2011 Charlotte Season in Review

Continuing the team recaps is the highest club in the minor league system, the Charlotte Knights. The Knights haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, which is also the last time they had a winning record. Charlotte had a chance to get over .500, but fell just short and was never really in the playoff race.

The International League, unlike the lower full season levels, doesn’t have first and second half division champs. The Knights finished 69-74, 11.5 out of first place in the IL South. They had some talent, Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers, Eduardo Escobar, Jordan Danks and Gregory Infante were each in the top 15 of our 2010 postseason prospect rankings, but it wasn’t enough to post a winning record.

Offense (team ranks out of 14 teams)
Team stats: .261 avg (7th), .747 OPS (4th), 4.29 runs per game (7th)
Top hitters: Dayan Viciedo (.296/.364/.491), Tyler Flowers (.261/.390/.500), Alejandro De Aza (.322/.378/.494)

The big names for Charlotte have become the exciting new names for the White Sox. All three of the hitters listed above are starting on a regular basis with the Southsiders and for the most part, all three are doing quite well other than a recent Tyler Flowers slump.

Since about the end of May Sox fans demanded to see Viciedo with the big club and we had to wait until mid-August to see him. He’s too good for AAA pitching and his success in the Majors shouldn’t be a surprise. Flowers still strikes out too much, but with patience and power he can be a decent backup catcher. De Aza has been the biggest surprise of the group. He took the IL batting title and that’s translating to the Majors.

As for the rest of the offense, Dallas McPherson had a big year from a power standpoint with 20 HR and earned a cup of coffee as an injury replacement. Lastings Milledge had an alright season, but there are others higher than him in the outfield depth chart. Danks, like Flowers, has problems with contact but showed some power finally. Him and Escobar, who is a defense only type of player, profile decently as bench players in the Majors.

Charlotte’s offense was average with a few bright spots. It’s excellent to see a few of them hold their own in the Majors because the Sox needed a youth injection and some reason to get the fans excited. Other than Viciedo there isn’t any star power, but the Sox might have a handful of nice players.

Team stats: 4.25 ERA (10th), 1121 strikeouts (5th), 517 walks (14th), 4.43 runs per game (6th)
Top pitchers: Dylan Axelrod (2.27 ERA, 75 K, 21 BB in 91.1 IP), Shane Lindsay (1.98 ERA, 78 K, 51 BB in 63.2 IP), Josh Kinney (2.77 ERA, 66 K, 17 BB in 61.2 IP)

Like on the hitting side, all of the Knights’ top pitchers are currently with the Sox. Axelrod made a fine first Major League start today, only to have the lead blown in the 9th by the bullpen (welcome to the club eh?). Kinney and Lindsay have been beat around and are organizational filler/AAAA pitchers.

There wasn’t as much prospect level talent on the pitching staff, with Infante the only real pitching prospect on the opening day roster.┬áInfante had a decent season (3.35 ERA, 40 K, 21 BB in 48.1 IP), but didn’t impress the Sox enough to join the team in September. Axelrod joined the Knights in June and looks like he might have a future as a No. 4/5 type starter in the bigs.

Addison Reed pitched 21.1 dominant innings for Charlotte as part of his fantastic season and Joe Bisenius and Doug Davis had positive contributions for parts of the year, but for the most part Charlotte’s pitching staff was below average. Even worse, there weren’t many prospects. Good defense (largely thanks to Escobar and Danks) kept runs allowed per game in the middle of the pack.

There’s a reason why Charlotte has gone five seasons without a winning record. They rarely have a lot of talent and the talent they do get generally doesn’t stay long. Valuable AAA players Stefan Gartrell and Harrell were dumped mid-year, which hurt the Knights’ W-L a bit. Still, the Sox received a handful of good players that are up now and that’s encouraging. It’s been a while since multiple youngsters have impressed this much late in a season.

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