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White Sox Weekly Minor League Update: Week 4

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As minor league teams start to cool, top prospects continue to thrill

Dane Darts: Dunning earned a promotion from Winston-Salem to Birmingham last week.

To many Chicago White Sox fans hoping Michael Kopech would be added to the 40-man roster, the call-up of Dylan Covey was not welcome, but Covey was able to prove fans wrong — at least for one start. Gregory Infante was sent down to Charlotte to make room for Covey, and Casey Gillaspie was removed from the 40-man roster. Now, with a 5.14 FIP in Charlotte, fans can question if Covey truly deserved a promotion, but his schedule lined up well for the doubleheader. The Kopech promotion must wait.

Covey was not the only transaction last week. The Chicago White Sox acquired Todd Cunningham for a player to be named later, to take the outfield spot vacated by the injured Ryan Cordell. The 29-year-old was slashing .130/.192/.174 with the Pittsburgh Pirates AAA team.

Dane Dunning also earned a promotion this week, to Birmingham. He should have started at AA to begin the season and proceeded to back that fact up in Winston-Salem. He left high-A with a 2.59 FIP, 11.47 K/9, and a 1.11 BB/9.

Tanner Banks was added to Winston-Salem, and Colton Turner earned a promotion to Charlotte after the Dunning call-up.

Daniel Palka got the call to the south side after Avisail Garcia went on the 10-day DL. What is unfortunate is that Cordell could have been promoted if he was not injured. However, Palka did earn his promotion. He was slashing .286/.384/.476 in Charlotte, and was the Knights’s best hitting outfielder.

Ryan Brett was the beneficiary of the Palka promotion, as he is now in Charlotte after a brief stint in Birmingham. Jose Nin, who has spent most of his professional career in the Dominican, was also added to Kannapolis after an injury.


Charlotte Knights

Charlie Tilson: .250 BA, 2 R, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 SB

Jose Rondon: .286 BA, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K

Casey Gillaspie: .158 BA, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K

Kevan Smith: .214 BA, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K

Donn Roach: 12 IP, 5.04 FIP, 6 K/9, 2.25 BB/9

Michael Kopech: 11 IP, 1.55 FIP, 14.73 K/9, 2.45 BB/9 ***MVP of the Week***

Ricardo Pinto: 5 IP, 7.46 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 7.2 BB/9

Jace Fry: 3 IP, 4.46 FIP, 15 K/9, 0 BB/9

Thyago Vieira: 3 23 IP, 2.09 FIP, 17.18 K/9, 4.91 BB/9

Thyago Vieira was acquired from the Seattle Mariners last offseason. Many thought he could break camp as the White Sox closer, at least until the club acquired Joakim Soria. Vieira has an 80 grade fastball per FanGraphs that has reached the upper 90s this season. This past week was the first sign of success and improvement for Vieira. Even with his fastball, Vieira has never been a true strikeout pitcher, until this season. He is currently sporting a career-best 16.2 K/9, but what has kept him from reaching his full potential is his command. In 2017, his BB/9 was more than 3.5, which is already unsatisfactory for a potential closer. So far this season, his BB/9 is 7.2. Vieira did show improvement in his command this past week, his K/9 is up and BB/9 is down, but his walks are still not at a point to expect a call-up anytime soon.

Casey Gillaspie was a first round pick in 2014 and it seems his second team has given up on him as a viable major leaguer. In his 85 plate appearances this season, he does not have a home run. Gillaspie is slashing .208/.259/.234 with a BABIP of .340, which means that slash line should be worse. Gillaspie currently has a career low in walk rate (7.1%) and a career high in strikeout rate (37.6%). His line drive rate of 17% is the lowest since his first professional season and his infield fly ball rate of 38.1% is the highest since a brief stint in high-A ball in 2015. It is clear Gillaspie has regressed since his breakout 2016 in AAA, when he had a career-high BABIP (.358) and the highest batting average of his professional career. It is possible that the 2017 and 2018 Gillaspie is the real player, and 2016 was just an outlier.


Birmingham Barons

Eloy Jimenez: .216 BA, 3 HR, 8 R, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K

Seby Zavala: .333 BA, 3 HR, 5 R, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K

Matt Rose: .300 BA, 2 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 10 K

Tito Polo: .208 BA, 5 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 SB

Jameson Fisher: .250 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K

Zack Collins .438 BA, 1 HR, 5 R, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 3 K, 1 SB ***MVP of the Week***

Ian Clarkin: 9 1/3 IP, 7.88 FIP, 2.89 K/9, 5.79 BB/9

Dane Dunning: 6 IP, 3.15 FIP, 6 K/9, 3 BB/9

Spencer Adams: 8 13 IP, 2.77 FIP, 6.48 K/9, 2.16 BB/9

Jordan Stephens: 11 IP, 3.21 FIP, 7.36 K/9, 4.09 BB/9

Ian Hamilton: 3 IP, 1.49 FIP, 9 K/9, 0 BB/9

Eloy Jimenez is back. In 10 games, he has hit three home runs and has an isolated power of .270. His batting average is .216, but his BABIP is at a career-low .161, which means his average will climb. The next lowest BABIP in his career was .261, in 2014. Since Jimenez only has 42 plate appearances, much of the batted ball data cannot be trusted at this point. But one aspect of Jimenez’s approach at the plate can be seen as a positive. Strikeouts may not matter to baseball hitters as they did in the past, but it seems Jimenez is attempting to cut down on the punchouts. His strikeout percentage with the White Sox was 21.9% last season, and in the early part of 2018 it has dropped down to 11.9%. Jimenez does not have many holes as a batter, but if his strikeout decline holds up this season he should be on the South Side soon.

Some fans may know Jameson Fisher more for his mustache than his ability with the bat, so he surprised many when he hit .342 in his first professional season. However, since his time in rookie ball, he has been noticeably worse at every subsequent minor league level, including at Birmingham this season. His weighted runs created plus (wRC+) has fallen at every stop for Fisher. At rookie ball his wRC+ was 140, at low-A it was 128, at high-A it was 103, and currently at AA he’s at 80. The biggest reason why Fisher has faltered at Birmingham is his astronomically high strikeout rate (40.3%). It is still early in the season and that rate will drop, but like Gillaspie, there is genuine concern for Fisher’s development. In Fisher’s best batting average season in 2014, his BABIP was at .429, and in his second-best batting average season it was .345. Fisher may have had his best years because of an unsustainable BABIP. With a stacked outfield at Winston-Salem, Fisher may be demoted to clear a roster spot.


Winston-Salem Dash

Joel Booker: .267 BA, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 SB

Micker Adolfo: .333 BA, 2 HR, 5 R, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K

Alex Call: .385 BA, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K

Luis Alexander Basabe: .250 BA, 2 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 SB

Blake Rutherford: .250 BA, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 3 K

Gavin Sheets: .500 BA, 1 R, 4 BB, 0 K

Yeyson Yrizarri: .071 BA, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K

Dylan Cease: 8 23 IP, 4.95 FIP, 12.46 K/9, 8.31 BB/9

Jimmy Lambert: 9 13 IP, 3.13 FIP, 13.5 K/9, 3.86 BB/9 ***MVP of the Week***

Matt Foster: 3 IP, 6.78 FIP, 9 K/9, 3 BB/9

Jimmy Lambert fell off some fans’s watch list after a disappointing 14 starts in Winston Salem last year. His FIP with the Dash was 4.78, but that has drastically improved so far in 2018. After his last start (which featured a 75 game score), Lambert’s FIP is a much-improved 2.89. His improved K/9 from last season (10.98 K/9, from 6.99) are positive signs of development. FutureSox reports that Lambert’s fastball is topping out at 95 mph now, which could explain the rise in K/9. He has only pitched as many as six innings once this season, so Lambert will need to consistently reach a quality start in order to be considered part of the White Sox future.

Matt Foster is struggling through his first nine innings of the season. His FIP has risen from 1.97 in 2017 to 3.90 in 2018 at Winston-Salem. There are multiple factors for this, like a slight rise in BB/9 (2.03 in 2017 to 3.00). There is not much data on batted balls for minor leaguers, but Foster is giving up more fly balls and less infield flies. It can be assumed that batters are seeing Foster’s pitches better and hitting them harder. Also, the percentage of balls that went into the center of the field is up 11.6% from last season. That usually means hitters are able to track foster’s pitches more easily. It is a small sample size, but Foster’s problems seem to be pitch location — and that can be fixed.


Kannapolis Intimidators

Tate Blackman: .389 BA, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K

Craig Dedelow: .238 BA, 2 R, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K

Laz Rivera: .250 BA, 4 R, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 SB

Luis Gonzalez: .318 BA, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 SB

Justin Yurchak: .133 BA, 11 R, 1 RBI, 8 BB, 4 K

Evan Skoug: .063 BA, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K

Lincoln Henzman: 11 IP, 1.89 FIP, 7.36 K/9, 0 BB/9 ***MVP of the Week***

Kade McClure: 11 23 IP, 3.52 FIP, 6.94 K/9, 3.86 BB/9

Jose Nin: 3 IP, 3.52 FIP, 0 K/9, 0 BB/9

Tyler Johnson: 3 IP, 4.86 FIP, 18 K/9, 0 BB/9

Lincoln Henzman has had a stellar start to his first full professional season. The 2017 fourth round pick has 2.28 FIP, his K/9 is up to 7.2 and his BB/9 has fallen to 1.08. There are still some questions about Henzman being a starting pitcher. He split appearances between starting (seven) and relieving (four) last season but all appearances this year have been starts. Like Lambert, Henzman has not pitched six-plus innings often, only twice. He currently throws his fastball in the low- to mid-90s, and that could rise if he transitions to the bullpen. As for now, he has had three starts with a game score 50 or better.

Justin Yurchak, as a 12th round pick in 2017, was a surprise in Great Falls. He had a wRC+ of 139, with an isolated power of 175. The concern was that he had a high BABIP, at .375, but with an eye like Yurchak’s, a high BABIP can be expected (Joey Votto’s career BABIP is .352). So far this season, Yurchak has one less walk (16) than strikeout (17), but the BABIP is down to .283. Yurchak has not hit a home run 86 plate appearances, and is hitting more ground balls and infield flies. Yurchak just needs to create better contact, and he will be a future top prospect.