Week One: Wearing small-sample-size-colored glasses

Editor's note: We've changed our daily content format for 2017, and will no longer be doing daily game recaps. Instead, we will provide content more focused on the news and info that our readers have asked about, specifically covering the prospects. On Thursdays, Julie Brady will serve as our new "columnist", providing a higher-level view on broad topics related to the farm. This is her first of those columns.

We are one week into the minor league season, and for the first time in living memory, the White Sox farm system is an embarrassment of riches. Be sure to check out FutureSox’s Opening Week Hot List and News and Notes from the first few days to get fully caught up, but the laconic version is this: many talented young men are mashing baseballs and also throwing them very hard and well.

Because it is the first week of the season, it is perfectly acceptable to get overexcited about things like half the lineup at AAA hitting .400+ or Thor Junior flirting with 102 mph (that’s 164 km/h for the Brits). There’s nothing quite like early-season small-sample-size wackiness, so let’s carry it to its logical extreme and assume that each prospect’s performance will remain on par with what it is now for the rest of the year. Fast-forward to September! (Note: the math used within is extremely solid and scientific, please do not attempt without safety gear.)

CHARLOTTE

Yoan Moncada in more Bostonian times (Brynn Anderson / AP)

Yoan Moncada in more Bostonian times (Brynn Anderson / AP)

Over 142 games, Yoan Moncada, the Sox #1 overall prospect, finishes the season with an incredible 243 hits. That’s 80 more than last year’s International League hits leader, Donovan Solano of the Yankees, but 3 fewer than the International League’s all-time single-season record-holder, Jack Bentley (246, 1921). It’s still good for a .387 batting average. He also steals 47 bases and is caught 20 times. The White Sox would like to see him try to improve on his 202 strikeouts.

First baseman Danny Hayes has 162 runs batted in, or roughly two grand slams a week (how's that for a lovely bunch of coconuts?). He also finishes with 60 doubles, slipping by Jim Holt’s IL record of 57. The doubles combine with his 40 home runs for 100 extra-base hits. He and outfielder Willy Garcia end up with 365 total bases each. In fact, Garcia becomes an on-base machine, drawing 162 walks and keeping his OBP at its first-week .559. Everyone is very surprised when he is not called up.

Hayes, Garcia, and Moncada set the table, but it’s catcher Kevan Smith who drives them in. Smith, with 9 RBI in his first four games, rounds out his season with 319 RBI total. All this without hitting a home run all year. Unfortunately, Smith allows 106 stolen bases and does not throw out a runner.

The Knights do not lose anyone to injury all year, nor are any of their players called up or sent down.

RHP Reynaldo Lopez, from his time with Auburn (Rick Nelson / MiLB.com)

RHP Reynaldo Lopez, from his time with Auburn (Rick Nelson / MiLB.com)

All five starting pitchers start either 27 or 28 games. Reynaldo Lopez is a strikeout machine, ending the season with 206. However, it’s feast or famine with him, as he also allows 41 home runs over the course of the year, ending with an 0-28 record. The stuff is there, but he needs some refinement.

Tyler Danish rolls, giving up just 27 runs in 135 IP all year, good for a 1.80 ERA. His record is 27-0.

Lucas Giolito goes the entire season without a decision, instead leaving them up to Chris Beck or David Holmberg. Together, the pitching staff brings the Knights to an overall 82-60 record, good enough for a playoff spot. Everyone is very proud and a little bewildered. They get swept in the first round (playoffs are a crapshoot).

BIRMINGHAM

Trey Michalczewski running the bases in 2015 Spring Training (Daniel Shapiro / Future Sox)

Trey Michalczewski running the bases in 2015 Spring Training (Daniel Shapiro / Future Sox)

The Barons don’t have quite the offensive surfeit as their record-breaking big brothers, but there’s still some interesting stuff going on down in AA. Over the 143-game season, 22-year-old shortstop Cleuluis Rondon racks up 286 hits, shocking and amazing with his .545 batting average on the year. He does not draw a walk, but who needs walks when you get two hits a game, every game?

Third-base prospect Trey Michalczewski hits 24 triples, 24 doubles, and zero home runs. He draws 143 walks to 119 strikeouts.

On the other end of the spectrum, outfielder Courtney Hawkins finishes with 57 RBI and 314 strikeouts. He scores 29 runs all year. First baseman Keon Barnum ends up with 57 total bases.

However, the real news is staff ace Michael Kopech. Kopech strikes out 280 in his 28 starts. A game is delayed when the grounds crew are unable to remove a mysterious sledgehammer from the field; Kopech picks it up between two fingers and tosses it into the dugout well, where it remains for the rest of the season and possibly eternity.

Despite Rondon’s Herculian and Kopech’s Asgardian efforts, the Barons go 24-119. They do not make the playoffs.

WINSTON-SALEM and KANNAPOLIS

Zack Collins (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Zack Collins (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Things calm down a little in the A-levels.

The breakout star defensively down here is 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Collins. Over the 2017 season, he throws out 112 runners on the bases, while allowing only 28 to steal (that’s an 80% caught-stealing rate). Sox officials are still unsure if he can stick at catcher, but are encouraged.

Louie Lechich, position-player convert and your new favorite player, does not give up a run in relief all season. This is perhaps the most realistic outcome, as Lechich didn’t give up any runs in 2016 either, over 15 innings. However, the Dash end their season with a record of 23-117. (You can read a FutureSox guest post by Lechich here.)

Young outfielder Micker Adolfo spends the entire season after the first two games on the disabled list. He did bat .500 in those two games, though.

Three Kannapolis relievers and one starter give up a combined zero runs all year (that would be Kyle Kubat, Luis Ledo, Mike Morrison, and Chris Comito; newspapers spend the season arguing about whether this is due to their alliterative names). It’s not enough, as the Intimidators also finish with a record of 23-117.

TAKEAWAYS

The main lesson we can learn from all this is that early season stats are often very silly and we should enjoy them while they last. It’s unlikely that every team other than Charlotte will win fewer than 30 games. Willy Garcia will probably not finish the season at .400. Zack Collins may not end up with an 80% caught-stealing rate. It’s possible that Louie Lechich may even give up a run.

But for now, there’s a whole minor league world full of uncertainty and potential. It won’t stay this weird, but it’ll definitely get weird in other ways, and we’ll be here for that.

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