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Glendale Desert Dogs: 2022 Season Preview

The minor league season isn’t over; with the Arizona Fall League, it’s just getting started again

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-NC State v Vanderbilt
Terrell Tatum is the biggest unknown heading in to Arizona Fall League play starting this week.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the regular minor league season has ended for the White Sox and will soon end for all of the affiliated MiLB teams, but the season is not over, in full. We still have the Fall League and of course, some winter ball participation as well.

This preview is for the Arizona Fall League (AFL), which begins play on Monday. The Glendale Desert Dogs are the team to watch, because that is where all the White Sox prospects will be.

First off, though, Justin Jirschele, the current Birmingham Barons manager, is going to manage the Desert Dogs in 2022. He has been in the White Sox organization since 2012 as a player and moved from Great Falls all the way up to Charlotte until he retired as a player in 2015. He skipped Arizona rookie ball, so this will be Jirschele’s first game action in the state.

As a manager, he has gone from Kannapolis in 2017 to Birmingham in 2022. He has a career record of 337-326, and ’22 stopped a streak of three winning seasons, one with each level (Kannapolis, Winston-Salem, Birmingham). Charlotte might not be in Jirschele’s future because it seems the Barons are where the prospect happenings are, but if he wants experience with major leaguers, Charlotte or a spot on an MLB bench would be his next move after Glendale.

Glendale Hitters

The Sox are sending seven players to Arizona, three of whom are hitters.

Adam Hackenberg is probably the highest-rated. He is a catcher taken in the 2021 draft, and was a part of Project Birmingham. The bat was not exactly there this year, with an 89 wRC+ in Winton-Salem. But Hackenberg’s plate discipline was fine (10% BB-rate and 21.6% K-rate), but he did not show much skill with the bat. The power was not there, and he hit nearly 50% of his batted balls into the ground with the Dash. MLB Pipeline, which looks like the only outlet to have him in the org’s Top 30, basically says Hackenberg is a work in progress defensively but that he is athletic enough to improve. We just need to see him actualize it and improve his power, whether it is more extra-base hits or just hitting the ball in the air more often.

Moises Castillo was an acquisition last offseason after he played in the St. Louis organization. He played 19 games in Double-A in 2021, so starting for the Dash in 2022 was a bit of a demotion. He showed a good ability to get on base, with a 14% BB-rate and a .280 batting average. There’s not much pop in his bat at all, though, with a .043 ISO. In Double-A, the walks and average fell quite a bit, the BABIP went from .352 for the Dash to .283 for the Barons, so that wRC+ fell 30 points, to 77. Of course, there’s still no power to speak of. Castillo played the middle infield in 2022, with most of his time at shortstop, but moved closer to 50-50 second base and short once he got to Double-A.

Terrell Tatum is the last guy, and he is here because he needs games after getting suspended this summer for amphetamines. He started in Kannapolis and quickly got promoted because he was getting on base in more than 50% of his plate appearances. Tatum started out hot in Winston-Salem, too, but started to cool down before the suspension. He is just a real unknown, because he seems like a hitter who can get on base at a really good clip. He just strikes out a lot, so facing better pitchers in Arizona is worrisome, especially because he has not shown much power yet.

Glendale Pitchers

No pitcher is going to go out and get quality starts in the AFL, but the Sox are sending one starter to get extra work, Chase Solesky. Solesky started in Winston-Salem and got a cameo in Double-A. He is a contact pitcher, but one of the few who did go longer into games. Over his 24 starts, Solesky covered 110 13 innings with a 4.24 ERA. He has shown good command, with a BB-rate around 6.5% for his professional career, but the strikeouts did decrease from last season.

The other pitchers are relievers with Lane Ramsey being the one you could see in Chicago, it’s just not likely. Ramsey has had a pretty injured career so far, but he throws hard and is 6´9´´, so he is a fun pitcher to watch. He needs to hone his command again, given his 17.3% BB-rate in 20 23 Triple-A innings, but he just hasn’t pitched a lot in general. Ramsey is a guy to watch for next season, but if the command struggles do not subside, that will be an early tell whether he’s on track for the majors.

The last two are guys that have been pitching well of late, but not so sure they will see time in Chicago. Sammy Peralta started in Birmingham before seeing a small amount of action in Charlotte. He had a 3.70 ERA and was more of a long-reliever, going 56 innings in 29 games. He strikes people out, with a near-30% K-rate and a good enough walk rate (8.2%). Declan Cronin spent his time with the Barons and Knights, too, but was promoted earlier than Peralta. Cronin is not a high-strikeout guy, but he induces more ground balls than anything else. This season, about 56% of his batted balls were grounders. That helped stave of some runs and led to sub-4.00 ERAs in both leagues, the 3.52 ERA in Triple-A being more impressive.