Last night, the Birmingham Barons treated a national audience to a largely well-played 3-2 win (in HD!) over Pensacola, though one missing most of the key prospects at the level. The headliner, Tim Anderson, did play, although only as the designated hitter. He did live up to that description, however, going 3-4 with a double that led off the game and his 45th stolen base. The 22-year-old's line certainly reflected a superb individual performance, as he terrorized the Pensacola pitchers both in the batter's box and on the basepaths. With the caveat that he wasn't facing premium pitching, he hit the ball with the authority one would expect from a player ready for the next level. His season line sits at .308/.345/.418 and 45 steals in 56 tries.
His one slip-up didn't make it into the box score. He was caught in no man's land off second base when Jacob May hit a groundball sharply right at the shortstop, who playing right behind Anderson in order to hold him close to the bag. Anderson was tagged going back to second but the umpire blew the call. Anderson didn't do anything really wrong on the play, as his speed and aggressiveness always results in a big secondary lead, which naturally leaves him susceptible in situations like that.
With none of the notable Barons pitchers playing (though Tim Crabbe should be given credit for an Orlando Hernandez-esque escape job), May was the only other legitimate prospect in the game and his 0-4 line with a couple Ks nicely encapsulated the troubles he's had since he returned from his concussion three weeks ago. The 23-year-old has struggled to make contact and his already limited game power has been non-existent. Adrian Nieto continued to look lost at the plate, striking out three times in an 0-4 day. For a guy who looked like he'd begun to solve his contact issues, it's looking like his year spent whiffing in the majors may have done significant damage, as he's seen his strikeout rate spike markedly from his 2013 minor league campaign.
One of the things to watch over the next few weeks is the minor league standings, as they'll be dictating some of the late season movement of prospects. For the first time in awhile, though, it's hard to handicap where the prospects the White Sox want to get the extra reps postseason play brings will end up. Along with the already eliminated DSL White Sox, Kannapolis is the only stateside affiliate who is almost certain to miss the playoffs. As first-half division champions, the AZL White Sox have already clinched their spot. Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Great Falls all currently lead their divisions and Charlotte is 2.5 games back in the wild card.
If that holds, the only prospect movement we'll see is probably some of the Intimidators to the Dash. While it would be nice to see, say, Anderson get a taste of AAA, the Knights are slipping away from contention as they endure a personnel crisis. Injuries both to their own players and on the major league club have depleted their roster to the point where the White Sox front office is having to spend time scrambling to acquire players just to field a team. They might get a brief boost later this month with the likes of Emilio Bonifacio, J.B. Shuck and Daniel Webb re-habbing there. But (again assuming the other affiliates stay in contention) September roster expansion is probably going to make things real interesting in a funbad kind of way, as any reinforcements for Charlotte would have to be from Kannapolis.
Micker Adolfo hurt himself on a slide into home last week. No official word on the injury but it was definitely lower leg and he had to be carried from the field.
For those wanting to know the draft philosophy of Nick Hostetler, the new director of amateur scouting, read these two interviews. Perhaps some awareness as to the shortcomings of a few of their previous picks:
"That's where, for me, the analytics are going to come in," Hostetler said. "We go through all of these different dynamics of a player -- he's got five tools and this and that.
"Over time, you will see us kind of add some more guys with the ability to put the ball in play, showing that lower strikeout rate a little bit. The more balls in play, the more hits we are going to have. It sounds pretty elementary, but at the same time, sometimes we can get a little ahead of ourselves and try to make it bigger than it is."
"Ideally, you are looking for a well-rounded baseball player who has the athleticism to do all sorts of things on the baseball field," Hahn said. "Not just premium athleticism, but guys who know how to play the game the right way and can produce both offensively and defensively because of their abilities. That's the model."
Looking at some of the potential September call-ups:
Erik Johnson: 111.2 IP, 91 H, 8.5% walk rate, 25.2% strikeout rate.
Frankie Montas: 92.1 IP, 74 H, 9.5% walk rate, 21.7% strikeout rate.
Rob Brantly: .336/.356/.510 in 149 PA (121 at AA, 28 at AAA). 2.7% walk rate, 10.7% strikeout rate
Kevan Smith: .258/.338/.367 in 294 PA. 9.5% walk rate, 19.4% strikeout rate.