On Monday, Chicago White Sox Director of Player Development Nick Capra and Field Coordinator Kirk Champion hosted a conference call to share their thoughts on the progress being made at Triple-A Charlotte. The overall mood was upbeat and both had positives to expound on what they have seen so far from the affiliate.
Hitting stats: .230/.310/.434, 6 HR, 19 RBI
Why did Matt Davidson struggle in 2014 and how has he improved in 2015?
Nick Capra: I think he just got caught in that trap last year trying to live up to the trade. Trying to do too much and was scoreboard watching. He has put that [season] in the rear view mirror and he's putting together a really good year. Obviously, with his better average he is putting the ball into play a little bit more. Defensively, his lateral movement improved since last year and he's been playing a very solid third base. I'm sure if there is a need in the big leagues, they would give Matt a call.
At SoxFest, [Assistant General Manager] Buddy Bell made it pretty clear that in order for prospects to see time in Chicago, they need to demonstrate better contact and plate discipline. For Davidson and Trayce Thompson, how much do they need to cut down their strikeouts to be considered for a call up due to injury or in September?
Capra: That's a tough question. You know everyone has their warts and striking out is a wart for these guys. We are trying to put medicine on it and make it better. I think if we can get them to the high 20s (strikeout percentage), I think that is serviceable.
Hitting stats: .274/.306/.436, 2 HR, 11 RBI; leads team with 3 triples
Capra: Trayce has a lot to offer: He's above-average defender, above-average arm in the outfield, covers a lot of ground, he can steal a base, he's going to hit with power and it seems like he is always scoring runs. Is he ready for the majors? Probably not, but if he continues to improve at Triple-A he could see some time there soon.
Does that make Thompson the team's No. 1 outfield prospect?
Capra: I would say where he is at, yes. Obviously we have some other guys who are green and need some experience, but I would say that Trayce is on top of that list.
Hitting stats: .369/.394/.500, 2 HR, 17 RBI; leads team with 10 doubles
Nick, what is the game plan with Carlos Sanchez? With how well he's playing at Charlotte and with no spot for him in Chicago right now, how do you handle him at AAA?
Capra: It's very simple how to handle this kid. This kid is a baseball player. He wants to play and he wants to prove he's ready. He's a low-maintenance kid who is not worried about where he is right now. He knows that he will get back to the big leagues and knows it's a timing issue. We don't have a crystal ball when that will be, whether if it's an injury or someone is struggling. But this kid is ready to get back to the big leagues and he is playing his ass off.
Hitting stats: .289/.346/.356; hasn't played since April 21, currently on the seven-day disabled list.
Update on Tyler Saladino? He's been on the disabled list and hasn't played since April 21.
Capra: Tyler went back to Arizona to rehab his shoulder. Got good reports, he's throwing now but I'm not sure what the timetable is for his return. Could be 10 days to two weeks that he's game ready. He's back on track and its a matter of how well his shoulder responds to the treatment.
Pitching stats: 3-2, 4.39 ERA, 26.2 IP, 26 H, 12 BB, 29 K
Reports coming from Charlotte is that Erik Johnson has recovered some of his lost velocity from last year. Anything in particular such as mechanics that he was worked on to hit 93-94 mph on the gun again?
Kirk Champion: Confidence. Confidence that when the ball leaves his hand its going to the right spot. He is working extremely hard and we are pulling for him. He had an outstanding game in Gwinnett (April 18, game log here) and he has confidence in his fastball, driving the ball down and away with some consistency. Like anything, when you repeat something and have success, the confidence goes along with it.
Do you think he lost his confidence last year because of his struggles in the big league level?
Champion: Possibly. There is always a reason for it. Perhaps putting more pressure on himself or wanting to pitch to stay there instead of pitching because you deserve to be there. That happens a lot even with guys in the minor leagues because they don't want to be sent down or get released. Not going out there and doing what they need to do to be successful more often. Hopefully, something that Erik has overcome if that was the case.
Hitting stats: 2-for-40, 22 K
Why did the organization feel that the time was now to part ways with Mitchell?
Capra: Never a good time to do it. Tough to do with the history we have with him. Try to get him going at Charlotte but he was not aggressive enough at the plate. Couldn't help us offensively. We also brought in big-league insurance that can help in case of injuries. That unfortunately made Jared the odd man out.