***Updated at 9:45am to include references to Matt Foster***
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 (though factors like age for level do come into play, just as they do in prospect evaluation).
Our winners are both 2016 draftees, just as in July. And in fact, we have something very rare – the pitcher who won this month, also won last month, which hasn’t happened in years. There were plenty of strong performances on both sides of the ball, but the two winners pretty clearly stood above the rest.
Note: Stats presented are for August and September combined, unless otherwise noted…
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Jameson Fisher, OF, Great Falls Voyagers (Rookie)
Stats: .395/.484/.578 (1.062 OPS), 8 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9:14 BB:K, 3/6 SB/ATT in 84 PA (21 G)
Jameson Fisher was selected in the 4th round on the strength of his bat – the SELU product’s sweet swing and plate discipline caught the eye of a number of scouts. So far as a pro, he’s lived up to the reputation offensively. He hit a fantastic .395 since August 1st, drew plenty of walks, showed some power and even stole a few bases. His overall results at the plate made him the clear winner for this award, though he didn’t play as many games as some of the others as he missed time due to minor shoulder injuries.
Fisher had been a catcher, until shoulder surgery relegated him to first base as his college career came to a close. The White Sox have him in the outfield now, betting his athleticism will play on the corners. The 22-year old has done nothing but hit in his pro debut, and if he can find a way to stay healthy and play a respectable corner slot, his bat will carry him far. You can learn more about Fisher’s path to Montana in our recent interview with him.
Aaron Schnurbusch (Rk): .315/.435/.514 (.949 OPS), 6 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 23:31 BB:K, 11/17 SB/ATT in 138 PA (32 G)
Joel Booker (Rk): .333/.421/.423 (8.45 OPS), 9 2B, 1 HR, 14:24 BB:K, 20/22 SB/ATT in 157 PA (34 G)
Eddy Alvarez (AA, AAA): .365/.461/.482 (.943 OPS), 8 2B, 1 3B, 16:15 BB:K, 3/4 SB/ATT in 103 PA (26 G)
Nick Delmonico (AAA): .294/.372/.471 (.843 OPS), 9 2B, 4 HR, 15:30 BB:K in 137 PA (32 G)
One of the three starting Voyagers outfielders won the hardware, but the other two weren’t far behind. Last month’s best hitter, Aaron Schnurbusch, slowed only slightly in the last month-plus of action. Aaron posted a very healthy .949 OPS, knocking 12 extra base hits including 4 long balls, and stole 11 more bases in 31 games. And it wasn’t inflated by an insane BABIP this time either, going from .565 in July to .396 in this period. Center fielder Joel Booker had a very nice finish to the season too, promoted from the AZL and getting on base at a cool .428 clip. He also continues to show off his plus speed, stealing another 20 bags while being caught just twice. For 2016 in total, the speedster has stolen a whopping 41 bases in 44 attempts in just 64 games as a pro.
Eddy Alvarez, the former Olympic speed skater, struggled in his first couple months in AA before turning it around in a big way. He made the jump to AAA Charlotte during August and seemed unfazed by the promotion, hitting .286 with a .359 OBP in his 12 games with the Knights. Another AAA player who opened the year in Birmingham, Nick Delmonico struggled with an injury and the transition to AAA but turned it on towards the end of the season. The resurgent former top prospect has played a mix of third, first and right field in 2016 and could be a bench option for the big club in 2017.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Alec Hansen, RHP, Great Falls Voyagers and Kannapolis Intimidators (Rk, A)
Stats: 0.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .140 BAA, 14 BB, 49 K in 34 IP (6 starts)
He did it again. For the second month in a row, Alec Hansen is our Pitcher of the Month. This time across rookie level Great Falls and Class A Kannapolis, Hansen showed stuff that impressed scouts of all stripes, some of whom have said he now looks like the potential top 10 overall pick he was previously projected to be. And the numbers match the hype in his case, striking out 13 batters per nine innings while throwing strikes and allowing just two extra base hits (one double, one triple) across six starts.
Hansen’s fastball has been sitting 93 to 96 in the early innings, touching 98, though it tends to fade late in games (not a surprise for someone stretching back out to starting innings). He’s also shown a legitimately plus curveball, along with a slider and change-up. You can read about what minor adjustments he has been making to get dialed in from his pitching coach in Great Falls, Matt Zaleski, in our recent interview with him. Hansen’s pro debut has been a rousing success by any measure, and he’s a candidate to show up on some Top 100 MLB prospects lists during the offseason.
Jordan Stephens (A+): 2.23 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .212 BAA, 12 BB, 50 K in 36.1 IP (7 starts)
Luis Martinez (A): 2.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .182 BAA, 18 BB, 38 K in 36 IP (7 starts)
Aron McRee (Rk): 1.21 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .262 BAA, 4 BB, 17 K in 22.1 IP (4 starts)
Brannon Easterling (A): 1.40 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .187 BAA, 6 BB, 28 K in 38.2 IP (7 starts)
Yosmer Solorzano (Rk): 4.15 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .206 BAA, 9 BB, 51 K in 43.1 IP (7 starts)
Matt Foster (Rk): 0.00 ERA, 0.26 WHIP, .022 BAA, 3 BB, 22 K in 15.1 IP (11 relief appearances)
Jordan Stephens has made a strong climb up the prospect ladder in 2016, and he finished the season with a flourish, solidifying his spot among the top ten in the system, Despite increasing his innings load from 77 (across college and minors) in his TJ recovery year in 2015 to 141 this year, the 23-year old posted a 12.4 K/9 and dominated Carolina League hitters in his last month of action. 6’6″ right-hander Luis Martinez is repeating Class A, and has fared much better. He finished the year on a high note, striking out more than a batter an inning and keeping the bases clear.
Undrafted free agent signee Aron McRee had not only a very good August – he’s had a very good season, recently being named the Pitcher of the Year in the Pioneer League. His August performance has been a key factor in the recent run of success for Great Falls. Brannon Easterling has had his way with hitters in the SAL all year, ending the season by leading the entire league in ERA. His August was a continuation of that, and it will be interesting to see where he ends up in 2017 when he’ll be 26.
How does a starter with a 4.15 ERA end up on this list? Look at the rest of Yosmer Solorzano‘s performance – he struck out a lot of batters, walked very few, and evaded hitters successfully. He also threw not only a rain-shortened, 5-inning no-hitter, he also had a 7-inning no-hit start earlier in the month. Finally, our only reliever in consideration, Matt Foster. The 21-year old 20th round pick was just flat dominant across the AZL and Great Falls: 15.1 IP, 1 H (!!!), 0 R, 3 BB, 22 K.
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