Following the act of the 2012 Charlotte Knights wasn’t going to be easy. That year the Knights managed to make the playoffs despite having player after player join the big league club.
The 2013 Knights didn’t have as much roster instability, or as much success. They went 65-78 to finish 21.5 games out of first place in the IL South.
Offensively, only one of the team’s notable prospects played the full season with Charlotte. Shortstop Carlos Sanchez entered the season with buzz after a strong 2012 that saw him play in three levels in his first full season in the U.S. He disappointed with a meager .241/.293/.296 batting line. Sure, Sanchez turned just 21 in late June, but his stock definitely fell. He didn’t show much progress throughout the year either and he doesn’t hit for any power. He’s young enough to still have hope for him, but he will need to improve in 2014 to remain a valuable prospect.
Only two other hitters even played in 100 games for the Knights (Brent Morel and Steve Tolleson). Others like Avisail Garcia (8 games), Leury Garcia (8 games), Jared Mitchell (14 games), Marcus Semien (32 games), Andy Wilkins (58 games) and Josh Phegley (61 games) didn’t stay with Charlotte for long, for better or worse.
Two players worth discussing in the Charlotte review are Josh Phegley and Andy Wilkins. Phegley was the buzz of the team, and the entire White Sox minors, by setting the IL on fire in the first couple months of the season. The catcher posted a .966 OPS with 15 home runs in 61 games. He earned a promotion to the White Sox, where he’s had a less than stellar rookie season.
Wilkins started to gain some steam as a prospect after a productive repeat stint with Birmingham in the first half. He didn’t stand out with Charlotte (.265/.312/.423 in 58 games), but since Wilkins turns 25 on Friday giving him another shot at AAA in 2014 isn’t a problem. The Sox may need a young first baseman, but Wilkins doesn’t appear to be the short-term answer.
A pair of top pitching prospects also were with the Knights for a short time, Erik Johnson and Jake Petricka. Both impressed in limited innings. Johnson emerged as the clear cut top prospect in the system and seemingly improved in each of his 10 starts (1.57 ERA, 57 K, 19 BB, 57.1 IP). Petricka pitched just 17.1 relief innings with the Knights, but continued his AA success to earn a call up to the Sox where he has also been productive.
Like Petricka, Daniel Webb impressed with Charlotte out of the bullpen after joining from Birmingham. His upper 90s fastball helped him strike out 38 in 27.1 innings, but he did walk 17. His stuff is good enough to work in the bigs, but he will need to throw more strikes.
Andre Rienzo became a bright spot after starting the season terribly. He won FutureSox Pitcher of the Month in both June and July to earn a spot in the White Sox rotation post-Jake Peavy, where he has held his own.
The Knights didn’t have loads players join the White Sox, but there were still plenty of players that stepped up to contribute to Chicago’s last place team. Considering AA Birmingham’s successful 2013, Charlotte could be in line for a strong 2014.