We've been visiting some of the White Sox minor league affiliates this season, to get an up-close, in-person view of some of the prospects in the system. On August 24th we stopped in Winston-Salem, where we interviewed several players and coaches, watched the game, took some video and lots of notes. If you happened to listen in on the pre-game show on Monday (8/26), you would have heard me being interviewed by Brian Boesch about our look at the club.
The interviews will be published in a seperate article - this is the game story, including videos of a number of Sox prospects. We hope this gives you a deeper look into how some of these players look, and what sort of tools and skills they bring to the table, as they make their way up the ladder towards the majors. So let's dive into the Winston-Salem Dash vs Myrtle Beach Pelicans game (which the Dash won on a Joey DeMichele walk-off grand slam)...
The starting pitcher for Winston-Salem on this day was right-hander Mike Recchia. The 24-year old Recchia, a native of Chicago's south suburbs who grew up as a White Sox fan, has never been drafted. He was an NDFA pickup by the Yankees , transited through the Baltimore organization, and then was signed by the White Sox while playing indy ball for Windy City of the Frontier League. But don't let the lack of draft pedigree fool you - it appears the Sox may have found a diamond in the rough. Let's take a look at a couple close-in videos of Recchia warming up, to give you a feel for his mechanics:
He's somewhere just north of 3/4 arm slot, has a bit of a head tuck in the wind-up, and stays fairly upright (though this is in warm-ups, and you'll see he gets a bit lower in game mode). One interesting thing he does - when he's in the full wind-up during the game, he's got an almost Ryan Dempster-like flutter he does with his glove (which he doesn't do when from the stretch):
Recchia has a fastball that ran 90-93 in this game, though he's been reported to hit 94. He had a very effective curveball working as well, which ran mid-70's with significant movement. He's got a slider at 83-85 he used a fair amount, but it wasn't as sharp as his curve (note: a scout had said previously his slider was the stronger pitch - but as with all pitchers, they don't always have all their best stuff on any give night). He threw an occasional change-up in the high 70's, and a couple pitches in the upper 80's that may have been cutters but I couldn't tell for sure.
His final line from that game: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. He had been nails through the 6th, but gave up a single, homer and double to open the 7th before he was relieved. His pitch count at that point was around 100. His repertoire, command and presence suggest he was a very solid find out of indy ball, and he's got the stuff to succeed at higher levels. Next year he'll be 25, and could repeat A+, but if he pitches well in the spring in Arizona, he could start in AA.
Recchia was relieved by JB (Jeffrey) Wendelken, one of the pitchers acquired in the Jake Peavy trade. Wendelken's fastball ran 91-93 with some apparent arm-side tail. He also threw a curve in the low 70's, and a pitch in the 80-84 range that I believe was a change-up. His arsenal was pretty effective, as he struck out 5 in two innings of work, giving up two hits and no walks. Here is a look at him throwing:
The third and final Dash pitcher was Joe Dvorsky, who has a fastball that was 88-89, and an offspeed pitch that ran anywhere from 70 to 82. There are probably two different pitches in there, but I was not able to determine for sure what they were, in his one inning of work. His final line was 1 IP. 2 H, 2 R (both unearned), 0 BB, 0 K. He was partially the victim of some errors. Here is a short video of him pitching:
Now let's look at a few hitters. The guy everyone is keying on right now in the Dash lineup is outfielder Courtney Hawkins. The 2012 1st round pick for the Sox had a huge draft year, going three levels as an 18 year old. But this year he has struggled quite a bit, striking out at an alarming rate. But it should be noted that his K rate has been dropping - he's got about the same number of K's post-all star break as he had pre-break, but in 50% more at bats. His power (of which he has a ton) has dropped off during that period, but he's obviously focusing more on contact now. See our interview article, to be posted soon, for his words on that.
When we analyzed his swing back in late April (at which point he was striking out well over half of his plate appearances), he had a lot going on - a double-toe-tap, lots of bat movement and a heavy load. Now, he is standing further up in the box, his stance is closed up a bit, and he's gotten rid of the toe tap. The removal of the noise should help him start his swing just a tad later and still be able to catch up to velocity, and standing further up in the box should mean he's not as far out front on breaking pitches. He struck out twice and grounded into a double play in this game, but he reached on an error in the second video below, and honestly this could easily have been scored a hit. Key to note: he was leaning out front a bit here, but still hit a breaking pitch solidly and up the middle. First video shows he's still got a wicked elbow dip on inside pitches, and the second shows that ROE:
Micah Johnson, who has shot up the prospect charts this year, was injured late in this game chasing a pop-up in short right field. He's day to day with a left shoulder injury as of this writing (he's also got a ticket to Arizona for the AFL, and may join Birmingham for their playoffs, if he's healed up). But he's got some real speed in his bat despite an easy-looking swing, so the indications are there that his hitting and power are for real. This wasn't his best game at the plate, but here is a video of him flying out to right on a breaking pitch he hit off the end of his bat...
Joey DeMichele has had an up and down year. He struggled in the first month, started going on a tear for a few weeks, then went into a deep funk around the same time he was moved to shortstop (probably not a coincidence). But in August he's been on fire, and it showed in this game, as he went 3-5 with 2 home runs, including that walk-off slam. Defensively at short, he's a work in progress, and has had his struggles. But in this game, he seemed pretty competent out there, and even made one pretty slick play up the middle. He is likely headed back to 2B next year, but spending some time learning short could help him in the long run. Here's a video of his first home run, showing a quick, short swing that sent this ball 393 feet:
We got video of one more hitter in the heart of the Dash order. 26 year old Chris Curley can play all over the infield, and was just named the Carolina League MVP, leading the league in numerous offensive categories. He may not make many top prospect lists, but he's been a huge key to the recent success of the Dash (who have won 8 straight as of this writing), and there's no doubt he can hit. Here's a video of him hitting a single up the middle...
Finally, I'll leave you with this picture I managed to get of the pile at home plate after DeMichele's game-winner...
A big Thank You goes out to Brian Boesch, Ryan Newman, and all the Dash players and staff who took the time to work with FutureSox on our visit.