With promotions all around for the White Sox minor league coaching staff, it is fitting there’s another one here, in Winston-Salem. These guys just didn’t have to move too far, just from Kannapolis. Guillermo Quiroz has 148 games played in MLB under his belt, primarily as catcher. Which make sense, if you’re going to play a position in baseball and want to manage, be a catcher. Quiroz has been a coach with the Sox since 2019 and managed the Cannon Ballers the last two seasons. He has a 98-153, record but should see plenty of familiar faces.
Alongside Quiroz, John Ely, a former White Sox draft pick, will be the pitching coach. That has been his position with various Sox minor league clubs since 2017. Jason Krizan is in his first year of coaching, in general. He actually got into three MLB games for the San Francisco Giants last year.
The Dash will be more interesting from a pitching perspective to start the year, vs. the position player pool. Of course, that could all change as Kannapolis bats move up, the draft rolls around, and those college bats and arms start rolling through the system.
Norge Vera enters this year as probably the most intriguing arm in the system. Yes, Noah Schultz is right up there, but Schultz is more potential than anything at this point. Vera is entering his third season with the Sox and only has 54 1⁄3 innings pitched. Total. He needs to get through this season healthy, even if he is on a severe innings limit. Vera’s control issues were probably related to rust, as he had trouble repeating his motion. That should fix itself (hopefully) with more time on the mound. He has a decent fastball-curve combo, but needs to find that third pitch. But what he REALLY needs is to stay healthy.
Jonathan Cannon received an over-slot draft bonus as a third-round pick, and is getting a pretty aggressive assignment by starting with the Dash. Cannon has a mid-90s fastball with a cutter and a slider. Eric Longehagen does not think there is a “plus pitch there” but nonetheless, he should be able to get outs. Basically, Cannon won’t be a high strikeout arm but will be sharp enough to get outs — imagine him as more of a No. 4 or 5 in a starting rotation. In Cannon’s very limited time in the pros after the draft, that projection did check out. Maybe this assignment means the White Sox think differently.
nice backdoor curve by Kohl Simas to get the ol’ backwards k pic.twitter.com/fZIgpUpm2k— Ben Spanier (@b_span2) July 10, 2022
Kohl Simas is an undrafted signee from 2021, and has been really good in pro ball since. Last year was a sort of breakout — before an injury, and then an innings limit. In 61 2⁄3 innings with Kannapolis, he had a 3.65 ERA with a good K-rate (29.9%) and good BB-rate (9.8%). Those strikeouts came from a mid-90s fastball and good breaking balls. Like Vera, Simas needs to sustain his stuff for a full season, and he could really shoot up prospect lists if he can. Look for him to get past that 100-inning pitch mark as one of the key markers of a successful year.
Jared Kelley with the most bizarre shutout 4 IP I have seen in a long time. 28 of 59 for strikes nets him 3 H’s, 5 BB’s, 3K’s and 0R’s. He was helped by Nooga and the slick work of the combo of Castillo/Ramos/Gladney. #Barons #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/kXn9eJy13K— White Sox Daily (@dailywhitesox) September 8, 2022
Jared Kelley is also in a kind of make-or-break year, to see if he is a starter or not. Last year was much better as he tried to develop his third pitch, a slider. The K-rate is still low for a former first round pick, so Kelley’s slider must not be very good. FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline do note that Kelley is pretty much starting from scratch with it, and that the improvement in walk rate is a due to some improvement with the slider from ’21 to ’22. Kelley should start in the rotation, but could easily ignore the slider if he goes to the bullpen as a critical, late-inning option. If Kelley’s K-rate and BB-rate are improving, that should mean the slider has as well. If not, it should be time for the pen.
Drew Dalquist is in the same boat as Matt Thompson (Birmingham): The potential is there, but it has not been realized. Dalquist’s issue is that he is coming off of a failed season. He did make some starts with the Barons since he was in Project Birmingham, but the majority of Dalquist’s innings came in High-A. With the Dash, he had a 6.95 ERA with a miniscule 3.9% K-BB rate. He is at the point in his career where everything needs to be fixed. It would also not be surprising to see Dalquist (and Thompson) move to the bullpen if things do not improve.
A couple of other options to round out the rotation are some older lefties. Brooks Gosswein ended his 2022 campaign with the Dash. He had 5.36 ERA between both levels of A-ball. Jonah Scolaro was an undrafted free agent from last year’s class. The Sox did run into some good scouting with Simas, another undrafted free agent, so it isn’t too farfetched that another UDFA can break out.
Eric Adler is a project of a pitcher. He has good stuff, per FanGraphs, a well-rated curve and slider. His issue is throwing strikes, and that is something that has plagued him throughout his baseball life. In his 44 innings in college, Adler had 66 strikeouts — but 43 walks. After his sixth-round selection last year, a little under-slot, that strikeout ability and lack of control persisted. Adler only appeared in 4 2⁄3 innings, but somehow walked nine batters.
Colby Smelley is a more offensive-focused player behind the plate; he actually DHed more than he caught last season. He finished his season in Kannapolis with a 123 wRC+, thanks to a healthy walk-rate and a higher BABIP (.365). Defensive strides are what is needed this year, especially if that bat can play a bit. Though, like many other Sox hitters, it would help if Smelley lowered his K-rate. Smelley should get the majority of time behind the plate with the Dash, but another catching option is the ninth-round selection from last year’s draft, Michael Turner.
Wilfred Veras is a first base/designated hitter player that has a lot of pop — and I mean a lot. FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline label his raw power (not game power) as a plus stat. He will need to grow more into it, as it is just his age-20 season this year, but Veras is a dark horse bat in the system. His issue is plate discipline. He had a 27.3% K-rate in Low-A and a 6.2% BB-rate. The walks aren’t terrible, but compared to a high 20s K-rate, that’s not good enough. What is a definite positive: 20 homers last year at 19. That is something that does not happen often in the Sox system. If Veras can lower the strikeouts and still keep a near-.200 ISO, that would be a successful season.
Wes Kath has similar plate discipline issues as Veras, but he does walk a ton. A 13.4 % BB-rate is fantastic, and is a big reason why he had a 109 wRC+. However, a 33% K-rate in Kannapolis is a huge concern, and severely limits Kath’s potential. He also had a highly-rated power grade out of college that did not come to fruition last year, with a .159 ISO and 13 homers. Maybe some of that is bad contact in general; again, one-third of his at-bats ended with no contact, and the 27.3% infield-fly rate indicates poor contact. The third baseman is very young, this is his age 20-21 season, so don’t leave the potential train yet. But Kath really needs to cut down on these strikeouts.
The big Dash news came Thursday, when it was announced that (older) DSL sensation Loidell Chapelli Jr. was skipping the ACL and Kannapolis and getting an aggressive placement in High-A. Age- and talent-wise, it may be the perfect spot for Chapelli, but really, this is an indication that the White Sox definitely want to challenge him. There is a potential logjam of middle infielders digging for some South Side time, led by Lenyn Sosa and José Rodríguez. Chapelli could be added to that list as soon as 2024.
The rest of the middle infield, at least for now (there are some 2022 college draftees who could quickly get promotions) will be manned by Andy Atwood and Samil Polanco. Atwood was signed last season and finished with the Dash. He is 26, so he is more of a career minor leaguer. Polanco has been around for a while, and has been with Kannapolis the last two seasons. He did not do particularly well offensively, so that is why some college draft picks from last year could get quick promotions — and why he will yield time to Chapelli.
Jacob Burke might be the best outfielder in Winston-Salem all season for the Sox organization. He was a 10th round selection but received $100,000 more than the round’s allotted bonus pool, so Burke was a priority for the Sox. He had a great final college season with Miami, ending it with a 1.024 OPS. He spent the majority of his time after the draft with the Cannon Ballers, and continued his great 2022. He had a 126 wRC+ in about a month’s worth of games. Burke showed good gap power and some speed. Now, it is a really small sample so don’t read too much into it, but we can dream a little bit. Burke should man center for the Dash.
The rest of the outfield are guys that really haven’t filled out to their potential for various reasons but there is one throughline to both: strikeouts. James Beard and Chase Krogman should be on the corners this year. Misael González could get some time too, it’s just hard to tell with this ragtag group. Beard is more of a speedster: He had 28 stolen bases last year, but has hit well less than .200 in the past couple seasons. Beard walks a good amount, but his strikeouts are in the upper 30%s. Krogman is more of a power bat, but is coming off of a year where he was demoted for his poor hitting. Strikeouts are his problem too — he improved them by 10% in 2022, but a low-30% K-rate is still really bad.
The Dash are going to be more of a transition team this year than last. The better prospect here might get looks to Birmingham, as some of them were involved in Project Birmingham. and have some Double-A experience. There are also quite a few pitchers who could transition to the bullpen if they do not improve various aspects of their game.
Winston-Salem might not be a big “prospect hype” team, but this is going to be a big year for everyone on the roster who has been around and not reached their potential yet.