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. Generally, players have to see full-time innings or plate appearances (60 PA or 12 IP for the 1+ months here), and still be a prospect (not reached MLB rookie status) to qualify. All six state-side affiliates finished their seasons by mid-September, so we combined August with the limited September results to end the year.
As always there were tough choices for our monthly awards, and there were a number of prospects who finished the season strong. The rookie affiliates showed particularly well among the hitters, while A+ Winston-Salem nearly swept the candidates on the pitching side. Let's see who was strongest...
Note: Stats presented are for August and September only unless otherwise noted...
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Corey Zangari, 1B, AZL White Sox and Great Falls Voyagers (Rk)
Stats: .376/.429/.545 (.973 OPS), 8 2B, 3 HR, 9:21 BB:K, 1/1 SB/ATT in 113 PA (28 games)
Corey Zangari looked like an exciting choice from the draft, taken in the 6th round but signed for 3rd/4th round money, and he didn't disappoint in his pro debut. After struggling a bit in his first month of play (.240/.247/.427, 27.3% K/PA in first 17 games) with the AZL club, he adjusted quickly and finished with a flourish as noted in his stats above. After helping lead the AZL team to their league championship, he was "promoted" to Great Falls for his final six games of the season (the Pioneer is technically another rookie league, but the Sox treat it as the more advanced of the two).
Zangari has a ton of natural power. But the most encouraging aspect of his pro debut was turning around a contact and plate discipline problem (27.3% K rate, 1.3% BB rate in this initial 17 G) pretty dramatically (18.6% and 8.0% in Aug/Sep), while still hitting the ball with authority. Even though he'll still be 18 in April, there's a good chance Zangari makes the jump to full season ball to begin 2016.
Seby Zavala, C (Rk): .291/.365/.636 (1.001 OPS), 4 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 1:11 BB:K in 63 PA (15 games)
Tim Anderson, SS (AA): .336/.397/.496 (.893 OPS), 5 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 8:27 BB:K, 12/14 SB/ATT in 131 PA (30 games)
Bradley Strong, 2B (Rk): .369/.417/.492 (.909 OPS), 8 2B, 6:6 BB:K, 6/7 SB/ATT in 73 PA (18 games)
Johan Cruz, 3B (Rk): .315/.346/.484 (.830 OPS), 6 2B, 5 HR, 6:30 BB:K in 131 PA (30 games)
The other half of the "Killer Z's", catcher Seby Zavala showed big power while playing a position of extreme need in the White Sox organization. The 12th rounder saw more than half his hits on the short season go for extra bases, and reports indicate he has a strong arm from behind the plate as well. Zavala's teammate, second baseman Bradley Strong, didn't show much power but he got on base at a big clip (.417 OBP), made efficient use of his speed (6 SB in 7 ATT) and showed very strong bat-to-ball skills (8.2% K/PA). He's on the older side for AZL ball (turned 23 during the season), so look for the club to challenge the 28th rounder next year.
Number 2 White Sox prospect Tim Anderson finished a very successful season in Birmingham with a flourish, showing off his hit tool (.336 AVG), speed (12 SB) and even a little power. Add this to the positive reports on his defensive progress, and there's no way to look at this year as anything but a huge win for a player that started AA at age 21 and with substantially more raw baseball skills than his cohorts. Another player on the younger side, Johan Cruz has broken out in 2015 hitting for average and power to be one of the bright spots in the Voyagers' lineup. He played mostly third base (with a few games at short sprinkled in) after being a shortstop exclusively last year, but it appears his bat will play either way.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Brian Clark, LHP, Winston-Salem (A+): 0.41 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .184 BAA, 1.41 GB/FB, 6 BB, 21 K in 22 IP (4 games, all tandem starts)
The choice was much tougher on the pitching side, but there was no denying the emergence and dominance shown by lefty Brian Clark. The lefty technically didn't book any starts, but in reality he was in a tandem arrangement with Carson Fulmer (who we will discuss below) logging starting innings. He was effective by virtually every statistical measure, and he also finished the full season without allowing a single home run (in 89 total innings). His success was a significant part of the Dash's dominant second half.
Clark brings a fastball that touches the mid-90s, a slider and change that both show major league caliber. He works fast and has excellent command. Given the team ramped him up to starting innings as the season went on, there's a good chance he has his own rotation slot next year.
Carson Fulmer (A+): 1.00 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .177 BAA, 0.87 GB/FB, 8 BB, 19 K in 18 IP (6 starts, shortened/tandem)
Zack Erwin (Rk, A): 1.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .208 BAA, 1.00 GB/FB, 4 BB, 18 K in 22 IP (8 games, 4 starts)
Jordan Guerrero (A+): 1.72 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .211 BAA, 0.77 GB:FB, 6 BB, 35 K in 36.2 IP (6 starts)
Spencer Adams (A, A+): 2.40 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .247 BAA, 0.83 GB/FB, 7 BB, 37 K in 41.1 IP (7 starts)
The top prospect in the White Sox system, Carson Fulmer could just as easily have won this award. The 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Fulmer showed stuff that ranged from good to filthy, and other than some occasional control issues, appeared to have no problems with Carolina League hitters in his starts that were abbreviated by design. The next player the Sox picked in June, Zack Erwin (4th round) also breezed through his assignments (Great Falls and Kannapolis) on an innings limit, showing excellent control and keeping runners off the base paths. Look for both of these pitchers to start 2016 at a level above where they finished this season.
Jordan Guerrero struggled a bit on reaching A+, but adapted quickly and finished strong. His 35 strikeouts against just 6 walks in 36.2 innings were especially impressive for a 21-year old in his first truly full season as a starter. Spencer Adams also struggled early in the year, but the coaching from Jose Bautista apparently "took" as the season went on as his strikeout numbers improved in a big way. Adams was promoted from Kannapolis to Winston-Salem in August and made the transition without much problem despite his youth (19 years old).
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