In this, the fourth and final part of the season preview series, I take a look at the Charlotte Knights to see if they can improve on their 67-76 record from last year.
The Charlotte Knights are the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox and they compete in the International League.
2009 in review: The Knights were the worst of
the White Sox' affiliates last year finishing with a very poor 67-76 record (.469
WPCT). Offensively, the Knights were a mid pack team in terms of OPS, but they
finished bottom three in runs scored. Josh Kroeger (17 HR, .742 OPS) and
Michael Restrovich (21 HR, .871 OPS) were two of the Knights' key offensive
contributors, and Restrovich actually led the team in AVG, OBP, HR, SLG and
RBI. The Knights' run prevention was also bad, as they finished bottom three in
ERA and WHIP, finishing with marks of 4.19 and 1.40 respectively. Carlos Torres
was the ace of the Knights' staff and he led the team in all the major pitching
categories. Torres was so good in fact that he was named MLB.com Triple-A Starting Pitcher of the Year,
as well as an International League mid-season and post-season All Star.
Hudson is one of the top
prospects in this organization and a true ace for the Charlotte Knights. Freddy
Garcia's form and health will dictate just how long Hudson stays in the Minors,
but while he's with Knights, he should be one of the International League's
Torres was a dominant starter
for the Knights last year and you can expect more of the same from him in 2010.
Torres and Hudson should provide a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the
Harrell showed flashes of what
he is capable of in 2009 with a 3.29 ERA through 11 Triple-A starts, although
his 42/37 SO/BB ratio was far from reassuring.
Marquez returning from injury
is a major question mark, but he has been an effective pitcher in the past. I'm
not expecting much from Marquez, not this year anyway.
Santeliz had a phenomenal 2009
season where he posted a 0.96 ERA. It's safe to assume he will regress slightly,
because nobody can sustain a sub-1.00 ERA, but his stuff is certainly good
enough to play at the Triple-A level and I expect him to be a key contributor
to the Knights' bullpen.
Threets and Greg Aquino are both proven Triple-A
relievers capable of shutting down teams in the late innings.
Whisler isn't much of a
prospect, but he is a dependable Triple-A arm. He has a 3.91 ERA over 308.2
innings (53 starts) with the Knights.
Flowers is one of the top catching
prospects in baseball and he figures to be the focal point of the Knights'
offense. His 'poor spring', is a point of concern for some, but honestly, 18
AB's of data is completely meaningless. He'll be just fine.
Viciedo's debut season in the
U.S. last year was a disappointment on the surface, but considering his age and
the cultural difficulties he faced, it actually wasn't that bad. Viciedo has
the tools to be a good player and the Sox system could really do with him
turning it on this year. The move to 1B only puts more pressure on the
development of his bat though.
Retherford opened eyes during
spring training showing the kind of grit and determination that this
organization clamours over. He has decent power from second base and should be a
very good player for the Knights, but he's probably no more than a utility
player at the Major League level.
Lillibridge has been a big
disappointment since coming over to the organization in the Javier Vazquez
trade. He was a top prospect in the past, but now he looks like an average
Triple-A player at best.
Danks, hopefully past the many
injuries that plagued him last year, should be one of the better producers
either at the top, or the middle, of the Knights' lineup. It's not just on the
offensive end that Danks provides value though, Buddy Bell recently had this to
say about him, "He might be the best defensive
centerfielder in the minors right now."
Stefan Gartrell had a slow start after his promotion to Charlotte last year, but he
heated up with an .850 OPS in September, look for him to carry this on into
De Aza brings good speed on
the bases with a career .876 Triple-A OPS. De Aza is a good defensive corner
outfielder, but just average in center, not that he'll be getting much time
there ahead of Jordan Danks.
After a sub-.500 season in 2009 I expect the
Knights to be a much better team in 2010. With a roster that features many of
the organizations top prospects, most notably Tyler Flower, Dan Hudson, Jordan
Danks and Dayan Viciedo, the Knights on paper have one of the strongest teams
in the International League. In Hudson and Carlos Torres, the Knights have two
aces, which should ensure that they are a strong pitching staff with a very
good rotation. The offense also figures to be strong with Danks and C.J.
Retherford setting the table for the power bats of Flowers, Stefan Gartrell and
I predict the Knights will finish with the best
record of all the White Sox affiliates. They should be one of the best
teams in the International League, and provided they don't lose too many
players to promotions, the International League crown should be within their