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2021 Winston-Salem Dash Season Review

Top prospects passed through, but it sure didn’t help the won-loss record.

Yoelqui Céspedes came in right away and showed why he was a top international prospect.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

Going into 2021, the Dash were not the team to watch, and besides the mid-year promotions that got Sox fans watching Yoelqui Céspedes and José Rodríguez do their thing, it pretty much stayed that way. They finished the year 43-76, the worst record in High-A. Next season should be better, at least in terms of prospect significance, but it would be pretty difficult to have a worse record than they did this season.

The Offense

There are a few different categories of hitters that these highlighted players fall into. Former hot prospect Bryce Bush does not fit into any of them because he did not really play this year. So the true first category features Luis Mieses and Harvin Mendoza, guys who started poorly with the Dash, did very well in Kannapolis, and then returned to Winston-Salem much improved. Mendoza’s finish to the season was not as impressive, so let’s start with him. When he was demoted to the Cannon Ballers, Mendoza had a 57 wRC+ with a very low batting average and no power whatsoever. He improved in about every respect in Kannapolis — especially batting average — and gained trust again to get back to the Dash. He finished there with a 98 wRC+ and a slash line of .287/.340/.379. So the batting average improved, but Mendoza still lacks power. That is nothing new — he has never been a power hitter — but will need to improve on his 4.3% BB-rate to become a prospect to watch.

For Mieses, it was a bit more fun, and he is generally regarded as a White Sox Top 30 prospect. He was even worse than Mendoza to start the year in High-A, with a 41 wRC+. Mieses was striking out too much, and not getting hits at all, with just a .163 BABIP. There was one good sign, though, a .211 ISO. Once Mieses was demoted, just about everything clicked. The strikeouts were cut by 10%, as he slashed .305/.347/.463. The power was down but he needed to prove he could get on base, and he did, so he got promoted back to W-S. Once Mieses was back, the player he was at Kannapolis came with him, for a 117 wRC+. The strikeout and walk rates were pretty much the same, though he did strike out more often. Mieses showed more power, with a .235 ISO, which makes the .319 OBP look a bit better. He is a toolsy player, and this really was the first year he put some of those tools together over a long stretch of time.

The second bucket are the guys that started in Winston-Salem and were promoted, none more famous or highly-regarded than Yoelqui Céspedes. He really had not played regularly since 2018, and even had some visa issues to start 2021 that prevented him from getting on the field right away. Céspedes came straight to the Dash, and crushed it. He had a 127 wRC+ and he only hit two more singles (25) than extra-base hits (27). He was even 10-for-12 in stolen bases. The plate discipline was not all that impressive even in High-A, but that should be expected for a guy that really hasn’t played since 2018. What was expected is that Céspedes hits the ball hard, and often.

Yolbert Sánchez started with the Dash as well, and as the Barons review mentioned, he really wasn’t promoted because of his success in High-A. Sánchez was showing good contact skills (.286 batting average) but people did expect better from a 24-year-old bonus baby. Again, Sánchez will never be a power guy, but he was hitting too many singles (50) compared to extra-base hits (12), and that tendency will not help stats like wRC+ move above average. Interestingly, Sánchez needed to wait to get to Double-A to really show what he is capable as a hitter, which does beg the question of whether he just trying to find a groove after a cancelled 2020 season.

The last bucket belongs just to José Rodríguez, because he deserves it. It wasn’t that he was unimpressive in Kannapolis, but Rodríguez just did not truly break out until he got to Winston-Salem. In 29 games, he hit five homers and somehow stole 10 bases. Rodríguez will not be a hitter that reaches base via a walk, and that will sometimes drag down his wRC+ like it did in Kannapolis. But he does get a lot of contact, and a decrease in K-rate by 5% from Low-A to High-A seemed to make a big difference. Overall, Rodríguez slashed .361/.381/.538 in High-A for a 141 wRC+ over 29 games, a very impressive performance that earned him a promotion to the Barons and an AFL bid. If he can figure out his defense, the Sox may have a legit middle-infield prospect.

The Pitching

The pitching was very bad for the Dash. Well, everything really was, but at least some top hitting prospects actually made it to High-A. Not so much for the Dash, and especially not on the starting staff. Jason Bilous started out in Winston-Salem, and did very very well before faltering in Double-A. He only needed three games in High-A to prove that the competition was a bit too easy, with a 46.4% K-rate and a 2.45 ERA. Bilous just could not keep it going once he was in Birmingham. On the opposite spectrum was Bailey Horn before he was traded to the Cubs: He had a 2.63 ERA, and then came up to the Dash and it exploded to 13.09. Horn is not a Sox problem anymore, though.

Where there was a bit more hope on the pitching side was with the bullpen. Caleb Freeman was the only notable arm in the pen that started in High-A, though he was eventually promoted. Before the year, Chris Getz said that Freeman would be a guy to watch for, but he struggled with command in his time with the Dash. Freeman’s BB-rate was just a touch more than 12%, which isn’t terrible, but is not good enough, either. Another problem was the long ball, as he allowed five in 27 13 innings. All of that improved once he was promoted.

The last of the pitchers of note both started in Kannapolis, Yoelvin Silven and McKinley Moore, and Moore even got a cameo in Birmingham. Silven spent most of his time in Kannapolis but like Rodríguez, Silven really broke out with the Dash. His strikeout rate overall was pretty down compared to 2019, but Silven did show some fantastic command. In 13 innings with the Dash, his BB-rate was all the way down to 4%. Where High-A was the outlier for him was with the batting average against: Silven kept hitters to a .188 batting average, and that coupled with a 4% BB-rate is a good recipe for a 2.77 ERA.

Moore was not as successful with the Dash compared to Silven, but he is a young arm to watch going forward, and the Sox seem to agree given his nine saves on the season. He had good strikeout numbers, with a K-rate right at 30% with the Dash and a BB-rate less than 10%, which is always good and fun. That is why Moore’s FIP (3.88) is better than his ERA (4.00). His main struggles came with batters getting good contact. Moore had a .370 BABIP, and it wasn’t unlucky, necessarily. Moore’s ground ball rate was slightly less than 40%, while fly balls and line drives went up compared to his Low-A stats. Moore has a lot to prove, but he was hitting the strike zone more often as the season went on, which is a good sign of progress. But of course, this is High-A, they all have a lot to prove.

MVP Ranks (Final)
José Rodríguez (73.3) 2021 South Side Sox Winston Salem-Dash Player of the Year
Yolbert Sánchez (52.8)
Luis Mieses (41.9)
Taylor Varnell (41.7)*
Luis Curbelo (38.7)
Alex Destino (35.5)
Yoelqui Céspedes (27.7)
Harvin Mendoza (25.8)
Lenyn Sosa (22.2)
Jason Bilous (19.6) 2021 South Side Sox Winston-Salem Pitcher of the Year
Gunnar Troutwine (18.6)
Ian Dawkins (18.5)
Johan Dominguez (18.1)
Jagger Rusconi (16.1)
Eloy Jiménez (13.1)
Johan Cruz (5.7)
Luke Shilling (4.3)
McKinley Moore (3.7)
Travis Moniot (3.3)
Davis Martin (2.4)
Entire W-S Lineup Minus Lázaro Leal (1.8)
Tyler Osik (1.5)
Tyler Johnson (1.1, 5 votes)/Ryan Newman (1.1, 5 votes)
Yoelvin Silven (0.6)
Lane Ramsey (0.5)
Karan Patel (0.2, 5 votes)
Vincenzo Aiello (0.2, 1)

Cold Cat Ranks (Final)

Cooper Bradford (-57.8)
Edgar Navarro (-51.4)
Kaleb Roper (-41.1)
Wilber Perez (-36.9)
Dan Metzdorf (-23.6)
Duke Ellis (-21.6)
Ryan Williamson (-21.4)
Declan Cronin (-19.8)
Trey Jeans (-19.1)
Evan Skoug (-18.6)
Kevin Folman (-17.8)
Sal Biasi (-14.7)
Bailey Horn (-12.5)*
Bryce Bush (-12.2)
Isaiah Carranza (-10.5)
Jordan Mikel (-9.9)
Dilmer Mejía (-9.6)
Brian Glowicki (-8.4, -51 votes)
No One (-8.4, -41)
Caleb Freeman (-8.3, -39 votes)
Ty Madrigal (-8.3, -20)
Daniel Millwee (-8.0)
Vince Arobio (-5.8)
Jesus Valles (-5.6)
Samir Dueñez (-5.5)
Caberea Weaver (-5.3)
Chase Solesky (-4.8)
Jeremiah Burks (-3.2)
Julie Brady (-2.8)
Lázaro Leal (-2.5)
Hansen Butler (-2.4)
Kleyder Sánchez (-2.2)
AJ Gill (-2.0)
Jerry Burke (-1.9)
Taylor Broadway (-1.4)
Sammy Peralta (-1.3)
Xavier Fernández (-1.2)
Brandon Bossard (-1.0, -12 votes)
Pauly Milto (-1.0, -2)
E.P. Reese (-0.2)

*no longer in the White Sox organization