After each month of the minor league season, we name one position player and one pitcher as players of the month on the White Sox farm. There were quite a few hitters who had a strong July, but one was clearly above the rest. On the pitching side the call was tougher. Let's take a look at who we chose, and who the few closest runners up were for each category.
Note: Stats presented are for July only unless otherwise noted...
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Andy Wilkins, 1B, Charlotte Knights (AAA)
Stats: .431/.452/.872, 10 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 5:18 BB:K in 115 PA
Those numbers aren't typos, or some sort of small sample size illusion. Andy Wilkins posted a 1.324 OPS for the full month of July, including 12 home runs and 10 doubles, earning the International League Player of the Month award, two consecutive IL Player of the Week awards, and our July Prospect of the Month award. Wilkins has had an up and down career on his way through the system, and started rough in AAA this season (.183/.227/.390 in April). But he improved each month, and his July was the best offensive performance of any White Sox prospect in any month this year. On the season, Wilkins leads the IL with 26 home runs, and has a .287/.322/.562 slash line. The 25 year old will almost certainly get a September call-up when rosters expand, and he might have even put himself back in the picture to play a role on the 2015 White Sox.
Josh Phegley (AAA): .354/.377/.626, 5 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 3:14 BB:K in 106 PA
Jared Mitchell (AA): .315/.374/.613, 3 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 3/7 SB/ATT, 9:26 BB:K in 123 PA
Jake Peter (Rk): .330/.378/.550, 9 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 7:10 BB:K in 111 PA
Mason Robbins (Rk): .341/.370/.614, 5 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 4:12 BB:K in 92 PA
Zach Fisher (Rk): .390/.446/.610, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 9:14 BB:K in 92 PA
Jose Barraza (Rk): .375/.438/.531, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8:27 BB:K in 73 PA
Not to be out-done by his Knights teammate, catcher Josh Phegley had a very strong July at the plate, posting a 1.003 OPS and making solid contact (13.2% K/PA). The walks are still missing in action, but Josh will likely get a September call-up to Chicago. Jared Mitchell flopped in his 3rd attempt at AAA this year, but since returning to AA Birmingham he's suddenly hitting with authority. There's a clue in his peripherals as to perhaps why: he's walking AND striking out less, likely the result of being more aggressive at the plate. Time will tell if this is a real turnaround or a blip, but Jared is still only 25 years old.
With the rookie league teams having a full month under their belts, we've got four players from out west on our list. Let's start with the two 2014 draft picks. 21 year old Jake Peter was seen by many at draft time more intriguing as a pitcher than a hitter. And yet here is this 7th round pick, among the top 5 in the Pioneer League in AVG, OBP and triples, while showing excellent plate discipline (oh and the above stats don't include his 6-hit day on August 1st). His Voyagers teammate, outfielder Mason Robbins, was a much lower round pick (25th) but you wouldn't know it from his performance in July.
Then there are two catchers, both drafted in 2012, that had big months. Zach Fisher hit close to .400 in July with a 1.055 OPS, but it's a bit of a mystery why this 22 year old was assigned to Great Falls for a third year straight season (he was just promoted to Kannapolis today). Jose Barraza is also repeating rookie ball, but he missed all of 2013 due to surgery and recovery and is still in his age 19/20 season. Apparently he's adjusting well to the level now, as he's posted not only a strong July but a very nice season overall thus far.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Ben Brewster, LHP, Kannapolis (A)
Stats: 1.88 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .146 BAA, 2.67 GO/AO, 5 BB, 14 K in 14.1 IP (7 games, all in relief)
Rarely does a reliever grab this award, and it hadn't happened yet this year. But when a new draftee is this dominant, and gets promoted twice in roughly a month, we take notice. Ben Brewster brought his unusual, long-extension delivery to AZL to begin the season, but was promoted to Kannapolis after just a couple appearances. After dominating there, he was promoted to High A Winston-Salem at the end of July. This 22 year old 15th round pick our of Maryland induces a lot of ground balls and is particularly tough on LHB, allowing a scant .360 OPS against him.
Nestor Molina (AA): 1.29 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, .174 BAA, 4.40 GO/AO, 1 BB, 12 K in 14 IP (10 games, all in relief)
Kyle Hansen (A+): 0.00 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .163 BAA, 5 BB, 14 K in 12.1 IP (7 games, all in relief)
Tyler Danish (A+): 1.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .261 BAA, 2.21 GO/AO, 9 BB, 27 K in 32.2 IP (6 starts)
James Dykstra (A, A+): 2.31 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .248 BAA, 2.00 GO/AO, 3 BB, 34 K in 35 IP (5 starts)
Brad Salgado (A): 1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .217 BAA, 1 BB, 14 K in 16 IP (7 games, all in relief)
Despite the uniqueness of a reliever winning this award, there were two more guys from the bullpen that were probably the next two in line (and one could argue them to have won as well). Nestor Molina is still alive and well in the Sox system, has improved each month this season and was outright dominant in July (0.64 WHIP is very impressive, as are the massive ground ball rate and just 1 walk in 14 innings). He's 25 and in his 4th season of AA, but it's worth noting his improvement over time. Speaking of AA, Kyle Hansen was just promoted there at the end of the month, and he was dominant in July out of the bullpen as well. The 6'8" righty has a mid-90's FB (reaches 96) with some sink and a slider that flashes plus, and he apparently put it together in July.
There are two starters on our Honorable Mentions (or "just missed" list), both of whom have won this award earlier this year. Tyler Danish struggled a bit on reaching A+, but he's got it dialed in now and scouts are raving about the crazy movement on his pitches. Danish won our Pitcher of the Month award in April and made a strong case to win it again in July. James Dykstra was promoted to A+ during July, and his affinity for both ground balls and a very nice K:BB ratio (higher than 10:1 in July) played at both levels. James won this award in June.
One last pitcher to mention is Bradley Salgado, a converted infielder in his 2nd year of pitching. Hoping to be the next Sergio Santos, the 23 year old Salgado has shown excellent control (3 BB in 26 IP on the season) and is missing bats. His fastball is a low 90's offering and his pitches do have some nice movement. As with any converting player he has a tough road ahead, but he's not as far behind the age curve as some others in his position and he's not had any big struggles yet.