With rookie ball in full stride, there were more names to pick from this month. On the hitting side we saw a few Dash have fantastic months and on the pitching side Addison Reed continued his complete domination of professional hitters.
Winston-Salem (16-12) and Kannapolis (16-11) led the way in July with winning records. The Dash are on a six-game winning streak, which has them atop the Carolina League's Southern Division at 20-15 in the second half. Charlotte (13-16), Great Falls (13-15) and Bristol (13-16) each had losing records to take them out of the playoff hunt. At least the rookie ball teams have the second half to recover. Birmingham clinched a playoff spot in the first half, which is a good thing because they went 10-18 in July. On to the players...
Hitter of the Month: Kevan Smith
Stats: .366/.477/.746, 24 RBI, 12 R, 7 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR with 12 BB and 10 K in 71 AB
Smith dominated the Appalachian League and recently was 'promoted' to Great Falls. I suspect the move was to clear at-bats at catcher in Bristol for recently signed high school draft pick Bryce Mosier. The competition in the Pioneer League isn't much tougher so it's probably only telling if Smith struggles. Either way, the seventh round pick out of Pitt is a good athlete that has shown the ability to hit and play catcher, immediately making him a good asset. The Sox have prioritized drafting catchers in the draft and Smith joins a deep, if no longer top heavy, group of catching prospects in the system. Hopefully we see more of this from him next year in Kannapolis.
Andy Wilkins: .323/.405/.586 with 15 BB and 23 K in 99 AB
Ian Gac: .305/.377/.590 with 11 BB and 26 K in 105 AB
Jared Mitchell: .298/.405/.529 with 17 BB and 43 K in 104 AB
Each of these Dash hitters have enjoyed hitting at BB&T Ballpark, showing extreme home and away splits, so take any showy power numbers with caution (as a side note Tyler Saladino has an .823 OPS home and away, which bodes well for a move to AA next year). Gac has been valuable to the Dash, but isn't a prospect. The other two both posted their best months to date by a wide margin. Wilkins showed a good walk rate and a solid strikeout rate, but his bat will have to carry him as a first baseman. Mitchell still is striking out way, way too much and was awful on the road in July (.146 with 4 doubles and 24 strikeouts in 48 at-bats), which kind of makes me wonder why I put him on here.
Pitcher of the Month: Addison Reed
Stats: 0.60 ERA, 27 K, 3 BB, 4 H in 15 IP
It's amazing he hasn't been pitcher of the month yet considering how little trouble he has had in the minors this year. In July, pitching mostly for the Barons but with two appearances for Charlotte, Reed struck out 27 out of the 51 batters he faced. That means on any given at-bat, Reed was a favorite to strike the batter out in July. The way the Sox have pushed him up the system, since joining Charlotte last week Reed has now pitched for all four full season affiliates this season, you have to think he will see some action in September. Reed could be a factor in whether or not the Sox decide to pick up Jason Frasor's $3.75 million option for 2012. With Jesse Crain, Sergio Santos and Reed, Frasor appears expendable. Of course, one could always be traded.
Blair Walters: 5-0, 28 IP, 1.61 ERA, 30 K, 2 BB, 21 H
Dylan Axelrod: 35 IP, 2.57 ERA, 28 K, 8 BB, 29 H
Ryan Kussmaul: 11.1 IP, 0.79 ERA, 22 K, 1 BB, 4 H
Walters, the 11th round pick of the Sox in June, has shown he is more advanced than his Pioneer League foes. He has a nice 2.83 ERA on the season, but also strong peripherals. He could be a diamond in the rough type find.
Axelrod didn't have the lowest July ERA on the Knights' rotation (Joe Bisenius and Matt Zaleski went under two), but he continues to do very well in the high minors. He's definitely worth giving a shot in spring training next year.
Kussmaul, 24, put up Reed like strikeouts numbers for the Dash this month. He's been great all year for them and it would be nice to see him pushed up the ladder considering his age.