The Bristol White Sox have struggled for years to field a competitive team in the Appalachian League and this summer was no different. The BriSox appeared to have a shot at a decent season on the strength of a number of highly drafted players, but the team's youth was too much to overcome and they slumped to a league-worst 19-46 record.
High draft picks Courtney Hawkins, Keon Barnum, Joey DeMichele and Nick Basto were slotted to be key in Bristol's lineup, but the foursome rarely got on the field at the same time. Hawkins and DeMichele earned mid-season promotions, Barnum played just 13 games due to injuries and Basto struggled to adjust to pro ball.
On the pitching side notable Dominicans Jefferson Olacio and Euclides Leyer flashed their potential at times, but the Bristol defense committed 82 errors in 65 games. Leyer pitched well enough (45 K to 10 BB) to earn a promotion to Kannapolis and is worth following in 2013. Olacio managed 55 strikeouts in 59 innings, but continued to show control problems with 38 walks. Still just 18 though, he remains a valuable prospect in the system.
Eric Grabe was a rare bright spot, being named the team's MVP and earning a spot on the league's postseason all-star team. The 23-year-old came from DII Tampa after two years of JuCo ball and had the performance record to expect good results. Still, it's nice to see someone show well from this team. The only other regular to post an OPS above .700 was Kale Kiser (.830).
Todd Kibby was Bristol's pitching ace, posting a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts. He posted strong peripherals (69 K to 21 BB in 71 IP) and only turns 21 on Friday so he might be worth following. The problem was that most of the rest of the staff struggled.
Overall, there isn't a lot to get excited about from Bristol. Most of the interesting prospects earned promotions away from the club and only a few remain. Some of the younger players like Basto, Sammy Ayala and Jose Barraza could turn it around next year, but for now Sox fans must play the waiting game with them.