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2021 Kannapolis Cannon Ballers Season Review

They had all (or most) of the top prospects heading into the year, and too many fell flat — though players like Bryan Ramos and José Rodríguez rose above.

Bryan Ramos was just a step behind teammate José Rodríguez with how he impressed this season — plus, he’s a year younger than Popeye.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

This was supposed to be a fun season, filled with fantastic talent — especially in the pitching staff. But it all fell apart quickly, and the bad remained bad throughout the entire season.

Kannapolis finished 40-79, the fourth-worst record in all of Low-A, to go along with a lot of second-guessing of top prospects heading into the offseason. No, it wasn’t all bad, but it is surprising how little good there really was from this team.

The Offense

On both offense and definitely mostly with the pitching staff, let’s just get right into the bad, because that is the theme of this team.

The most disappointing was Benyamín Bailey. He shot up the White Sox prospect rankings after a very good DSL campaign in 2019, and because he is 20 years old, 6´4´´ and 215 pounds, he looked just as good as his stats. But then, no 2020 season, and Bailey was pushed all the way to Kannapolis. He was supposed to be ready for full-season ball, based off of his 166 wRC+ in the DSL. Well, he was not. He only spent 21 games in Kannapolis because of how poorly it went, and Bailey was never re-promoted. In those 21 games, he had a 22 wRC+, which is beyond horrific. The K-rate shot up 13% from 2019, and the BB-rate fell at the same pace. Bailey showed little to no power, and just one extra-base hit, a homer. Bailey is still very young, and maybe this was just too much too soon, but he should have been better.

Bailey was the top prospect in Kannapolis, at least hitting-wise. To round out the bad are some familiar names who are probably now considered fringe prospects to watch, and 2022 will be very important for their future and the Sox.

First, Caberea Weaver, a 2018 draft pick out of high school. He did make it to Winston-Salem this year, but was sent down to Kannapolis in September. Overall in Kanny, he had a 79 wRC+ which was heavily influenced by a 35% K-rate. He barely hit above the Mendoza Line, at .214, but he did show some decent base-running skills with 25 stolen bases in 32 tries. Lency Delgado is another 2018 high school draft pick and had many of the same struggles. He finished slashing .194/.256/.313, while his K-rate skyrocketed to 50% (sheesh). That will not cut it, especially in Low-A.

Chase Krogman and Misael González did not have abysmal seasons like Weaver and Delgado, but they did show some concerning signs in Kannapolis and did not exactly blow away the competition. Krogman, a left-handed outfielder, showed OK power with 10 homers and a .148 ISO. He also proved that he can take his walks, with a BB-rate just shy of 16%. What he did not prove, and why he has a 100 wRC+, was he struck out 41.8% of the time, and that is very bad. An OBP of .350 was able to salvage his season, but Krogman will need to cut down on strikeouts to improve. For González, he had a fantastic time in the ACL, but his offensive production fell once he was promoted. In 31 games in Low-A he had a 71 wRC+ and guess what, he had a very high K-rate at (38%). K-rate was definitely a theme lurking behind player struggles at Kannapolis this season. González had a healthy 10.5% BB-rate and showed some pop, but really struggled with contact and sported a .178 batting average. These two outfielders may have been a little too patient at the plate, with high K-rates and good BB-rates; whatever the reason for the struggles, they will need to figure it out soon.

It was not all bad though. It was briefly mentioned in the Winston-Salem review, but Luis Mieses and Harvin Mendoza came back down to Kannapolis and righted their seasons. Mieses improved on his walk and strikeout rates enough to where he was getting good, solid contact. He slashed .305/.347/.463 in Kannapolis, and after 52 games was re-promoted to the Dash, where he continued his success. For Mendoza, he was similar to what he was in Winston-Salem, but his BABIP rose to .359 and that helped him reach base more often. It was not all luck, though, as Mendoza’s ISO was up and he was hitting pitches to all fields. Basically, he was being the type of hitter he needs to be to keep getting promoted.

These were examples of success stories, but the real successes belong to José Rodríguez and Bryan Ramos.

Rodríguez played the majority of his season in Kannapolis, where he left with a wRC+ of 109. That is not all that impressive, but he is a younger player and showed some good things (again, his real breakout was in Winston-Salem). Rodríguez showed some pop, specifically gap power that can hopefully increase as he gets older. He had nine homers and 35 extra-base hits in Low-A, for a .170 ISO. That is pretty good for a middle infielder, though Rodríguez’s defense is suspect enough to wonder if he truly will end up as a second baseman or a shortstop. He was also 20-for-25 in stolen base attempts, though A-ball rules favor the runner more than MLB rules. Rodríguez is never going to walk a lot, but he makes good contact. He had a 15.8% K-rate that actually improved when he went to Winston-Salem, which is why he should be regarded as the best or maybe second-best position player in the system.

For Ramos, he spent the entire year in Kannapolis and did as well as Rodríguez overall, just in a different way. Ramos is about a year younger, and that is probably the main reason why he was not promoted. But Ramos also had a higher K-rate (just under 22%). That’s not terrible, but it is something to note if and hopefully when Ramos gets promoted. Why he had a 109 wRC+ is mostly due to his BB-rate, which was a tick over 10%, and you could make the argument Ramos was a bit unlucky with a .295 BABIP while he increased his opposite-field contact rate. He also hit more fly balls than grounders, which is always fun, but more than a quarter of those were in the infield which, you know, isn’t as fun. Ramos showed decent pop, too, with 13 homers and a .172 ISO, but obviously he still has a lot to prove, like anybody else at 19. If he stays on course, he’ll get paid millions of dollars if it works out.

The Pitching

Unfortunately, the pitching was supposed to be the highlight for Low-A, and that plainly did not happen. The group is led by Jared Kelley, Andrew Dalquist, and Matthew Thompson, and they each played poorly. This was Kelley’s professional season, and hadn’t pitched since early 2020 in high school, before the pandemic put everything on hold. Kelley really struggled with command, with a 19.5% walk rate, and that is very difficult to pitch your way out of (he was not able to, with a 6.86 ERA). Kelley had an upper-90s fastball, and reports had his stuff looking fine — but he couldn’t control anything.

Dalquist and Thompson at least pitched professionally in 2019, but sill struggled. Dalquist also had command issues, with a 14.2% walk-rate, but he worked out of that trouble a bit more often (4.99 ERA). He also did not increase his strikeouts enough, at just 20.1%. At the very least, Dalquist should hope that rate holds instead of falls as he get promoted, or he will fall in rankings pretty quick, especially with a low (40%) ground ball rate. For Thompson, he had better strikeout and walk rates compared against the other two, but a K-minus-BB% rate of 12% is still not great. Out of any, Thompson was also the most unlucky, with a .384 BABIP, and the hitting profile would seem to indicate a bit weaker contact. Hitters went the opposite way more than a third of the time, and Thompson’s GB-rate was at 45%, so if anybody should show improvement right away, it should be him.

But again, each of these players’ stocks are down, and it leaves the Sox farm system weaker and without a real pitching prospect Stateside.

It was not all bad, though, or at least everything was not disappointing, especially in the pen. McKinley Moore did not have a great ERA, at 4.37 in 22 23 Low-A innings, but he struck out a lot of hitters (34.7%). The command wasn’t all great, but he improved it once he got to Danny Farquhar in Winston-Salem. Moore was a closer option with the team, and that bodes well for how the Sox think of him (6-for-7 in save chances). Moore should be up for a big season in 2022. Yoelvin Silven started here, too, before he finally ended up in Birmingham, but he did not do well. Why his season is not a disappointment is that the command looked legit, and he was much better after he left Kannapolis.

To round out the pitching is the first 2021 draft pick of this season in review series, Sean Burke. He was drafted in the third round and is already ranked 12th in the system according to MLB Pipeline. He’s really tall (6´6´´) with a high-90s fastball and decent breaking balls to help him out. It certainly helped in the ACL and in Kannapolis. In 14 innings with the Intimidators, Burke had a 3.21 ERA. It was a very small sample size, but he struck out a lot of batters (about a third he faced), but also struggled with command, which squares up with scouting reports.

Final MVP Ranks

José Rodríguez (104.7) 2021 South Side Sox Kannapolis Cannon Ballers Player of the Year
Bryan Ramos (84.9)
Luis Mieses (65.3)
Harvin Mendoza (34.3)
Samil Polanco (31.7)
Misael González (26.0)
Kohl Simas (19.1) 2021 South Side Sox Kannapolis Cannon Ballers Pitcher of the Year
Adam Hackenberg (17.5)
Bailey Horn (14.8)*
Sean Burke (14.1)
Matthew Thompson (10.7)
Sammy Peralta (6.7, 40 votes)
Benyamín Bailey (6.7, 36)
James Beard (6.2)
Shawn Goosenberg (5.7)
Brandon Jenkins (5.1)
Visalia Rawhides (4.4)
Tyler Osik (3.6)
Dixie Upright (Old-Time Kannapolis pro) (3.4)
Players’ Dads (3.3)
Caberea Weaver (2.8)
Gill Luna Jr. (2.4)
Jeremiah Burks (2.2)
Wilber Sánchez (2.0)
Jagger Rusconi (1.8)
Official Scorer (1.1)
Everhett Hazelwood (1.0, 3 votes)
Miguel Palma (Fayetteville Woodpeckers) (1.0, 3)
Karan Patel (1.0, 0)
Jerry Burke (0.5, 9 votes)
Fred Marsch (0.5, 2)
Rick Hahn’s Trade Talks (0.4)
Pauly Milto (0.3, 2 votes)
Haylen Green (0.3, 1)
Iván González (0.2)

Final Cold Cat Ranks

Hunter Speer (-38.2)
Garvin Alston Jr. (-37.1)
Tyson Messer (-35.4)
Marcus Evey (-30.2)
Martin Carrasco (-29.6)
Yoelvin Silven (-28.0)
Angel Acevedo (-27.5)
Corey Stone (-23.5)
Anderson Comas (-23.1)
Ty Madrigal (-19.6)
Jared Kelley (-18.8, -108 votes)
Drew Dalquist (-18.8, -32)
Lency Delgado (-17.0)
Richard García (-13.5)
Jayson González (-11.3)
AJ Gill (-11.1)
Fraser Ellard (-9.1)
Kevin Folman (-7.5, -37 votes)
Jordan Mikel (-7.5, -33)
Homer Cruz (-7.5, -30)
Trey Jeans (-7.5, -28)
McKinley Moore (-7.3)
Daniel Millwee (-6.9)
Dan Metzdorf (-5.0)
Frander Veras (-3.9)
Cannon Ballers Coaches (-3.8, -14 votes)
Rigo Fernández (-3.8, 54)
Kleyder Sánchez (-3.5)
Nobody (-3.4)
Jhonabiell Laureano (-3.3)
Zach Cable (-3.2)
Victor Torres (-2.8)
Sal Biasi (-2.0)
Theo Denlinger (-1.7)
Chase Solesky (-1.6)
Jesus Valles (-1.4)
Chase Krogman (-1.2)
Sam Abbott (-1.0)
Dingers (-0.9)
Brooks Gosswein (-0.8)
Brandon Bossard (-0.5)
DJ Gladney (-0.4)
Keyvius Sampson (-0.3)

*no longer in the White Sox system