2019 Birmingham Barons Season in Review: Pitchers

This is the second of two articles recapping the Chicago White Sox 2019 Double-A affiliate, Birmingham Barons. Included in this piece is a breakdown of pitchers. To read the first article focused on hitters, click HERE.

Newly appointed Birmingham Barons manager Omar Vizquel worked with 52 players throughout the 2019 Southern League campaign. With 28 pitchers ranging from 22-year-old Codi Heuer to 30-year-old Matt Tomshaw, as well as 24 hitters that included Luis RobertBlake Rutherford and Nick Madrigal, the White Sox Double-A affiliate amounted to a 64-72 finish, good for third place in the Southern League North division in 2019.

Team: Birmingham Barons

League: Southern League (AA)

Overall Record: 64-72 (First half: 27-42, Second half: 37-30)

Final placement: 3rd place Southern League North Division, missed playoffs

Final Team Stats

Among our midseason top 30 prospect list, 12 White Sox played in Birmingham this season, which included seven position players and five pitchers. One pitcher among the group is currently on the White Sox 40-man roster, Kodi Medeiros. Some spent most, if not all, of 2019 in Double-A, while others were there just as a pit stop for various reasons.

Let’s begin with Medeiros, who, along with right-hander Wilber Perez, was acquired from the Brewers in July of 2018 in exchange for Joakim Soria. Medeiros was having a career season within Milwaukee’s affiliate at the time of the acquisition, posting a 3.14 ERA in 20 appearances (15 starts) across 103.1 innings. He’s spent the majority of his professional career as a starter (139 games, 91starts), but that may change as he attempts to progress through Chicago’s system.

As a White Sox, the 23-year-old lefty is struggling to find consistency. His ERA across 117.1 Double-A innings stands at 5.07 with an unappealing 1.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Medeiros began 2019 as a starter before moving to the bullpen where he had more success.

Medeiros across nine starts in 2019: 0-8, 7.75 ERA, 2.065 WHIP, 26 BB, 38 K, seven home runs allowed in 40.2 innings.

Medeiros across 19 appearances out of the pen: 4-0, 2.55 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 25 BB, 37 K, four home runs allowed in 42.1 innings.

The walks and homers are an issue, but Medeiros was able to get outs much more efficiently out of the bullpen. He also pitched more than one frame in 13 of his 19 appearances, while throwing three or more innings six times. Plus, his slashes against went from .333/.435/.591 (1.026 OPS) as a starter to .164/.298/.314 (.613 OPS) as a reliever.

Medeiros will likely begin 2020 in Double-A for the third consecutive season, but should he maintain his success out of the pen, the White Sox may accelerate his timeline to Triple-A in an attempt to gauge what exactly they have in the 2014 12th overall draft pick and take advantage of his 40-man roster spot.

Speaking of relievers, Codi Heuer continues to exceed expectations in the White Sox organization. In his first full season as a professional, Heuer skipped Kannapolis completely and began 2019 in Advanced-A Winston-Salem where shoved his way to a 2.82 ERA, walked only eight and struck out 43 in 38.1 innings. That was enough to earn a promotion to Birmingham.

Heuer, who was the youngest Baron on the roster in 2019, was graded to have a 60-grade fastball and 55-grade slider, according to MLB Pipeline and also incorporates a changeup. The 23-year-old used his repertoire to compile an impressive 1.84 ERA while maintaining his low walk rate. The Sox have something in the 6-foot-5 right-hander.

The Sox are also happy to see the production of 2016 seventh round draft pick, Bernardo Flores. Things were going smoothly for the left-handed starter across his first 10 starts of 2019, but an oblique injury forced him on the sideline until mid-July.

Ultimately, Flores compiled 78.1 Double-A innings and notched a 3.33 ERA with 69 strikeouts compared to 15 walks. Ranked as our 21st prospect in the White Sox system, Flores is accumulating plenty of innings across his four Minor League seasons.

He posted a career-high 158 innings across two levels in 2018 and totaled 93.1 in 2019, which puts him at 432.2 in 92 affiliated games, 89 of which are starts. The mileage is there, as well as the value. Flores could very well earn a 40-man spot in advance of Dece,ber’s Rule 5 Draft should everything go his way.

Another left-handed starting pitcher that garnered some attention is 24-year-old John Parke. Parke earned a promotion to Birmingham for the first time in his three-year career and pitched to the tune of a 2.59 ERA in 76.1 innings. He’s totaled 298.1 innings over his last two seasons.

Parke’s stuff and overall numbers won’t jump off the page, but he trusts his command enough to avoid loud contact more often than not. Opponents slugged .380 against him in 2019, but he only allowed five home runs in Double-A. His career HR/9 stands at an impressive 0.6. Look for Parke to start 2020 in Birmingham in his age 25 season.

To continue the theme of left-handed pitchers, Hunter Schryver was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a 2.77 ERA in 30 relief appearances for Birmingham. The White Sox acquired Schryver from Tampa Bay in 2018 for international signing bonus money.

Schryver was drafted out of Villanova in the seventh round in 2017 after headlining the Wildcats’ starting rotation. As a professional, he’s started just once among his 101 appearances. He was impressive throughout his time in Double-A and pitched in multi-inning appearances 19 times before his promotion to Charlotte.

Ranked No. 20 on our top 30 midseason list is soon-to-be 25-year-old right-handed starter Jimmy Lambert. Recognized by Baseball America to have the best changeup in the Carolina League in 2018, Lambert’s 2019 season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery in late June. Here is a blurb from our scouting report on Lambert:

When Lambert started his professional career, he was a sinker-ball pitcher, working a 88-91 MPH two-seamer with fringe secondary stuff. In Spring Training of 2018, he received some analytic data from the White Sox that inspired him to replace his two-seam fastball with a four-seamer, and start throwing his curveball more often than his slider. These drastic changes, accompanied by an improved developing change-up, elevated Lambert from a middling prospect to a spot on FutureSox’s top 30.

Alec Hansen is another arm on our top 30 prospect list, but quickly falling. Previously ranked 12th prior to the start of 2019, Hansen dropped all the way to 24th by midseason on account of his erratic displays on the bump.

His outstanding 2017 season feels like ages ago. Now, the White Sox hope Hansen can translate to a serviceable relief pitcher, although his days as a starter aren’t totally out of the question. After a rocky 2018, Hansen began in Winston-Salem strictly out of the bullpen and dominated. He was promoted in early May following nine relief outings, but the struggles in command showed again in Double-A.

Hansen’s 45 strikeouts in 39.2 innings is a plus, but is overshadowed by his 37 walks and 43 hits resulting in a horrid 2.017 WHIP. The main issue surrounding his career to this point has been consistency. He either has his stuff, or he doesn’t.

Most of the damage to the freshly turned 25-year-old’s statistics occur in spurts. He’ll allow two runs over 6.1 innings, but suddenly shell out eight earned, six walks and four hits across two appearances that totaled a third of an inning. There is an abundance of talent that needs to be tapped in to and it’s on the White Sox to figure out a way to get the best out of Hansen, and fast.

Last among the notable arms in Birmingham throughout 2019 is first round pick Zack Burdi. The 2016 26th overall selection was making a beeline to the majors before needing Tommy John surgery in July of 2017. Since then, Burdi has appeared in 32 games, including 17 in Double-A this year, and is struggling to not only find success, but a way to stay on the field as well.

Burdi’s 2019 was halted abruptly after tearing a ligament in his right patella in late June. This season figured to be an adjustment year anyway for the 24-year-old right-hander following major elbow surgery, so the statistics, albeit unappealing, don’t necessarily yield as much weight given the circumstances.

With that being said, allowing nearly 40 percent of batters faced to reach base is an issue. A more serious concern relates to his velocity. Burdi was a first round draft pick for his wipe out slider and upper 90’s fastball. If he has trouble sitting mid-90’s on his fastball, the White Sox may need to figure out a different approach in the way he tries to retire opposing hitters.

The Barons struggled collectively in 2019 – hitters and pitchers alike. However, that doesn’t take away from the standout performances of Heuer and Flores, as well as pleasant surprises from Parke and left-hander Kyle Kubat, who worked his way to Triple-A following eight starts in Birmingham.

Tyler Johnson worked through an injury at the start of 2019 and ultimately worked his way to Double-A for the first time in his career, compiling 23 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. He is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Johnson talked to FutureSox about his season and you may read it HERE.

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