Last week, the Birmingham Barons made one of their yearly trips to East Tennessee to play the Tennessee Smokies (AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) and since that ballpark is well within my driving distance, I made my yearly trip to catch a couple of games on May 6 (a 4-1 loss) and May 7 (a 12-1 loss). I'll give some of my impressions about the talent and performance of the key guys on the White Sox AA ballclub this year.
For this post, let's focus on the position players. First on the list is the leadoff hitter, Micah Johnson. Micah has been having a dynamite year and already has people talking about pushing him up to AAA. Micah didn't have the best couple days numbers-wise, going 1-9 in the 2 games I witnessed, but I came away impressed with his approach at the plate. Here's the first at-bat I saw of his:
This was a long at-bat. Micah fell behind early, but fouled off a few pitches and worked back to a more reasonable count. He grounded out to the left side, but I really liked his approach, particularly from the perspective of leading off. He saw a bunch of pitches, worked the count, put the ball in play, hit it solidly, and worked the full field. He didn't get results on this day but in general everything he did could be spun positively. In later at bats I did see him be more aggressive, including putting the ball in play on the first pitch I saw, but I definitely got the impression he went up there with a plan at the plate.
There's more video at the FutureSox YouTube page, but here's one more of Micah for this post:
Next guy on the list: Rangel Ravelo, who I hadn't seen before (and I learned it's pronounced Ron-Hell Ravelo). If you want to sum up Ravelo's performance, it's this at bat right here.
That was a 5-minute at bat. Ravelo almost single-handedly knocked the Smokies starter out after 5 innings in the first game I saw. He literally saw 30+ pitches in 4 plate appearances. He had a full count in three of the at bats, and in the 4th made contact on a 2-2 count after a few foul balls. The pitcher simply couldn't get him out. He struck out a couple times, but it took literally forever to make that happen. It really was one of the best 0-for-7 series of at-bats I can imagine. Again I didn't get to see much in the way of power from him, but was really impressed with the way he worked over the pitchers. Here's a couple more looks at him:
Next on the list, Trayce Thompson. Trayce is in his second year with Birmingham so I've seen him several times now. He strikes out in this clip, but has been performing better this year.
I've seen Trayce hit the ball out of the ballpark before, but all I got in these games was a double to LF and a couple strikeouts. Wasn't the best game for many of the Smokies, but Trayce did do a real solid job covering ground in CF. Had one really good catch closing in on the CF wall and covered some serious ground on others. Hopefully he catches fire with the bat again soon because he can really handle CF well.
Finally out of the position players, let's cover the two catchers. Miguel Gonzalez caught one game, here he is.
I feel Miguel was more aggressive at the plate than the other guys, you see him popping a pitch up there. Later in the game he did have a solid single to right field that helped the Barons build a threat against the Smokies bullpen, but nothing else really worth noting. However, he did absolutely nail a tough base stealer, Rubi Silva, trying to take 2nd base with a perfect throw. Only got to see it once, but that throw was darn impressive.
Second game we got Kevan Smith catching and he did about the only damage the entire Barons lineup did that day with this home run.
Clearly solid plate work there and good power in that at bat. The downside I saw for him was the throwing part; a couple different base stealers attempted against him and each time the ball wound up in center field.
That probably sums the catchers up pretty well; one really solid defense, one doing damage offensively, each one needs to strengthen the other side of their game to really push the big leagues.
Coming up next volume: The pitching performances.