The Winston-Salem Dash had some of the best talent the White Sox had to offer at the beginning of the season. On the mound it was Sean Burke, Matthew Thompson, and Drew Dalquist. Burke was shipped up to Birmingham after six fantastic Dash starts, leaving with a 2.89 ERA and a 27% strikeout rate.
On the diamond, Oscar Colás started in Winston-Salem and crushed it right away to earn a promotion after 59 games. Bryan Ramos was the other standout prospect to start the year with the Dash but over the course of the season, prospects like Luis Mieses, Moises Castillo, Duke Ellis, and Adam Hackenberg did enough to garner additional attention and promotion/Fall League assignments.
There weren’t many Kannapolis-to-Winston-Salem promotions from top prospects, though there still was a lot of movement in general. Colson Montgomery finally got into the Top 100 prospects in MiLB while with the Dash. Norge Vera saw time in High-A, but it was 3 2⁄3 innings before getting added to Project Birmingham. Cristian Mena was the top arm from Kannapolis to see meaningful Dash innings.
High-A normally is a transition league to Double-A, where you find out which prospects are better than the rest — but it was even more so this year with Project Birmingham. It also shows how young the better players are in the Sox farm system. There was no chance any of these players were going to MLB with their placement here or in Kannapolis, and only two (Colás and Burke) seem to have a real chance of getting to the South Side in 2023.
Let’s start with the two pitchers who started in High-A and really needed to show big improvement, Thompson and Dalquist. Unfortunately, neither of them really took the necessary strides. Of the two of them, Dalquist did not even improve from last year much. His strikeouts were down 3.5% and he allowed a .297 batting average in 90 2⁄3 innings. The Sox are not going to give up on him, as next year will be his age 22 season, but the writing seems to be on the wall. For Thompson, he started out really well but faltered down the stretch for the Dash. His strikeouts were also down (about 3.5%) but his walks were down a bit more. He was sent up to Birmingham a bit before everybody else, and strikeouts were up in his 25 1⁄3 innings there. With all of that in mind, Thompson’s ERA still declined from last year’s abysmal 5.90 in Low-A.
Cristian Mena goes for 5.0 IP today. He allows no runs and only 1 hit, but walks 3. He strikes out 6 on 40/68 for strikes. #Dash win 9-3. #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/nxqeMe9vm2— White Sox Daily (@dailywhitesox) July 10, 2022
Mena took his fantastic 53 2⁄3 innings from Kannapolis and did falter once he started seeing High-A and the Double-A bats. Now, this repeats a pattern for Mena from 2021 for the ACL, as the righty did worse as the season went on. Mena is 19 and throwing more innings than ever before, and in 2022, he reached 100 IP for the first time. That is all in the equation of development; for example, Michael Kopech to begin 2022 was not the same at the end of the year because of the increase in innings, and that means both pitchers should be better next year, for longer. The walks were an issue for Mena in High-A and the strikeouts did fall. Command struggles from a teenage pitcher going making new highs in innings at each start are not shocking. But Mena won’t have that excuse next year.
Along with Vera (who just appeared in three games), those three were the top prospects to go through Winston-Salem this year. Others did well, though, like Tommy Sommer over nine starts with a 2.64 ERA. Relievers like Cooper Bradford, Luis Amaya, and Vince Vannelle each had good seasons, though relievers are harder to predict and these three were older than your typical High-A pitcher. Amaya was right at the average age, but he had 53 1⁄3 innings for the San Francisco Giants’ Double-A team in 2021, so this was a demotion. He did well, but he was in High-A back in 2019 and did well then, too.
Position Player Prospects
Cuban OF Oscar Colas' 2nd homer in Minor Leagues was simply insane.— Francys Romero (@francysromeroFR) April 29, 2022
This is Colas' Twitter account in case you want to follow him @OscarColas16 pic.twitter.com/G4bNU5akPS
Colás might not be the top prospect from the Dash, but he was the most intriguing until he left for Birmingham. In his Winston-Salem stint, he showed good pop and good overall contact to all fields. Colás left with a 129 wRC+. He hit a fair number of grounders, but most of the balls in play are pulled, and hit very hard. What will be something to watch is his plate discipline, because that did suffer as the season progressed. Colás had not played this much baseball since 2019, so that his BB/K fell a good amount is not a cause for concern right now. But if his High-A mark of 8.2% BB-rate and 20.1% K-rate is closer to what he is, then that will play, especially because Colás is an actual outfielder.
To stay in the outfield, Mieses had a good year for the Dash, enough to be considered part of Project Birmingham. From 2021, his plate discipline was more like his time in Kannapolis, which is a plus; however, the walks are still terribly low. The power was down a little this year, with a .167 ISO with fewer homers but more doubles. After Mieses’ late-season strides from last year, more power was definitely needed from him to stay on Top 30 prospects lists. What we can definitively say about Mieses is that he is a much better player now than he was in 2019 — he really has grown. However, if this is his best, he will not be a regular in an MLB outfield. Next season will be big for Mieses, and he needs to take that next step, hopefully with added power or more patience at the plate.
Bryan Ramos with a thunderous to LF. An absolute shot that misses going to the parking lot by a few feet. #Dash down 5-3. #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/IZu17hiP2s— White Sox Daily (@dailywhitesox) August 12, 2022
Ramos improved on a lot of things from his 2021 campaign. He made better contact, with more line drives, and showed better power overall with an ISO near .200 in High-A. The walks did go down about 1%, but strikeouts fell even more, down to 16.4%. He didn’t even rely on BABIP, with it being pretty much where it should be (.291). Ramos did all of that for a 122 wRC+ in High-A in his age 20 season, which is remarkable, and that is why some consider him the second-best prospect the Sox have. Ramos’ defense at third did improve but could use some work still, and he also got in some work at second base once he got to Birmingham.
Colson Montgomery goes 3-4, w/ a HR and 2 1B’s. This HR puts the #Dash up 2-1. They win 3-2. #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/2VIXkSnSZ6— White Sox Daily (@dailywhitesox) August 14, 2022
The best prospect the Sox have though, is Montgomery. When he got promoted, he was in the midst of his two-month on-base streak. His batting average fell in High-A, much of it due to a fall in BABIP from .402 to .282. Montgomery made up for it with better patience at the plate, walking as many times (26) as he struck out (26), both numbers better than his Kannapolis rates. Montgomery’s season got worse as it went on, again, and as a first full professional season that makes sense, especially at just 20. What we want to see from Montgomery is better than a .258 batting average, some more power, and improved fielding at shortstop. That sounds like a lot, but the potential is there, and Montgomery proved that in his time in A-ball.
With the Dash, there were some additional players that did well enough to garner some attention over the year. Ellis had one of the more successful seasons, with a high batting average and a walk rate of more than 10%. That is great for a speedster, and he took advantage, with 50 stolen bases in 58 attempts. Two Arizona Fall League participants, Castillo and Hackenberg, showed good skills, especially on defense. You would like to see better at-bats, but Castillo did do much better with the bat in High-A compared to 2021 in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. To round it out, Tyler Osik who had another good year with the bat. He still does not have a defensive position, so unlike Castillo and Hackenberg, his time in Double-A next year better see similar numbers to his High-A, with a 135 wRC+.