As we march into mid-May, the weather is getting hot in the southeast where the White Sox affiliates play most of their games, and some of the hitters and pitchers are warming up with it. As has been the trend so far this year, the performances have been strongest in the lower levels, but the Barons had plenty of good ones this week as well. Let’s dive in…
CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS (AAA)
The Knights haven’t been doing so well lately, which will happen when only one hitter posts an OPS above .700 on the week. Journeyman utility man Jake Elmore was far and away the team’s best hitter in the last week, with the 31-year-old hitting .438 with a 3:1 BB:K ratio in five games. Kevan Smith is still seeing the ball well, batting .313 for the same period.
On the pitching side, Dylan Covey continues to make a case to return to the big leagues. His start this past week saw him strike out nine batters in 6.1 innings, giving up just one run on four hits and a walk. Tyler Danish had a pair of strong relief outings, allowing a pair of runs in a combined 5.1 frames, and a 4:1 K:BB spread.
BIRMINGHAM BARONS (AA)
The Barons have been fairing pretty well lately, led by a balance of good showings on both sides of the ball. Jameson Fisher, after struggling a bit with a sort of forced-early promotion to AA, has come on lately. His line in the last week: .421/.560/.526, with a good looking 5:2 BB:K ratio in 25 PA. Then there’s Keon Barnum – remember him? He put up a .965 OPS with a pair of home runs, to remind everyone of his presence. Eloy Jimenez had what would be a very good week for some, but may seem ho-hum for the uber-prospect: .310/.333/.517, 1 HR, 3 2B.
Jordan Stephens pitched so well in his last start (and really, for most of the year) that he earned a deserved promotion to Charlotte. His last start in AA: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K. The other Jordan in the Barons rotation, Jordan Guerrero, also put up a pretty good line in his start: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Lefty reliever Brian Clark was unscored upon in four innings, whiffing five and walking no one.
WINSTON-SALEM DASH (A+)
The Dash keep bashing, and Alex Call continues his dramatic turnaround. After an iffy first few weeks of the season, Call has gone to the other extreme, slashing a fairly ridiculous .417/.481/.792 with two dongs and three doubles in six games. Ti’Quan Forbes has similarly been on an upward offensive trajectory, showing a 1.200 OPS in his five games. Mitch Roman (.417 AVG, .533 OBP) and Gavin Sheets (.333 AVG , 1 3B, 2 2B) also contributed to the offensive unit.
All four of the above Winston-Salem hitters are showing good plate discipline numbers too. Combined between them in 86 PA, they walked 9 times and struck out just 16.
On the mound, Jimmy Lambert just keeps impressing in his second season at High-A. He posted yet another solid start (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K). and on the season he’s got a 3.16 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 10.9 K/9. Reliever Matt Foster got the job done in the last week as well, whiffing 8 in 5 IP, allowing no walks or runs.
KANNAPOLIS INTIMIDATORS (A)
The prospect leading the White Sox farm in batting average going away, also had arguably the hottest past week of any player in the system. Laz Rivera not only hit an absurd .478 on the week, he also slugged .826 with a pair each of home runs and doubles. The 23-year-old shortstop is bucking for promotion.
A more well-known prospect (in fact the highest-ranked prospect on the Intimidators), outfielder Luis Gonzalez, has similarly been showing he’s ready to go to the next level, posting a .946 OPS driven heavily by power numbers (2 HR, 3 2B) in his first five games since returning from a minor finger injury. Catcher Evan Skoug has turned around a slow start to his 2018 campaign, not only hitting .300 but perhaps more importantly, striking out just 3 times in 22 plate appearances.
Blake Battenfield put up not only the best start in the Sox system last week, but the SAL Player of the Week had possibly the best statistical start of the entire season on the farm. Just look at this line from the box score; 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K… on just 82 pitches. And he wasn’t the only Kannapolis starter to impress (not surprising for a team with one of the best records in MiLB). Lincoln Henzman allowed just 3 runs in 11.2 innings across a pair of starts, striking out ten batters with only two free passes issued. In eight starts this year, Henzman has induced double digits in ground balls in all but two games.
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