2019. This really made some hitters look fantastic all across Triple-A, but it honestly did ruin some pitchers as well. Unfortunately, some of those pitchers were on the Sox.

Since the Knights were basically the White Sox bench, I am going to stick with evaluating strictly prospects, so sorry to players like Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, and basically the entire Knights outfield that started in Charlotte. Also, if any players started with the Sox and were sent down, sorry, but you also miss the cut.


Started the year with the Knights

A few players started the year with the Knights but did not play that much due to injury, or in one case, a trade. Spencer Adams and Ian Hamilton both had lost seasons due to injury, and seemed to be affected by the new baseball. Adams only threw 18 innings before leaving for the season, and they weren’t good. He lost his starting spot and he pushed himself out of any prospect hype. Hamilton had just an awful year on and off the mound. He missed the beginning of the season due to a car crash. He was not very good when he was on the mound for Charlotte, and then got hurt again off the mound (hit in the face from a foul ball in the dugout, Hamilton required surgery for multiple facial fractures). Jordan Stephens was not good, got hurt, and the Sox just cut him loose, leaving Cleveland to scoop him up off of waivers. Yeah, not great for these three former top prospects.

There was positive movement for Knights prospects as well. Chief among them is Dylan Cease, though his same struggles that have been blatant in MLB were also there in Triple-A. Cease had trouble in the first inning, and usually had one big-run inning, before settling down. He only pitched 68 1/3 innings with a 4.48 ERA, but his stuff is so good that people should believe he will be better next season. Carson Fulmer can be considered in this category still, but I won’t waste much time on him. Fulmer clearly was better this season than any of his other: His strikeout rate was higher and his pitches moved more and faster, but the results aren’t there. Sadly, 2020 might be a last gasp for the former first round pick to make an MLB team (until the Houston Astros or Los Angeles Dodgers get him and turn him into an ace or a high-leverage arm in the bullpen, like they’ll do with Dylan Covey).

Zach Thompson, a reliever, also started the year with the Knights, but he also had a weird cameo in Birmingham, in my opinion, it was for no reason. Thompson struggled mightily in Charlotte, along with multiple other young arms. He had a 5.50 ERA. How? Although his strikeout and walk numbers were fine, Thompson allowed 1.92 HR/9. He is also on the older side and wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft last offseason, so the prospect chops on Thompson are probably off.

It was a bit better on the hitting side. There were no season-ending injuries of note, but also not a lot of prospect promotion until September call-ups. Catchers Zack Collins and Seby Zavala both earned promotions before September, but did not inspire while in Chicago. Collins was much better in Triple-A after he was demoted. He finished the MiLB year with a 170 wRC+ with a 16.1% BB-rate and just a 19.9% K-rate, which is fantastic for him. He showed his normal pop and that bump at the end of the season in Charlotte was why he found his way back to the majors in September. Collins has not been overwhelmingly good but his approach is much better. He still needs to swing more often, but that should be work done in the offseason. Zavala had a down year on all counts, and was not even called up for September. His power was good, but the bat-to-ball skills were not as impressive and his K-rate skyrocketed. He could still be in the mix as a catcher for the future, but his prospect shine has definitely decreased. What is saving him is defense, which Collins sorely lacks behind the dish. But with an automated strike zone seemingly on the way, how much will framing matter in the future?

Danny Mendick was one of the rare players on Charlotte who stayed the entire season. Weirdly enough, the MLB ball did not really have a great affect on the utility infielder. His ISO only rose from .148 in 2018 to .166 in 2019, but he put together a solid, not great, season for the Knights nonetheless. Mendick’s batting average rose significantly compared to last season, jumping by 32 points while his plate discipline was still great. The K-rate barely rose, about .2% to just 17.2%, which is a good rate for a contact hitter. Mendick’s walk rate also rose, this time about 1% to 11.8%, which is good especially because it rose from his Double-A rates. Mendick probably does not have the hitting and defensive potential to be an everyday MLB starter, which may be why he stayed in Charlotte the entire season when older players like Ryan Goins got promotions instead of him. Nevertheless, Mendick has had some success with the Sox since his September promotion. It seems to be down to him or Yolmer Sánchez for the 2020 backup infield position.


The Promoted Players

This is where the fun begins, as Anakin Skywalker would say. The prospects who were promoted to Charlotte are far and away the best of the bunch, as well as a couple notable lower prospects as well. But let’s start with the best of them, Luis Robert.

Robert is an elite talent and has prospect rankings that show it. He is the No. 3 overall prospect from Baseball America, 19th on FanGraphs, and fifth on MLB Pipeline. Across all three levels, Robert slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs and 36 stolen bases. He showed just about every single tool a player could; he even had seven outfield assists from center field and played a part in two double plays, and we have all seen videos like the one below of him flying and diving for a catch.

While we all know Robert’s strengths, and the videos and stats confirm how great he is, he does have things to work on. The ability to walk has become very important to White Sox fans lately, and it does not seem like Robert will help that much. He walked in about 5% of his plate appearances and had a K-rate around 23%. That plate discipline isn’t great, but he really wasn’t challenged much in MiLB so his approach could change. If it does not, he could be in for a very slow start for his MLB career.

The other top guy to be promoted was 2018 first round selection Nick Madrigal. Like Robert he also had two promotions this season, and slashed .311/.377/.414 among the three levels. Madrigal didn’t show much power, but he did at least hit homers this season — four in total, but power will never be a part of his game. Madrigal is a slappy hitter who does have the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. That’s why he had 27 doubles and five triples this year, but BABIP will be an important indicator of his success at the plate. Madrigal also had 35 stolen bases in 2019. But the real calling card for Madrigal is his defense, and for a team that generally doesn’t have very good infield defense, his fielding ability is important. Errors aren’t everything, especially in the infield, but Madrigal only committed four in 932 1/3 innings at second base. Outlets like MLB Pipeline have also surmised that he could be a Gold Glove second baseman once he arrives in Chicago.

The other three promoted players of note are led by fan favorite Yermín Mercedes. The MLB ball certainly agreed with his bat, as Mercedes’ ISO from Double-A at .170 rose to .337 in Triple-A. He hit better than .300 at both levels and also had a BB-rate of more than 10% as well. Mercedes strikes out at a good rate, but good things always seemed to happen when he got the barrel of the bat on the ball. His hit tool seems to be undeniable at this point, but Mercedes has no position. He has been placed at catcher for most of his career, but is not a very good one. He is not athletic enough to move to other positions, and probably is not tall enough to be a first baseman. Mercedes did not get the call for more at-bats in Chicago this season, so the organization does not seem too keen on his abilities, but his bat does seem to be legit. He just needs a chance to show he belongs on a roster somewhere.

The other two are both relievers, Matt Foster and Hunter Schryver. Foster started in Birmingham and left fairly quickly, after 9 2/3 shutout innings. With the Knights, the MLB ball did seem to take a toll on Foster because of a professional high of 1.47 HR/9, but he still had a 3.76 ERA. Foster has a mid- to high-90s fastball, and did have good strikeout numbers (27.7%) and a fine walk rate (8.5%). Schyver also started in Birmingham, and stayed a bit longer. The ball seemed to really affect him. With the Barons, Schyver went from a 2.77 ERA in Birmingham with .37 HR/9 and an 8.5% BB-rate. In his 13 1/3 innings, his walk rate rose to 17.4%, the HR/9 went up to 1.32, and he had an 8.56 ERA. It was a disaster, but the lefty is still somebody to watch; he just needs to get used to the new ball.


Triple-A has become a more important stepping-stone MiLB level because of the different baseball. It made a lot of pitchers worse, and made some hitters look fantastic. It is still too early to decide what improvements or bad performances are simply due to the ball, but the Knights did take enough of an advantage to be in a playoff hunt until the last day. And hey, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal looked great while on the cusp of the majors, which is probably the best takeaway of the season.

White Sox Minor League Update: August 15, 2019

Almost perfect: John Parke had a magical game for Birmingham on Thursday. (Hannah Stone/Birmingham Barons)

Charlotte Knights 7, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 5

Nick Madrigal: 2-for-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K (.288 BA, .675 OPS)
Luis Robert: 2-for-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K (.323 BA, 1.025 OPS) **MVP**
Zack Collins: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 0 BB, 1 K (.282 BA, .938 OPS)
Seby Zavala: 1-for-3, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K (.224 BA, .792 OPS)
Justin Nicolino: 6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (6.05 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Matt Foster: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (3.51 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)

A power barrage gave the Knights enough run support to withstand the late-inning RailRiders rally to win, 7-5. The Knights hit four home runs tonight, including three that helped them get out to a 6-1 lead. Seby Zavala started the power surge with a solo homer in the second. Luis Robert, who had been slumping (for him) at the plate, crushed a solo homer in the third. Zack Collins hit another bomb in the sixth that finally pushed the Knights that 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, the pitching obviously had to be pretty good. Justin Nicolino cruised through six innings with just one earned run and four hits allowed. The seventh inning give him some trouble, as Nicolino allowed three runs in the inning off of two home runs — yeah, it was a home run kind of night. Thanks to Matt Foster, who earned the save in the ninth, and Daniel Palka, who added the last run for the Knights via a homer, the win was sealed.


Birmingham Barons 2, Mississippi Braves 1

Luis Basabe: 2-for-4, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K (.245 BA, .653 OPS)
Blake Rutherford: 0-for-4, 0 BB, 1 K (.260 BA, .665 OPS)
Gavin Sheets: 3-for-4, 0 BB, 0 K (.274 BA, .769 OPS)
John Parke: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (2.47 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) **MVP**
Codi Heuer: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (1.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)

A long pitchers’ duel finally fell Birmingham’s way in a late, 2-1 win. John Parke was outstanding, throwing seven shutout innings and took a perfect game into the seventh inning. Parke allowed one hit, but the most amazing part of his performance was the fact he only had two punch outs. Instead, he relied on 18 outs in play — and when that many balls go into play, there will probably be a few errors. The Barons had two errors during the game, one that was costly.

Birmingham had nine hits, including three extra-base hits. They just weren’t able to string any together until the eighth, when Laz Rivera drove in Luis Basabe for the first run of the game. Codi Heuer took over for Parke after one batter faced (reaching on an error by Ti’Quan Forbes). Now, that error came around to score, but since it was an error, the run was unearned. On top of that, since Heuer was on the mound when the run scored, he was credited with a blown save without any run being tied to him, or that run even being earned. Baseball has some weird scoring. In the ninth, Forbes made up for that error when he drove in the game-winning run with a double ,and this time, Heuer didn’t let anyone get home, earning the win.


Winston-Salem Dash 6, Carolina Mudcats 4

Steele Walker: 2-for-5, 0 BB, 0 K (.283 BA, .798 OPS)
Tyler Frost: 3-for-5, 1 HR, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K (.260 BA, .773 OPS) **MVP**
Andrew Vaughn: 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K (.265 BA, .826 OPS)
Konnor Pilkington: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (5.54 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)
Andrew Perez: 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (1.44 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Jacob Lindgren: 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (0.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP)

Another close win for the Sox organization! This time, it was the Dash coming back late to take and hold the lead. Konnor Pilkington started the game and threw a lot of pitches. After getting just 12 outs, he already had 88 pitches and was pulled. I mean, it’s the end of the season, there’s no reason to push it, but Pilkington was doing all that bad. In four innings he only allowed one run, and had five strikeouts. However, by the end of the fifth, the Dash were down by one. Then a four-run sixth gave the Dash a lead they held until the end. Mitch Roman drove in the tying run to score Tyler Frost (who homered earlier in the game). Johan Cruz cleared the bases later, giving the dash a 5-2 lead. Though it got a little too close in the sixth, the bullpen was able to hold on for the last three innings thanks to Jacob Lindgren and Will Kincanon.


Lexington Legends 4, Kannapolis Intimidators 2

Ian Dawkins: 1-for-4, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K (.307 BA, .777 OPS)
Lenyn Sosa: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K (.244 BA, .642 OPS)
Tyler Osik: 1-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K (.258 BA, .797 OPS) **MVP**
Jason Bilous: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (3.55 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)

The I’s got lucky to start, but very unlucky the rest of the way. In the first inning, Kannapolis scored two runs because of a fielding error. Tyler Osik doubled home those two runs, but that was really it for the I’s in terms of offense. For the rest of the game, they only tallied two more hits and no runs. Meanwhile, Jason Bilous did not have his best outing. He looked fine through the first two frames, but the third was trouble. He allowed three runs, including a homer, and was pulled after the inning. But the damage was done. The offense couldn’t get anything going, even with stellar performances out of the I’s pen, in the 4-2 loss.


Great Falls Voyagers 1, Rocky Mountain Vibes 0

Caberea Weaver: 1-for-3, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K (.257 BA, .685 OPS)
Harvin Mendoza: 2-for-3, 1 BB, 0 K (.319 BA, .932 OPS)
Chase Solesky: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (6.46 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) **MVP**

The Voyagers win a game that only saw one run cross that plate. That lone run came in the fourth inning off of a sacrifice from Luis Curbelo that scored Caberea Weaver. That was all the GFV pitching needed. Chase Solesky started the game with four innings. Though he allowed the most hits of the Voyagers pitchers, he struck out five in what was his best outing of the year. Nate Pawelczyk and Karan Patel went the next four innings and only allowed one hit. Caleb Freeman came out for the ninth to close and struck out all three batters for his first save in the Pioneer League.


AZL Padres 3, AZL White Sox 2

José Rodriguez 0-for-4, 0 BB, 2 K (.277 ERA, .802 OPS)
Bryan Ramos: 2-for-4, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K (.256 BA, .736 OPS)
Chase Krogman: 1-for-3, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K (.167 BA, .334 OPS)
Yoelvin Silven: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K (2.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) **MVP**

The AZL Sox had the lead for much of the game, but the bullpen gave up the lead late. Yoelvin Silven had a fantastic start, which is why the Sox were in control for most of the game. He went six shutout innings and didn’t walk a single batter. He even struck out nine to lower his ERA to 2.25 in what was just his second start of the season (14th overall appearance). The offense gave Silven the lead in the first inning with a Bryan Ramos RBI single. However, once Silven left with the meager 1-0 lead, it quickly fell apart. The Padres scored a run in the last three innings of the game and took the lead twice in the process, in what was a bumpy game for the pen.


DSL Reds 7, DSL White Sox 6

Johnabiell Laureano: 3-for-4, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K (.373 BA, 1.020 OPS)
Benyamin Bailey: 0-for-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K (.333 BA, .952 OPS)
Elijah Tatís: 0-for-3, 0 BB, 0 K (.145 BA, .437 OPS)
Yolbert Sánchez: 0-for-1, 0 BB, 0 K (.239 BA, .670 OPS)
Ruben Benavides: 2-for-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K (.333 BA, .987 OPS) **MVP**
Carlos Mola: 4 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (5.63 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)

A back-and-forth game till the very end, but the DSL Sox come up with the loss. There were two big sticks for the Sox and they were Johnabiell Laureano and Ruben Benavides. Laureano had the most hits on the day with three, but Benavides brought the power. He hit his third home run of the year, a three-run shot that gave the Sox a brief lead. Alberto Bernal also added a home run of his own to tie the game, but the Sox pitching came up short. Carlos Mola started the game, and really did not do well. He allowed three runs, thanks to two home runs allowed. Though the bullpen was better overall, Edgar Navarro blew the save in the ninth as he allowed the tying and walk-off runs. For the notables, Benyamin Bailey was in the lineup but was mostly a non-factor with just one walk. Elijah Tatís had another 0-fer day today.