Last year, the Cannon Ballers were the sexy starts of the White Sox system, at least to start the season. This year, Kannapolis is ... not that. Let’s highlight some of the players to watch, some with their arrows pointed decidedly upward — others in the do-or-die category of their careers.
Peyton Pallette should start the year on time after skipping his professional debut last year. He missed the 2022 season (and probably lost a decent amount of draft money) due to an elbow injury that eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery. He should be on a strict innings limit and may not even finish the year, as he hasn’t pitched in competitive games since May 2021. He has a good fastball and a plus curve, but needs to develop a changeup.
Noah Schultz is going to get a late start to the season, with Chris Getz mentioning a June start date to James Fegan. He is the top arm in the system, and since he had a forearm issue (that has already, breathe a sigh of relief, cleared up), sure, might as well hold him back from early games to make sure he’s fully ready to go. A June start does mean Schultz’s first innings could be in Arizona in the rookie-league ACL. Schultz’s best pitch, and what got him drafted in the first round, is his slider. He has a four-seam and two-seam fastball, as well as a changeup, per MLB Pipeline. The two-seamer is new, and the change is something that needs work.
Tyler Schweitzer, another 2022 draft pick, should start in Kannapolis as well. He is a soft-tossing lefty who, more or less, was a high round draft pick due to having, as MLB Pipeline termed, “three average pitches” to go with the fastball. Schweitzer has a slider, curve, and change. It would be great if he could add a couple more ticks in velocity, but it does seem like he could be maxed out in the low 90s. Schweitzer could be a candidate for the bullpen when it is all said and done, much more quickly than the others above if they were to struggle as starters.
Tanner McDougal, another pitching prospect who is coming off injuries, is back and ready to take the mound for the first time since October 2021. He was drafted that year, and did make his pro debut in the ACL (9 2⁄3 innings). All of these guys (McDougal. Schultz, Pallette) are all going to be on innings limits, which is why there are no relievers addressed in this preview. A lot of arms are going to get starts, or work multiple innings in relief as a piggyback starter. Hoepfully for McDougal though, he sports his mid-90s fastball, with high spin rates on his breaking balls.
The bullpen will have some decent arms to keep an eye on, with Mark McLaughlin and Billy Seidl firmly in the bullpen. Shane Murphy could work as a starter or be given multi-inning appearances a couple of times a week. That would mean McLaughlin and Seidl could move quickly in the system if they show well in their first full season of baseball. Drew McDaniel is similar to Murphy, as a player that could be a starter or reliever. He did both at Ole Miss, and the White Sox might try him out as a starter first before moving him to the bullpen.
Victor Torres is a more defensive-focused player. He was among the catching options for the majority of last year in Kannapolis. He threw out 29 runners attempting to steal, but did allow 61 swipes in 417 2⁄3 innings. Meanwhile, his bat was not too successful, with just an 87 wRC+. Luis Pineda should get some time here as well as he moves slowly up the ranks in the Sox organization. Troy Claunch will get time here, too, as well as at DH.
Jordan Sprinkle is the top-rated bat, at least until the 2023 draft, for Kannapolis. He is good defensively, and has the glove to stick at shortstop. Sprinkle also has the speed to have decent range and, when he gets on base, can steal a base when needed. In limited time for the Cannon Ballers last season, Sprinkle was eight-for-nine in stolen bases. You could see some of his plate discipline issues in his limited time last year, though, with a near-6% BB-rate and 20.8% K-rate. He will need to fix that, as he doesn’t have much pop, if at all. He only had four extra-base hits in 101 plate appearances. (That is a Yolbert Sánchez type of profile, and Sánchez reached Triple-A but is stalling out.)
Brooks Baldwin should be in the infield, but he played almost everywhere after he was drafted. He got seven games at second, six at third, two in left, three in center, and nine in right. He was a second baseman in his final year of college. He’s another guy without much pop, but does seem to be very sharp defensively.
Drake Logan is another 2022 draft pick that was at the bonus slot, but he is coming out of JUCO. He should be at third here, and showed good pop at the college level. His size (6´4´´, 204 pounds) does indicate a corner infield type of player, though he should get more opportunities at third this year. Obviously, other players will be here in the infield, but these three received bonuses that give a little extra juice in starting their first professional seasons.
Johnabiell Laureano will enter his third year getting time with Kannapolis. He played in spurts there in ’21 and ’22. He has not done very well with the Cannon Ballers, and outfield is not a highly-rated group this season. Baldwin should get some time in the outfield, as should Bryce Bush, in the corner outfield spots.