Pitching promotions a relief for beleaguered bullpen arms

There were a few notable prospect promotions on the minor league side of things on Monday, but they weren’t the two headliners from the 2018 draft class that everyone is waiting on. Outfielder Steele Walker will remain in Winston-Salem while infielder Nick Madrigal will enjoy the Southern League for a bit longer. A slight re-shuffling of the bullpens in Charlotte on down could lead to a ripple effect in the coming weeks or months, however.

Tyler Johnson was ranked as the #20 prospect in the White Sox system on our preseason top-30 prospects list. Coming into the year, Johnson was expected to get his first taste of Double-A by reporting to the affiliate in Birmingham. The former Gamecock was then consumed with more rehab work than actual pitching after being sidelined with a lat injury. The White Sox selected Johnson in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of South Carolina and saw him as a fast mover in a relief role.

The 23-year-old righty got a late start on his 2019 season and threw three scoreless innings for the Low-Rookie level affiliate in the Arizona League. Johnson then moved on to the Winston-Salem Dash where he posted a 1.80 ERA with an xFIP of 2.06 while averaging 13.5 K/9 over 10 innings. The standout performance wasn’t too surprising after Johnson posted a 1.45 ERA in the Carolina League with 12.48 K/9 last season.

Tyler’s devastating stuff has returned and he will now take his rightful place in the back end of the Birmingham bullpen. He joins a troika of hurlers in Alec Hansen, Codi Heuer and Kodi Medeiros, which should make up one of the most interesting bullpens in the Southern League.

As usual with minor league transactions, promotions often lead to the relocation of others, whether it be positive or negative. In this case, southpaw Hunter Schryver will move up to the International League and join the bullpen in Charlotte. The left-hander was a 7th round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays out of Villanova in the 2017 draft. The White Sox acquired him in a trade in exchange for international bonus pool space at last year’s trade deadline. The 6’1″ 200 pounder was the Wildcats’ ace in college, but quickly transitioned to a relief role in professional ball.

The 24-year-old posted a 2.29 xFIP while averaging 12.6 K/9 after the trade with the Winston-Salem Dash in the Carolina League in 2018. In 48.2 innings so far with the Barons, Schryver has posted a 2.77 ERA with a 3.30 FIP and has been pretty tough on lefties. His strikeout rate has gone down significantly only punching out just over 7 guys per nine but his ground ball rate has improved to 51%. The lefty now gets the chance to pitch in a wildly erratic offensive environment in the launching pad that is BB&T Field in Uptown Charlotte. Schryver is not currently a member of the 40-man roster in Chicago, but he could contribute to the big league team in some fashion this year and is definitely a candidate to pitch in the majors in 2020.

Speaking of injured pitchers, former Yankees’ farmhand Jacob Lindgren is continuing his path toward the big leagues and will make his way to the Carolina League to pitch for the Dash. The New York Yankees selected Lindgren in the 2nd round of the 2014 MLB draft out of Mississippi State. The southpaw has had Tommy John Surgery twice in his young career and is working his way back from his most recent one in 2017. The 26-year-old threw 7.2 innings in the AZL with the White Sox affiliate to start his season. His command was shaky and he was roughed up at times despite 8 strikeouts. He posted a 7.04 ERA but he still throws hard and health was the biggest factor.

The 5’11” 180 pound left-hander then spent 3.1 innings pitching for the Intimidators with Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League. He posted a 0.00 ERA while striking out 3 and walking 1 in his short time there. Lindgren will now head to the Carolina League to pitch for the Winston-Salem Dash and try to replicate the success that Johnson had in a short time there. If Jacob can stay healthy, it’s conceivable that the Sox could push him to Double-A or even Triple-A to close out his season with a big league invite to spring training 2020 hanging in the balance as a possibility.

Roster Moves

  • Hunter Schryver (LHP) promoted to Charlotte Knights (AAA)
  • Tyler Johnson (RHP) promoted to Birmingham Barons (AA)
  • Jacob Lindgren (LHP) promoted to Winston-Salem Dash (A+)
  • Johan Cruz (SS/3B) promoted to Winston-Salem Dash (A+).

The 23-year-old Cruz posted a 146 wRC+ with a .387 wOBA for the Kannapolis Intimidators. In 45 games, he hit 6 homers and drove in 25 runs. He will be returning to the Winston-Salem Dash in the Carolina League.

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