Our season preview series continues today
with the Barons. Will they be able to recapture the magic of their 2009 season,
or will they more resemble the disappointing 2010 team?
The Birmingham Barons are the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago
White Sox and they compete in the Southern League.
2010 in review:
After a record breaking 2009 season in which the Barons won 92
games, 2010 was always going to be a bad season by comparison, and boy was it
bad, as the Barons only managed a 53-87 record (.379 WPCT) to finish second from
bottom in the Southern League. Offensively the Barons ranked 8th
(out of 10 teams) in OPS (.701) and dead last in runs scored (570).
Unsurprisingly, there weren’t many strong individual hitting performances,
though Brent Morel gave solid production in his 49 games with the team
(.326/.376/.440) and Jim Gallagher put together a reasonable season with a .294/.392/.427 triple slash. The Barons were better from a pitching and
defensive standpoint; finishing mid-pack in runs allowed, though bottom in
strikeouts. They received solid contributions from lots of different pitchers,
including Charlie Shirek (3.69 ERA, 68.1 IP), Charlie Leesman (2.69 ERA, 63.2
IP), Brandon Hynick (2.36 ERA, 53.1 IP) and Henry Mabee (3.65 ERA, 86.1 IP).
Dylan Axelrod has posted some terrific numbers since joining the Sox organization
in 2009, and he reportedly turned heads during spring training last year. At 25
(26 in July) he’s on the older side, and isn’t much of a prospect, but the
Barons should be able to rely on him for quality innings.
Nevin Griffith failed to stay healthy again in 2010 and he was limited to just 63.2
IP. The results weren’t bad when he was out there (41 SO/27 BB, 3.11 ERA) and
he’s always posted solid ground ball rates, but he could do with increasing the
K rate a bit. As a 22 year-old just hitting Double-A, he’s very age appropriate
for the league, and if he can finally stay injury free, he could be in for a
Gregory Infante, like Anthony Carter, made a very encouraging transition to life as
a reliever in 2010. He put up excellent numbers splitting his time between
Winston-Salem and Birmingham, striking out 69 batters against 27 walks in 60
IP. He needs to continue to refine his control and command, but he has very
real potential as a back of the bullpen prospect armed with a high 90’s
Nathan Jones was many people’s pick as a potential breakout prospect for 2010,
but it didn’t quite come together for him in his transition to the rotation,
and he appears to be back in relief for 2011. Prior to last season, Jones had
always posted very good strikeout numbers, but last year his K/9 fell to just
6.44, indicating that his stuff may not be quite as good as previously thought.
If he does stay in relief with the Barons, I expect him to have a good year and
re-establish himself as a solid relief prospect.
Charlie Leesman had one of the more bizarre 2010 seasons. He started the year at
Winston-Salem, where he awful, with 39 SO/44 BB in 84.2 IP and a 5.10 ERA, at
which point the Sox decided he merited a promotion to Birmingham, where his
form picked up to finish with 51 SO/20 BB in 63.2 IP and a 2.69 ERA. Leesman
has never posted gaudy strikeout numbers, but he’s a lefty with solid velo and
he keeps the ball on the ground. I have no idea what to make of Leesman
entering 2011 after what he did last year, and I have never been a particularly
big fan of his, but he seems to be a favorite within the organization, and I
guess that has to be worth something.
Dan Remenowsky continued to rack up the strikeouts with the Dash last year, and
since joining the Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2008, he has 189 strikeouts
in 123.1 IP (13.79 K/9). For someone not considered to have standout stuff, it
will be very interesting to see how Remenowsky handles the step up to
Josh Phegley is hopefully now healthy
after battling ITP for much of last year. That’s the main aim for him this
season, staying healthy, and hopefully getting some AB’s under his belt. He was
drafted 38th overall in 2009 as a bat first (and perhaps bat only)
catcher, but obviously hasn’t been able to live up to that billing at this
point in his career. The reports on his ability behind the plate haven’t been
great, either, but because of his illness, it’s difficult to know how much to
read into his performances to date.
Seth Loman has had back-to-back 20+ home run seasons since joining the Sox
organization in 2009, and while that may be a streak he finds tough to repeat
playing in a difficult hitters park in Birmingham, he should be one of the more
dependable bats for the Barons this year.
Greene came out of the gates
flying in 2010, posting a line of .309/.389/.562 in 74 games with the Dash, but
after a promotion to the Barons, he came crashing back down to earth, and hit
just .232/.271/.363 the rest of the way. Greene possesses good speed and some
pop, but he may be the unfortunate victim of Kenny Williams Jr., who figures to
get a sizable amount of playing time.
Short is coming off of a
terrific 2010 season in which he hit .316/.365/.491 with the Winston-Salem
Dash. Until he proves himself in Double-A, however, he’ll remain just a fringe
prospect. He has an interesting skillset, but is something of a tweener, with
not quite enough bat for a corner OF spot, and not quite enough glove for CF.
He also needs to start drawing more walks, but he’s definitely one to watch,
and is in a similar mould to former Sox prospect John Shelby.