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 (50 PA or 10 IP minimum), and still be a prospect (not reached MLB rookie status) to qualify. This is a reflection of the best performances by eligible players, which is not necessarily the same as prospect stock.
In this opening month of the season, there were quite a few strong performances at the plate to choose from. The pitching side was a little tougher, with no one starter having a truly dominant month (but a few relievers did). In the end, the winners of this month's awards are both names almost no one would have expected to jump out the way they did.
Note: Stats presented are for April only unless otherwise noted...
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Nick Basto, 1B, Winston-Salem Dash (A+)
Stats: .433/.480/.667 (1.147 OPS), 7 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 8:17 BB:K in 100 PA (22 Games)
Basto's offensive performance to begin this year has been huge, even when compared to previous winners of these awards. He led all of minor league baseball (minimum 50 PA) in hits (39), was 2nd in average (.433), and 6th in OBP (.480) with virtually all the few players ahead of him on the latter measures playing substantially fewer games. In the Carolina League he's 1st in AVG, 2nd in OBP (with the leader having about half as many PA), and 2nd in SLG. He reached base safely in every game. And despite the fact that he's repeating the league, he just turned 22 so he's still a little under average age for the level.
Nick was drafted in the 5th round back in 2012 as a shortstop, and since then he's gone from third base to outfield to first base. His lack of defensive home could be an issue later, but if he keeps scorching the ball like he has, the bat will carry him up the ladder. It would be surprising if Basto isn't promoted to AA in the near future, as soon as a slot opens up.
Nick Delmonico: .367/.415/.733 (1.149 OPS), 8 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 5:10 BB:K in 66 PA (16 G)
Jason Coats: .364/.417/.561 (.977 OPS), 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 2:19 BB:K, 1/1 SB/ATT in 73 PA (17 G)
Landon Lassiter: .343/.439/.414 (.853 OPS), 7 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 8:17 BB:K, 3/5 SB/ATT in 82 PA (18 G)
Tyler Sullivan: .301/.426/.398 (.823 OPS), 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 17:15 BB:K, 8/9 SB/ATT in 104 PA (21 G)
The other Nick on this list could make a good case to win the award too, and in any other month he might have. Nick Delmonico arrived with the Barons a few days in, and has done nothing but mash since. He's also been playing mostly 1B, and if trends continue it wouldn't be a surprise he ended up in Charlotte sooner than later. Jason Coats also had a shorter April than others, as he's now on the disabled list with what we're told is a minor injury. Before hitting the DL, Coats was hitting very well, leading some to wonder if he was Chicago-bound should Avisail Garcia's struggles continue.
Tyler Sullivan and Landon Lassiter are not only right next to each other on this list, the are also typically the 1-2 hitters at the top of the Kannapolis lineup. Both have been sparkplugs, getting on base at a well-over .400 OBP clip. Lassiter (like Basto) reached base in every game in April, and Sullivan added 8 stolen bases in 9 attempts. Sullivan's highly-considered defense in center field further adds to his value. Look for both outfielders to find a way up to Advanced-A ball sometime during the season.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Taylore Cherry, RHRP, Kannapolis Intimidators (A)
Stats: 1.20 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, .193 BAA, 67% GB, 2 BB, 22 K in 15 IP (8 games)
It would take a combination of thoroughly dominant performance, coupled with a lack of a truly stand-out starter, for a reliever to win this award. And that's what we have. Taylore Cherry missed a ton of bats, threw strikes, and forced the few who made contact to pound the ball into the ground. None of the starting pitchers came close to his rate stats, and only one reliever made a case close to his.
But his performance is truly remarkable when you put it in context. Cherry was drafted last June in the 32nd round, and hadn't pitched in live game action since 2014. The 6'9", 290 pound righty looked painfully stiff in the summer and fall in Arizona, and seemed to be a late round "project". For him to show up in full season ball and put up the numbers he has is a huge surprise, and thoroughly impressive.
Matt Cooper: 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .235 BAA, 48% GB, 10 BB, 35 K in 28 IP (5 starts)
Tanner Banks: 2.13 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .185 BAA, 46% GB, 6 BB, 19 K in 25.1 IP (4 starts)
Brian Clark: 0.68 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .286 BAA, 49% GB, 1 BB, 13 K in 13.1 IP (7 games)
Tyler Danish: 3.56 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .243 BAA, 55% GB, 6 BB, 18 K in 30.1 IP (5 starts)
Spencer Adams: 3.46 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .301 BAA, 58% GB, 5 BB, 23 K in 26 IP (5 starts)
Speaking of pleasant surprises, Matt Cooper may have had the best April of any starting pitcher in the system, at least in peripherals. His move from bullpen to a rotation was surprising in itself, but even our writers who saw something workable from him didn't anticipate him having this kind of success. No starter had a better strikeout rate. Another pleasant surprise was Tanner Banks, who's April was highlighted by a complete-game, 9-inning shutout (the first for the Intimidators in at least a decade). Banks is significantly older than the league average pitcher at 24, but there's no denying his strong performance, especially in keeping hitters from reaching safely. His ERA was the lowest of any starter in the system.
Brian Clark was the other reliever who truly stood out. It's a bit of a mystery why he's not starting again, given his 4-pitch mix and success in that role last year. He's shutting down batters while making the key jump to AA, and he's younger than typical age for that league. Don't be surprised if he slides back into the rotation when one of the current Barons starters goes to Charlotte.
Tyler Danish's presence on this list is pretty amazing when you consider he gave up 6 runs in 4 innings in his first start of the year. But he's improved in each start since, and tossed a full nine innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball in his last start of the month. Danish is still a good couple years younger than most of the hitters he's facing in the Southern League. Spencer Adams is similarly young for his level, and other than a single rough outing on the 22nd, he's been quite effective. Even in that one weaker game, he generated 18 ground balls against 4 fly balls in his 5 innings of work. There's no rush on either Danish or Adams, but both are candidates for mid-season promotions to the next level if they continue to excel.
Want to know right away when we publish a new article? Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.