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. 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. This is a reflection of the best performances by eligible players, which is not necessarily the same as overall prospect stock. For June, a special note – we will include the players in the rookie leagues (Great Falls and AZL), but as they’ve played about half as many games as the full season players, that will be taken into account.
In June the hitting side wasn’t great overall, but one guy did stand out and had a big rebound from a cold start to the season. On the pitching side though, there were quite a few excellent performances to choose from, making for a tough decision.
Note: Stats presented are for June only unless otherwise noted…
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Eddy Alvarez, SS, Birmingham Barons (AA)
Stats: .352/.434/.507 (.941 OPS), 2 2B, 3 HR, 11:9 BB:K, 1/2 SB/ATT in 88 PA (22 Games)
There were high expectations for Eddy Alvarez in some circles after he cruised through rookie and both levels of A-ball offensively in a short 1.5 seasons. The jump to AA was a test, and at first it appeared one he might fail, as he hit just .145 in April. Things started to rebound a bit in May for the 26-year old (.227 AVG), and then it finally clicked in June. In the past month, the Olympian has been walking more often than striking out, more akin to what we saw from him at lower levels. The three home runs are a nice surprise too, as he’s never hit more than 5 in a season and his current home park is not a long ball haven. One thing that has changed in his game quite a bit: he’s only attempted two steals in June and has only 9 tries all year, after stealing 53 bases in 68 attempts in 2015. His speed didn’t just disappear, so this may be a choice to focus on other aspects of his game to take the pressure off.
If his June is more than a mirage and he really has made the right adjustments to handle AA pitching, he could see AAA this season and remain on the radar for a future utility role in the majors. His defense at short is spectacular in moments, but also often lacks refinement and his arm is fringy (but playable) on the left side of the infield. While in some ways his age needs to be set aside, the reality is still that he’s 26 now and the team will move him up aggressively once he’s shown he can handle a new level.
Matt Davidson (AAA): .313/.368/.469 (.837 OPS), 6 2B, 3 HR, 8:30 BB:K in 108 PA (27 G)
Brady Conlan (Rk): .396/.448/.642 (1.090 OPS), 7 2B, 2 HR, 2:14 BB:K in 58 PA (13 G)
Mitch Roman (Rk): .325/.396/.525 (.921 OPS), 4 2B, 2 3B, 5:6 BB:K, 6/6 SB/ATT in 50 PA (12 G)
Alex Call (Rk): .347/.500/.429 (.913 OPS), 1 2B, 1 HR, 10:8 BB:K in 64 PA (13 G)
Matt Davidson has finally been having the year in AAA he’s been looking for since 2014, and was called up to the majors on June 30th (only to break a bone in his foot and head to the DL). Heartbreak aside, he hit quite well in June, truly earning that promotion to the majors. His strikeout rate is still on the high side, but he’s managed to produce all year despite the swing and miss.
Then there are three of this year’s draft picks, all putting up gawdy numbers in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. Conlan was a 24th round pick from D-II school, and he’s had a hit in all 13 pro games he’s played so far, and has smacked an impressive seven doubles in just 58 plate appearances. Mitch Roman (12th round, from Wright State) put up a nice slash line, but also walked about as he often as he struck out, and has already stolen six bags without being caught in a dozen games. Alex Call was the club’s 3rd round pick, and he’s getting on base in half of his plate appearances thus far.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Thad Lowry, RHP, Winston-Salem Dash (A+)
Stats: 1.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .221 BAA, 6 BB, 25 K in 31 IP (5 starts)
Thaddius Lowry‘s story in his pro career has been to show tantalizing glimpses of what he could be, but struggles putting all the individual pieces together for a decent stretch. In June he has done just that, attacking the zone (1.7 BB/9), preventing solid contact (.221 Average Against) and missing enough bats (7.3 K/9) to be a force against Carolina League hitters. He even had a stretch mid-month where he struck out 18 batters between walks. And while he’s been in the system for a little while now, he’s still just 21 years old, a year or two younger than the average hurler at that level.
Lowry throws a couple different fastballs, one more of a sinker, along with a slider and a change-up. That last pitch is one he told us recently that he’s been focused on improving. His heater can reach mid-90’s and usually sits 91-94 (he holds late in games too), and the slider shows promise. If his change of pace continues to improve, look for the White Sox to keep him in a starting role, and he may even seen AA during the 2016 season.
Jordan Stephens (A+): 1.74 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .214 BAA, 9 BB, 32 K in 31 IP (5 starts)
Zach Thompson (A): 1.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .233 BAA, 6 BB, 24 K in 23.1 IP (4 starts)
Matt Cooper (A+, AA): 2.28 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, .212 BAA, 4 BB, 23 K in 23.2 IP (3 starts, 2 relief appearances)
Yosmer Solorzano (Rk): 2.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .258 BAA, 1 BB, 12 K in 17 IP (3 starts)
There were two other pitchers who could make just as strong an argument to win this award. Jordan Stephens has broken out as a potential Top 10 prospect in the system (our midseason list will come out later this month), skipping Low A to reach High A in his first full pro season, and just getting stronger each month of the year. Thompson, who won this award last month, was similarly dominant in his four starts in June. The stock of young arms the lower minors has been improving lately, thanks in great part to the trio we’ve discussed.
Matt Cooper received a much-deserved promotion to AA Birmingham after dominating the Carolina League. He’s now moving back to the bullpen, and so far is showing no ill effects from the level jump. Yosmer Solorzano was probably ready for a full season league coming into the year despite being just 19 years old, but the White Sox elected to keep him in short season so that he could more gradually build up innings (he skipped DSL, with last year in AZL being his first pro experience). He throws strikes and gets plenty of ground balls – don’t be surprised if he makes an appearance in Kannapolis before the year is out.
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