The season in review series comes to an end with the highest affiliate, the AAA Charlotte Knights. The Knights had a great season, going 83-61 to win the International League South Division by a long shot and made it to the IL Championship Series.
Although the Knights’ playoff run ended with a three-game sweep at the hands of Pawtucket, Charlotte also had a productive season in terms of funneling talent to the big league club. An astonishing 17 players were promoted from Charlotte to the White Sox this season. A number of injuries, trades and well-earned promotions made the Charlotte roster seem like a revolving door. That can be harmful, but the Knights persevered and all the moves were positive considering the goal of the minor leagues is to send players to play in the bigs.
In case 17 players doesn’t seem like a lot, take a look at those players in list form:
Jose Quintana* (a technicality, but he was called up from Charlotte on the transaction list)
Debate the value of those players all you want, it’s a big list and the Sox are still in first place so they did their job.
Sox fans will be more familiar with that group of players so let’s focus on some of the younger players on Charlotte’s roster. Jared Mitchell earned a late season promotion from AA Birmingham to get some playoff experience and his .231/.329/.364 line in 36 regular season games wasn’t inspiring, but he did show some progress earlier in the year with the Barons.
Catcher Josh Phegley put his name back in big league consideration with a full healthy season behind the dish. He had a streaky season offensively, starting out hot in April and finally getting it back going in August after a rough three month stretch. The 24-year-old hit .266/.306/.373 overall so another year of AAA is beckoning, but he might not be far off from future backup catcher consideration with the Sox.
Carlos Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and Trayce Thompson got a brief bit of AAA experience and struggled to adjust. Thompson will likely head back to AA next year, but Sanchez and Saladino probably make up the Knights’ middle infield in 2013.
Pitchers Charles Leesman (2.47 ERA), Charlie Shirek (3.65) and Matt Zaleski (3.70) anchored a strong rotation all year. Axelrod (2.88) and Terry Doyle (2.83), who left to play in Japan, were also standouts in the IL before leaving the team. By those numbers it’s clear the rotation was the backbone of the team.
Leesman’s ERA makes it appear he may have a big league future. In 135 innings he struck out 103 and walked 52, much less encouraging numbers. Still, he’s a left hander that gets ground balls.
Overall, it was a surprisingly successful season for Charlotte despite the plentiful roster transactions. There will still be some notable players with the Knights in 2013 and in 2014 they open a new ballpark actually in Charlotte.