The first week of minor league games is in the books now, and despite the very small sample size, we've already learned a lot. The stats don't tell much of a story yet - far too early for that. But the roster announcements, and then the first few games for each affiliate, do tell us a lot about some of the prospects in the White Sox system. Injuries, position changes, surprise level assignments, who is starting versus relieving... there are plenty of stories to tell.
The Sox AAA affiliate Charlotte Knights could practically field a team with the players on their DL. Some are truly hurting: pitcher Kyle Bellamy had TJ surgery and will be out for most or all of the season, his second long term DL trip in his minor league career. LHP Charlie Leesman is still recovering from his injury last fall, but is already throwing and hit 92 on the gun recently, and they are targeting a May 1st return for him. RHP Dan Remenowsky had his knee scoped for meniscus damage, so he's likely going to miss a few weeks at least.
But that is just the beginning. Also on the Charlotte DL: LHP Santos Rodriguez, RHP Trevor Reckling, C Damaso Espino, IF Lars Anderson, and OF Blake Tekotte. With all the reclamation projects and other offseason pickups at the AAA level, it seems pretty clear the DL is being used to deal with overcrowding as much as anything else.
Also injured around the system... OF Brady Shoemaker, who had originally seemed pegged for Birmingham, had surgery just this past week for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and is on the Winston-Salem DL along with RHP Andrew Brackman. RHP Scott Carroll had surgery during the offseason and will be out for some time, and utility man Luis Sierra is on the Birmingham DL too. The Sox' best 1B prospect, Keon Barnum, is recovering from minor wrist surgery, and is expected to get going again fairly soon. RHP Kyle Hansen is listed on the DL too, but is in extended ST.
Outfielder Courtney Hawkins, the concensus top prospect in the entire system, missed a couple games with a bruised quad but returned in a big way on April 10th with a 2 home run game.
WHO'S ON FIRST?
Top infield prospect Carlos Sanchez has been playing second base more often than not so far for Charlotte, after moving around between second, short and third during his career. His defense is considered plus at 2B, versus average (give or take) at SS, so it may be that this is his final move, but it isn't set in stone. The Sox will likely have a decision to make after 2013 (or sooner) on Ramirez or Beckham, so don't be surprised if Sanchez fits in some games at shortstop here and there.
Tyler Saladino, who has been a shortstop most of his way through the system, has been playing predominantly at 2B this season, with Marcus Semien handling shortstop duties. Semien and Saladino were both considered primarily shortstops coming in, so this may be a function of crowding more than anything. If either one reaches AAA this year, where he plays at the next level up (potentially alongside Sanchez) may say more about their future position than where they are playing now.
Rangel Ravelo was a third baseman up through last July, when he left Kannapolis for personal reasons and did not return that season. Now back in Kanny again, he's been playing first base. He'll need to add significantly more power and OBP to make his bat stick there, if this is a permanent move. It may be temporary though, as he gets his baseball legs back from missing time.
TO START OR NOT TO START
A number of pitchers in the system have switched roles, going from starting to relieving or the other way around. Some of the moves were more expected than others.
Winston-Salem's rotation is 60% converted relievers: Chris Bassitt has only started 10 times in 61 career games, Bryan Blough even fewer at 6 starts in 64 games, and Terance Marin had never started in 77 career minor league games prior to this season. When adding high-ceiling righty Chris Beck, who is skipping A ball, this will be a very interesting rotation of "experiments" to watch this season.
Going the other direction... Jacob Petricka has made the seemingly inevitable move from starting to Birmingham's bullpen. This should allow Petricka to focus on that plus fastball and perhaps just one secondary pitch, increasing his chances of success after struggling as a starter. Todd Kibby is in Kannapolis' bullpen this year after a solid year in Bristol's rotation in 2012; his combination of power arm, big frame and lefthandedness could allow him to move up the system faster as a specialist reliever than as a starter.
THE REST OF THE STORY
A few other news and notes items from the first week...
- The Birmingham Barons opened a brand new stadium, Regions Field, on April 10th. The previous ballpark was known as a very tough environment for hitters, but the new field has been designed to be more middle of the road, and it should be fun to see how the new park "plays". Their opening game was fully sold out, their first true sell out in decades.
- Jefferson Olacio was tall to begin with, and scouts had said he had room to build onto his frame... and apparently he has, as he is now listed at 270 pounds on that 6'7" frame. We'll see as the season goes on if the added size translates into arm strength and velocity. Olacio has already touched mid-90's before this season, and he's just turned 19 earlier this year.
- Mike Gellinger will be moving from assistant hitting coach with the big club, to being rookie affiliate Bristol's manager for 2013, replacing Bobby Magallanes. They start play in June.
Filed under: News and notes
Tags: andrew brackman, Birmingham Barons, Blake Tekotte, Brady Shoemaker, Bristol White Sox, Bryan Blough, Carlos Sanchez, Charlie Leesman, Charlotte Knights, Chris Bassitt, Chris Beck, courtney hawkins, Damaso Espino, Dan Remenowsky, Jacob Petricka, Jefferson Olacio, Kannapolis Intimidators, Keon Barnum, Kyle Bellamy, Lars Anderson, Luis Sierra, Marcus Semien, Rangel Ravelo, Santos Rodriguez, Scott Carroll, Terance Marin, Todd Kibby, trevor reckling, Tyler Saladino, Winston-Salem Dash