As the 2011 Minor League season kicks off,
it's time we take a quick look at each of the White Sox' minor league
affiliates, starting today with the Charlotte Knights.
The Charlotte Knights are the Triple-A
affiliate of the Chicago White Sox and they compete in the International
in review: Last year the Charlotte Knights extended
their streak of sub-.500 seasons to four after finishing with a 67-77 record
(.465 WPCT), one loss worse than last years 67-76 record. Offensively, the
Knights ranked 8th (out of 14 teams) in OPS in the International
League, and 9th in runs scored. Luis Rodriguez (.293/.364/.493) and
Brent Morel (.320/.348/.503) were key offensive contributors, while Dayan
Viciedo and Stefan Gartrell both hit 20 or more homers. Along with struggling
to put runs on the board, the Knights also had problems preventing other teams
from scoring, finishing 12th in team ERA, WHIP and SO. Carlos Torres
was the ace of the Knights' staff for a second straight year and he once again led
the team in all the major pitching categories. Dan Hudson chipped in with a
3.47 ERA in his 93.1 innings of work before being traded to Arizona and Ryan
Braun led the team in saves, with 18.
Harrell didn't pitch particularly well in 2010, but
his 4.58 ERA, 84 SO/61 BB ratio was good enough for the Sox to give him a crack
at the Majors, where he walked 17 batters in 24 innings and posted a 4.88 ERA.
With the lack of Major League ready pitchers in the Sox system, Harrell could
be in line to see more big league action in 2011.
Marquez managed to stay healthy with the Knights
last year, that was the positive of his 2010 season, but his performance was
not quite so pleasing. He ended the year with a rather unimpressive 89 SO/49 BB
ratio in 144.2 IP. A strong spring has raised expectations for Marquez here in
2011 and given his pedigree as a former 1st round pick, it's not
completely inconceivable that he could have a good season.
Hynick is yet another uninspiring, low strikeout
arm on the Knights' staff. He'll be relied on to provide 100+ innings at this
level, but don't expect anything special out of him.
Carter made a very encouraging switch to the
bullpen in 2010 where he saved 22 games for the Barons, and he saw his
strikeouts, and velocity, spike in the process. He should prove to be a very
valuable arm for the Knights out of the back of the bullpen and we could see
him in Chicago later this year.
Nunez had a dazzling 2009 season and many people
(myself included), were expecting him to establish himself as a solid Major
League reliever in 2010, but it didn't happen. Nunez split his time between
starting and relieving in 2010, and his results were mixed. He does still have
a live arm, though, and could bounce back this season.
Flowers Suffered a miserable 2010 season with the
Knights, finishing the year with a .220/.334/.434 line and 121 SO in 346 AB.
The power and the walks are still there, which is the positive note, but the
strikeout caught up to Flowers and he'll need to make more consistent contact
Viciedo experienced a big power spike in his second
season as a member of the Sox organization last year, with his slugging
percentage rising over .100 points. He also impressed in his 104 Major League
at-bats last year where he posted a .308/.321/.519 line. Viciedo makes good
contact, which should allow him to be a hit for a solid average, along with his
above average to plus power, but he does need to become more selective at the
plate as his walk rate is very poor.
Escobar picked up steam in prospect circuits thanks
to his dazzling defense at SS and an explosive AFL performance in 2010, but it
may have led to some overrating him, and placing unreasonable expectations on
him for 2011. If he can continue the power surge that he showed in the 2010 AFL
season, then he will emerge as a legit top prospect in baseball, but if you
remove those isolated AFL AB's, then all Escobar has ever shown from an
offensive standpoint is minimal power, minimal walks and only an average at
best contact rate. It's going to be very interesting to watch Escobar in 2011,
will Triple-A prove to be a step too far for him at this point in his career,
or will he take that next step as a prospect?
Danks, like Tyler Flowers, took a big step back in
2010. Strikeouts ate Danks up in Triple-A and he couldn't improve his power or
walk rate. He still has his athleticism and is a good defensive outfielder, but
it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to find anything to get excited
about with Danks. Unless he makes drastic changes to his approach at the plate,
I wouldn't expect a miraculous bounce back season for Danks in '11.