[Prior to the end of the regular season, South Side Sox’s Director of Photography, Salina Rae Silver, traveled to each White Sox minor league affiliate to capture the action and deliver it to our readers from a unique firsthand perspective involving on-the-field and from-the-dugout access. The series continues with a notebook from Double-A Birmingham, home of the Barons.]
BIRMINGHAM, ALA. — Garrett Crochet is really tall. I know it’s been customary for me to begin each entry in this series with a beautiful exposition, describing both the nature and the scale of the ballpark experience, but honestly, the 6´6´´ Crochet is the core memory that’s stuck with me in the two months since I attended this game. As I rounded the corridor by the camera well at beautiful Regions Field near downtown Birmingham, jockeying for a position to capture optimal photos of the second inning of play, I nearly ran directly into the White Sox’s hulking former first-rounder entering the dugout via the same corridor.
If I can confess my ignorance, I wasn’t even aware that Crochet was in Alabama on a rehab assignment in the first place. Nonetheless, the promising pitching prospect kindly sidestepped past me and apologized courteously for being in my way, despite the fact that I was most definitely in his way, standing starstruck and flabbergasted at the chance encounter. Perhaps beat reporters and media figures would have reacted more gracefully, but like everybody reading this, I am a fan first.
Crochet was far from the only player turning heads in Birmingham that night. White Sox top prospect and consensus MiLB Top 100 prospect Colson Montgomery continued to make an impact on the upper levels of the minors for this talented Barons ballclub. Accompanying him in the spotlight was trade deadline acquisition and No. 3 Sox prospect Edgar Quero behind the plate. In the opposing dugout, Brewers phenom and top prospect Jackson Chourio was getting his first taste of action at the Double-A level as well.
All of these top prospect hitters reached base at least once on the night, Montogmery on a double tucked just inside the first base line, and Quero on a hard-hit single. However, the top stories of the night for the Barons involved neither of these players. Instead, righty starter Jonathan Cannon fired off six full innings of quality, three-run ball while Wilfred Veras treated the home crowd to an evening of fireworks before the actual postgame fireworks show even began: In total, Veras racked up seven total bases to go with a couple of RBIs, continuing a torrid end to his regular season and a triumphant first taste of Double-A ball in his age-20 season.
After the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, however, the Barons were defeated by a one-run margin, 4-3.
As usual, let’s take a look at Salina’s notebook from the night!
- Reliever Adisyn Coffey was electric in his lone inning of work in this game. A closer in the lower levels of the minors with an electric fastball, Coffey has yet to close a game at the Double-A level. He has, however, finished a few games in Birmingham, indicating a degree of comfort using the righty in leverage situations going forward. Although his results have been less than stellar (career minor league ERA hovering around 5.00), there’s no doubt that Coffey has the pure stuff to blossom into a potent back-end bullpen piece for the White Sox. Coffey is Rule-5 eligible this year, though it’s unlikely another team poaches him given his unflattering surface-level stats, which extended into Arizona Fall League play.
- The Veras hype is real. Prognosticators like to lump him into this new-school, three-true-outcomes category, but this sells his contact ability a bit short. Veras has a balanced but aggressive swing that produces TONS of line drives. He has elite raw power, and the bat control to back it up. While his strikeout rate is a tad high (around 26% on the year) and seems to be allergic to taking free bases via the walk, he sports a .280+ batting average and produced an .850+ OPS with Birmingham. His homer on this night was SMOKED the opposite way, and his triple pulled DEEP to left. K’s and BB’s be damned, if you can hit for average and barrel the ball to all fields, you’re an elite hitting prospect in my book. He comes in at No. 21 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 for the White Sox, but a repeat performance of his prowess in Birmingham next year could net him rightfully-gained Top 10 or Top 5 status in the organization. Veras is the cousin of Padres star and former White Sox prospect Fernando Tatís, Jr. who is, himself, no stranger to top prospect lists.
- Quero is a force behind the plate. While his hit tool is rightfully highlighted as the strongest part of his game, he moves really well behind the plate and calls a solid game as well. At 20 years old, he was a whopping three-and-a-half years younger than the average Double-A player. His mature approach at the dish, baseball acumen, and unparalleled work ethic position him as not only the White Sox catcher of the future, but perhaps the next South Side clubhouse leader as well. This, of course, is dependent on the scope of the White Sox rebuild this offseason and how his first full season in the Sox system plays out. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see him in Triple-A to start next year, with an eye on the majors. After seeing him perform tonight? I'd rather see Quero taking at-bats at the major league level than a veteran like Yasmani Grandal any day.
- Tim Elko appeared overmatched in this game, going 0-for-4 with the hat trick; three strikeouts. The big, power-first approach Elko has employed at each level of the minors has endeared him to baseball fans who love the long ball, but the 24-year-old has some disturbing underlying metrics. A strikeout rate at 35% in 34 Double-A games does not inspire confidence, and a .380 BABIP indicates that a degree of regression is probable for the Barons first baseman. Conversely, like Veras, Elko has sported a respectable batting average across three levels of the minors in the 2023 season while tearing the cover off of the ball, so his offensive upside is real and exciting. In 2024, he’ll need to show that he can handle the challenge of Double-A pitching more readily to prove himself as a genuine threat with the bat in the upper levels of the minors. It remains to be seen how desirable a feast-or-famine right-handed power bat is for the Pale Hose at the major league level given their historically complicated relationship with contact from the right side of the plate. I'd personally like to see some of the more athletic, left-handed Sox prospects get the nudge to Triple-A next year. *cough* Terrell Tatum *cough*
Special thanks to Chance Barnhill and the rest of the Birmingham Barons team for making this installment of Inside Look possible. Enjoy this brief gallery from the game delivered by yours truly, and thank you for reading.
- Bryan Ramos takes a seat in the dugout. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Yoelqui Céspedes during pregame warmups. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Jonathan Cannon signs autographs before taking the mound. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Bryan Ramos and Jason Matthews hype each other up in the dugout. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Top prospect Colson Montgomery looks on. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Edgar Quero readies to take the field to start the game. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Jason Matthews smiles during pregame OTA’s. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Colson Montgomery after fouling a ball off of his foot. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Luis Mieses tangoes with his bat in the dugout. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Colson Montgomery slides home. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox
- Yoelqui Céspedes sprints to first. Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox