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Jimmy Lambert ranks 13th among all White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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White Sox Deep Dive: Charlotte Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

The “taxi squad” for the majors is neither deep nor rich.

“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

While Kannapolis and the rookie leagues carried six right-handed starters among the organization’s Top 30 overall prospects, they are still at least two or three years away from reaching the majors. In the meantime, Charlotte and Birmingham finished the year with four righty starters of their own among the organization’s Top 30 — and they’re much closer to being major league ready.

Below are the right-handed starters that finished the season at Triple-A Charlotte.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

Charlotte Knights

Jimmy Lambert
190 pounds
Age: 27
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 19
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 15
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 20

Lambert spent the majority of his three years for the Fresno State Bulldogs in the team’s starting rotation, and his junior season was easily his best with a 3.13 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 97 23 innings, as he relinquished 98 hits and just 19 walks while striking out 78. Those results were good enough for the White Sox to select him in the 2016 draft. After the draft, he pitched well for the AZL White Sox, but unsurprisingly struggled with Kannapolis to end the season.

Jimmy, older brother of Rockies hurler Peter Lambert, mastered Kannapolis in 12 starts spanning 74 innings to begin the 2017 campaign, with a 2.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, as he surrendered 77 hits (.274 OBA) and 11 walks (3.7%) while striking out 43 (14.3%). Just like the previous year, Lambert struggled with a midseason promotion (this time Winston-Salem), as he posted a 5.45 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 76 innings as he ceded 86 hits (.290 OBA) and 29 walks (8.7%) while fanning 59 (17.7%). Lambert returned to the Dash in 2018 and fared much better in 13 starts, totaling 70 23 innings as he compiled a 3.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, allowing just 57 hits (.217 OBA) and 21 walks (7.3%) while striking out 80 (29.0%). Lambert earned a promotion to Birmingham, and excelled with this promotion to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 25 innings as he relinquished just 20 hits (.217 OBA) and six walks (5.9%) while striking out 30 (29.7%).

Lambert started 2019 with Birmingham well, as he turned six quality starts in his first eight outings. However, his final three outings (May 23 to June 3) were vastly subpar — ultimately dropping his numbers to a 4.55 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 11 starts spanning 59 13 innings, allowing 62 hits (.272 OBA) and 27 walks (10.4%) while striking out 70 (27.0%). It turned out Lambert needed Tommy John surgery, which was done in late June.

Performing well in the secondary spring training of 2020, Lambert received his first call-up for the season’s belated July 23 Opening Day. In fact, his first two outings were quite good, as pitched two innings in relief allowing just two hits and striking out two. Alas, he went on the shelf on July 29 and eventually landed on the 60-day injured list due to a right forearm strain.

In three separate stints for the White Sox in 2021, Lambert pitched a total of four games (three starts). In his 13 innings for the Sox, he relinquished 16 hits and six walks while striking out 10 on his way to a 6.23 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. For the rest of the year, he was in Charlotte, where he posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 64 13 innings allowing 49 hits (.210 OBA) and 32 walks while striking out 82. Home runs were his nemesis this year, as he surrendered 11 of them altogether for the Knights.

Lambert presently ranks 13th among White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, thanks in part to increasing oomph on his fastball over the past couple of years due to an arm slot change that altered his delivery to more over-the-top. The heater (which usually runs 91-94 mph and tops out at 96) and knuckle-curve are considered by MLB Pipeline as his two best offerings with grades of 55, while his slider and changeup are given solid 50 grades. He still has two options remaining, which means he’ll likely be shuffling between the majors and minors. With his stuff, his best opportunity for major league success may be that of a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever.

Jonathan Stiever
210 pounds
Age: 24
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 27
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 5
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 6

Stiever capped a great three-year run with the Indiana Hoosiers in 2018, when he posted a 3.41 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 16 starts spanning 100 innings, surrendering just 94 hits and 32 walks while striking out 97. Although MLB Pipeline ranked him 88th among all draft prospects, he mysteriously fell to the fifth round (138th overall) in the 2018 draft, where the White Sox happily snatched him up. Despite only pitching in just two- or three-inning spurts that year for Great Falls, he held his own for the Voyagers with a respectable 4.18 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 28 innings as he surrendered just 23 hits (.258 OBA) and nine walks (7.2%) while fanning 39 (33.2%).

In 2019, Stiever struggled unexpectedly for Kannapolis in 14 starts (77 innings) with a 4.74 ERA and 1.38 WHIP as he ceded 88 hits (.293 OBA) and 14 walks (4.4%) while fanning 77 (24.1%). A promotion on June 20 to Winston-Salem, against more advanced hitters and in a hitting-friendly ballpark to boot, however, saw him turning in an incredible 12 starts for the Dash. Although his walk (13) and strikeout totals (77) were eerily similar to Stiever’s Kannapolis numbers in nearly the same number of innings (71), hitters only batted .216 against his offerings. With the Dash he elevated his fastball, which made it far more difficult for opponents to hit. Thus, while he maintained his solid walk (4.7%) and strikeout rates (28.0%) in A+ ball, his ERA and WHIP dropped precipitously, to 2.15 and 0.97.

Participating in Schaumburg’s alternate site in 2020 for much of the year, Stiever was promoted to the White Sox in an abbreviated stint and had a solid major league debut start, but overall didn’t fare well, with a 9.95 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 6 13 innings. He uncharacteristically struggled with walks (four) while, worse yet, relinquishing the same number of homers.

The 2021 season was rough one for Stiever, as he compiled a 5.84 ERA and 1.46 WHIP for Charlotte in 17 starts. In his 74 innings, he surrendered 80 hits (.265 OBA) and 28 walks (3.4 BB/9) while fanning 88 (10.7 K/9). He surrendered a high number of gopher balls (13), but it can’t be blamed on the hitting-friendly Truist Field — he actually pitched better at home than on the road. Lefties were stifled somewhat, as they hit .236 against him, while righties hit 50 points higher. He was called up for one start with the White Sox on April 25, allowing three runs and four hits without retiring a hitter. Finally, on August 12, he was placed on the injured list, ultimately receiving season-ending lat surgery shortly thereafter.

MLB Pipeline has Stiever’s fastball typically averaging 92-96 mph with a peak of 98 as of 2018, featuring plenty of running and sinking action. However, it was noted that his heater has dropped a couple ticks since then and has now dropped from a 60 to 50 grade. Like his fastball, Stiever’s upper-70s spike-curveball has also dropped a couple ticks and is now graded at 55. His third hard pitch is a hard slider that currently grades at 55 by MLB Pipeline, and he features a changeup as well (currently grading at 50, which he used to help stifle lefties). His command is graded at 50, and based by his results, his control seems more advanced than his command.

Stiever should be ready for spring training in 2022, and it’s hoped that the surgery can help him rediscover his velocity. This may give him the confidence he needs to attack hitters and hit his spots with authority instead of nibbling around the corners — which ultimately leads to falling behind hitters and eventually leads him to groove one to the hitter’s liking. Ahead in the count, hitters were just .205 against him; behind in the count, hitters rocked at .351. His ranking among White Sox prospects has fallen from fifth to 14th, but all is not lost. He’s the second-youngest player among Double-A and Triple-A starters (three months older than Jason Bilous), so he still has time to rebound.

Kade McClure
220 pounds
Age: 26
2018 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 30
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 44
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 40
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 31

With a name that inspires multiple references from The Simpsons, McClure has been one of the most effective pitchers in the White Sox system since he was drafted in the sixth round out of Louisville in 2017. In retrospect, it was a bit surprising that McClure lasted so long in the draft that year, as he combined to go 20-4 in his sophomore and junior starts, covering 33 appearances. During those two years spanning 181 innings, McClure limited opponents to just 130 hits and 56 walks while striking out 188. It’s possible McClure’s stock fell as his numbers did decline a bit from his stellar sophomore campaign, when he went 12-0 with a rock-solid 2.54 ERA and 0.88 WHIP spanning 78 innings by allowing just 49 hits and 20 walks while fanning 27.

After being drafted, McClure combined with the AZL Sox, Great Falls and Kannapolis that year to post an incredible 0.82 ERA and 0.55 in 10 relief outings, as he surrendered just three hits and three walks while fanning 19 in 11 innings. McClure was off to a great start in 2018 with Kannapolis in his return to the rotation over eight starts, posting a 3.02 ERA. However, McClure was injured on a comeback liner that May, which forced him to undergo season-ending surgery in order to repair ligament damage and a dislocated kneecap.

McClure split the 2019 season evenly between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. The righty held up to a true pro workload, more than doubling his innings total from his previous two seasons combined. His numbers with the Intimidators and Dash were nearly identical. For Kannapolis in 10 starts spanning 55 13 innings, McClure posted a 3.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP by ceding 56 hits (.256 OBA), 12 walks (5.1%) and 50 strikeouts (21.3%); for Winston-Salem in 12 starts totaling 66 13 innings, he posted a 3.39 ERA and 1.22 WHIP by relinquishing 64 hits (.252 OBA) and 17 walks (6.2%) while fanning 49 (17.8%). Although McClure didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the pandemic, he did start shooting up prospect lists after an uptick of three mph on his heater during fall instructs.

The 2021 season was McClure’s first year beyond Winston-Salem, and he performed well for Birmingham. In 15 starts for the Barons totaling 68 13 innings, he surrendered 63 hits (.243 OBA) and 20 walks (2.6 BB/9) while striking out 77 (10.1 K/9). However, the wheels came off after being promoted to Charlotte on August 10. In nine starts for the Knights, McClure struggled with a 6.81 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 37 innings allowing 46 hits (.315 OBA) and 15 walks (3.7 BB/9) while fanning 36 (8.8 K/9). Part of the issue was his pitches were elevated while with Charlotte, as while hitters hit the ball on the ground at a 48.4% clip this year, Triple-A hitters did so at just 40.4% of the time.

According to MLB Pipeline, McClure’s repertoire features a 92-95 mph fastball, with a slider and changeup that both flash above-average at times. With his size, McClure’s build is similar to Alec Hansen’s, making his pitches difficult for opponents to pick up. While McClure doesn’t offer Hansen’s high-octane heat and significant upside, he has featured far better control and consistency throughout his college and professional career to date. His low-80s slider is considered his best secondary, while his changeup helps stymie lefties somewhat, though they usually have hit him a bit better than righties throughout his career.

MLB Pipeline gives McClure 55 grades for his fastball, slider and control. His control, and especially command, was found wanting during his two-month stint with the Knights so that number may drop to 50. His curveball is graded 50 and changeup sits at 45. Many fans expected McClure to be added the 40-man roster this fall; however, he was not, and he likely will return to Charlotte in hopes he’ll be one of the first called up in case of injury.

McClure is currently ranked 19th among the system’s Top 30 prospects by MLB. At the very least, with his imposing size, it’s easy to imagine McClure succeeding in the majors eventually as a mid-leverage reliever.

Johan Dominguez
190 pounds
Age: 26
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 47
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 45

Dominguez, a Dominican native, has pitched exceptionally well since signing a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on May 8, 2016, as a 20-year-old. Even though he pitched well for the Brewers DSL squad, with a 2.91 ERA combined over three years, it wasn’t until his third year that he finally earned a promotion to their AZL squad (June 24, 2018). Dominguez dominated the AZL in his 15 outings, posting a 0.00 ERA and 0.62 WHIP over 19 13 innings of relief.

Shortly after yet another promotion, to the Brewers Pioneer League affiliate in Helena, Dominguez was traded along with outfielder Bryan Connell to the White Sox for southpaw reliever Xavier Cedeño during that year’s August trade deadline. After the trade, Dominguez pitched two scoreless innings in the White Sox system while striking out four, pitching for his fourth team of 2018.

In his first year pitching in a full-season league, Dominguez certainly held his own. While he had pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen in his first three years of professional ball, Dominguez was used primarily as a starter in 2019. Because his career high in innings was 58 13 to that point, Kannapolis limited his workload and even inserted him into the bullpen from time to time to keep him from doing any damage to his arm. In 90 23 innings for the Intimidators spanning 24 outings (15 starts), Dominguez posted a rock-solid 2.98 ERA and 1.28 WHIP by relinquishing 83 hits (.239 OBA) and 33 walks (8.5%) while fanning 90 (23.1%). He allowed just two homers, which is quite an impressive figure even when considering Dominguez was pitching in a pitcher’s ballpark.

Fast forward to 2021, after the lost 2020 season. In 15 starts with Winston-Salem, Dominguez posted a 4.80 ERA but solid 1.14 WHIP in 65 23 innings by allowing 58 hits and 17 walks while striking out 74. Dominguez was promoted on August 10 to Birmingham, where he pitched to a 4.33 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in seven starts. In his 35 13 innings for the Barons, he relinquished 37 hits and eight walks while fanning 40. Finally, he was promoted on September 22 to Charlotte, where he struggled badly with a 16.50 and 2.17 WHIP in two starts totaling six innings, Combined with all three teams, Dominguez contributed a 5.30 ERA but respectable 1.27 WHIP in 24 starts as he meted out 107 hits (.258 OBA) and just 26 walks (2.2 BB/9) while striking out 118 (9.9 K/9) in his 107 innings of work.

Dominguez’s work wasn’t quite done in 2021 however. In six outings (five starts) for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, he continued his late-season struggles as he posted an 11.25 ERA and 2.58 WHIP in 12 innings, with 24 hits, seven walks and 14 strikeouts. His struggles with Charlotte and Glendale could simply have to do with fatigue at the end of a long season, or it could be he was just a victim of the ballparks he pitched in. Or perhaps he’s reached his proverbial ceiling as he struggles more and more against better competition.

Dominguez has provided great K/BB ratios during his career, but he was much more hittable this year. He easily exceeded his career high in innings, not even including the AFL, so perhaps it was fatigue that bit him at the end of the season. Dominguez’s numbers seem to indicate he’s more about control than command, and those are the types of guys who get hit around in advanced leagues. He may eventually be better suited in the bullpen, where hitters can just get one look at him during the course of a game. Dominguez is eligible likely to return to Charlotte for 2022.

Kaleb Roper
193 pounds
Age: 26

Roper was quite the well-traveled collegian, as he pitched for the University of Arizona his freshman year, San Jacinto Community College his sophomore season, and Tulane University for his junior and senior years. In his senior season for the Green Wave, Roper posted a 4.60 ERA and 1.33 WHIP but provided decent peripherals: 86 hits (.258 OBA), 31 walks (8.1%) and 90 strikeouts (23.6%). The White Sox, through diligent scouting, lassoed Roper in the 29th round of the 2019 MLB draft.

For Great Falls that year in 14 appearances (two starts) spanning 34 innings, Roper relinquished only 22 hits (.193 OBA) and 12 walks (3.2 BB/9) while striking out 43 (11.4 K/9). He apparently boasts an above-average changeup, as lefties only hit .088 against his offerings as opposed to righties’ .238. He did keep the ball down, as Pioneer League hitters hit grounders 50% of the time off him.

Roper continued to rise through the ranks after the 2020 pandemic cancellation, as he began the 2021 season with Winston-Salem. In 17 outings for the Dash (16 starts), Roper struggled with a 7.61 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in his 62 23 innings of work by allowing 72 hits (.283 OBA), 26 walks (3.8 BB/9) and 89 strikeouts (12.8 K/9). On September 22, he received a surprise late promotion to Charlotte, where he pitched three games in relief; in his short, four-inning sample size, Roper posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP by relinquishing two hits, four walks and six strikeouts.

Thanks in part to Driveline, Roper’s heater kicked it up a notch or two, as he was regularly faster than 95 mph with his heater in 2021. Unlike 2019, however, lefties hit Roper much better (.324) than did righties (.253) while at Winston-Salem.

Charlotte had it right by inserting Roper into the pen. Despite this being just the second year he’s actually pitched in professional ball, his best chance for success may be in shortened stints. He won’t be eligible for the Rule 5 draft until 2022, so Roper will need to provide his best results next year with either Birmingham or Charlotte in order to eventually win a 40-man roster spot.


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