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 Tuesdays, it will be a rundown of the best performances across the farm from the past week, and normally be written by Rob Young. Matt Cassidy is filling in this week.
We are now 5 games into the 2017 Minor League season, and it's time for our first edition of the weekly highlights rundown. In a normal week that would be seven days' worth, but because the season opened on a Thursday, we've got just five games to run with. The best hitting performances were dominated by the Charlotte Knights, unsurprisingly. A small sample to be sure, but let's take a look at which White Sox prospects opened 2017 with authority.
Willy Garcia was one of a handful of offseason acquisitions that was overshadowed by the Sale and Eaton trades, but he's been a highly considered prospect in the recent past. So maybe his .500/.640/.889 line with a pair of home runs to open the season shouldn't be a big surprise. He's also collected more walks (7) than strikeouts (4), and according to Jim Margulus of South Side Sox (who has been in Charlotte recently) he's taken nothing but good looking cuts with contact. If he can even approach his lofty ceiling, the White Sox will have made an under the radar steal.
There was some talk about Zack Collins opening 2017 in AA, but the club didn't want to rush their future (hopefully) catching star. Thus far he's having little trouble with Carolina League pitching, hitting .375 with a .545 OBP thanks to six walks and a lack of established protection behind him in the Dash lineup. Half his hits have been for extra bases. Just as encouraging, Collins has thrown out four of five attempted base stealers thus far. He may not be long for Winston-Salem.
Nick Delmonico has piqued the interest of White Sox fans thanks to a strong spring campaign, and the presence of Cody Asche on the MLB club's roster. Nicky has only added fuel to the fire, starting his 2017 campaign off with a .300/.440/.650 slash, and he also has more walks (4) than strikeouts (3). If Asche struggles or a slot opens up for some other reason, Delmonico may be at the top of the list for a call-up.
Then again, if the need is for a 1B/DH type, it could be Danny Hayes getting the call. He's hit .350/.458/.700 in the same five games, with two home runs (but his strikeouts are higher at seven). Hayes is also less position-flexible than Delmonico, but if the need is for a DH who backs up Abreu at first, Danny could just as easily be the guy.
Top prospect Yoan Moncada has opened 2017 with a pretty big statement, going 9-for-23 with a pair of home runs plus three free passes. He's also struck out 8 times in 27 plate appearances, but that only somewhat dampens the excitement. Moncada is highly unlikely to come to Chicago before mid-May due to team control considerations, so he's got a least another month-plus to continue refining his skills on both sides of the ball.
Mitch Roman was drafted as a glove-strong middle infielder in the 12th round last year, but so far he's made his presence known with the bat as well. So far in 2017 with the Intimidators, he's posted .353/.421/.529 line, with just 2 strikeouts in 21 PA. So far this year he's been playing second base while Grant Massey and Max Dutto cover shortstop.
Kevan Smith is 29 years old, but he still stands as the team's 3rd catcher (in waiting) and apparently wanted to remind everyone he can hit AAA pitching just fine. In his first four contents, he's hit .438, smacked a pair of doubles, walked three times and struck out just once.
Finally, outfielder Joel Booker was taken in the 22nd round in 2016 as a speedster, but he also performed well at the plate in his draft year. Now in full season ball, he's continued that trend to the tune of .381/.435/.476, striking out just twice and swiping a pair of bags in five contests. A high potential defensive centerfielder with speed to burn, if Booker can also get on base at a high rate, he will quickly climb prospect lists.
Flame-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech didn't exactly have a clean line in his first regular season start in the White Sox organization, but one number pops out: he struck out 10 batters in 4.1 innings. That leaves three outs that were not strikeouts, if you're counting. He did allow a pair of earned runs including a home run, but also only walked two and reported to Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald that he didn't have any feel for his change-up in that start. The start is a microcosm of Kopech's current place in development - huge ceiling, but in need of some polish.
Another prospect acquired in the offseason, Dane Dunning was highly effective in his debut: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 59 strikes out of 87 pitches. The 22-year old Dunning is pretty polished, and may not be long for Kannapolis.
Matt Cooper continues to defy expectations and the role the White Sox have said he's slotted for. Filling in for an injured Jordan Stephens, Cooper's first start was impressive: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. That strikeout rate is darn close to what Kopech posted, while matching Dunning's control (Cooper threw 38 of 51 pitches for strikes). White Sox coaches have said that Cooper's future is as a reliever, but he's been damn effective as a starter as well.
Carson Fulmer, the top pitching prospect in the system prior to the offseason trade wave, had a reassuring debut as he makes a case for the majors in 2017. His line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HRA. He did that while playing in the launching pad known as BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, so the one home run is a little more forgivable as well.
Yosmer Solorzano made his first start in a full season league last night, and the results looked a lot like what he accomplished in rookie leagues. The right-hander who has drawn physical comps to El Duque threw six innings of 1-run ball, walking a pair and striking out nine batters. His heavy fastball was on display as well, generating six ground-outs to just one fly ball out.
Tanner Banks was money for the Dash in his 2017 debut, allowing just one run on five hits, walking no one and striking out five batters in six innings. The lefty has a curveball with tons of movement, as Kyle Glaser of Baseball America reported from the game.
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