As part of Futuresox's planned visits to the White Sox minor league affiliates, I managed to steal myself an invitation to drive up I-81 and visit the White Sox's Rookie level affiliate, the Bristol VA White Sox, in the Appalachian League.
The Bristol Sox were hosting the Burlington Royals on this day, Monday the 26th, and they took home the win 6-4. Always nice to come in and catch a win.
Actually for this game it's hard to know where to begin, I grabbed so much content I filled up a memory card and a half on my camera. Wish I had a better one for you, honestly, this was a nice place to be taking videos.
Before we get to the players, let's touch a bit on the park. Here's a view of it:
At some level it's a standard minor-league park, nice and intimate place, but it's worth pointing out the dimensions of the place. You're looking at the OF wall here, it is a big wall. Probably 15-20 feet, something in that range. The wall in this park is going to keep anything hit on a line in the stadium.
The dimensions of the park are also quite big, especially for anyone hitting right handed. 330 down the left field line wasn't bad, but 385 in the left-center alley and 400 to straight away field with a 20 foot fence is going to make it really tough for anyone hitting right-handed to hit the ball out of the park.
Lefties are going to have an easier time of it, the ballpark is built into a valley that controls the dimensions, down the right field line it's 310 and 345 in the alley. We had 3 home runs in this game, all of them fairly high fly balls that cleared the fence in right field by a few feet. I don't think any of them leave the park if they were hit to left. That's one of those facts to stick in your pocket if you're looking at the stats for guys hitting right handed in Bristol; if a guy isn't hitting the ball out of the park, part of the reason might be the park.
Talking about the home runs brings me to the game's offensive hero, Jeffry Santos. He's in his first year in Bristol following 2 years in the Dominican Summer League. He went homerless in his 2 seasons in the DSL, but hit a 3 run home run to RF to give the Bristol Sox a 3 run lead. That was his first home run in professional baseball.
This isn't the home run, this is later in the game. He's a switch hitter and has turned around to hit right handed here.
He came into the game hitting well under .200 but had a real big day. 5 RBI total, including 2 on that swing which hit a single into center field. That swing won the game. He has a lot of movement at the plate, lot of moving parts, which made me wonder a bit if he might be a bit slow on some big fastballs for now, but either he can always improve his timing or simplify his swing with time if that does become an issue, and of course the rule always is that you shouldn't take too much from the stats at rookie ball because guys are just learning the routine and how to deal with pitchers.
Pitching today was another DSL alum, Kelvis Valerio. He's a little older, will turn 22 in September but this is his first stint in the US. Unfortunately there's no radar gun at the ballpark in Bristol for the crowd so I can't tell you exactly how hard he threw, but I'd guess high 80's and maybe into the 90's. He didn't blow people away completely with the fastball but he did strike a couple guys out by going upstairs with a high fastball. He also featured offspeed pitches and got swings and misses on guys out in front of them. Here's several videos of him.
And a couple stillframes:
Valerio's line on the day was 4 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 3 ER, 4 strikeouts, 2 HR. The HR were solidly struck; anything getting out of that ballpark has to be, but that's not really the story of his game. He mowed through the Royals hitters for 3 innings, really looked good. A couple moderate-distance fly balls but a lot of stuff on the ground. Nobody really made solid contact. He got in a bit of trouble in the 4th after an error that led to an unearned run; part on him for giving up the run but part not.
He got in a lot more trouble in the 6th inning, which is when the 2 HR happened. He didn't make it through the 6th, and you could really tell watching the game that he started laboring. He worked quite quickly through the first several innings but slowed down a lot in the 6th. I think the HR's in that inning were probably as much from him tiring out as anything else. I don't know how many innings he threw in the DSL last year, but this year he's probably been through a lot in extended spring training and he's also leading the Bristol Sox in innings, so it' likely been a long year for him.
I had several interviews with players and so I'll cover a few other guys on the team in the next article or two. Here, let's highlight a couple other players I didn't have the time to meet with.
The OF for Bristol really impressed on defense. Nolan Earley, brother of White Sox farmhand Michael Earley, played LF. Here he is at the plate:
Good approach at the plate for Earley, he'll work his way up next year and we'll see what he can do. He tied for the team lead in RBI with a solid sac fly in this game. Couple strikeouts but he was working deep in the count.
There at first base you see center fielder Thurman Hall. Couple strikeouts for him as well but again felt like he did a good job of working the count as well. Solid single in the first inning for him here, scored a run, covered a lot of ground out in a big center field, and had one standing-ovation worthy diving catch in the 4th inning, coming in towards 2nd base. Seriously covered some ground, wish I'd caught that on film.
Right fielder was Carl Thomore, picked up from the Rockies organization this year. Again the thing I noticed was that he covered a lot of ground in the OF. I liked what I saw from this team on defense. Good showing tonight.
Devin Moore came in with a guy on base in the 6th inning. Gave up a hit, but did a real good job of working his way out of trouble. Jhan Marinez, who I believe was once traded for Ozzie Guillen, pitched the 7th. Had video of him but lost that when a very large insect decided to land on my hand.
8th/9th went to Charlie Sharrer, 22 year old pitcher shown here:
He had a solid outing overall. Really breezed through the 9th inning with a couple strikeouts, IIRC his main out pitch was going upstairs with a high fastball, also was able to mix in a breaking pitch to keep guys off balance. Again can't tell you velocity although high 80's to 90 is a good guess again.
That's it for this article, since I'm already over a thousand words. If there's someone else you were hoping to hear about, tune in next time, I'll bring in more content from the guys I interviewed and talk about their games.
Finally, thanks to the media guys at Bristol, Jordan Childress and Lucas Hobbs, for hosting me at this game, chaperoning me around, setting up a few interviews, and letting me sneak onto the radio for an inning or so. Really appreciate the effort guys, thanks again!