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White Sox Minor League Weekly Update: April 5-17

It is early in the season, so the weekly MVPs were batter-heavy as Carlos Pérez, Lenyn Sosa, Bryan Ramos, and Colby Smelley earned the high marks last week.

Bryan Ramos is off to a hot start to the 2022 season with the Winston-Salem Dash.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

One of the most consequential new rules — or enforcement of existing rules — is the pitch clock, with batters needing to be in the batter’s box and ready for the pitch. Pitchers must throw the ball at “14 seconds at all full-season levels, with additional time allotted ... for pitches with runners on base. At all levels, the hitter must be in the batter’s box and attentive to the pitcher with nine seconds left on the timer.”

These rules did not start right away; the first time they were implemented was on April 15. From some research by JJ Cooper of Baseball America, he found that “the average plate appearance took two minutes, five seconds [on April 15]. The Friday before, it took two minutes, 19 seconds. The average inning took nine minutes, down from 10 minutes, 51 seconds.” Overall, “the new rules appeared to cut more than 25 minutes from the average game time.” This is just one day, and there’s a long way to go to see if these changes keep game time and in-game dead time down — but if it does, it’ll be in MLB before you know it.

Charlotte Knights

Romy González: .219/.306/.375 — 1 HR, 4 BB, 13 K, 5 R, 4 RBI
Seby Zavala: .348/.444/.739 — 2 HR, 4 BB, 10 K, 4 R, 3 RBI,
Adam Haseley: .211/.302/.237 — 4 BB, 3 K, 4 R, 2 RBI
Micker Adolfo: .200/.200/.200 — 0 BB, 7 K
Carlos Pérez: .357/.364/.690 — 3 HR, 1 BB, 0 K, 8 R, 11 RBI **Weekly MVP**
Johan Domínguez: AAA: 4 23 IP, 1.93 ERA, 2 BB, 9 K, AA: 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 BB, 7 K
Emilio Vargas: 9 IP, 9.00 ERA, 2 BB, 7 K
Kade McClure: 13 13 IP, 4.73 ERA, 6 BB, 7 K

For a week-plus, a couple of catchers for Charlotte (Seby Zavala and Carlos Pérez) kept hitting the cover off the ball, with five homers between them. Pérez had one more homer and 10 games of no strikeouts, thus, the weekly MVP goes to him. Seriously; Pérez has played in 10 games and has not recorded one strikeout. Sure, he walked just once, but again, no strikeouts in 10 whole games. Pérez has never been a high-strikeout player (he had a 10.2% K-rate in Double-A last season0 and he also doesn’t walk much, so the one walk tracks, but seriously, 10 games and no strikeouts is ridiculous in this age of baseball. The power Pérez is showing right now is probably more about the place he plays in, Charlotte, than actual improvement, but it is still something to watch. Pérez obviously won’t have an ISO of more than .300 for long, but it is still fun to see in these small samples. It remains to be seen which of the three catchers in Charlotte will get the call when an injury or anything else happens to Yasmani Grandal or Reese McGuire in Chicago, but this start gives Pérez a leg up.

Birmingham Barons

José Rodríguez: .176/.243/.265 — 2 BB, 11 K, 5 R, 2 RBI
Lenyn Sosa: .344/.475/.375 — 5 BB, 4 K, 7 R, 2 RBI **Weekly MVP**
Yoelqui Céspedes: .270/.300/.514 — 2 HR, 2 BB, 13 K, 6 R, 6 RBI
Yolbert Sánchez: .308/.500/.346 — 11 BB, 6 K, 3 R, 1 RBI
Jason Bilous: 9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3 BB, 10 K
Caleb Freeman: 1 23 IP, 37.80 ERA, 6 BB, 2 K

Lenyn Sosa is off to an uncharacteristic start, like many of the winners of the weekly MVP this week. He currently has more walks (five) than strikeouts (four), something he has never done — let alone have a BB% of more than 10%, which he has right now. It probably won’t stay like that, as this is a nine-game sample, but this approach certainly has helped. Over nine games, Sosa had a 154 wRC+ based really on his batting average and OBP. There was no power surge, with a .031 ISO, he just has been getting hits — and a BABIP near .400 is going to help that. Sosa had 10 singles and one double, so a harsh week might come and even everything out, but the increase in walks this early going is something to watch. Sosa has been passed by many infielders on the prospect ranks over the past couple of years, as his bat has not come around along with getting promoted, and older. Maybe last week was the start of a more patient approach to get his OBP up, or maybe it was just early in the year and Double-A pitchers aren’t really ready yet.

Winston-Salem Dash

Oscar Colás: .333/.405/.455 — 4 BB, 6 K, 5 R, 5 RBI
Bryan Ramos: .351/.400/.622 — 2 HR, 1 BB, 9 K, 5 R, 9 RBI **Weekly MVP**
Luis Míeses: .237/.275/.360 — 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K, 5 R, 7 RBI
Adam Hackenberg: .208/.269/.458 — 2 HR, 2 BB, 7 K, 4 R, 4 RBI
Drew Dalquist: 8 IP, 6.75 ERA, 4 BB, 10 K
Matthew Thompson: 8 13 IP, 6.48 ERA, 6 BB, 6 K
Sean Burke: 9 IP, 1.00 ERA, 6 BB, 10 K

Well, well, well, Bryan Ramos is certainly having an eye-popping start to his 2022 season and his first taste of High-A. Like José Rodríguez, it seems like High-A is where players start to show if they really are a top White Sox prospect or not. Ramos currently has a 1.022 OPS off the back of two homers, and a BABIP better than .400 so far. That BABIP will certainly come down, but it still does come with a ground ball rate of less than 40%, and Ramos is using all fields right now so the contact seems like it has been pretty good. Ramos is not being as patient at the plate, with just one walk, while the K-rate is basically where it was last year; he is being more aggressive while not sacrificing putting the ball in play. It would be preferable to see that Ramos can keep a BB-rate at or near 10% like in ’21, but it’s hard to complain after a week with an OPS of more than 1.000.

Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Misael González: .400/.531/.520 — 5 BB, 8 K, 6 R, 7 RBI
Colson Montgomery: .278/.400/.389 — 8 BB, 10 K, 8 R, 4 RBI
Wes Kath: .167/.265/.233 — 4 BB, 13 K, 4 R, 3 RBI
Benyamín Bailey: .267/.435/.267 — 6 BB, 5 K, 5 R, 4 RBI
Colby Smelley: .500/.522/.750 — 1 BB, 2 K, 7 R, 7 RBI **Weekly MVP**
Wilfred Veras: .188/.317/.281 — 5 BB, 13 K, 4 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB
Jared Kelley: 3 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1 BB, 2 K
Cristian Mena: 5 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1 BB, 6 K

GIven all the talent in Kannapolis, and much of that talent starting out pretty well like Misael González and Colson Montgomery, of course the 13th round catcher selected last season (Colby Smelley) had the best start. Catchers, especially ones in Low-A, will not play every day, so Smelley is just coming off five games played, but boy were they some great games, with a .500 batting average. It is very early and odds are this is just a hot week, but Smelley had a strikeout problem in his limited appearances last year (again, it was only nine games so not working off much data), and that was way down to less than 10% last week. Maybe Smelley has really turned around his bat-to-ball skills, but still, probably more of a hot week than anything else, time will tell.

However, I would be remiss not to mention another plate discipline improvement, this time from a former top prospect, Benyamín Bailey.

Bailey really struggled last season, especially to start the year in Kannapolis. He had a 22 wRC+ with a 8.3% BB% and about a 30% K% in 21 games before he was demoted. In six games last week, that was vastly improved, to 26.% for the BB-rate and 21.7% K-rate. The strikeouts are maybe still high, but the overall plate discipline improvement is something to keep an eye on going forward. Bailey probably won’t continue to have more walks than strikeouts, but this week reflected the 2019 DSL campaign that catapulted him to the upper echelon of Sox prospects.