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Though 2021 was a setback, Jared Kelley still enters 2022 as the top-rated Stateside starter in the White Sox system.
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White Sox Deep Dive: Kannapolis Right-Handed Starters

The mother lode of talent resided with the Cannon Ballers in 2021.

“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

Given the huge number of pitchers to address, we’re splitting up the A-ball Deep Dives this time around.

Four of the system’s top seven prospects according to MLB Pipeline were young right-handed starters who finished with Kannapolis, which is the team we’ll start off with.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022


Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Jared Kelley
6´3´´
230 pounds
Age: 20
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 5

Refugio, Texas. Never heard of it? This town in southern Texas, the birthplace of Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, is also the home of White Sox prospect Kelley. Considered one of the best prep prospects ever from his home state, he made mincemeat of the competition. Certainly I’m exaggerating, right? He only pitched 12 innings during his senior season in 2020, but he allowed nary a hit and fanned 34 of the 36 batters he faced. Pretty impressive, indeed!

Kelley was quite an amazing catch for the White Sox, drafted in the second round in 2020 but pegged as a mid-first round talent. Obviously, “signability” concerns saw the fireballing prep drop — he had committed to the dream destination for many Texans, the University of Texas — but the White Sox played a hunch that first-round money could bring him into the fold. With essentially no drama, that’s just what happened.

Kelley spent time at the alternate site in Schaumburg in 2020, as the more MLB-ready fireballer and first-rounder Garrett Crochet advanced to the majors in the season’s final week.

The 2021 season was an adjustment for Kelley, however, as he struggled significantly with his command and control. In 12 starts totaling 23 23 innings combined with the ACL squad and Kannapolis, he posted a 7.61 ERA and 2.11 WHIP by allowing 24 hits (.247 OBA), 26 walks (9.89 BB/9) and 27 strikeouts (10.27 K/9). Kelly’s season was somewhat limited, as he suffered a right shoulder infringement in August that shut him down for a few weeks. The injury wasn’t serious enough to cause him to miss more than a handful of starts.

Despite Kelly’s struggles, especially with his command and control, most scouts believe he will get it figured out. Prospects Live, said this regarding his command in August: “Kelley throws a lot of strikes, and moves his fastball/changeup combo around the zone innately and successfully. The ease of operation in terms of his mechanics allows for extreme repeatability, which leads to this command level. Above-average projection overall.” They gave him a 60 grade for control but 50 for command.

MLB Pipeline currently ranks Kelly fifth among all White Sox prospects, and gave him the following grades: 65 fastball, 60 changeup, 50 slider and 50 control. Kelley’s repertoire begins with a mid-to-upper 90s heater that has peaked at 100 in combines. His changeup, long considered his best secondary, is thrown in the low-mid 80’s with fantastic sell and arm speed, and turns it over and generates great fading action; the speed variation is a terrific complement to his heater. His slider is currently a distant third offering that has lacked consistency, due to his his feel in spinning the ball. That pitch was hit-and-miss during the pre-draft circuit, with flashes of above-average but more often than not average to slightly-below.

Prospects Live said this of his delivery and mechanics: “XL frame with extremely physical, broad build. Durable and strong with look of MLB starter who can hold up under 200+ inning workload. Absurdly easy operation for someone who throws as hard and is as physical as Kelley. Balanced and fluid with good direction downhill, minimal effort at release with no recoil, repeats well. Starter operation.”

So, after all this, what were Kelly’s struggles attributed to? Rust may have certainly played a factor. As mentioned earlier, he wasn’t completely healthy, and this may have impacted his numbers. Perhaps his youth was a factor, as he was nearly two years younger than his ACL competition and three years younger than his Kannapolis opponents. He may have devoted much of his time working on his secondary options, and/or working on a new grip. Likely, it was some combination of all of the above.

Despite his struggles, Kelly could begin next season with Winston-Salem, but it wouldn’t be a disappointment if he starts the year with Kannapolis instead.

Andrew Dalquist
6´1´´
175 pounds
Age: 21
SSS 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 13
SSS 2021 Top Prospect Ranking: 10

Dalquist’s 2019 prep stats for Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif. were quite impressive, with a 9-0 record, 1.78 ERA and 103 strikeouts. His junior stats were equally impressive (1.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 25.8 K%), but his results may have gone under the radar if not for an uptick in velocity during his senior season when his heater jumped from 91 to 95 mph during offseason tournaments and varsity competition. He was verbally committed to the University of Arizona, but reneged on it to sign an extreme over-slot deal ($2 million; the slot value was $755,300) with the White Sox as the team’s third-round selection in the 2019 MLB draft.

Like Matthew Thompson below, Dalquist was handled delicately by the Sox organization. In three starts totaling the same number of innings for the AZL squad in 2019, he allowed nary an earned run as he surrendered just two hits and two walks while striking out two. Of course, he missed a precious year of development time in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown.

The 2021 season was a difficult transition for Dalquist to full-season baseball, as while he struggled with command somewhat, he uncharacteristically had more difficulties with his control. In 23 starts totaling 86 innings, he posted a 4.99 ERA and 1.72 WHIP by relinquishing 87 hits (.269 OBA) and 56 walks (6.07 BB/9) while fanning 79 (8.57%). There’s signs of a good changeup, as lefties hit just .215 against him, as opposed to righties hitting .307. Thus, perhaps a more consistent two-seam fastball running in on righties may be the answer to that problem. Dalquist did keep the ball down, as opponents hit grounders at a 42% rate.

In regards to his physique and mechanics, Dalquist is on the smallish size but has an athletic frame. MLB Pipeline currently grades Dalquist sixth among White Sox prospects, just one spot below Kelley. White Dalquist’s four-seam fastball touches 95-96 mph, he more consistently sits 92-93 with it. He hasn’t mastered the movement on his two-seam fastball yet, as instead of running in to righties, ends up tailing toward the middle of the plate. His mid-70s curveball actually does offer good break against righties. Its sharp depth gives it life and forces whiffs. A low-to-mid-80s slider is his second complementary offering, but needs just a bit more refinement as it lacks consistent horizontal depth. Finally, Dalquist offers a low-80s changeup that helps keep hitters at bay, although it was in its nascent stages before the season began.

MLB Pipeline gives him 55 grades for his curveball and slider, with 50 grades for his changeup, fastball and control. With his high walk total and respectable OBA, it seems like Dalquist is command over control at this point of his earlier career. While Dalquist’s numbers weren’t that impressive overall, his pitching 86 innings without issue should set him up well for next year. Speaking of which, he likely will begin the 2022 season with Winston-Salem.

Matthew Thompson
6´3´´
195 pounds
Age: 21
SSS 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 10
SSS 2021 Top Prospect Ranking: 8

Thompson, a graduate of Cypress Ranch High School in Houston, certainly dominated in his senior year. Dominated, you say? Try this: He was 13-0 in 15 starts, with a 0.87 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 72 23 innings, allowing just 23 hits (.095 OBA) while fanning 124. The only real blemish against Thompson was his high walk total (41). To sign an over-slot bonus with the White Sox after being selected in the second round, Thompson eschewed his verbal commitment to Texas A&M.

The White Sox treaded carefully with this young arm, and gave him just two starts totaling just two innings in 2019 (Thompson relinquished two hits and no walks while fanning two — not much to go on). He, like nearly everyone else, didn’t enter into any game action due to the pandemic.

Thompson suffered through an up-and-down year in 2021, as he split time between the ACL Sox and Kannapolis. In a combined 20 starts totaling 70 23 innings, he allowed 86 hits (.298 OBA), 38 walks (4.84 BB/9) and 78 strikeouts (9.93 K/9). Lefties hit him at a .317 clip this year at Kannapolis, while righties hit .279 against him.

His fastball currently tops out at 96 mph according to MLB Pipeline, but typically runs in the low-to-mid 90s. There’s not much movement to it, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Thompson develop a two-seam fastball to complement it. He possesses an easy, fluid delivery, throws from a high three-quarter slot with electric arm speed that provides a bit of deception to an otherwise straight fastball, and shows great feel to spin the baseball.

Thompson throws a low-80s slider that has hard, late break and two-plane action that routinely draws whiffs and causes batters to expand the zone. He also showed some feel for a solid, 76-79 mph curveball with 11-to-5 break, according to Baseball America. Many scouts consider the curveball Thompson’s best pitch thanks to its tight spin, good power and depth, and his ability to throw it for strikes. The curveball is a knee-buckler, and is especially devastating to right-handed batters.

MLB Pipeline grades Thompson’s fastball at 60, curveball at 55 and changeup at 50. His changeup is still in the rudimentary stage, as he really hasn’t had to throw it much against his lesser prep competition. Despite his high walk total in high school, Thompson has solid command for his age — graded 50 by MLB Pipeline. With the high OBA and high walk rate, expect that grade to drop to 45 before the new season begins.

As both Thompson and Dalquist will both be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in 2023, it’ll be important to see growth in the progress of these two young righties. The important thing this year was simply getting innings under their belts; beginning in 2022, the focus will be more upon improvement and results.

Currently ranked as the seventh best prospect in the organization right behind Kelley and Dalquist, expect Thompson to begin his 2022 season with Winston-Salem.

Sean Burke
6´6´´
230 pounds
Age: 22

Burke was quite the athlete while playing for St. John’s H.S. (Worcester, Mass.). Not only did he play baseball, he averaged 22 points per game as its starting center. On offense, Burke hit nearly .400 while driving in 17 runs as a senior. Oh, lest I forget, he went 5-0 with a 0.44 ERA while striking out more than a hitter per inning during his junior year (2017) in helping his Pioneers win the Massachusetts Division 1A Super 8 Championship. Ultimately, despite various recruiting offers, he opted to play his college ball in the Big 10 for the Maryland Terrapins.

Unfortunately for Burke, his college career got off to a late start, as he didn’t play ball in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. He started four games as a redshirt freshman in 2020 and did exceptionally well with a 2.38 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 22 23 innings before the pandemic shutdown. Then in 2021, as a redshirt sophomore, Burke posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 14 games (13 starts). In his 74 13 innings for the Terrapins, he relinquished just 48 hits and 42 walks (5.09 BB/9) while fanning 107 (12.96 K/9). Due to concerns about his control and perhaps his injury past, he fell to the third round, where the White Sox were ecstatic to land him.

Just turning 22, Burke is actually quite young for a college draft pick. He was the same age as much of his competition in the ACL, and about a year younger than his opponents while with Kannapolis. In two starts for the ACL Sox, he was eased slowly into the rotation as he allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out five. Then, after a promotion to Kannapolis on August 23, he posted a 3.86 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in five starts totaling 14 innings; in that body of work for the Cannon Ballers, he ceded nine hits and 10 walks while striking out 20.

The biggest strength in Burke’s arsenal by far is his fastball, and it’s one of the best of this class. It has a top speed anywhere from 92 to 95 mph, with an ability to push up to 98 on occasion by using his big frame. The heater has great velocity and movement (especially for a fastball), and helps make the case that it is potentially one of the best pitches in this draft.

Burke’s other strong pitches are his curveball and slider. The slider is a newer pitch that he was throwing quite a bit during the 2021 season. Both pitches show flashes of brilliance with nice movement, and look like they have a good chance at being quite effective as Burke develops.

He does have weaknesses in his game. While the aforementioned breaking balls can flash, more often than not they won’t make a huge impact. There are scouts who have said they wish Burke would focus more on one of those pitches instead of both. His changeup is a pitch that looks like it has the potential to be special, but the main problem is that Burke simply doesn’t throw it enough to give it that chance.

The biggest weakness in Burke’s game is his control. Burke had a big problem with walks during his career at Maryland, with 56 total across his two years, and he carried that problem over to his short stint with Kannapolis. This will be something to work on in order to make his way up through the minor leagues.

MLB Pipeline currently ranks Burke 13th among White Sox prospects. Grades of 55 are given to his fastball, slider and curveball, while he receives a lower grade for the changeup. He’ll need to develop that changeup against lefties, who hit him at a .261 clip (he was a righty’s worst nightmare in A-ball, hitting only .125 against him) during his short stay with Kannapolis. Unsurprisingly, he’s given a low grade of 45 for his control.

Expect him to join the loaded rotation at Winston-Salem next year.

Kade Mechals
5´11´´
185 pounds
Age: 24

Mechals, a native of McMinnville, Ore., took two years and two transfers to finally settle into his college career. He committed to Western Oregon University, where he pitched as the closer. That year, he posted nine saves and a 1.59 ERA as he stuck out 37 batters in 22 23 innings of work. As a sophomore, Mechals transferred to Skagit Valley College, a community college in Mount Vernon, Wash. At Skagit Valley in 2018 he made eight starts and pitched to a 1.72 ERA. In his 47 innings, he struck out 77 hitters. That summer, he went to the Cape Cod League, college baseball’s top summer league, to pitch for the Orleans Firebirds, where he posted a 3.86 ERA in five outings while fanning 19 in 18 23 innings.

With his sophomore season under his belt, Mechals transferred to Division I Grand Canyon University, located in Phoenix. Converted to a starting pitching role as a junior in 2019, all he did was post an 11-1 record and 2.16 ERA. In his 91 23 innings, he surrendered just 64 hits and fanned 100 while walking 35. He got off to an excellent start for the Lopes in 2020, with three starts, a 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. In 15 13 innings, Mechals relinquished nine hits and seven walks while striking out 18. He only pitched three games that year, not just due to the pandemic but also because his shoulder was in pain. Shortly before the MLB draft, Mechals underwent Tommy John surgery.

With the White Sox looking for under-slot prospects to compensate for paying significant over-slot dough to Kelley, they signed Adisyn Coffey from Wabash Valley C,C. in the third round for $50,000 and spent $10,000 on Mechals in the fourth.

With that said, Mechals is not a slouch. He didn’t pitch in 2021 due to the injury, but is slated to begin the 2022 season with Kannapolis. His fastball runs in the low-90s—topping out around 92 around the time of his injury. His fastball isn’t all about velocity, but movement. Perhaps two years after the surgery, Mechals’ velocity may increase. In the meantime, he offers a curve and change which helps speed up the fastball in the hitters’ eyes.

I’ve been told that Mechals possesses some of the same mannerisms of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, but don’t have any evidence to back that up. His manager, the former major leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, called him a bulldog and “at his best in game situations.” His profile and size indicate he may be better suited for middle relief, but with one of his grit and determination, there really shouldn’t be any cap in what he can do until proven otherwise.

Angel Acevedo
6´1´´
205 pounds
Age: 23

As a Venezuela native, Acevedo received a signing bonus to play ball for the San Diego Padres on March 1, 2016. That year, he got off to a decent start with their Dominican squad with a 2.86 ERA but high 1.57 WHIP. The next year, 2017, was a disaster for him, he posted a 9.98 ERA and 2.22 WHIP in 30 23 innings by allowing 55 hits (.379 OBA), 13 walks (3.82 BB/9) and 25 strikeouts (7.34 K/9). The 2018 season saw him split time with short-season Tri-City and High-A Lake Elsinore, as he combined for a 3.97 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 70 13 innings by surrendering 60 hits (.226 OBA) and 18 walks (2.3 BB/9) while fanning 57 (7.3 K/9)

The 2019 season, like two years before, was an absolute wreck for Acevedo. Spending time with Tri-City, Low-A Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, he combined for a 1-11 record, 6.41 ERA and 1.61 WHIP over 91 13 innings by relinquishing 112 hits (.293 OBA), and walking 35 (3.4 BB/9) while striking out 92 (9.1 K/9). After missing the 2020 season due to the pandemic shutdown and being released by the Padres organization in January, the White Sox signed him to a minor league deal a month later.

Acevedo’s struggles continued this year with Kannapolis, as he produced a 5.52 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 20 outings (14 starts) totaling 73 13 innings. In those innings, he ceded 87 hits (.300 OBA) and 30 walks (3.7 BB/9) while punching out 73 (9.0 K/9). His walk ratios have been consistent over the years, while he strikes out an adequate amount of hitters. Acevedo may simply be better suited as a long-reliever. In six outings out of the pen this year totaling 19 23 innings, he posted a 1.83 ERA and 0.76 WHIP as he relinquished just 15 hits and six walks while striking out 24.

If the White Sox view him as a reliever candidate, he likely will be promoted to Winston-Salem to begin the 2022 season. However, if the team still views him as a starter, he’s more likely to repeat Kannapolis.

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