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2014 Charlotte Knights: Season preview

Triple-A affiliate

Rob Tringali

As is usually the case with Triple-A clubs, the potential impact prospects at Charlotte are far outweighed by "veterans" trying to re-establish careers and fringe prospects, both of whom come in handy as relievers, organizational depth or utility players. But there is one prospect biding his time with that Knights that every White Sox fan wants to see.

And that's Matt Davidson. I've previously discussed the service time concerns that are the primary reason the third baseman is starting the season with Charlotte. If he performs adequately or better, and once those concerns have passed, it's very likely his stay in Triple-A will have lasted a little more than a couple months. And based on his prior performance in the Pacific Coast League (as well as in the majors), there's little reason to expect anything less than adequate. The 23-year-old will use the next couple months to "work on some things" but he's already major-league ready and, barring disaster, we'll see him launching homers out of the Cell by summer.

Carlos Sanchez will be trying to bounce back from an awful 2013 with the Knights. The infielder is still really young - just 21-years-old - so the poor season can be easily erased with a solid performance in 2014. And the White Sox can certainly be patient with him, as a surplus of infielders don't suggest a ready path to the majors this year. His mix of defense, contact and speed suggest a utility future but a better offensive performance may revise that upwards.

The other position players are less interesting. This will be Jordan Danks' fourth season in Charlotte. We know what the 27-year-old is - a 4th/5th outfielder - but the De Aza/Viciedo "platoon" and existence of Paul Konerko conspire to keep him in the minors. He's the obvious first option should a roster spot open up.

Josh Phegley rode a surprising offensive outburst in Charlotte last season to the majors, where he proceeded to stink. The 26-year-old catcher is behind the proverbial eight ball, with "competition" coming from above in Tyler Flowers and Adrian Nieto, from Charlotte in Hector Gimenez, from below in Kevan Smith, and from "the field" outside the organization. With the concerns about his handling of pitchers, he'll need a similar offensive performance as 2013 if he wants to get another legitimate chance with the White Sox.

Andy Wilkins is another guy who is currently behind the eightball, with Jose Abreu, Adam Dunn, and Konerko blocking him at first base. But he has the advantage of two of those disappearing by the end of 2014 and no one immediately pressing him from below. Of course, his performance in the upper minors hasn't screamed ability to play in the majors, either. He'll need to show some more power for that but he's likely to get all of 2014 to improve on that.

Among the pitchers, Andre Rienzo has the distinction of being the White Sox' preferred 6th starter - but spot start opportunities are often based much more on timing than preference. I still think he's more likely to end up in the bullpen because of his loose command but, for now, he'll continue to start.

Also presumably in the rotation are Eric Surkamp, Charlie Leesman and Dylan Axelrod. Any of them could see time with the White Sox.

In the bullpen, righty Jake Petricka will look to sharpen his command because his high walks, low strikeouts performance with the White Sox isn't going to work. The 25-year-old probably won't get the walks down far enough to be a high-leverage reliever but he should strikeout enough to be a useful bullpen piece.

Trying to salvage their careers are Mitchell Boggs and Javy Guerra, who both will make their White Sox organization debuts. Both have had varying degrees of success in the majors but, as often happens to pitchers, the ability to throw effective strikes abandoned them. Left-handed-relief-depth-in-residence David Purcey is also with the Knights.