South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 45: Craig Dedelow

Grinder, redux: With a projectable body, plus power, and a focus on the intangibles, Dedelow still presents a case for optimism.(Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Craig Dedelow
Left Fielder
6´4´´
195 pounds
Age: 25
SSHP rank among all left fielders in the system: 4
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 86
2020 South Side Sox Top Prospect Vote: 41

Dedelow was a three-sport athlete in high school for a short time, before a broken arm ended his prep football career as a freshman. However, he continued to excel in both basketball and baseball. Dedelow played power forward on the No. 1-ranked basketball team in his home state of Indiana during his senior year, but when he failed to garner collegiate recruiting attention he realized baseball was his sport.

At IU, Dedelow made the most of his opportunity, and after his junior year was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 34thround of the 2016 draft. Instead of signing a professional contract, he opted to return to college for his senior season. There, his hard work and dedication to strength training resulted in a power surge, as Dedelow hit 19 long balls during his final season, surpassing his previous three year’s combined total. The power surge opened some eyes and Dedelow was selected by the White Sox in the 10thround of the 2017 draft.

Dedelow continued mashing during his rookie ball debut at Great Falls, authoring a fantastic .321/.353/.574 slash line that included a dozen round-trippers.

He came into the 2018 season with high hopes, kicking off his first full pro season as the primary left fielder for the Kannapolis Intimidators. At the end of the first half, Dedelow was one of eight Intimidators earning a selection as a SAL All-Star, and he showcased his plus raw power by finishing as the runner-up in the Home Run Derby. But after the All-Star break Dedelow’s stat line dropped off precipitously, as he slashed .214/.261/.381 in spite of doubling his first half home run total.

Dedelow advanced to Winston-Salem for the 2019 season and fairly well duplicated his 2018 numbers from Low-A, slashing ,245/.307/.445 and driving out a personal professional-best 18 homers.

While he’s going to have to start making a move up the prospect charts quickly, with a projectable body, plus power, and a focus on the intangibles, Dedelow still presents a case for optimism.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 52: Taylor Varnell

Roster addition: Rylee and Taylor Varnell (middle) shared the gender reveal of their daughter with the rest of the Intimidators last May. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Taylor Varnell
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´1´´
190 pounds
Age: 24
SSHP rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system: 5
2019 SSS Top Prospect Rank: 67

Taylor Varnell pitched one year for Western Oklahoma C.C. before transferring to Oral Roberts. While his first two seasons for the Golden Eagles were quite good, Varnell’s senior season was a bit of a disappointment as he produced a 5.95 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 16 outings (11 starts) spanning 59 innings. In those innings, Varnell relinquished 58 hits and 30 walks while striking out 62. His stock fell as a result of his struggles, but the White Sox selected him in the 29th round of the 2018 draft.

Varnell pitched exclusively for the AZL White Sox in 2018, and put up superb numbers. In 10 starts spanning 45 ⅔  innings, he compiled a microscopic 1.97 ERA and 0.88 WHIP as he allowed 30 hits (.175 OBA) and 10 walks (5.7%) while fanning 61 (35.1%). In 2019, Varnell pitched the vast majority of the season for Kannapolis and acquitted himself nicely, with a 3.23 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 106 innings and just 86 hits (.221 OBA) and 34 walks (7.8%) while striking out 115 (26.3%). After a surprisingly late promotion, Varnell did nicely for the Winston-Salem Dash in four starts with a 3.38 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 21 ⅓ innings, as he ceded 20 hits (.263 OBA) and 10 walks (11.1%) while striking out 21 (23.3%).

Varnell’s fastball typically runs upper-80s to low-90s, but has run as high as 94 mph according to Baseball America. Other pitches in his arsenal include an above-average changeup and an outstanding Barry Zito-esque 12-6 curveball. Varnell’s fourth pitch is a slider, which is especially effective against lefties.

He’s a little long in the tooth for someone in High-A ball, so if Varnell gets off to a good start with Winston-Salem next year, he should be earning a promotion to Birmingham by midseason.

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 65: Austin Conway

Hero: Austin Conway chills on the beach with his rescue dog, Stella. (@AConway1736)



Austin Conway
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
6´1´´
210 pounds
Age: 25
SSHP rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 10

Austin Conway actually pitched five college seasons — four with Indiana State and a final one with Louisville (he was able to do so because he was an injury redshirt for the Sycamores during his junior season in 2016). Conway saved 12 games for Indiana State in 2017, but struggled with his control for Louisville in 2018 with 17 walks in 24 innings. Partly because of those controls and also because he was a fifth-year senior who lacked leverage, Conway fell to the White Sox in the 31st round of the 2018 draft.

Conway entered 23 games for the AZL White Sox and Great Falls upon receiving his signing bonus, and combined to post a 3.00 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 36 innings. In those innings, he ceded 32 hits (.246 OBA) and 14 walks (8.9%) while striking out 32 (20.3%).

Most of Conway’s 2019 season was spent with Kannapolis, where he pitched exceptional ball. In 26 appearances for the Intimidators totaling 34 innings, he compiled a 1.59 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 13 saves. During that span, he relinquished just 18 hits (.155 OBA) and 17 walks (12.5%) while fanning 48 (35.3%).

He struggled badly with Winston-Salem in three appearances, however, and that’s where he’ll be expected to begin the 2020 season. He’ll be more than 18 months older than the average Carolina League player, so he’ll likely move up quickly provided he throws strikes consistently.

According to 2080 Baseball, Conway’s fastball runs 93-95 mph while peaking at 96; his changeup runs 86-87, while his slider (which is his out pitch) typically runs 83-86.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 70: Tyler Frost

Top of the pop: Frost has proven to have a sweet power stroke from the leadoff spot. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Tyler Frost
Right Fielder
5´10´´
183 pounds
Age: 24
SSHP rank among all right fielders in the system: 6
South Side Sox 2019 Top Prospect Rank: 41

Tyler Frost was consistently good with Gonzaga, and while he had a solid junior season for the Bulldogs, his numbers were just a shade off his sophomore year totals. As a junior, he slashed .284/.372/.442 in 53 games with five doubles, one triple, nine homers, 38 RBIs, two stolen bases, 25 walks (10.0%) and 39 strikeouts (15.6%). The White Sox liked him enough to select him in the 15th round of the 2017 draft. Later that year with Great Falls, he slashed a respectable .261/.335/.465 in 32 games with seven doubles, five triples, four homers, 26 RBIs, two stolen bases, 13 walks (8.1%) and 33 strikeouts (20.6%).   

Frost again posted respectable numbers in 2018 with Kannapolis, as he slashed .241/.324/.445 in 124 games with 21 doubles, four triples, 18 homers, 65 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 46 walks (9.9%) and 129 strikeouts (27.8%).

The 2019 season saw Frost hold his own despite striking out more frequently, as he slashed .247/.319/.412 for the Dash in 104 games with 26 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 35 walks (7.5%) and 146 strikeouts (31.3%). He batted leadoff frequently for the Winston-Salem squad, and was more than willing to take enough pitches. Unfortunately, he had the tendency of taking too many called third strikes in the process, which has limited his batting average throughout his career.

Frost has hit for more power and stolen more bases than expected to date, but his ability to advance beyond Double-A may depend his ability to make contact going forward. He has a solid arm which plays well in both center and right, and is an asset in both positions. Expect Frost to begin the 2020 season with Birmingham.

Jonathan Stiever: Ace in the hole

Quick change: Thanks to tips from pitching coach Matt Zaleski, Stiever had a second half for the ages. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)


On Feb. 17, 2017, 19-year-old Indiana University starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever flashed a glimpse of the future as he was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich.

The powerhouse Oregon State lineup featured four future MLB first round draft picks: Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach, Cadyn Grenier, and Adley Rutchsman. For good measure a fifth Oregon hitter, KJ Harrison, would be selected in the third round of his prospective draft class. Although the Hoosiers came away on the losing end of a heartbreaking 1-0 game, these five batsmen were absolutely stymied by Stiever and his relief mate Pauly Milto (who like Stiever would also end up being a future White Sox farmhand). The Beaver’s Murderers Row ended up going 1-for-14 with two walks and three strikeouts. Stiever’s first brush with stardom saw him pass with flying colors.

The rest of Stiever’s sophomore campaign was somewhat uneven, as he went 4-4 on the season with a 4.31 ERA. However, per IU baseball’s website, he finished 11th in the nation with 1.05 walks per nine innings and 14th in strikeouts per walk (6.33).

Stiever’s junior season featured a statistical rebound, as the righty finished 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA while striking out a Big 10-leading 97 hitters. Upon completion of his 2018 college season, the Hoosiers’ Friday night starter heard his name called on Day 2 of the draft, as the White Sox scooped up the 6´2´´, 220-pound hurler with the 138th overall pick. MLB Pipeline had him ranked as the 88th-best prospect from his draft class, while Baseball America had him 125th, making him quite the bargain for the South Siders.

Stiever had caught the eye of White Sox scout Justin Wechsler, telling South Side Hit Pen “What I liked about [Stiever] was his competitiveness, the way he challenged hitters and that he never backed down, he just pounded the zone.”

Stiever’s signing bonus matched the assigned slot value of the pick ($386,800). After reporting to the White Sox advanced rookie league affiliate in Great Falls, Stiever continued to fill up the strike zone (70% strike rate) while missing bats at an impressive rate (12.5 K per 9 IP), opposing hitters were able to muster a meager .221 batting average against him.

Expectations were high as Stiever reported to the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators for his first full-season assignment in 2019, where he served as the Opening Day starter. From a statistical standpoint, Stiever’s 14 Kannapolis starts were very misleading. He was rock-solid in 10 of his outings, but the other four can best be described as clunkers.

Stiever feels that his overall statistics in Kannapolis were probably a little skewed by a couple of bad innings in which things got a little ugly and his opponents put a few “crooked numbers” on the scoreboard. Taking a deeper dive into his game logs illuminates that in his four poor starts, Stiever combined to throw just 16 innings allowing 35 hits and 24 earned runs (13.50 ERA) while surrendering seven homers. In his other Kannapolis work, Stiever fashioned an impressive 58 innings, allowing 53 hits and 15 earned runs (2.33 ERA) while yielding only three long balls. His 4.74 ERA didn’t prevent the perceptive White Sox player development staff from believing that Stiever was ready for a promotion to the A+ Winston-Salem Dash.

At Winston-Salem the proverbial lightbulb clicked on for Stiever, as he began working with pitching coach Matt Zaleski (who he credits for much of his developmental evolution).

“[Zaleski] explains why and gives you the data to backup what he’s telling you,” Stiever says. “He gives you feedback when you explain your thoughts about the things you are feeling out there. In Winston I felt that I was better able to sequence pitches and understand my stuff.”

This newfound confidence led to immediate success, as Stiever went seven strong innings in his debut with the Dash, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out seven. His side work with Zaleski which focused on removing a crossfire throwing action also yielded a spike in velocity that he began carrying from start to start. In Kannapolis, Stiever worked mostly in the low nineties while occasionally touching 95, and — in the same season, as the dog days approached — suddenly he was consistently sitting in the mid-nineties and flashing 97-98. With Zaleski’s guidance, Stiever also began working in the top half of the strike zone and played off of that with his second-best pitch, the curveball.

On the bump, Stiever works from a three-quarters arm slot, and his 80-83 mph curve displays 12:6 shape and hard bite. Additionally, his arsenal possesses a slider thrown 84-86 that also flashes plus, but occasionally eludes him, and a changeup that maintains 10-12 mph separation from his four-seam fastball.

Stiever takes the mound like a bulldog, with a simple approach: “Throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count makes it so much easier. If I can get ahead 0-2 or 1-2 and get guys on four or five pitches, it allows me to be able to go deep in starts.”

Battery mate Evan Skoug adds, “He showed signs of stardom last year because he learned to hit his spots at will. He had days where I didn’t have to move my mitt.”

Just to put the elite level in which Stiever threw strikes last season into context, it is important to note that Justin Verlander led all qualifying MLB pitchers in strike percentage last season, throwing 68.3% of his pitches for strikes. Stiever threw 69% of his pitches for strikes. Only one of the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in the game, Sixto Sánchez, was able to edge Stiever in strike throwing prowess (70%).

The Winston-Salem numbers for Stiever were nothing short of dominant, in 12 starts he went 6-4 with a 2.15 ERA. Stiever pitched 71 innings allowing 56 hits while walking 13 and striking out 77. Although his strikeout, walk, and innings pitched totals nearly mirrored his Kannapolis numbers, opposing batsmen at High-A only managed a paltry .215 batting average against the newly unleashed ace.

When asked to explain the difference in competition between the two Class A assignments Stiever offers, “It’s not that noticeable, but the elite hitters in High-A are a little better than A-ball. With better approaches and more takes, they are less likely to chase. I would say the difference is incremental, but I was pitching much better in Winston so I also think I had a lot more confidence.”

Thus far, Stiever’s developmental arc has been quite similar to Philadelphia Phillies farmhand Spencer Howard. The two pitchers share a nearly identical build, have gained fastball velocity and displayed marked improvement as they have advanced. Howard is currently a Top 100 prospect and ranks ninth overall among right-handed pitchers. If Stiever can continue to make strides like he did last year at Winston-Salem, a similar ascension through the prospect ranks will be not only possible, but inevitable. He just needs to continue to refine his slider and changeup to give him a reliable plus third pitch.

Have any doubts Stiever will find that refined slider and changeup? Don’t. The powerful pitcher has a track record of multifaceted athletic ability, dating back to Cedarburg High (Wis.), where Stiever was an All-State football player (defensive back and wide receiver) and also played varsity basketball through his sophomore year.

With his athleticism, competitive nature, high-octane heater and hammer curve coupled with pinpoint control, Stiever offers a very high floor for the South Siders. Look for him to advance to Double-A Birmingham in 2020 and continue to build off of the progress he made last season.

Stiever’s outlook for 2020? You can imagine, it’s straightforward, and aggressive.

“I want to stay healthy and get the ball every fifth day,” he says. “I want to be able to be at or near my best every start, and I’d like to be one of the guys in the organization that throws the most innings. I was glad that I finished strong [in 2019], and I really want to continue that trend.”

As the fastest-rising starter in the White Sox system, there’s little doubt Stiever is going to leave it all out on the mound all summer long.


Scout’s Eye: Justin Wechsler

Stiever’s grades:
Fastball 60 (now)/65 (future)
Curveball: Fringy but flashed plus
Slider: Also fringy but showed promise to be an average pitch, flashed plus at times (50).
Changeup (50)
Command 55 (now)/60 (future)

“He’s athletic and strong, I figured he’d get more strikeouts once he learned to harness his stuff,” Wechsler says. “Being a kid from the Midwest he obviously had less experience [than kids from warm-weather states]. I saw a lot of upside and room for growth. He’s a competitor and threw a ton of strikes — that skill will play anywhere.”

 

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 81: Carlos Perez

Solid state: Perez boasts solid defense and possible offensive pop, so keep an eye on him in 2020. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)


Carlos Perez
Catcher
5´10´´
160 pounds
Age: 23
SSHP rank among all catchers in the system: 4 

Carlos Perez, whose older brother with the same first name played in the majors from 2015-18, signed with the White Sox as an international free agent prior to the 2014 season. In the DSL, Perez was quite the hitter (albeit without power) as he combined to slash .323/.380/.397 with 29 walks (11.3%) and just 12 strikeouts (4.7%) in 257 at-bats.

The 2016 season saw Perez struggle, which is not an uncommon occurrence for someone playing Stateside for the first time. Combined with the AZL White Sox, Great Falls and Kannapolis in 34 games totaling 116 at-bats, Perez slashed just .198/.218/.259 with four doubles, a homer, 14 RBIs, three walks (2.4%) and four strikeouts (3.3%).

After a solid rebound season with Great Falls in 2017, Perez enjoyed what his best offensive Stateside season to date in 2018 with Kannapolis. In 78 games totaling 276 at-bats, he slashed .290/.298/.395 with 18 doubles, one triple, three homers, 32 RBIs, four walks (1.4%) and 31 strikeouts (10.8%). Perez increased his walk totals in 2019 for Winston-Salem, at the sacrifice of a few hits here and there. For the Dash, he slashed .263/.316/.327 with 14 doubles, two homers, 33 RBIs, 24 walks (7.0%) and 26 strikeouts (7.6%).

Perez’s calling card is his defense, as he has above-average skills behind the plate. While his arm strength is basically average, his quick release makes up for it. In 2019, Perez thwarted 41-of-105 stolen base attempts for a nifty 39.0%. He limited his passed balls to just seven, which really isn’t bad compared to others in the system. With Perez’s lack of power offset by plus ability to make contact combined with his defense (as arguably the best defensive catcher in the system), Perez may still have future as a backup catcher in the majors. Look for Perez to begin the 2020 season with Birmingham.

 

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect No. 82: Luis Ledo

Movin’ on up: Ledo has not overwhelmed in the system, but keeps grinding toward the majors. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)


Luis Ledo
Right-handed relief pitcher
6´4´´

208 pounds
Age: 24
SSHP rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 13
Top Prospect ranking a year ago: N/R

It’s hard to believe, but Ledo has now pitched for seven years in the White Sox organization, as the Dominican native played ball for the DSL White Sox just two weeks after signing a minor league contract in June 2013. Ledo spent three years with the DSL squad before earning his first Stateside promotion, to the AZL White Sox in 2016. Even though he spent part of 2017 with three affiliates (AZL, Great Falls and Kannapolis), he only pitched 10 games that year due to injury.

The 2018 campaign was a difficult one for Ledo, as he struggled for Kannapolis with a 4.95 ERA and 1.67 in 32 appearances. In his 56 1/3 innings, he relinquished 56 hits (.267 OBA) and a whopping 38 walks (14.9% while striking out 59 (23.1%). However, Ledo bounced back in a big way this year with a promotion to Winston-Salem: In 34 appearances spanning 44 ⅓ innings, he posted a terrific 1.83 ERA and 1.26 WHIP by surrendering 35 hits (.227 OBA) and 21 walks (11.8%) while fanning 41 (23.0%). FanGraphs stated earlier this year that Ledo possesses a mid-90s fastball and a plus splitter.

Although Ledo still needs to hone his control, he is also a great candidate to begin the 2020 season with Birmingham.

Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis right fielders

Clear-eyed for the future: Even after a difficult 2019, Bryce Bush is still considered one of the best prospects in the White Sox organization. (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

Alex Destino enjoyed the best OPS in 2019 of the three farmhands listed here, while Bryce Bush is considered by many to be the best prospect of the three. Tyler Frost has shown some potential as well, and has flown pretty much under the radar in his first three years in the organization. With a big year in 2020, any of these right fielders may have a chance to rapidly rise in the organization’s prospect rankings.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Winston-Salem Dash

Tyler Frost
5´10´´
183 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Center field
Age: 24

Frost was consistently good with Gonzaga, and while he had a solid junior season for the Bulldogs, his numbers were just a shade off his sophomore year totals. As a junior, he slashed .284/.372/.442 in 53 games with five doubles, one triple, nine homers, 38 RBIs, two stolen bases, 25 walks (10.0%) and 39 strikeouts (15.6%). The White Sox liked him enough to select him in the 15th round of the 2017 draft. Later that year with Great Falls, he slashed a respectable .261/.335/.465 in 32 games with seven doubles, five triples, four homers, 26 RBIs, two stolen bases, 13 walks (8.1%) and 33 strikeouts (20.6%).   

Frost again posted respectable numbers in 2018 with Kannapolis, as he slashed .241/.324/.445 in 124 games with 21 doubles, four triples, 18 homers, 65 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 46 walks (9.9%) and 129 strikeouts (27.8%).

This past season saw Frost hold his own despite striking out more frequently, as he slashed .247/.319/.412 for the Dash in 104 games with 26 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 35 walks (7.5%) and 146 strikeouts (31.3%). He batted leadoff frequently for the Winston-Salem squad, and was more than willing to take enough pitches. Unfortunately, he had the tendency of taking too many called third strikes in the process, which has limited his batting average throughout his career. Frost has hit for more power and stolen more bases than expected to date, but his ability to advance beyond Double-A may depend his ability to make contact going forward. He has a solid arm which plays well in both center and right, and is an asset in both positions. Expect Frost to begin the 2020 season with Birmingham.


Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Alex Destino
6´2´´
215 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 24

After posting a nifty .882 OPS in his sophomore season, Destino struggled a bit for the University of South Carolina during his junior year. That year (2017), he slashed .255/.338/.441 for the Gamecocks with eight doubles, 10 homers, 41 RBIs, three stolen bases, 27 walks (11.5%) and 42 strikeouts (17.9%). Due in part to his power potential, the White Sox selected him in the 14th round of that year’s draft. Destino rewarded the Sox that year with a strong campaign with the AZL squad, slashing .290/.408/.432 in 49 games with 13 doubles, two triples, three homers, 23 RBIs, one stolen base, 38 walks (16.9%) and 40 strikeouts (17.8%).   

The 2018 season saw Destino split his time between Great Falls and Kannapolis, but saw his combined numbers declined a bit to .248/.298/.407 in 68 games with 18 doubles, five triples, five homers, 36 RBIs, 17 walks (5.9%) and 55 strikeouts (19.0%). Aside from a brief four-game sting with Winston-Salem, Destino spent the entire 2019 season with Kannapolis and posted rock-solid numbers despite playing in a pitching-friendly ballpark. In a combined 116 games, he slashed .293/.372/.465 with 20 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 64 RBIs, 51 walks (10.4%) and 121 strikeouts (24.6%).

Destino possesses an above-average arm ideal for right field and is considered an adequate defender. Baseball America said of him, “Plus lefthanded power is now Destino’s calling card, and he can bang hanging breaking balls and average velocity. Scouts have their doubts about his ability to hit plus fastballs.” While Destino had an All-Star season for the Intimidators, his stats should be taken in context that he performed against competition about 1.5 years younger. Destino should be a lock to begin the 2020 season with Winston-Salem, with an opportunity for promotion to Birmingham if he gets off to a great start.  

Bryce Bush
6´0´´

200 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Third base
Age: 20

Bush had a crazy route to the White Sox. Right off, it’s harder to gauge Midwestern talent (Birmingham, Mich.) due to the colder weather, which limited his De La Salle H.S. varsity baseball schedule. Nonetheless Bush was ranked by PerfectGame as the 52nd best varsity player in the country, and his commitment to SEC powerhouse Mississippi State seemed insurmountable to most teams. Not so to the White Sox, as they selected him in the 33rd round in 2018. Bush shocked many a Sox fan, not to mention many scouts, when the White Sox actually inked him to an over-slot $290,000 bonus. Combined with the AZL Sox and Great Falls, Bush proved worthy of that signing as he slashed .309/.396/.453 in 38 games with nine doubles, one triple, three homers, 18 RBIs, four stolen bases, 18 walks (11.3%) and 25 strikeouts (15.6%).

The bottom fell out of Bush’s basket in 2019, however, as he struggled facing tougher competition, and suffered injuries and vision issues. In 67 games with Kannapolis, he slashed just .201/.285/.346 with 12 doubles, five triples, five homers, 33 RBIs, four stolen bases, 27 walks (9.4%) and 92 strikeouts (31.9%). Bush also struggled defensively at third base and as a result was eventually moved to an easier position (right field) that can still take advantage of his throwing abilities. Don’t count Bush out going forward, however, as he was playing against competition typically 30 months older. He’s also owns a terrific work ethic and is devoted to getting better. For more information on Bush, read this terrific piece by South Side Hit Pen’s Dan Victor from last year. Expect Bush to return to Kannapolis to begin 2020.

 


 

Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis center fielders

Ascending soon: Once Luis Robert joins the White Sox, Steele Walker will become the top-ranked outfielder in the White Sox system. (@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

This list includes the organization’s second-ranked outfield prospect per MLB Pipeline (Steele Walker), as well as an outfielder who’s hit for a high average throughout his young collegiate and professional careers (Ian Dawkins). Both should receive promotions to begin the 2020 season. 

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Winston-Salem Dash

Steele Walker
5´11´´
190 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Right field

Age: 23

Walker kept improving in each of his three years with the University of Oklahoma. That’s not to say his freshman year was bad by any stretch — that year, he slashed a respectable .290/.352/.414 with three homers in 57 games. As a junior in 2018, however, he slashed .352/.441/.606 in 54 games for the Sooners with 14 doubles, 13 homers, 53 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 31 walks (12.2%) and 48 strikeouts (18.9%). Expected to be selected in the latter part of the first round that year, he was still available in the second round when the White Sox gladly snatched him up.

In his first year of professional ball, Walker slashed a combined .209/.271/.342 over 44 games with the AZL squad, Great Falls and Kannapolis with six doubles, five homers, 21 RBIs, six stolen bases, 10 walks (5.6%) and 37 strikeouts (20.9%). Obviously his numbers weren’t as good as he’d hoped they be, but that was in large part due to fatigue and playing through injuries suffered late in the season with Oklahoma.

Buoyed by a terrific start with Kannapolis (.365/.437/.581) in his first 20 games this year, Walker enjoyed a terrific bounce-back campaign in 2019. Combined with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he slashed .284/.361/.451 in 120 games with 36 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 62 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 50 walks (9.5%) and 78 strikeouts (14.8%). While not quite Madrigalian in making contact, a strikeout rate under 15% with a walk rate hovering around 10% is actually quite impressive for a first full professional season.

It’s important to note that Walker’s numbers were far better against righties than they were against southpaws, although it’s way too early to consider him merely a platoon-type hitter. According to MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, the bat is considered Walker’s one true plus tool (graded 55 by MLB Pipeline). That’s not to say he’s overly deficient in any one area (power, run and field tools are graded 50), except perhaps for his throwing arm (graded 45 by MLB Pipeline).

Interestingly, Walker didn’t play in left field this year though his arm is perhaps better suited for that position. Walker currently ranks sixth among White Sox prospects, and second among the system’s outfielders, by MLB Pipeline. He likely will begin the 2020 season with Birmingham, and should find his way to Charlotte by the end of the year. There’s always a possibility Walker could be traded to help reel in a high-profile hitter or pitcher during this offseason, but as the best outfield performer in full-season play last year not named Luis Robert, the Sox would prefer keeping Walker if they had their druthers.


Kannapolis Cannon Ballers 

Ian Dawkins
5’11”
195 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 24

Dawkins played his first two seasons of college ball with Chabot Junior College in his hometown of Heyward, Calif., where he put up terrific numbers. He transferred to Sacramento State for his junior season and continued to hit, with his senior season being arguably the better of his two years with the Hornets as he slashed .359/.415/.528 in 58 games with 18 doubles, six homers, 33 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 22 walks (8.0%) and 41 strikeouts (14.9%).

In part due to lacking leverage as a college senior, and also in part to his lack of significant power, he slipped to the White Sox in the 27th round of the 2018 draft. Dawkins immediately paid dividends that year, as he slashed a combined .303/.351/.390 in 65 games with Great Falls and Kannapolis with 13 doubles, three triples, 21 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 16 walks (5.9%) and 43 strikeouts (15.8%). 

Even more surprising than Dawkins beginning the 2019 season with Kannapolis was that he actually spent the whole year there. In part, this had to do with the lack of movement from the Birmingham outfield contingent, which ultimately stalled advancement for the likes of Walker and Dawkins. However, it may actually have just as much to do with the fact that he simply may have neither the great speed you’d like to see in a center fielder (despite his stolen base numbers) nor the power you’d like to see out of a corner outfielder. Nonetheless, Dawkins still posted a rock-solid year despite a late-season slump causing his average to dip below .300. For the year, he slashed .298/.361/.396 in 131 games with Kannapolis with 38 doubles, one triple, four homers, 36 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 37 walks and 95 strikeouts. Walker should begin the 2020 season with Winston-Salem. 

 


 

Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis left fielders

Like a hurricane: Among several versatile lower-level left fielders, Romy Gonzalez might possess the most upside. (Phrake Photography/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

Most of the best White Sox outfielders played either right or center field in 2019, as many of the players on this list were either drafted in the later rounds or are considered better suited for utility roles. Who knows, though? Perhaps one of the late-round selections, like Cameron Simmons or Jonathan Allen, could surprise in 2020.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Winston-Salem Dash

Jonathan Allen
6´3´´
200 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Right field, Center field
Age: 23

After a terrific junior season with the University of San Francisco in which he slashed .308/.393/.480 in 57 games with seven homers and 12 stolen bases, Allen’s numbers slipped in 2019 as he slashed just .252/.370/.562 with 10 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 59 RBIs, three stolen bases, 34 walks (13.3%) and 60 strikeouts (23.5%). It seems that he sacrificed some average for the long ball, and while that strategy didn’t especially pay off, it was at least enough for the Sox to select him in the 32nd round in 2019.

Combined with the AZL Sox, Great Falls and Winston-Salem, Allen slashed .260/.311/.420 in 40 games with 13 doubles, one triple, three homers, 22 RBIs, six stolen bases, nine walks and 46 strikeouts. Much of that production came in the last two games of the year with Winston-Salem when he went 5-for-9 with two homers, five RBIs, and a stolen base. He has the reputation of a solid glove man, as he only committed a combined two errors during his collegiate and professional play.

Because he only has two games under his belt with the Dash, expect him to return to Winston-Salem for 2020. Oh, I almost forgot: Allen happens to be the grandson of former major league outfielder Don Landrum, who played for the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs and Giants from 1957-66. 

J.J. Muno
5´11´´

190 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Second base, Shortstop, Right field
Age: 26

Muno is the younger brother of former White Sox farmhand Danny Muno. After redshirting his freshman year with UC-Santa Barbara, he played three years for the Gauchos. Muno’s best year was as a redshirt sophomore, when he slashed .294/.370/.450 with five homers and 17 stolen bases in 64 games. He slumped the next year, however, as he slashed just .246/.333/.342 with three homers and 14 stolen bases in 55 games. The White Sox liked his versatility enough, however, to select him in the 27th round of the 2017 draft. That year, he split time with the AZL squad and Great Falls as he slashed a solid .294/.415/.422 in 38 games.

The 2018 season saw Muno play for Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham, where he combined to slash just .224/.300/.296 over 38 games. In 2019, Muno saw much more playing time, exclusively for the Dash. For the year, he slashed .238/.351/.377 with seven doubles, six triples, four homers, 34 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 31 walks (11.5%) and 55 strikeouts (20.4%). He’s valuable as an organizational depth piece, as he’s played all positions on the diamond except catcher, and has kept his errors to a minimum. He’s the classic utility player, as he can do a lot of little things well but nothing exceptionally. He likely will begin 2020 play with Birmingham.

Travis Moniot
6´1´´

190 pounds
B/T: S/R
Other positions played: Right field, Center field, Third base, Second base
Age: 22

Moniot had a well-traveled, three-year college career after playing his high school ball in Indio, Calif. He scuffled as a freshman with the University of Oregon, as he slashed just .168/.286/.293 in 53 games. He then dominated with the Orange Coast JC squad by slashing .353/.524/.608 with seven homers in 45 games. Moniot then struggled with the University of Arizona as a junior in 2018 as he slashed just .160/.295/.240 with one homer in 22 games. Despite his lack of success in Division I ball, the White Sox selected him in the 17th round of that year’s MLB draft. Upon receiving his signing bonus, he slashed a respectable .289/.391/.412 for Great Falls with seven doubles, two triples, one homer, 14 RBIs, two stolen bases, 17 walks (12.6%) and 29 strikeouts (21.5%). 

This year was a difficult one for Moniot, however. Combined with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he slashed just .172/.262/.207 in 19 games with two doubles, six RBIs, three stolen bases, seven walks (10.8%) and 24 strikeouts (36.9%). He was placed on the injured list on June 24 and never returned. Like the aforementioned Muno, Moniot has the ability to play most defensive positions. Moniot may not wield a strong bat, but because of his relative youth, he likely will be given additional opportunities to establish himself. Expect Moniot to return to the Dash for 2020.


Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Cameron Simmons
6´4´´
200 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Right field
Age: 23

Simmons enjoyed an outstanding college career with the University of Virginia, but his best year was clearly his sophomore one in 2017: .352/.432/.563 with 14 doubles, two triples, nine homers, 57 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 23 walks (9.3%) and 40 strikeouts (16.2%) in 58 games. However, a shoulder injury caused him to miss his entire junior season. Rustiness impacted his senior season with the Cavaliers in 2019, as he slashed just .260/.363/.389 in 55 games with 12 doubles, five homers, 34 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 27 walks (11.0%) and 51 strikeouts (20.8%). When he was still available in the 20th round of this year’s MLB draft, however, the White Sox were happy to select him.

After a terrific 12-game stretch with Great Falls to begin his professional career, Simmons leveled off a bit with Kannapolis to finish the year. In a combined 44 games with both teams, he slashed .275/.342/.458 with 11 doubles, five homers, 21 RBIs, five stolen bases, 13 walks (8.1%) and 47 strikeouts (29.2%). With his shoulder surgery in 2018, he’s likely best suited as a left fielder going forward. Expect Simmons to return to Kannapolis for 2020, with the possibility of promotion to Winston-Salem by midseason if all goes well. 

Romy Gonzalez
6´1´´
210 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: First base, Second base, Third base, Right field, Center field
Age: 23

Like Simmons, Gonzalez enjoyed his best collegiate season as a sophomore. Playing for the University of Miami, he slashed .265/.344/.462 in 58 games with nine doubles, 11 homers, 38 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 27 walks (10.6%) and 58 strikeouts (22.8%). Gonzalez slumped a bit (especially in the power department) for the Hurricanes as a junior, however, as he slashed .273/.358/.394 in 52 games with eight doubles, four homers, 30 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, 21 walks (9.2%) and 60 strikeouts (26.3%). These struggles caused him to slip to the White Sox in the 18th round of the 2018 draft. He played for Great Falls that year, and performed well by slashing .254/.323/.498 with 15 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, 33 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 18 walks (8.1%) and 65 strikeouts (29.1%).   

Gonzalez struggled this year in the pitching-friendly environment of Kannapolis, as he slashed just .244/.329/.364 in 101 games with 22 doubles, four triples, four homers, 35 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 38 walks (9.4%) and 108 strikeouts (26.7%). He did display plenty of versatility by playing all defensive positions sans shortstop and catcher.

Gonzalez is an above-average athlete and seems like the type of guy who could have 20-20 seasons if he can begin making stronger contact at the plate. Expect him to begin next year with Winston-Salem, where he will hopefully produce better power numbers.