Another year, another last place finish for the Bristol White Sox.
The BriSox are the unfortunate product of the youngest minor leaguers the White Sox have. Whether it be high schoolers, foreigners playing in the U.S. for the first time or raw college players, the BriSox are the proving grounds for the least experienced players in the system
This year was no exception. Bristol went 20-45 in a season that featured the usual handful of rain outs the Appalachian League is known for. It was a one game improvement over 2012, but was still the worst record in the league.
The disappointing record is no surprise. Not counting the rehab assignments (I count six of them), the average age of the roster was just under 21. For comparison, the other rookie affiliate of the White Sox, Great Falls, has an average age just over 22. That's over a year difference for more or less the same level (more organizations use Great Falls' Pioneer League as a higher rookie league than the Appy, but it's still close).
As for the individual players, the most intriguing prospects at the start of the season were the four top 10 draft picks. Tyler Danish headlined the group as a second round pick.
Danish lived up to that, albeit in limited innings. In 26 innings, all out of the bullpen, he had a 1.38 ERA 22 strikeouts against just five walks and 15 hits. He earned a promotion to Kannapolis just over a week ago and is on track for a solid first year as a starter in 2014.
Fifth rounder Thaddius Lowry wasn't as successful, but it's hard to get down on a high school pitcher. Lowry posted a 5.48 ERA with 30 K and 22 BB in 44.1 IP.
Eighth rounder Chris Freudenberg showed some good stuff despite an ERA of 5.40. The 20-year-old had 27 K to just 10 BB in 28.1 IP while getting lots of groundballs. As a lefty, this is a good pro debut. He will be worth watching next season to see if he can get the ERA to drop.
Other pitchers that did well were Andre Wheeler (2.03 ERA, 20 K, 4 BB in 13.1 IP), Tony Bucciferro (who is currently pitching well in Kannapolis) and Kelvis Valerio (3.88 ERA, 50 K, 18 BB in 62.2 IP).
On the hitting side seventh rounder Trey Michalczewski showed both his potential and how raw he is. He hit just .236 and committed 10 errors at third base (a position he doesn't have a lot of experience at after primarily playing shortstop in high school). However, he walked 23 times in 222 plate appearances, a great sign for a young hitter. He only had 10 extra base hits and struck out 56 times, but neither number is alarming yet.
Only two hitters on Bristol posted an OPS above .700: Nolan Earley (22) and Toby Thomas (19). Both were 2013 draft picks, but Thomas is more interesting because of his age. The 21st round pick hit .319/.329/.462 in 216 PA. He only walked four times so that's a red flag, but he showed the ability to hit for average with decent power. Earley, picked one round after Thomas, is the brother of current AAA Charlotte outfielder Michael Earley. He posted an .833 OPS, showing sometimes it's just in the blood.
Despite the record there are several prospects on this team worth following next year. As with all younger players, it's just a waiting game.