Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chiefs Use Long Ball to Sink Knights

The final game of my minor league trip took me to BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte on Tuesday night.  It rained most of the day, but stopped in time to get the game started just a few minutes late.  It was a match-up of the AAA affiliates of the two big league teams I follow, the Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals) against the Charlotte Knights (White Sox).  BB&T is known as a great hitters park and Syracuse seemed to enjoy the confines on this particular night, hitting four home runs on their way to a 6-2 victory over Charlotte.

A theme of the games on this trip was early runs.  Once again, it didn't take long to put numbers on the board in this one.  In the top of the first, the Chiefs scored a pair of unearned runs following a dropped fly ball near the right field foul line by Cody Asche.  Asche, who managed to become a target of disgust from Sox fans in his brief stint in Chicago, seems well on his way to not becoming a fan favorite in Charlotte either.  Though in his defense, he hasn't been playing a lot of outfield lately.  To give him a little credit, I did capture him making a nice move to avoid a tag and pick up a stolen base on a botched hit-and-run play:

Anyway, two batters after the previously mentioned dropped catch, veteran left-handed hitter Clint Robinson launched a two run opposite field homer to left off Knights starter Carson Fulmer.  In the third inning, Fulmer would surrender another homer, this one by Brandon Snyder:

With Fulmer still on the mound in the sixth inning, the Chiefs went to work again.  Robinson hit his second dinger of the game, practically a re-run of the first, hitting the roof of the party area tent in left.  Immediately following that blast, catcher Pedro Severino absolutely destroyed a ball to left, banging it off the scoreboard.  While BB&T plays small, I'm pretty sure these four home runs would have been gone in most parks.

Meanwhile, Greg Ross stymied the strong Charlotte offense most of the night.  Ross entered the game with an 8.63 ERA, but surrendered just one run on five hits in seven strong innings.  The lone run he allowed was on a groundout by Knights outfielder Adam Engel in the bottom of the seventh:

Finally, leading off the bottom of the ninth, Nicky Delmonico scored on a very odd inside-the-park home run.  Left fielder Rafael Bautista made a leaping attempt to make a catch, but missed and evidently slipped in the corner and injured himself.  He would need assistance walking off the field.  I have not seen a report on the seriousness of the injury, but it didn't look good as he headed to the dugout.  I caught that play on video, but as you can see, I didn't catch what exactly happened to Bautista:

Following that unusual play, the Knights did record a couple more hits, but were unable to chase any additional runs home, so they dropped this one to the last place Chiefs by a score of 6-2.

Box Score

Scorecard (Syracuse)
Scorecard (Charlotte)

Photo Album

I already covered most of the key Charlotte prospects in the recap of the game in Norfolk, so I will briefly run through what those guys did in this game.  Also, I am pretty sure I spotted Yoan Moncada in the Charlotte dugout.  He has still not been activated from the disabled list, but I would expect that to happen soon.

Charlotte Position Players

Nicky Delmonico recorded the weird inside-the-park home run for his only hit of the game.  But he had a two home run game over the weekend in Norfolk too.  So I'm sticking to my prediction of him getting called up to Chicago in the next week.  Adam Engel flashed his speed with an infield hit and a stolen base.  Jacob May had another walk in this game, but grounded out in his other three plate appearances.  It really wasn't an impressive game for any of the Knights hitters against a pitcher with no track record of success at this level.  This lineup is definitely not the same without Moncada, although I guess they better get used to that since his days in AAA are numbered.

Carson Fulmer

The good news?  Fulmer allowed just five hits in six innings.  The bad news?  Four of those hits were home runs, and all of them were crushed.  I suppose if there is some consolation for Fulmer, it is that three of the homers were by guys who were on the Nationals playoff roster last season.  But if he is going to be a successful major league pitcher, obviously he can't afford to give up homers in bunches to players of that caliber.  Also, only striking out a pair of Chiefs hitters was another disappointing aspect of this outing.  I had thought Fulmer had perhaps nudged ahead of Lopez as the most likely of the big three Charlotte starters (Fulmer, Lopez, Giolito) to get the call-up to Chicago.  But as of now, I'd say that nod would go to Lopez.  Regardless, unless he continues to have gopher ball troubles, I'd expect Fulmer to be in the Sox rotation in the next month or so.  Whether his ultimate destiny is the rotation or bullpen remains to be seen though.

Syracuse (Nationals) Prospects

The top levels of the Nationals organization are a little short on big time prospects, in part because several of those guys are now members of the Sox organization thanks to the Adam Eaton trade.  Pedro Severino would probably be in the big leagues for most teams.  His home run in this game was an encouraging sign that he could be bouncing out of his early offensive struggles.  Outfielder Andrew Stevenson is an intriguing prospect, but has struggled early on at the AAA level.  Finally, Rafael Bautista would have had a good shot at another promotion to DC (he was with the Nats briefly following the Eaton injury), but his own health puts his short-term future in doubt.

So that's a wrap on my trip and my blog posts about the White Sox organization.  I will switch this back over to an archive of my MLB Stadium trips shortly, where I will also write a little bit about my weekend visit to SunTrust Park in Atlanta.  In the meantime, we'll see if the Sox can swing a few more trades this summer to add even more interesting prospects into the pipeline.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kannapolis Pitchers Dominate in 4-3 Win

In front of dozens of fans at Intimidators Stadium in Kannapolis on Monday night, the Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) defeated the Greenville Drive (Red Sox) in a Class A battle between two above .500 teams.  After an early barrage of runs, pitchers dominated the final seven innings for both sides.  But the four runs the Intimidators scored in the bottom of the first proved to be just enough for a 4-3 victory.

Intimidators' starter Alec Hansen struck out 10 batters in five innings.  It was his highest strikeout total at this level and second highest of his young professional career.  Kevin Escorcia and Mike Morrison were dominant in relief as well, striking out a combined five Drive hitters in four scoreless innings.  For the game, Drive batters were erased on strikeouts 15 times.  Here is Hansen striking out Roldani Baldwin on a pitch in the dirt:

All of the Kannapolis offensive damage was done in the first inning against Drive lefty starter Robby Sexton.  Mitch Roman got the scoring started with a double to left, scoring Joel Booker.  Then, three consecutive batters knocked in runs with hits:  a single by Brandon Dulin, a double by Zach Remillard and a single by Seby Zavala.  In the first, the Intimidators scored four runs on five hits.  That would be more hits than they would record in their final seven innings at bat.

The Drive scored a pair of runs off Hansen in the top of the second on a Roldani Baldwin double and Lorenzo Cedrola single.  The last run of the game was scored by Greenville in the top of the fourth on a single by Santiago Espinal.  The Kannapolis bullpen was dominant, closing the door on a one run win.

Box Score

Scorecard (Greenville)
Scorecard (Kannapolis)

Photo Album

A the low A level, it is hard to know which players are most worth following since they are so far from the major league level and the most highly touted players on these rosters were playing college baseball at this time last year.  Kannapolis does have some interesting guys on their roster, however.  I'm not going to cover any of the opposition's prospects in this case since none are particularly highly rated or caught my eye, but I would be remiss not to mention that Drive second baseman Jagger Rusconi had about as bad of an offensive game as possible.  He struck out his first four times and then grounded into a game ending double play.  On to the Intimidators.

Alec Hansen

Entering his junior season at Oklahoma last year, Hansen was considered an early first round draft candidate.  But he struggled mightily that season, which caused him to fall into the second round where the Sox grabbed him.  Since turning pro, he's been outstanding.  He was so dominant in rookie ball last summer that he earned a promotion to Kannapolis before the season ended.  Hansen's overall line on Monday wasn't all that great, allowing six hits and three walks in five innings.  But then there were the ten strikeouts.  Unfortunately, that meant a lot of deep counts and his pitch count piled up quickly.  Overall, I was impressed.  He got a ton of swing-and-misses out of both his fastball and breaking balls.  Here he is throwing a high fastball by Greenville #3 hitter Chris Madera:

Jameson Fisher

Another 2016 draft pick, Fisher was one of the best hitters in college baseball last year for Southeastern Louisiana.  Like Hansen, he dominated rookie ball last summer.  The left-handed hitting outfielder has had mixed results this season so far, not hitting for power and striking out a lot for such an accomplished college hitter.  But he is still an intriguing player to keep an eye on.  Oh, and he sports a sweet mustache too.  In this game, his only hit came on a perfectly executed bunt which hit the third base bag.  It was the Intimidators second bunt single of the inning.  Here it is:

Micker Adolfo

Another interesting outfielder on the Kannapolis roster is Adalfo.  Like Fisher, he hasn't been able to tap into his home run power too often so far this season, but he does have 15 extra base hits and an average around .300.  This was a rough one for him though.  He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.  He signed with the Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but is still only 20 years old.  As I've mentioned several times in these posts, the Sox lack elite outfield prospects (or did prior to the weekend signing of Luis Robert, anyway).  So guys like Adolfo will get every opportunity to make their case to be a part of the Sox future outfield.

Mike Morrison

Finally, I'm ending with someone who I had never heard of before yesterday.  When Morrison took the mound in the 8th, I looked up his stats and was stunned by what I saw:  19 1/3 innings, 0 runs allowed, 4 hits, 3 walks and 30 strikeouts.  This looks like a guy who should expect to be promoted soon.  He built upon those numbers with a two inning save on Monday.  He did not allow a hit and struck out three.  He did walk a pair of guys though.  Hard to give up runs when nobody ever gets hits off of you.  Here he is baffling Roldani Baldwin with an off-speed pitch in the dirt.

Up Next

It has been raining most of the day here in Charlotte, so we'll see what happens.  But I'm scheduled to see the Knights take on the Syracuse Chiefs tonight, Tuesday, in the final game of my trip.  This will feature the AAA squads of the two MLB teams I root for (Sox and Nats), so I should be very familiar with a lot of the guys on the field.  Carson Fulmer is scheduled to start for Charlotte.  This would have been Joe Ross' night for the Chiefs, but the Nats brought him back up to start tonight's game in DC.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Barons and Smokies Split Doubleheader

Thanks to a Saturday night rainout in Birmingham, I was able to add an extra game to my trip as the Sunday game between the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) and Birmingham Barons (White Sox) turned into a doubleheader.  In the minors, doubleheaders are only seven inning games, so it was more like a regular game and a half.  I had a fun afternoon in Alabama.  I believe I played in high school baseball games with more fans than were present for the beginning of the first game.  But by the time the second game started, there was a pretty good crowd on hand at the very nice Regions Field in Birmingham.

The first game was a bit of a snoozer as the Smokies cruised to a 7-1 victory.  Birmingham starter Jordan Guerrero had a rough go of it, surrendering two homers.  Ian Rice got things started for the Smokies in the second inning with a two run homer to left.  In the next inning, Smokies leadoff hitter Jeffrey Baez absolutely crushed a Guerrero hanger over the Barons bullpen for another homer.  Here is that shot:

The Smokies would add three more runs in the inning to take a 6-0 lead.  Smokies pitchers James Pugliese, Daury Torrez and David Garner had it on cruise control from there as Tennessee took Game 1 by a final of 7-1.

Game two was far more exciting.  The starting pitchers in that one were a pair of decent prospects:  Spencer Adams for the Barons and Duane Underwood for the Smokies.  Jeffrey Baez hit his second home run of the day to start the second game.

But the Barons would tie it up in the second on a controversial home run by Cameron Seitzer that would lead to yet another manager ejection.  Seitzer's blast to right appeared to hit the railing above the wall and bounce back onto the field.  Initially, the umpire ruled it in play and it went for a double.  But after a discussion with Birmingham manager Julio Vinas and then an umpire's conference, they changed it to a home run.  Naturally, Tennessee manager Mark Johnson didn't like this.  He would eventually get thrown out of the game.  He was the third manager and fourth person overall to be ejected in the four minor league games I've seen on this trip.  While I'm sure this is a bit of an anomoly, I'm attributing all these ejections to less than stellar umpiring at the minor league levels (and no replay).  In this case, if they had made what appeared to be the correct home run call from the start, I don't think there would have been much arguing.

Another photo of a manager walking off the field following an ejection (Mark Johnson)
Anyway, after falling behind again, the Barons bats woke up in the bottom of the fourth.  Following a Telvin Nash single and a Cameron Seitzer double, Hunter Jones did this:

That was a two run triple by the speedy Jones off Underwood, giving the Barons a 3-2 lead.  Later in the inning, the Barons scored another run on a perfectly executed safety squeeze by catcher Chris O'Dowd.  Adams would throw five solid innings, but gave up a pair of hits to start the 6th before giving way to Robinson Leyer.  Leyer immediately induced a double play and retired all five batters he faced to close out a 4-2 victory for Birmingham.

Here is the defensive play of the day, courtesy of Barons third baseman Ronald Bueno, making a diving stop to start a double play.  Bueno was just promoted to AA earlier this weekend:

Box Score (Game 1)
Box Score (Game 2)

Scorecard (Game 1)

Photo Album

While the Sox and Cubs do have their share of good position player prospects in their respective organizations, none of them are currently playing in AA.  By far the biggest prospect on either roster is the Barons' pitcher Michael Kopech, another one of the key pieces in the Chris Sale trade.  But he was on the mound for Friday's victory over Tennessee.  So I didn't have many guys to pay special attention to in these games, but here are some notes on a few guys who I did see on Sunday.

Jordan Guerrero

It was a tough outing for the lefty on Sunday, which made some sense out of his season stat line.  He entered the day tied for the Southern League lead in strikeouts (with teammate Michael Kopech), but now has an 0-6 record with an ERA north of 5.00.  He is able to fool hitters with his assortment of curveballs and changeups.  But he often misses on location, as evident in that video of the Baez home run above.  Here he is striking out Cael Brockmeyer on a well placed curveball:

Spencer Adams

Prior to the trades the Sox made this past winter, Adams was probably the Sox second best starting pitching prospect behind Carson Fulmer.  But with the influx of pitching talent, Adams has become somewhat overshadowed.  He doesn't have the overpowering fastball that you typically see from highly regarded right handed pitching prospects.  But he does have above average command and off-speed offerings.  His outing on Sunday wasn't spectacular, but he was effective, limiting the Smokies to a pair of runs in five plus innings.  Here he is striking out Jacob Hannemann to end the fourth inning:

Hunter Jones

If I were to guess, I don't think any position player on the Barons current roster will eventually become an everyday player for the Sox.  But if I'm going to pick one guy who may have a shot at being a darkhorse major league contributor, I'll go with center fielder Hunter Jones.  This hunch isn't based so much on what he did on Sunday, though he did produce the game winning triple in the second game.  I just like his skill set.  Reports are that he is an excellent defensive outfielder.  He has some power and great speed.  And in an organization with not a lot of great outfield prospects, there seems to be an opportunity for a lightly regarded player to move up the ranks.

Smokies (Cubs) Prospects

Like the Barons, the Smokies don't have a lot of highly touted players on their current roster.  But a few hitters stood out on Sunday.  First was obviously outfielder Jeffrey Baez who homered in both games.  The Cubs could use another Baez on their roster, right?  Next, catcher (designated hitter in both of Sunday's games) Ian Rice crushed balls for extra base hits in his first two at bats of the day (HR, 2B) and drove in four.  Finally, third baseman Jason Vosler had four hits on the day.  They were all singles, but he has displayed more power this season than he had previously.  He may be an emerging talent in the Cubs system.  On the pitching side, Duane Underwood was probably the most highly touted player I saw from Tennessee.  Interestingly, prior to the game I had read FanGraph's Eric Longenhagen's pre-season capsule on Underwood where it was suggested he might be better off in the bullpen.  After seeing him on Sunday, I agree with that assessment.  Underwood had a decent first three innings, but appeared to run out of gas in the fourth.  Maybe allowing him to pitch in shorter stints would prove beneficial to his career path.

Up Next

Monday, it is off to the Charlotte area to see a low A game in Kannopolis between the Intimidators and the Greenville Drive (Red Sox).  2016 second round pick Alec Hansen is the scheduled starter for Kannapolis.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dash Drop Wild One

Friday's Advanced Class A game between the Carolina Mudcats (Brewers) and Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox) at BB&T Ballpark in Winson-Salem, NC featured a little bit of everything:  home runs, lots of strikeouts, errors and ejections.  It wasn't exactly a well played game, but it was certainly one of the more entertaining games I've seen in a while.  In a see-saw battle, the Mudcats scored two run in the top of the tenth inning to notch an 8-6 victory in front of a surprisingly large and lively crowd in Winston-Salem.

Much like the game I saw the night before, this one started with a bang.  The Mudcats scored three in the top of the first on a three run home run by Lucas Erceg, who hammered a hanging breaking ball from Dane Dunning down the right field line.  In a bizarre turn of events, the next time Erceg came up to bat, Dunning threw a high hard one behind him and was immediately ejected by the home plate umpire.  It was unclear to me what the reason was for Dunning to throw at Erceg, but it certainly appeared to be intentional.  Dunning did not argue his ejection and walked straight off the field.  Dash manager Willie Harris would argue and get tossed as well.  So that's three ejections in two games on this trip.

Willie Harris departs after being ejected

The Dash would fight back.  In the bottom of the fifth, Dash star catcher Zack Collins hit an opposite field home run to left off Mudcats starter Freddy Peralta to give the Dash a 4-3 lead.  But that lead didn't last long.  In the next half inning, Carolina tied the game when Dash rightfielder Luis Silverio dropped a relatively routine flyball in the gap.  More craziness ensued in the bottom of the seventh when the Dash plated a run on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Luis Alexander Basabe, but a throwing error by the Mudcats catcher allowed the go-ahead run to score.  I happened to catch that play on video:

Again, a lead was lost in the next half inning as the Mudcats scored a pair in the eighth to go up 6-5.  Troy Stokes Jr.'s homer to deep left-center plated the first of those runs and another unearned run would score later on a throwing error by Dash pitcher Ryan Riga.  Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Brady Conlan hit a game tying home run, his third hit of the day, to send the game to extra innings.  But a pair of Mudcats runs in the top of the tenth proved the difference as the Dash dropped this one by a score of 8-6.

Box Score


Photo Album

Prior to Friday's game, the White Sox demoted a couple players from AA Birmingham to Winstson-Salem:  third baseman Trey Michalczewski and first baseman Keon Barnum.  Both were in the lineup for this game.  But that can't be a good sign for their overall development as prospects.  However, this game  did feature a lot of highly touted players for a Class A tilt.  Relative to the level, the Mudcats are probably the most talented minor league team I will see on this trip.  The Dash have a couple interesting prospects as well.  Here's my take on a few of them.

Dane Dunning

In April, many Sox fans were starting to think Dane Dunning may have been the crown jewel of the Adam Eaton trade with the Nationals, despite not being as highly regarded as Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez.  A first round pick by the Nats out of Florida just last year, Dunning absolutely dominated the low A level for Kannapolis in April.  Since being promoted to Winston-Salem a few weeks ago, his results have been less impressive.  Dunning was primarily a reliever at Florida because of their loaded pitching staff, but the Sox (and Nats, previously) seem to view him as a starter.  He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but is able to keep hitters off balance with sliders and changeups.  In this game, he got rouged up in the first inning, highlighted by the hanging slider that Erceg hit out of the park.  But he had retired six straight hitters before his ejection.  It would have been nice to see if he could have turned this into a productive start, but alas, he got the heave-ho in the third.  Not sure what to make of that incident.  For Dunning's sake, I would hope the high, hard pitch was as a result of something Erceg said or did, but I really don't know.  Throwing at hitters every time they hit a home run off him isn't going to get him to the big leagues.  Here is a good moment for him though, striking out elite prospect Corey Ray:

Luis Alexander Basabe

Prior to yesterday's signing of elite Cuban prospect Luis Robert, the one position where the Sox were severely lacking talent in their organization was in the outfield.  Basabe was one of the lesser pieces in the Chris Sale trade, but does give the Sox an intriguing possibility in center field.  Basabe is an elite runner with a good arm and some power potential.  But so far this year, he hasn't shown much with the bat.  That was the case in this game as well as he went 0-5 with a pair of strikeouts.  He didn't have any notable opportunities to show off his running or fielding abilities either, except for the bunt play linked above.  I'd like to see more from Basabe because the Sox clearly have a need for promising outfielders.

Zack Collins

Last, but not least among Dash players is Zack Collins, who had a very good night on Friday.  The White Sox selected Collins with the tenth overall pick in last June's draft.  Everybody knew Collins could hit as he was one of the best hitters in college baseball for Miami last year.  But there were many who didn't believe he possessed the chops to be a serviceable major league catcher.  So far, the reviews of his defense have been positive.  Maybe even more so than his hitting.  He has thrown out about half of the potential base stealers he's faced this season.  In this game, he threw out two of four, though I think the Dash had a questionable call go their way on one of them.  His release is quick and has a very good arm, from what I can tell.  I'm sure there are still things he can improve upon behind the plate, but I'm encouraged that he should be able to stick at that very important position.  Collins' offensive skills are apparent as well.  He has very good strike zone awareness, taking a ton of walks.  He reached base on a walk and a hit by pitch on Friday.  But the highlight was clearly his opposite field home run.  Granted, it wouldn't have been a home run in many (any?) major league parks, but it was still an impressive display of opposite field power.  I was able to catch that hit on video as well:

Mudcats (Brewers) Prospects

As I mentioned, this Mudcats team is very talented.  Their starting lineup featured two of's top 60 prospects in outfielder Corey Ray (#25) and Isan Diaz (#57).  Ray, from Chicago via Louisville, was the fifth player selected in last year's draft and appears to have a bright future ahead of him.  In terms of tools, he is Basabe with a much better bat.  He had a pair of singles in this game, but was thrown out trying to steal second in the ninth inning.  The Brewers have a ton of great young outfield prospects.  Ray is certainly one of them.  Diaz is a middle infielder (played short on Friday) with legit power.  He has seven home runs already this season.  He reached base three times in this game (single, two walks).  And then there is third baseman Lucas Erceg, who was in the middle of most of the action on Friday.  He crushed a homer off Dunning and displayed his great arm on several occasions.  He did commit a throwing error too though.  Less notable in terms of prospect rankings was Friday's starting pitcher Freddy Peralta.  I was impressed by his outing.  He did allow four runs in five innings, but two of those were unearned.  He struck out nine hitters with his nice assortment of fastball, sliders and changeups.  He's listed at 5'11", but that may be generous.  What he lacks in height, however, he makes up for in stuff.

Up Next

Saturday is big league day.  I will be attending the Nationals vs. Braves game at the brand new SunTrust Park in Atlanta.  After this game, I will once again be able to say I've been to a game at every active MLB stadium.  I won't be writing about that game/stadium until sometime after this trip though.  So the next post will come after a game I attend in Birmingham.  That is supposed to happen tomorrow, Sunday.  However, the weather forecast doesn't look promising.  So I may wind up going to Birmingham on Monday instead.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE:  Birmingham was rained out Saturday night, so they are now scheduled to play a pair of seven inning games today (Sunday).  Hopefully the rain will stay away.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Missed Opportunities Haunt Knights

The first stop on my trip to see all of the White Sox full season minor league affiliates was in Norfolk on Thursday evening for the lone road game of the trip for a Sox affiliate.  This was an AAA game between the Charlotte Knights (White Sox) and Norfolk Tides (Orioles) in front of a pretty small crowd at Harbor Park in Norfolk.  The Tides veteran lineup capitalized on opportunities far better than the young Knights on their way to a 4-3 victory.

The game got off to an excellent start for Charlotte.  Two batters into the game, they held a 2-0 lead as Adam Engel crushed a two run homer to left off Norfolk starter Jayson Aquino.  But after that, the Knights let Aquino and Tides relievers off the hook far too often.  The Knights stranded at least one runner in every inning of the game for a total of 13 men left on base.  They recorded a modest seven hits, but reached base via walks on eight occasions plus one hit batter.  Meanwhile, the Tides also missed their share of opportunities while scoring four runs on eights hits.  But it was a couple clutch hits by guys with significant big league experience that proved the difference.

Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, veteran slugger Pedro Alvarez, who now moonlights as an outfielder for the Tides, crushed a two out, two run double off Knights starter Lucas Giolito to tie the game.  Here is a video of that hit:

With the game tied at three in the bottom of the seventh, another former big leaguer produced the game winning hit for the Tides.  Johnny Giavotella capped off an impressive ten pitch at bat against fireballer Zack Burdi by singling through the hole on the left side to score Michael Bourn, giving the Tides a 4-3 lead which they would hold.  Former White Sox (and a whole bunch of other teams) pitcher Edwin Jackson recorded the final four outs to nail down the victory for the Tides.

Perhaps the most entertaining moment of the game came in the fourth when Tides manager Ron Johnson was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.  After getting his money's worth with the home plate umpire, he tossed his cap into the seats as he departed the field.  This was the second straight minor league game I've attended in which there has been an ejection.  A Charlotte player was tossed in a game I saw last summer in Indianapolis.  We'll see if that streak continues tonight.

Before I get to my thoughts on a few of the key prospects who participated in this game, I should mention one player who I did not get to see.  Yoan Mocada, the key piece of the Chris Sale trade with Boston and a consensus top prospect in all of baseball, was placed on Charlotte's 7 day disabled list earlier in the day.  That got my trip off to a disappointing start.  He has been playing with a nagging thumb injury, so they decided to give him a break.  Since the move was retroactive to Monday, it is possible I could see him play in Charlotte next Tuesday, but most likely I will have to wait until later this summer in Chicago to see him in person for the first time.

Fortunately, the Sox do have plenty of other prospects worth watching throughout their organization.  Here is my take on a few of the guys I saw on Thursday evening:

Lucas Giolito

The headliner of the Adam Eaton trade with Washington, Giolito has really struggled in his first month and a half in Charlotte.  In this game, he was mediocre at best, surrendering six hits, three walks and three earned runs in five innings.  That actually lowered his season ERA to 6.41.  The big problem on this night was contact management.  Of the six hits he allowed, five were rockets that went for extra bases.  Pedro Alvarez and Chance Sisco each recorded a pair of extra base hits against him (HR/2B for Alvarez, 2 2B for Sisco).  Most of the hits came off fastballs, which were registering in the low 90s on the stadium gun (I'm not going to read much into the velocity because I don't trust minor league guns).  Giolito didn't miss many bats.  He struck out four, but two of them came in the middle of the manager/umpire dust-up in the fourth.  He did finish his outing with a nice whiff of Robert Andino on a breaking ball, I believe.  Clearly, Giolito still has some work to do to regain his status as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.  I wouldn't expect to see him in Chicago anytime soon.

Zack Burdi

At this time last year, Burdi was finishing up the regular season as the closer for Louisville.  A supplemental first round pick last June, he is clearly on the fast track to the majors already having reached AAA.  He has saved five games for the Knights this season, but interestingly, they brought him into this game in the seventh inning of a tied game and had him pitch two innings.  He wound up getting tagged with the loss after giving up the hit to Giavotella I mentioned above.  Burdi throws heat.  He was registering in the 97-98 range in both of his innings and has routinely hit triple digits in other outings this year.  No balls were crushed against him in this game, but he wasn't able to throw it by many guys either.  Here is his lone strikeout facing Robert Andino to end the bottom of the seventh:

Despite a so-so outing on Thursday, I expect Burdi to reach the big leagues in short order.  I doubt the Sox will throw him into the fire as the main guy at the back of the bullpen anytime soon, but he clearly has the stuff to be their closer of the future.

Jacob May

The White Sox Opening Day centerfielder really struggled in his first month in the big leagues.  Back in AAA now, May has been very productive hitting to a tune of .339.  He was probably the Knights best offensive player in this game, despite only recording one hit.  That hit was a RBI single to left.  But he reached base safely in all five plate appearances, walking four times.  This was probably an anomaly as he's never had an especially high walk rate.  However, just seeing him get on base was refreshing considering how poor his stint with the Sox went.  He played left field in this game.  If he continues to hit, I'm sure the Sox will find room to give him another shot in their outfield.

Adam Engel

Engel lost the spring training battle to May for that CF spot in Chicago.  He then proceeded to have a brutal start to this season in Charlotte.  However, of late, he's been hitting the ball with authority.  His first inning home run was his sixth of the season, most coming in the past few weeks.  He needs just one more dinger to match his professional single season high water mark.  So the power is nice to see, but his biggest obstacle is his strikeout propensity.  He is currently whiffing in over 25% of his plate appearances, which is a problem for a guy known mostly for speed and defense.  In addition to the homer last night, he also struck out twice leaving runners in scoring position.  Having said that, the Sox obviously have a black hole in CF, so if Engel continues to show power upside and Charlie Tilson never gets healthy, he could get his shot sooner than later.

Nicky Delmonico

I have a feeling Delmonico will make his big league debut before this month ends.  After optioning Cody Asche earlier this week, the Sox are currently fielding a roster with an extra pitcher in the bullpen.  Once they decide to add another bat to the bench, I believe Delmonico is the most obvious choice.  This particular game wasn't a sign of that though.  He went 0 for 5, including three groundouts to second.  And his defense is a problem.  He made a couple nice stops in this game, but a bad throw on an attempted double play proved costly in the fifth inning.  He has committed an alarming 10 errors this season.  But bad defense seems to be part of the job description for third basemen who have come up through the White Sox organization in recent years.  He has also played a few games in the outfield this week, which leads me to believe the Sox see him as a utility left-handed hitter off the bench.

Chance Sisco (Norfolk)

I will end with one player from the opposing team.  The Orioles system lacks top end talent, making Sisco the consensus choice as the top prospect in their system.  The young catcher has had a modest season with Norfolk to date, but he was pretty impressive in this game.  Twice, he crushed Giolito fastballs for doubles into the gap, once to right-center and another to left-center.  Here is the latter of those two hits:

There have been some questions about his defense, particularly his throwing arm.  The Knights didn't do much running in this game though, so I can't really comment on that.  His bat looks very promising though.

Up Next

Today, Friday, I will be heading to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to see the Sox high A affiliate, Winston-Salem Dash host a talent-rich Carolina Mudcats (Brewers) squad.  The trip is off to an ominous start for the Sox organization as a whole.  On top of Moncada being placed on the DL, the organization went a combined 0-5 yesterday, including a walk-off loss for the White Sox in Seattle.  Hopefully today will be a better day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kevin's 7-7-7 Trip

Hey, 6 1/2 years since my last post!  I'm dusting off this blog and temporarily re-purposing it.  No, I didn't stop going to new MLB stadiums.  There are four additional parks I've attended that I have not yet documented here:  New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York, Minnesota's Target Field and Marlins Park in Miami.  Next week, I'll have another to add to that list:  SunTrust Park in Atlanta.  I'm not sure I will continue to follow the old format of thoroughly documenting my experiences at those stadiums since, in some cases, those visits were close to eight years ago.  But I will at least make sure I have a complete set of my photos, scorecards, programs and general info regarding the games I have attended in each MLB stadium.  But that will have to wait until later this summer.

Later this week, I am going on another baseball trip, but with a different twist.  While the primary purpose of the trip will be to go to a game at the Braves new park so I can once again say I've been to a game in every active MLB stadium, this trip will mostly consist of stops to see minor league games.  With the White Sox in the midst of a rebuilding process in which their minor league system is far more interesting to follow than the big league squad, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to go see all of the Sox full season minor league affiliates in person.  All are geographically centered around the Southeast part of the country, making it a pretty easy trip between each of them and Atlanta.

I decided I wanted to have somewhere to write about my thoughts on the Sox prospects who I will get to see up close on this trip.  So I'm going to use this space to write game recaps, share some photos and maybe even videos, and give my impressions of the prospects I see in each game.  Unlike the MLB stadium posts that precede this one, I'm not going to go into any sort of detail about the minor league parks.  I'm going to focus on the players, and to a lesser degree, the games.  While the Sox prospects will garner most of my attention, I may also pick a few of the top prospects on the opposing teams to write about as well.

I'm calling this the 7-7-7 trip because I am planning on attending seven baseball games in seven different cities over a span of seven days.  The trip itself will only include six games, but I'm also going to a Nats game on the day I return home, so I might as well count that too.  I won't be writing about that one though.

Here is the tentative schedule of games I plan on attending.  This could be altered later because of weather or a change in probable pitchers for the Sox affiliates.  I'm hoping to see as many of the Sox top starting pitching prospects as possible.

  • Thursday, May 18 - Charlotte Knights (White Sox) @ Norfolk Tides (Orioles) - AAA
  • Friday, May 19 - Carolina Mudcats (Brewers) @ Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox) - A+
  • Saturday, May 20 - Washington Nationals @ Atlanta Braves - MLB
  • Sunday, May 21 - Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) @ Birmingham Barons (White Sox) - AA
  • Monday, May 22 - Greenville Drive (Red Sox) @ Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) - A
  • Tuesday, May 23 - Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals) @ Charlotte Knights (White Sox) - AAA
  • Wednesday, May 24 - Seattle Mariners @ Washington Nationals - MLB

Check back here throughout the week as I will be posting something after each of the minor league games.  I'll save the Atlanta recap until I get caught up on the previously mentioned MLB stadium visits that have not yet been documented.

Hopefully the Sox will wait at least another week before they start calling up their top prospects to Chicago!