Season in Review: 2016 Kannapolis Intimidators

The Intimidators were eliminated from postseason play in their regular season home game against Columbia on August 28. Kannapolis went 58-82 overall for the 2016 season. The silver lining is that the team did go 34-36 in the 2nd half and were, for a while, in the playoff hunt. The overall performance was disappointing but the talent level and 2nd half run were improvements over 2015.

Offense
Among league qualifiers, Granite City, IL native Cody Daily led the Intimidators with an average of .281 for the season and was 10th overall in the league. Outfielder Landon Lassiter had a breakout season, finishing his 77 games with a .283 average and a .373 OBP before being promoted to Winston-Salem (and thus technically didn’t qualify for league leaderboards). Leadoff hitter Tyler Sullivan was a sparkplug, stealing 31 bases in 42 tries, and coming in 2nd in the league with 59 walks. All three are 23-year olds.

Catcher Seby Zavala had a performance that seemed just OK on the surface, but becomes more impressive if you dig in. He started 0-for-16 while pressing early on, then posted a .277/.369/.420 line in his next 63 games before missing some time to let a leg injury heal. Returning from that, he reached base in all but 3 of the 24 games in August and September. He was also among league leaders in throwing out attempting basestealers, nabbing 45 runners at a 35% clip in 92 games behind the plate.

2016 3rd round pick, Alex Call, joined the team in mid-July so he only got in 46 games. But the 21-year old made the most of them: .308/.361/.449, 17 doubles, 3 home runs, and 10/12 SB/ATT.

Danny Mendick had a year that included a ridiculous 17 roster moves, as he played across Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. Hopefully he had a fuel-efficient car.

Pitching
Brannon Easterling was the one to watch on the mound in the 2016 season for the Intimidators with the lowest ERA in the South Atlantic League (and in the White Sox system among starters) at 1.86. In their final game of the season, Easterling added on to his scoreless innings streak, with six shutout innings, to put him at 18 for 2016.

21-year old hurler Luis Martinez repeated at Kannapolis and improved across the board statistically: 3.81 ERA (versus 5.38 in 2015), 3.4 BB/9 (vs 4.4), 9.3 K/9 (vs 5.7). Reports on the ground indicated his fastball steadily sat a few ticks higher, and his breaking pitches added sharpness. Similarly, Zach Thompson was much better in his second go-around in the SAL (2.62 ERA vs 4.44, 9.2 K/9 vs 7.7) before being promoted after 16 starts.

A pair of 2015 draft picks were nails out of the bullpen. Big right-handers Taylore Cherry (1.07 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 1.6 BB/9) and Drew Hasler (1.02 WHIP) were both very effective before their promotions to High-A. The pen got a late-season boost from 2016 21st round pick Michael Horejsei, who in 15 games struck out more than a batter an inning and allowed just 19 hits in 27.1 IP.

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