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. The annual exception is at the end of the season, we combine August and September. 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. They also need to have been in the Sox organization for the full month - so, some recent trade acquisitions are not eligible that first month. This is a reflection of the best performances by eligible players, which is not necessarily the same as overall prospect stock (though factors like age for level do come into play, just as they do in prospect evaluation).
On the hitting side there was a clear winner, and it's a player some of you may not be familiar with. The pitching side was a little messier and arms got tired and innings were tapered, and we ended up taking a more amalgamated track in who we listed.
Note: Stats presented are for August and September in the minors only, unless otherwise noted...
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Amado Nunez, INF, Great Falls Voyagers (Rk)
Stats: .425/.462/.700 (1.162 OPS), 9 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 8:31 BB:K in 130 PA (29 games)
For the second straight month, we have a hitter batting well over .400. And while Amado Nunez may not have the prospect shine of Eloy (last month's winner), the former's numbers in the last month-and-a-half may be even more impressive given the sample size in games is nearly double. Eighteen extra-base hits in 29 games from a middle infielder (including six bombs) is an accomplishment even in the offense-friendly Pioneer League. Speaking of sample size, Nunez has been hitting .400 or better since July 3rd - that's over two months of play and covers the majority of the rookie league's short season. No wonder then he took home the PIO batting title this year, the first Great Falls player to do so since 1973 (according to the Voyagers' Twitter feed).
So who is this guy? What he's not is a senior college sign at 23 putting up expectedly strong numbers against rookie league pitching. Nunez was signed in 2014 for $900k, which at the time was the second largest bonus the White Sox had ever paid to a LatAm amateur. He skipped DSL, got a brief stateside look in the AZL in 2015 at age 17, and followed that up with an impressive 2016 look at the same level over a complete season while playing shortstop. Going into the 2017 season ranked 20th even in a deep Sox farm system, Amado ran into some headwinds. Moved from short to third (a move scouts saw likely at some point) and battling nagging injuries that caused some missed time, he only played in 34 games and hit an anemic .183 for Great Falls.
That takes us to today, repeating the level and moving back to the middle of the field (mostly second base) while seeing his offensive numbers explode. He's still at an age-appropriate level despite the repeat (20 years old) and should be in full season ball come April. His arm strength and hands (and range concerns) say that third base is likely his best fit, but that could change. In any case, if we gave out a Comeback Player of the Year award for the White Sox farm, Nunez would take home that hardware too.
Eloy Jimenez, OF (AAA): .336/.376/.509 (.885 OPS), 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 6:18 BB:K in 117 PA (28 games)
Luis Gonzalez, OF (A+): .303/.386/.485 (.871 OPS), 10 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14:19 BB:K, 0/1 SB/ATT in 114 PA (27 games)
Yermin Mercedes, C (A+): .302/.346/.542 (.888 OPS), 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 7:15 BB:K in 105 PA (26 games)
Travis Moniot, ALL (Rk): .343/.421/.493 (.914 OPS), 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9:17 BB:K, 1/2 SB/ATT in 77 PA (22 games)
Ty Greene, C (Rk): .385/.468/.462 (.929 OPS), 4 2B, 8:3 BB:K, 2/3 SB/ATT in 62 PA (16 games)
Anderson Comas, OF (Rk): .333/.377/.458 (.835 OPS), 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4:8 BB:K, 0/1 SB/ATT in 78 PA (17 games)
A pair of ranked outfield prospects who have impressed all year just kept rolling (and even put up similar overall numbers). Eloy actually had a down month compared to the ridiculousness of the previous one, and yet still in a "bad" month had one of the best performances in the Sox minors. Luis meanwhile was probably ready for a jump to AA as the season neared it's end, but stuck with the Dash for their playoff run. He hit 10 doubles in August and September, finishing the season with an organization-leading 40 on the year. His Dash teammate Yermin Mercedes blasted six home runs, finishing his campaign with fourteen.
Travis Moniot was announced as a shortstop when the Sox drafted him in the 17th round this past June. He's played there, but also second base, third base and left field for the Voyagers, putting up big offensive numbers along the way. Taken in the preceding round of the same draft, catcher Ty Greene has been showing some unusual numbers at the plate. There hasn't been much game power but he's making contact at an elite rate (3 K in 62 PA in August, 9.3% K/PA on the season), drawing walks over 10% of the time and hitting for average while playing the most offense-starved of positions. Both were junior signees playing their age 21 seasons.
Anderson Comas' numbers may jump out the least among this group, on the surface. But this is an 18-year-old in his first stateside look, and he not only hit well in August, he finished with a .306 average on the season. His contact rate (15% K/PA) and signs of speed based on local reports, are encouraging signs.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Dylan Cease, RHP, Birmingham Barons (AA)
Stats: 0.51 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 6 H, 9 BB, 29 K in 17.2 IP (4 starts)
FutureSox has been doing these monthly awards for over a decade. Having a player win the award two months in a row is extremely rare, but Dylan Cease was just too much to deny. There were other candidates who were close, as you will soon see, but the sheer level of statistical dominance capping off a big year of development won the day. MLB Pipeline recently named Cease their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
You may notice his innings load was pretty small for a starter. The team had him on a limit, and as he approached that limit the length of his starts were tapered. His 124 IP this season are about 30% more than the 93.1 he logged in 2017, and that was substantially more than the 44 IP the year before that. Yet he maintained his velocity even into his last starts. And oh by the way he struck out 29 batters in those last 17.2 innings, allowing just 6 hits, in case you were wondering if the stuff was holding. Dylan has moved solidly into being the second best pitching prospect in the White Sox system, and by April when Michael Kopech reaches rookie status, Cease will likely stand at the top.
We're splitting up the honorable mentions. There weren't a lot of starters who put up monthly lines that really jumped out, in part because some of them saw their workloads reduced in the dog days of August. Michael Kopech of course made the leap to the big leagues, so he got in only three starts but was nearly as dominant as Cease in those three. His zero walk total stands out especially. Zach Lewis isn't a name discussed much, but he's been quite successful all year for the Intimidators as a reliever at first, then moving into the rotation. His August run helped Kannapolis sneak into the SAL playoffs.
Honorable Mentions - Relievers
Kevin Escorcia (A): 0.00 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 7 H, 7 BB, 19 K in 12.1 IP (8 games)
Zach Thompson (AA): 0.55 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 8 H, 6 BB, 19 K in 16.1 IP (9 games)
Tyler Johnson (A+): 0.66 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 8 H, 2 BB, 18 K in 13.2 IP (10 games)
Ian Hamilton (AAA): 0.90 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 K in 10.0 IP (9 games)
Danny Dopico (A+): 1.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10 H, 5 BB, 23 K in 14.0 IP (8 games)
Hunter Schryver (A+): 1.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 9 H, 3 BB, 21 K in 15.0 IP (9 games)
Carter Love (Rk): 1.67 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 19 H, 2 BB, 37 K in 27.0 IP (7 games, 1 start)
Look at those numbers, across seven different relievers. That's why were broke it out this time. Clearly some relievers were going to be mentioned, but how do you choose among that many dominant performances? August and September were, effectively, the month of the bullpen in the White Sox system. Relievers are fast becoming a perceived strength in this organization.
But who are these guys? Many of our readers may not be familiar with the majority of them, so here are quick bullets on each (with links to deeper info for most):
- Ian Hamilton is a little more well-known than most of the crowd, having recently joined the majors, resulting in a hail of Hamilton/Burr articles and social media jokes. Trivial nomenclature aside he's got an upper 90's fastball and a slider around 90 that can be outright unfair when it's on. Here's his prospect profile.
- Tyler Johnson is the other ranked prospect arm here. He's also got a big fastball-slider combo as well with lots of movement on both. Command softness resulting from some delivery issues were a concern early in the year (see our in-person report from April here, with video), but he's significantly improved in that area. Here's his prospect profile.
- Danny Dopico is a reliever you don't see on any Top 30 lists, but you might in 2019 based on looks from scouts and ourselves in the past year. He's got three pitches with above average potential (fastball, slider, split-change) but has struggled with control. If he keeps improving in that regard as he's done in 2018, he could be a major league reliever. Our in-person report from this year with video is in this article.
- Kevin Escorcia is a slender lefty reliever who's signature tool is a big-bending curveball that is possibly the best in the entire system. The rest of his arsenal is fringy at present. Here's an in-person report that includes notes and video on Kevin.
- Zach Thompson moved to the pen during the 2017 season and he's been quite successful in that role since. He's 6'7" and his arsenal is centered around a heavy fastball and spike/knuckle curve. Here's his prospect profile that includes an interview link.
- Hunter Schryver was acquired in July in exchange for International pool slot allowance. The lefty has a starter-based 4-pitch mix and his handedness splits aren't extreme, so he could be more than just a LOOGY. Here's what we wrote about him when he was acquired.
- Carter Love was picked up as a UDFA shortly after the draft from the College of Charleston. He's just been too much for rookie league hitters thus far as evidenced by throwing 74% of his pitches for strikes and still missing a ton of bats.
And that closes out our Prospects of the Month awards for 2018, with a pretty big bang. The awards will return in the spring. Now back to the playoffs for the Dash, Intimidators and Voyagers.
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