As the big league ballclub heated up, it seems so did the minor league teams and some of the organization's top prospects. Only one White Sox affiliate (Great Falls) posted a losing record in July while Birmingham (20-8), Winston-Salem (19-11), Kannapolis (16-12) and the Arizona White Sox (14-9) had winning marks. The Barons won 13 of 14 to start July and Winston-Salem closed July on a 6-game winning streak.
In addition, some prospects heated up as well. The hottest during July were selected for our best hitter and pitcher awards.
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Micah Johnson, 2B, Charlotte (AAA)
.378/.427/.613 (1.040 OPS), 8 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 11 BB, 23 K, 11-14 SB in 125 PA (27 games)
Before this gets too gushy, the downer is that Micah just went on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. His last game was July 29. Hopefully he can get back soon because he was on fire before he went down. Much was made of Johnson's defensive issues at second base, but at least his bat is proving to be valuable. He arguably held his own offensively when in the Majors earlier this year and after an average start to his stint in Charlotte, Johnson has turned it up. Look for him to get a look in September when the Knights' season comes to an end (although a playoff run could delay that).
Zach Fish, OF/C (Great Falls): .321/.383/.714 (1.097 OPS), 9 2B, 8 HR, 8 BB, 17 K in 94 PA (22 games)
Rob Brantly, C (Birmingham): .426/.446/.630 (1.076 OPS), 5 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 5 K in 56 PA (14 games)
Jake Fincher, OF (Arizona): .373/.462/.552 (1.014 OPS), 4 2B, 4 3B, 8 BB, 12 K, 6-11 SB in 79 PA (20 games)
Eddy Alvarez, SS (Kannapolis/Winston-Salem): .322/.446/.456 (.902 OPS), 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 21 BB, 14 K, 12-14 SB in 113 PA (26 games)
Two catchers highlight this group, Fish and Brantly. Brantly is on the 40-man roster and it's always nice to have extra catching depth. Fish, the 11th round draft pick of the White Sox out of Oklahoma State last year, is 22 and in rookie ball so he's not a big prospect, but he should get another crack at full season ball (he began the year with Kannapolis) if he keeps hitting like this.
Alvarez is the best prospect of this group and despite his age (25), he remains a prospect because he has performed so well since joining the organization last year. His ability to walk, hit for contact and steal bases while playing a premium defensive position makes him a rare player. He earned a promotion to Winston-Salem a couple weeks ago and hasn't missed a step yet. Due to his age and continued performance he could be a player the Sox start moving more aggressively through the system.
Fincher, this year's 27th round draft pick out of North Carolina State, is ripping the ball in the Arizona League.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Frank Montas, RHP, Birmingham (AA)
23 IP, 1.96 ERA, 28 K, 5 BB, 18 H, 0.75 GB/FB, (5 starts)
Montas was the subject of potential trade rumors as the White Sox got hot as the trade deadline approached. However, the Sox held on to Montas and his recent play showed why they didn't want to give him up. His strikeout numbers in AA have dropped (8.3 K/9 vs. a 9.1 career mark), but his control has remained strong (3.2 BB/9 vs. 3.7 career). Montas has become one of the best pitching prospects in the system, and while his long-term destination (reliever vs. starter) remains up in the air, he is clearly a valuable arm in the near future for the White Sox.
Nelson Acosta (DSL): 27.1 IP, 1.98 ERA, 26 K, 10 BB, 21 H in 6 starts
Matt Cooper (Kannapolis): 12.1 IP, 1.46 ERA, 23 K, 2 BB, 6 H in 9 relief appearances
Tanner Banks (Great Falls): 30.1 IP, 0.89 ERA, 11 K, 1 BB, 24 H in 6 starts
Spencer Adams (Kannapolis/Winston-Salem): 23.1 IP, 1.54 ERA, 17 K, 1 BB, 27 H in 4 starts
This is an interesting mix of unbelievable strikeout numbers and unbelievable walk numbers. Banks (18th rounder out of Utah last year) and Adams each walked just one batter in a full workload of starts in July. This is nothing new for Adams, who walked just four in 41.2 IP in the Arizona League last year. Banks is 23 and not much of a prospect right now.
On the other side Cooper was absolutely filthy out of the bullpen for Kannapolis. He struck out half of the 46 batters he faced in July and walked just two. The 23-year-old put up strong numbers in Great Falls last year (47 K, 10 BB, 3.18 ERA in 34 IP) after getting drafted in the 16th round. Now he's improving upon that in Kannapolis (52 K, 8 BB, 1.80 ERA in 35 IP) and is probably worth some prospect attention at this point.
Acosta is a bit off the radar because he hasn't come stateside yet, but the 17-year-old is having a nice season in the DSL (36 K, 18 BB, 4.26 ERA in 38 IP).
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