Season Review: 2012 Kannapolis Intimidators

Courtney Hawkins

Kannapolis wasn't much more than a rest stop for most of the prospects who played for the Intimidators in 2012. The ones who started the season with Kannapolis didn't stay all that long and even the ones who joined up mid-season almost all went on to Winston-Salem before the end of the season.

On the offensive side, CF Keenyn Walker started off as the main player of interest. The 2011 supplemental first round pick had wrapped up his first professional season in uninspiring fashion with the Intimidators, in particular showing a shocking lack of power (.031 ISO). This year, he did exactly what you'd want to see from a raw player: steady improvement over the course of the season. Each month, his numbers got better, totaling up to .282/.395/.387 and 39 for 50 in stolen bases, before his promotion to Winston-Salem in mid-July. While his 29% strikeout rate remains a major concern, the 22 year old showed improvement in all facets of his game and that's good enough for one season.

After Walker left, OF Courtney Hawkins soon replaced him (albeit briefly) as the prospect to watch. His 16-game stint with Kannapolis was sandwiched between time with both Bristol and Winston-Salem. But it was an impressive stint - .308/.352/.631 - showing that he's more advanced than one would expect an 18 year old to be and solidifying his standing as the top prospect in the organization.

There were a number of other position players who at least merit a mention. 2B Joey DeMichele made a decent showing, posting a better than league average .261/.319/.436, but that should be expected from a 3rd rounder with big college experience.

3B Rangel Ravelo showed some promise early on but cooled off significantly before leaving the team in early July for personal reasons (reportedly related to an ill child, which may explain the cooling). The 20 year old's offensive line was a bit better than league average - .290/.343/.397 - but his defense at third base continues to be butcherific.

The much-slobbered C Kevan Smith showed that, indeed, his merciless battering of Rookie Ball pitchers five years his junior in 2011 was just what it looked like it was. Still, his jump to full season ball must be considered a minor success. While, at 24, he still was very old for the league, a better than league average offensive line from a catcher coupled with good enough defense will keep him on the outskirts of White Sox prospect lists, particularly since he did finish the season in the slightly more age-appropriate Carolina League.

On the pitching side, the early season notables in the rotation were a trio of lefties, Jefferson Olacio, Scott Snodgress and the since departed Blair Walters. Olacio was a surprise inclusion for the opening day roster as the extremely raw 18 year old had only pitched in the Dominican Summer League and basically had just a fastball. The results were as expected - 37 IP, 43 H, 26 BB, 34 K, 5 HBP, 5 WP - and resulted in a step back to Bristol mid-season, but his ceiling is very high.

Snodgress, as a more polished 22 year old with Rookie Ball experience in 2011, showed better results: 99 IP, 86 H, 49 BB, 84 K. While command remained an issue, it was good enough to merit a promotion to Winston-Salem in July.

RHP Erik Johnson came out of extended spring training in June. He struggled with elbow issues after being drafted and the 2011 second round pick threw only two innings over two games last year but did get plenty of work during the instructional league. For Kannapolis this year, he showed why he merited a high pick - 43 IP, 39 H, 19 BB, 39 K - before also making the short journey up to Winston-Salem. While he may eventually end up in the bullpen as a now classic fastball/slider reliever, the White Sox will develop him as a starter.

Someone they're not developing as a starter is the big RHP Jeff Soptic. The 21 year old is all fastball and all not commanding it. While hitters only managed 26 hits over 43.1 innings against him, that was largely a function of his inability to throw strikes, as evident in his 29 walks, 5 hit batters and an astonishing 16 wild pitches. His 36 strikeouts, though, showed a glimpse of the upside.

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