Triple-A Trickledown: Charlotte
And now a word from one of our broadcast interns, Daniel Comisi:
This is my final installment of the Triple-A Trickledown for the regular season (I might do another should the Chiefs make the playoffs), and I have enjoyed doing my own little scouting report on the Chiefs’ upcoming opponents. It brought my love of stats and learning about player’s history to a face when I actually saw them play. I believe that it really helped me learn a lot about every team in the International League. Hopefully you’ve all learned something as well.
Catcher: Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Phegley
26 year-old Josh Phegley is the primary catcher in Charlotte, starting in 91 games, while 23 year-old Gonzalez has only started in 19. Both catchers were called up to Chicago last year; Phegley played in 65 and Gonzalez played in five. Phegley is in his fourth season at Charlotte and been fantastic this year for the Triple-A White Sox. This year he is batting .289 with 20 home runs and 27 doubles and seems to be a rising star in the organization. Gonzalez was promoted to Triple-A after batting .269 in 16 games with AA Birmingham. The White Sox’ current catcher, Tyler Flowers has been decent this year, batting .248 with eight home runs in 96 games. If Phegley keeps up his offense, he is on the 40-man roster and can easily get a call back to the bigs.
First Base: Andy Wilkins
25 year-old Wilkins is in his second year in Charlotte after batting .265 with seven home runs in 58 games. Wilkins has been fantastic this year in his first full season at Triple-A, batting .296 with a career-high 28 homers and 30 doubles in the middle of the Knight’s lineup. Unfortunately for Wilkins, his fantastic 2014 numbers won’t necessarily get him to the majors any time soon because Chicago’s top prospect, first baseman Jose Abreu, has 31 home runs and is batting .303 on the year. Adam Dunn is still the team’s designated hitter and continues to have a ridiculously low batting average of .217, but he has 17 homers on the year, so he’ll continue to get his at-bats. Wilkins is not on the 40-man roster and will most likely get more seasoning at Charlotte, barring an injury to Abreu or Dunn. My presumption for Wilkins in his future is that if the White Sox do not extend Dunn’s contract, which expires at the end of the 2014 season, he would get the opportunity to start next year as long as the White Sox have not signed anyone during the offseason.
Second Base: Micah Johnson
23 year-old Johnson is the #6 prospect for Chicago according to Baseball America and has batted well in his first season at Triple-A. He is batting .291 with 10 steals and only 33 strikeouts in 56 games. However, he only has 14 extra-base hits in 237 at-bats and seems to be a high-average/20-steals-a-season type of player.
Chicago has been looking for a good offensive second baseman for years as current second baseman Gordon Beckham has been known for his defense and not his offense, so Johnson provides some hope for White Sox fans. It’s unlikely to see him called up since he is only in his third professional year and has only played 56 games in the majors. But to play devil’s advocate, he on is the 40-man roster, and if White Sox GM Rick Hahn and the front office get sick of Beckham’s poor offense, Johnson could get the call. He is definitely putting Beckham on the hot seat with his good play.
Shortstop: Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien
Sanchez, a 22-year-old shortstop, was called up for one game with the White Sox, going 0-5 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on July 13th. He’s played by far the most games at shortstop for anyone with Charlotte. In his sixth professional season, third with Charlotte, Sanchez has batted .303 with a career-high six home runs (He either hit no home runs or one homer every year before 2014). 23 year-old Semien has played 64 games between last year and this year with Chicago, but was sent down after batting .218 with three homers in the 2014 campaign. It appears to be a platoon at short and both are on the 40-man roster, but since Sanchez is having the better year, he would most likely get called up if something happens to Alexei Ramirez.
Third Base: Matt Davidson
23 year-old Davidson was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Diamondbacks and was acquired by the White Sox in the Addison Reed trade during the offseason. Davidson played 31 games for Arizona last year, batting .237 with three homers and an OBP of .333. Unfortunately, he has been struggling this year, batting .201 with 138 strikeouts in 108 games, but he has 18 home runs, so he is an all-or-nothing hitter. Davidson is on the 40-man roster and the White Sox are desperate for a decent third baseman, but right now, Davidson does not appear to be the guy.
Outfield: Avisail Garcia, Michael Taylor, Jared Mitchell, Matt Tuiasosopo
23 year-old Garcia is currently rehabbing with Charlotte after tearing the labrum in his left shoulder in April with Chicago. Over the past three years with Detroit and Chicago, he is batting .287 with nine home runs and an OBP of .323. 28 year-old Taylor is in his first year with Charlotte but he has been in Triple-A for five years with Sacramento (Oakland’s farm system). Through 44 games, the PCL-to IL-transition has not hurt Taylor at all, batting .326 with five homers and 14 doubles. 25 year-old Mitchell is in his third year with Charlotte, but has been struggling so far. Through 59 games this year, he is batting .198 with six home runs and has a career Triple-A average of .199, so he doesn’t seem quite ready for Triple-A pitching. 28 year-old Tuiasosopo played 81 games with the Tigers last year, batting .244 and was with both Buffalo earlier in the year before being purchased by the White Sox on June 12th. Besides Garcia, who is rehabbing, only Jared Mitchell is on the 40-man roster, but he has been struggling so much at Charlotte that he likely won’t pack his bags for Chicago any time soon.
Starting Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Erik Johnson, Shawn Hill, Chris Beck, Charlie Leesmaan
If this team has such dominant hitting and big sluggers, how are they 55-68 on the year? Well, to put it bluntly, Charlotte’s pitching is bad. Real bad. Their team ERA is 4.94, which is 20 points higher than the second-highest ERA with the Louisville staff. A name you might know is Chien-Ming Wang. 34-year-old Wang pitched for the Yankees from 2005-2009, threw for the Nationals (and Chiefs) from 2011-2012, and pitched in six games for Toronto last year. He sports a career 4.37 ERA in the majors, and he’s a few years removed from the 2006 and 2007 seasons, where he won 19 games each year with New York.
24 year-old Johnson is the big name you may not know about. He is the #2 prospect in the White Sox organization according to Baseball America behind some guy name Jose Abreu (who probably just hit another a home run while you were reading this). He dominated the minors, with ERAs of 2.43, 2.30, 2.74, 1.96, 2.23, form 2011-2012 and a ridiculous 1.57 ERA last year, flying from A-ball to Double-AA in less than a year and made his major league debut last year. There, he posted a 3.25 ERA in five games in 2013 and spirits were high that he would emerge as a dominant pitcher at the front of their rotation. This year, however, Johnson has taken a big step backward. Johnson was in the rotation right out of training camp and in his first game he allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings against the Royals. After four more so-so games, he was optioned down to Triple-A for seasoning. Unfortunately, that has not worked out well for the young righty. With Charlotte this year, he has a 5-6 record with a 6.29 ERA and a ridiculously high walk to strikeout rate of 51-62.
23 year-old Chris Beck is a bright spot in the Charlotte rotation after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. After dominating Double-A with a 3.42 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, he was called up to Triple-A where he’s been solid. In four games, he owns a 3.57 ERA and actually has been doing the best of any of the starters since he came up. The final starter is 27-year-old Leesman. The lefty has been okay so far and even though his ERA is over 4.00, Charlotte plays in a hitter’s park so perhaps he can hang his hat on that accomplishment. He was called up on April 22nd to pitch against Detroit this year and got lit up; 2.2 innings, nine hits and six runs and was sent down immediately after the game. Even though the White Sox really need one of these guys to come up and replace Scott Carroll (4-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 19 games), nobody is really standing out to be called up to Chicago. However, Leesman and Johnson are on the 40-man roster so they might get the call up if a spot start is needed or someone goes down with an injury.
Relievers: Taylor Thompson, Donnie Veal, Ryan Kussmaul, Frank De Los Santos, Jarrett Casey, Andre Rienzo, Eric Surkamp
27 year-old Thompson leads the team in saves with six, followed by 27 year-old Kussmaul with five. Thompson leads the team in appearances with 33 and has a fantastic 2.47 ERA. He also has gone up for five appearances with the White Sox this year, and was doing well through his first three games. However, in his fourth and fifth games, he allowed five runs in two innings to spike his ERA well over 10.00. He was recently optioned down and the Knights hope that he can go back to his dominant self.
26 year-old De Los Santos is on the 40-man roster and is in his third season in Triple-A (first with Charlotte). He’s been OK in his 21 appearances this year, with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 33 innings of work. However, his 16 walks to 14 strikeouts shows he struggles with his control and will need more seasoning before being called up. Surkamp was sent down to Charlotte at the start of this series from Chicago after struggling in the majors. In 20 appearances, he allowed 10 runs in 12.2 innings (7.11 ERA) and walked seven batters. He’s been okay with the Knights, but he has been a starter for Charlotte in 11 of the 15 games, yet his experience in the majors is a reliever, so I put him here in the reliever section.