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2019 Charlotte Knights All-Stars

Amid fierce competition from a potent lineup, one backstop rose above

Blast off: Collins proved again in 2019 that when he got hold of one, it flew a long way out of the park.
Tom Borowski/South Side Sox

Welcome to a bit of a new year-end feature here at South Side Sox, postseason affiliate All-Star teams. In 2018, we introduced the MVP concept to the Minor League Updates, but didn’t do anything with the data. This year, I compiled the MVP votes for each affiliate game, ranked performances in order of value (on a day when seven affiliates played, Luis Robert going 3-for-3 with six RBIs would earn seven points, Tate Blackman going 1-for-4 with a double would earn one), and came up with our minor league All-Star teams.

Obviously, these All-Stars are subjective and based merely on individual MVP awards and not all-around season performance; thus players who were very hot and cold have an unfair advantage over the slow and steady performers. Still, with a few oddball exceptions, the results seem pretty true to form.

MVP voters this season at South Side Sox and South Side Hit Pen include Brett Ballantini, Darren Black, Julie Brady, Leonard Gore, Joe Resis, WSM, Tiffany Wintz and Year of the Hamster. Four days of results in July are missing, as Sox on 35th deleted our Minor League Updates after the site had been scolded for both censoring and “rebranding”/lifting our work, so this final tally is about 2% incomplete.

2019 Charlotte Knights All-Stars (MVP votes in parenthesis)

Catcher Zack Collins (51)
First Base Matt Skole (31)
Second Base Ryan Goins (20)
Third Base Danny Mendick (32)
Shortstop Alcides Escobar (14)
Left Field Daniel Palka (35)
Center Field Adam Engel (30)
Right Field Luis Robert (44)
Designated Hitter Yermín Mercedes (41)
Utility Player Seby Zavala (22)
Right-Handed Pitcher Dylan Cease (20)
Left-Handed Pitcher Kyle Kubat (8)
Points leader missing the cut Paulo Orlando (16)

No need to look deeply into where the strengths were in Charlotte: anywhere but the pitching. Yikes! Our rookie league entries had more pitching MVP points than this.

But to be fair, it’s not just a measure of how poor the pitching was, but how incredible Charlotte’s offense powered through 2019. THREE catchers make our team here, where at other affiliates we were lucky to scrape up one MVP vote for a backstop.

And what a fierce battle it was for top Charlotte player, as six different guys scored 30 or more MVP points — including guys like Collins, Palka, Skole and Engel who saw time up north. But the clear winner in the MVP race was ...

2019 Charlotte Player of the Year: Zack Collins

Credit Collins for taking a big step forward this season, on a couple of levels.

First, he improved his defense. While prior to 2019 there was a clear difference between the defensive play of Seby Zavala and Collins, this season the two were much closer significantly. Yes, Collins still trailed a touch in passed balls, fielding percentage and caught stealing percentage. But no longer is he an obvious liability behind the plate. Whether Collins ever catches consistently in the majors, his step forward in 2019 as a defensive player was impressive.

The second jump Collins made stems for the adjustments he made after being sent back down to Charlotte from the White Sox in-season. White Sox brass made it known that the demotion conversation, which normally lasts a minute or two in the clubhouse, stretched for 15 or 20 minutes with Collins, who had a ton of questions and sought advice. What he heard from the staff, Collins took to heart, because his August in Charlotte was a MONSTER, slashing .338/.455/.763 and earning a September call-up.

Bravo to Collins, who not only made these nice strides, but fought off fierce competition for Charlotte MVP among many other thumpers in the Knights lineup.