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Legacy White Sox pitcher Kohl Simas went from undrafted free agent to possible South Side heir to dad Bill in a matter of weeks.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

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White Sox Deep Dive: Kannapolis Right-Handed Relievers

Some significant success with undrafted free agents blossomed in the Cannon Ballers pen.

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican and Arizona)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
  5. Free agent options

The White Sox system has four right-handed relievers among the MLB Pipeline list of Top 30 prospects, but none are presently ranked higher than 21st, and each finished the 2021 season in full-season leagues. Three are found at Single-A, but there is plenty more talent here that could make a serious impact in 2022.

Due to the vast amount amount of right-handed relievers that pitched for each team, and in order to conserve time for our readers, Deep Dives will be provided for just five relievers on each squad. Kannapolis and Winston-Salem are also being broken into separate articles.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Kohl Simas
190 pounds
Age: 22

Like many players in the Sox organization, Kohl hails from a baseball family. For starters, his father Bill pitched six seasons (1995-2000) for the White Sox, saving 18 games in 1998. (Bill currently serves as the pitching coach for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.) Also, Kohl’s younger brother, Karson, hit .310 last year as a shortstop for the ACL Red Sox.

Also like several players in the organization, Simas took a circuitous college route, as he pitched for three separate schools. As a freshman starting pitcher for Fresno City CC, Simas produced a 2.20 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 61 13 innings as he induced 32 hits (.152 OBA) and 38 walks (18.1%) while striking out 73 (34.8%). He transferred to the University of San Diego for the abbreviated 2020 sophomore season, where he produced a 2.45 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 11 innings for the Torreros by surrendering eight hits (.200 OBA) and nine walks (17.6%) while striking out 15 (29.4%). Finally, as a redshirt sophomore for San Diego State University in 2021, Simas suffered through a difficult 15-game stretch, producing a 9.00 ERA and 2.50 WHIP. In his 16 innings for the Aztecs, he relinquished 24 hits (.329 OBA) and 16 walks (17.4%) while fanning 25 (27.2%).

Simas could’ve continued college ball, as he had plenty of leverage due to his sophomore status. However, when the opportunity came along to sign as an undrafted free agent with his dad’s old team, he couldn’t resist. In Simas’ first taste of pro ball with the ACL Sox, he ceded three hits, one walk, one earned run and struck out two in his three innings. On August 9 he was promoted to Kannapolis and was arguably the best bullpen arm on the team. In 10 games for the Cannon Ballers totaling 18 innings, Simas produced a 1.50 ERA and 0.72 WHIP by allowing just nine hits (.148 OBA) and four walks (6.1%) while striking out 23 (34.8%).

Turning 22 in late December, Simas was nearly a year younger than his Single-A competition. With the exception of his stint with San Diego State, he’s always done a great job producing strikeouts and limiting his OBA despite high walk totals. In his 10 games with ACL and Kannapolis, however, Simas limited his walks without hindering his ability to stifle bats. Neither Single-A lefties nor righties could figure out his stuff, as they hit just .179 and .121 against him. It’s not clear if Simas’ improved results were caused by an increase in focus, or if there was a tweak in his delivery that aided his transition to the professional ranks.

According to a preview to the Mountain West Conference last year, Simas was cited as offering a high-spin, 92-96 mph fastball that jumps on hitters. His best secondary offering is a sharp curveball that was projected to be his staff’s best. While a return to Kannapolis in 2022 would certainly be possible, it seems likelier that Simas begins next season pitching for Winston-Salem.

Everhett Hazelwood
210 pounds
Age: 22

A native of Mission Viejo, Calif., Hazelwood stayed in-state to play college ball for Palomar CC (San Marcos). While he got hit fairly hard as a freshman reliever, Hazelwood produced far better results as a sophomore starter, with a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 64 innings. Upon transferring to Kansas University for his junior season, he encountered some difficulties in a four-game stint as a starter as he posted a 5.23 ERA and 1.69 WHIP prior to the pandemic shutdown. Able to return as a redshirt junior in 2021, Hazelwood’s struggles continued, as he produced a 6.87 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 16 appearances (12 starts). In 55 innings for the Jayhawks, he relinquished 53 hits, 41 walks (15.8%) and 53 strikeouts (20.4%). When given the opportunity to return to Kansas as a redshirt junior or sign with the White Sox as an undrafted free agent, Hazelwood chose the latter.

Based upon his early results in the White Sox organization this year, it seems Hazelwood may have made the correct choice. After a decent, if unsensational, seven-game stint with the ACL Sox in which he produced a 4.15 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, Hazelwood pitched his final three games with Kannapolis and relinquished just two hits while striking out four in five innings. Combined with both teams, he compiled a 2.63 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 13 23 innings by limiting opponents to 12 hits (.231 OBA) and three walks (5.5%) while fanning 13 (23.6%).

While there wasn’t a lot to get excited about when reviewing his college performance, Hazelwood did consistently post good strikeout rates. He certainly looked good in his small professional sample size last year, so it’s possible some adjustments were made. He was clearly older than his competition in the ACL, but was age-appropriate with Kannapolis. Thus, it seems likely Hazelwood will begin next year with Winston-Salem. Due to the high amount of higher-end starting prospects for that squad next year, Hazelwood seems a more viable option out of the pen.

Theo Denlinger
240 pounds
Age: 25

One can say that Denlinger certainly has enjoyed an unorthodox baseball career to date. As a three-sport athlete from Cuba City H.S. just 10 miles from Platteville, Wis., Denlinger earned a combined 12 varsity letters in baseball, football and basketball. While in high school, he began his blacksmithing career while attending a Native American rendezvous for Father’s Day in Prairie du Chien, Wis., with his father and his older brother, Trent, who was an offensive right guard at the University of Wisconsin. Now, Denlinger has a shop right outside his house with a propane forge, a 180-pound anvil and grinders.

Now, let’s look at Denlinger’s college career. As a freshman in 2016 for Madison Tech CC, he relieved in nine games and posted a 3.57 ERA — albeit with high walk totals (14 in 19 13 innings). He only entered two games in 2017 and 2018 combined, due to blowing out his knee and Tommy John surgery.

As a junior for Bradley University in 2019, Denlinger put together his best college year by producing a 2.86 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 22 relief outings, as he saved six games and limited hitters to a .175 OBA. As a result of his efforts, he was named All-Missouri Valley Conference Second Team. After a rough three-game start to begin his senior season in 2020, the year was derailed due to the pandemic. In 2021 for the Braves, Denlinger posted a 4.58 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 17 23 innings by relinquishing 19 hits (.275 OBA) and 10 walks (12.5%) while striking out 21 (26.3%). He also turned heads during the Northwoods Summer League this year prior to the draft, as he produced a 1.06 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 17 innings for the Madison Mallards while allowing just 13 hits and four walks while striking out 25. Also, he did this:

Shortly after being selected to pitch in the Northwoods League All-Star Game, Denlinger was selected by the White Sox in this year’s draft. In a combined 16 relief appearances for the ACL Sox and Kannapolis, Denlinger compiled a 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. In his 16 23 innings, he surrendered just 13 hits (.217 OBA) and seven walks (10.3%) while striking out an incredible 31 (45.6%). He was about two years older than his average competition this year while at Kannapolis, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Denlinger promoted to Birmingham to begin the 2022 season. With that said, it’s likelier that he begins with Winston-Salem, but will earn a promotion if he gets off to a good start.

One final note: As an adopted member of the Lakota Sioux, Denlinger’s tribal name of Tatanka Hok Shi-La translates to Buffalo Boy.

In the meantime, here’s hoping he’ll continue to forge a new Sox career in the years to come:

Bradley University

Homer Cruz
175 pounds
Age: 22

Cruz, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed with the White Sox in October 2018. Cruz acquitted himself relatively well in 2019 for his first season of professional ball, as he posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in his 63 innings pitched. During that span, he allowed just 57 hits (.237 OBA) and 25 walks (9.3%) while striking out 65 (24.1%). Lefties were Cruz’s bugaboo as they hit .278 against his offerings; righties, however, hit just .208 against him. While his control wasn’t great, it was decent enough for his first year. At 53.6%, Cruz’s ground out rate was particularly impressive.

After the year’s layoff due to the 2020 pandemic, Cruz pitched exceptionally well for the ACL Sox in 2021. In 17 appearances totaling 44 13 innings, he allowed just 32 hits (.201 OBA) and 20 walks (11.0%) while striking out 55 (30.2%) on his way to a 2.23 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. However, he struggled quite badly for Kannapolis in the short sample size of 6 13 innings, as he posted an ugly 14.21 ERA and 3.16 WHIP by allotting 10 hits (.357 OBA) and 10 walks (24.4%) while striking out eight (19.5%). In addition to a decreased in control and command, his ground ball rate declined from 54.3% to 35% in A-ball. As a result of these struggles, Cruz likely will return to Kannapolis to begin the 2022 season.

Zach Cable
220 pounds
Age: 24

Cable, a native of Roswell, Ga., was recruited as a catcher for Chattahoochee Valley CC. Seeing how powerful this young righthander’s arm was, he got a tryout on the mound and immediately was converted to the pen. Of course, throwing from the mound is different than from the level ground of home plate, and Cable had difficulties throwing strikes as a result. As a freshman in 2017, he produced an 8.38 ERA and 2.17 WHIP in 9 23 innings as he walked 12 and ceded nine hits while fanning 11. Cable’s season ended prematurely, as he tore his UCL which led to Tommy John surgery and forced him to miss the 2018 season. As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, he totally dominated — at least in those times he threw strikes. In 13 appearances totaling 18 13 innings, Cable surrendered just six hits but yielded 19 walks while striking out 24 on his way to a 0.98 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

Cable spent his following two seasons with Oklahoma State University, and combined to produce a 5.49 ERA and 1.83 WHIP thanks in large part to his 22 walks in 19 23 innings. He kept sharp after the NCAA season by pitching for the Savannah Bananas in the Coastal Plain Summer League. Shortly after this year’s MLB draft when he was not selected, the White Sox inked him to a minor league deal

In six appearances for the ACL squad, Cable posted a 3.68 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 7 13 innings by allowing four hits (.148 OBA) and five walks (15.6%) while striking out 11 (34.4%). He was promoted to Kannapolis on August 23, and in nine appearances with the same number of innings, posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.78 WHIP by relinquishing 12 hits (.333 OBA) and four walks (9.3%) but fanning 14 (32.6%). His repertoire includes an upper-90s heater, along with a slider and splitter that run in the upper-80s. The difficulty for him is getting ahead in the count. If he can somehow reduce those free passes significantly, he does possess the ceiling of a high-lever age reliever.

Cable was a year older than his A-ball competition this year. Thus, it’d make sense if he begins the next season with Winston-Salem if they feel about his improved strike-throwing abilities going forward.

Other relievers:

Martin Carrasco (22 years old): The Mexican native was a minor-league Rule 5 selection from the Padres in 2020, but struggled this year with a 5.85 ERA and 1.59 WHIP for Kannapolis.

Tyson Messer (25): The former Campbell Camel posted a 7.18 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in 31 13 innings for the Cannon Ballers, as he walked 31 and struck out 28.

Hunter Speer (26): The 25th round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 struggled with four teams this year to produce a combined 7.90 ERA and 2.23 WHIP.

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