It’s been a long time coming, but Birmingham Barons baseball is finally back at Regions Field!
There is nothing like going to a Minor League Baseball stadium in the summer to watch some of your favorite up-and-coming prospects. It will be a joy to once again do that this year, with the Barons playing in one of the best minor league parks in the country.
With MiLB Opening Day upon us tonight, here’s a look at the best of this Barons roster.
Micker Adolfo, OF: The White Sox signed Adolfo for $1.6 million in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic, but a handful of injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to him not getting a ton of at-bats.
This will be a return trip to Birmingham for the slugging outfielder, as he played here as a DH in 2019 after Tommy John surgery, hitting .205 over 23 games, with a .337 OBP. He then took an Arizona Fall League assignment and got his first post-surgery action in right field.
The White Sox obviously think enough of him and his potential to protect him on the 40-man roster, but this is understandably a huge year for the 24-year-old. Regions Field has not been kind to power hitters in the past, so this will be a big challenge for Adolfo.
Kade McClure, RHSP: A sixth-round pick in 2017, McClure made big strides in fall camp last year — mainly upping his fastball velocity into the mid-90s to go with a plus slider. As a result, he got an invite to big league camp this spring and acquitted himself pretty well in game action.
At 6´7´´, McClure seems destined for a bullpen role. But he has some of the best command in the system, and if he maintains that fastball velocity he could turn himself into a solid big league starter.
Other names to watch
Southpaw starter Konnor Pilkington seemed like a surefire future workhorse in the big leagues one day when he came out of Mississippi State in 2018. He showed signs of that in 2019, throwing 129 innings over 25 starts with Winston-Salem and Kannapolis with a respectable 4.12 combined ERA.
Right-handed reliever Will Kincanon had a breakout season in 2019, with 71 strikeouts in 58 innings with a 1.86 ERA. He was likely the 41st man in last fall’s promotions to the 40-man roster, so he is definitely on the big club’s radar. We’ll see if he can keep that progression going in 2021 with the Barons.
Andrew Perez is an interesting left-handed relief prospect with big strikeout stuff. The same can be said for Bennett Sousa, who profiles similarly but has gotten bigger opportunities so far (Arizona Fall League in 2019, major league camp invite in spring 2021). Either of them could help out the big league club this year if their aggressive ascendance continues into Charlotte.
Righty Emilio Vargas was claimed on waivers last fall from Arizona, and while deemed expendable by the Diamondbacks he seems to be an intriguing under-the-radar starter prospect.
Carlos Pérez seems to be a pretty well-regarded in Sox circles, getting an invite to big-league camp (albeit as the No. 5 “extra” catcher). Fellow backstop Gunnar Troutwine impressed his first partial season but then in 2019 seemed to lose all ability on defense, so this is a key season for him.
Although Chris Getz has indicated that there may not be the normal number of promotions in this shorter MiLB season, especially given that everyone missed a full season of competitive play. But the logjam of premier talent at Kannapolis will be pushing for High-A assignments, and that could force some movement from the Winston-Salem Dash up to Birmingham.
And keep in mind, though just Double-A level, the Barons will sport players on the roster who are likely second and third pieces in any trade deadline deals the White Sox will attempt as the summer progresses — deals that are getting more likely with each passing outfield injury.
It should be a very exciting summer at Regions watching this crop of White Sox prospects!