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White Sox Weekly Minor League Update: May 3-9

Minor league baseball is back, and some familiar names are rocking it in the early going

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels
Gavin Sheets is off to a hot start, showing some early Queen City pop.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It is finally back!

After no 2020 season and a delay in 2021, minor league baseball is back with us.

Now for the White Sox farm system, things are much different than the last time we did a weekly update in 2019. The prospects, the ones that the rebuild was banking on, are with the MLB club. That does not mean that there aren’t good prospects still in the pipeline, but the major guys are not with Charlotte or Birmingham. Right now, the next wave of great prospects are from the lower levels, in particular, Kannapolis. They even have a new name (Cannon Ballers) and stadium (Atrium Health Ballpark).

The prospect lists will start to look a bit different too. Right now, the top two prospects in the White Sox organization, Andrew Vaughn and Garret Crochet, are with the big club. McKinley Moore, a reliever, has already been added to MLB Pipeline’s top prospect list because Michael Kopech has pitched too much to be considered a prospect now.

That just means more new names for us to cover, though, and it is time to get to know or re-acquaint ourselves with the players that will help the White Sox sustain success.

Charlotte Knights (1-5)

Gavin Sheets .308 BA, 3 XBH, 3 R, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K

Seby Savala .318 BA, 5 XBH, 2 HR, 5 R, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 11 K
Blake Rutherford .150 BA, 2 XBH, 1 HR, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K
Jake Burger .083 BA, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K
Jonathan Stiever 3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K
Hunter Schyrver 4 23 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1 H, 2 BB, 5 K
Kodi Medeiros 3 23 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1 H, 5 BB, 4 K
Tyler Johnson 2 13 IP, 11.57 ERA, 4 H, 5 BB, 4 K
Zack Burdi 1 13 IP, 20.25 ERA, 1 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Jimmy Lambert 2 23 IP, 18.00 ERA, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K

Before I get to Gavin Sheets and his start to this season, I would be remiss if I did not touch on Jake Burger quickly. These are his first games since the 2017 season, and though they haven’t been great, the fact he is back is remarkable. The fact he also hit a homer already is even more remarkable and uplifting. He still has a long way to go to prove he can be a major leaguer, or even close to the hitter he was supposed to become, but it is still amazing he is actually back after all the injuries

But now, to Sheets.

He has started the season slashing .308/.357/.500. That slugging number, and the .192 ISO he has so far, are two critical numbers to watch with Sheets this year. So far, they look good, but it has come at a cost already. One of the better things about Sheets early on in his MiLB career was that his K-BB rate was pretty good for a power-profile hitter. He walked in more than 10% of his plate appearances, and usually had a K-rate in the mid-to-high teens.

So far this year — and it is very limited — he is not walking as much, but he is striking out a lot more. This could fix itself pretty quickly, but it is something to keep an eye out for if Sheets’ new approach is to sell out for more power. I do not think this is the case, at least right now, because his batted-ball profile is still ground ball heavy, and honestly, a higher K-rate could just be the result of not playing in games regularly since 2019. But some trends can be found early on in a season, we just have to find them.

MVP Ranks
Gavin Sheets (16.1)
Mike Wright (5.3)
Mikie Mahtook (4.2)
Seby Zavala (2.7)
Brian Goodwin (1.7)

Cold Cat Ranks
Felix Paulino (-9.1)
Danny Dopico (-6.2)
Jimmy Lambert (-6.1)
Jacob Lindgren (-4.4)
Nate Nolan (-3.8)

Birmingham Barons (5-1)

Ofreidy Gómez 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 3 BB, 11 K

Romy Gonzalez .389 BA, 2 HR, 4 XBH, 4 R, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K
Micker Adolfo .167 BA, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 10 K
Kade McClure 5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 7 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Konnor Pilkington 5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 K
Alec Hansen 1 13 IP, 33.75 ERA, 1 H, 5 BB, 3 K
Will Kincanon 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K
Andrew Perez 3 IP, 6.00 ERA, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 K

Ofreidy Gómez has been in professional baseball since 2013 and is still only 25. This is his first season in the White Sox organization, and he was electric in his first week. He has five no-hit innings so far, with 11 strikeouts in that time span. Gómez did get a start this year, but it was more of a bullpen game as he only went three innings. He may slot in as an opener who can get through multiple innings, or a long reliever.

Whatever the case, it seems like Gómez will not be a starter any longer, as he was for the majority of his professional career. This type of switch, from starter to reliever, is always one to keep an eye on. Again, very early, Gómez has only pitched five innings, but his strikeout stuff is much better than what it was when he was a starter. There are a lot of things that can happen, but I always keep a close eye on a starter-turned-reliever who shows improvement in K-rate. Gómez is one to keep on revisiting, especially once injuries start to affect the Sox staff.

MVP Ranks
Ofriedy Gómez (8.2)
Romy González (7.1)
Blake Battenfield (6.5)
Kade McClure (5.8)
Ti’quan Forbes (4.0)

Cold Cat Ranks
Micker Adolfo (-8.2)
Zach Remillard (-7.5)
Alec Hansen (-6.2)
Laz Rivera (-4.2)
Peter Tago (-3.9)

Winston-Salem Dash (2-4)

Luis Curbelo .313 BA, 2 XBH, 2 HR, 3 R, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K

Yolbert Sánchez .261 BA, 4 R, 1 RBI, 4 R, 4 K
Luis Mieses .227 BA, 2 XBH, 1 HR, 5 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K
Lenyn Sosa .269, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K
Bryce Bush .150 BA, 1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K, 2 SB
Caleb Freeman 3 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K
Johan Dominguez 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 0 BB, 7 K
Jason Bilous 4 23 IP, 1.93 ERA, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K

Luis Curbelo was drafted out of high school way back in 2016, in the sixth round. He was a Top 30 prospect on every major outlet’s list, but he either got injured or had bad seasons. From 2016-19, Curbelo shuffled between rookie ball and Kannapolis, and never got his bat going. In about a season’s worth of games in Kannapolis, Curbelo slashed .208/.254/.316 — not very good for a Top 30 prospect.

So far this season, Curbelo has been much better, at a level he has not played at previously. He currently has a 202 wRC+, which obviously is not sustainable, but he is off to a fantastic start. Curbelo is hitting the ball hard and often, with a 44% line drive rate and a .500 ISO. He is still striking out at the same bad rate he has in the past, more than 30%, but he is walking more than usual. Curbelo has a lot to prove, especially because the kids in Kannapolis are highly-rated and could take his spot with a promotion.

There’s a long way to go this season to see if any changes were really made, or if Curbelo is just playing well to start out. But it is a good thing to see a struggling prospect do well out of the gate.

MVP Ranks
Luis Curbelo (14.7)
Johan Dominguez (8.2)
Luis Mieses (7.7)
Yolbert Sánchez (2.6)
Lenyn Sosa (2.5)

Cold Cat Ranks
Dilmer Mejía (-9.6)
Harvin Mendoza (-8.5)
Declan Cronin (-8.3)
Davis Martin (-4.9)
Duke Ellis (-3.5)

Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (0-6)

José Rodríguez .407 BA, 5 XBH, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K

Chase Krogman .500 BA, 2 XBH, 1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K (HBP injury, currently sidelined)
Bryan Ramos .292 BA, 1 XBH, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 SB
DJ Gladney .263 BA, 2 XBH, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K
James Beard .250 BA, 1 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K
Benyamin Bailey .111 BA, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K
Andrew Dalquist 3 13 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1 H, 4 BB, 3 K
Bailey Horn 4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K
Matthew Thompson 4 IP, 4.50 ERA, 7 H, 1 BB, 4 K
Jared Kelley 23 IP, 27.00 ERA, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 K

José Rodríguez can mash, has mashed, and is still mashing. The middle infielder is finally above rookie ball and is still hitting at a great clip, with a .407/.429/.630 start. He has not shown to be a player that walks much, so most of his value will come from his bat, and that still was the case last week. Rodríguez swings fast and can turn on pitches easily. He has shown some speed early on with a triple and a stolen base, so that is another plus to his game, but the main thing is hitting. Defense is something to keep an eye on, now that he is in full-season ball and especially no longer in the DSL. So far, Rodríguez has only played shortstop but he could easily become a full-time second baseman or third baseman. This is his age 20 season, so there are still a lot of kinks to figure out before Rodríguez is anywhere close to the bigs.

MVP Ranks
José Rodríguez (6.1)
James Beard (4.8)
Ty Madrigal (4.4)
DJ Gladney (3.6)
Chase Krogman (3.0)

Cold Cat Ranks
Jared Kelley (-8.4)
Garvin Alston Jr. (-8.3)
Dan Metzdorf (-5.0)
Bryan Ramos (-1.9)
Samil Polanco (-1.1)

White Sox Organizational All-Stars

Catcher Seby Zavala, Charlotte Knights
First Base
Second Base Romy González, Birmingham Barons
Third Base Luis Curbelo, Winston-Salem Dash
Shortstop Luis Rodríguez, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Left Field Luis Mieses, Winston-Salem Dash
Center Field James Beard, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Right Field Gavin Sheets, Charlotte Knights
Designated Hitter Mikie Mahtook, Charlotte Knights
Bench Ti’quan Forbes, Birmingham Barons
Bench DJ Gladney, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Bench Chase Krogman, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Bench Yolbert Sánchez, Winston-Salem Dash

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher Johan Dominguez, Winston-Salem Dash
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher Blake Battenfield, Birmingham Barons
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher Kade McClure, Birmingham Barons
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher Mike Wright, Charlotte Knights

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher Ofriedy Gómez, Birmingham Barons
Left-Handed Relief Pitcher Ty Madrigal, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

It’s early, so no full roster yet.

Voting tallies based on SSS voting in nightly Minor League Updates.