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2015 Charlotte Knights review, instructional league update

Going back to revisit the seasons of the Sox prospects left behind in September

Friend of the South Side Sox Podcast Jim Callis jogged through the White Sox roster for its instructional league program, and he provides updates for a number of names we've seen in our minor league season reviews, such as Carson Fulmer ...

The White Sox won't add many -- if any -- innings to his odometer, preferring instead that he just work on some mechanical tweaks.

"He's not a big kid, so we want to keep him taller over the rubber and create a better angle downhill," director of player development Nick Capra said. "Honestly, there's not a whole lot we need to do with this kid."

... and Corey Zangari ...

"Zangari swings the bat very well for a high school kid," Capra said. "A lot of big power guys swing and miss a lot, offer at pitches out of the strike zone, but he recognizes pitches very well. He stands out with his pretty good idea of the strike zone."

... and Johan Cruz:

Cruz played the hot corner for the Voyagers out of necessity, but he spent his first two pro seasons at shortstop. He has returned there in instructional league and has looked like he never left.

None of them have anything to do with the Charlotte Knights (yet), but I'm leading with that because it's often a little redundant reviewing the Triple-A affiliate in September. The White Sox promoted the Johnson brothers, Klay's brother and the other Garcia, and so we're familiar with what they accomplished. The guys who weren't called up were omitted for one reason or another, and that's not a lot of fun to rehash.

But we didn't complete the set, so let's finish the unfinished business.

The Knights went 74-70, which is somewhat disappointing since they looked destined for the postesason. They had an excuse, though, since they were obliterated by promotions and injuries. There were a few revolving doors on the roster, most notably at shortstop, which hit its nadir when the Sox made a minor-league swap for Justin Sellers just for the depth, only to see him hit the DL shortly after.

The International League baselines:

  • Average age: 27
  • Average line: .255/.322/.367
  • Average strikeout rate: 18.7 percent
  • Average walk rate: 8.3 percent

The offensive ones really don't apply to BB&T Ballpark, which is the hitter-friendliest park in the league.

Notable names

Matt Davidson: Good news: He won the International League home run title with 23. Bad news: Just about everything else. He returned to Charlotte in search of a mulligan with his age 24 season, but he ended up making only the slightest of improvements:

  • 2014: .199/.283/.362, 18 2B, 20 HR, 49 BB, 164 K over 539 PA
  • 2015: .203/.293/.375, 22 2B, 23 HR, 62 BB, 191 K over 602 PA

The latter line includes a .590 OPS and a 31-percent strikeout rate over the last two months. The only thing you can really say about his performance at the plate is that his contact against lefties was loud (.217/.304/.435), but even then, it wasn't frequent enough (30.4 percent K rate). He has improved with the glove, but not nearly enough to offset the problems with his swing. He might be concerned about the arrival of Mike Olt, since Olt is Davidson with a doctor's note.

Jason Coats: The 25-year-old got a late start to his pro career, and he played catch-up this year by practically skipping Birmingham, as he played just 31 games there over 2014 and 2015. He played 122 games in his first try at Triple-A and had moderate success, hitting .270/.313/.438 with 29 doubles and 17 homers. He strikeout rate (17.5 percent) is more acceptable than his walk rate (5.5 percent), but he showed improvement with patience over his last 60 games by hitting .296/.350/.490.

The one problem for Coats is that he's kinda redundant with Trayce Thompson. He has a better hit tool, but his other qualities -- right-handedness, decent power and speed -- are already covered and then some. However, if he bides his time at Triple-A at the start of next season and picks up where he left off, he stands a good chance of being the first backup plan.

Kevan Smith: It was either him or Rob Brantly for the third catcher job, and Brantly beat him with a strange combination of experience (98 MLB games) and age (13 months younger). Smith was disappointed by the news, and not entirely without reason. He hit .260/.330/.370 for the Knights over 361 plate appearances,  ... but that was a step back from his performance at Birmingham the year before.

Potentially worth noting: He went on the DL with an ankle injury and mid-May, then hit just .148 over his first 19 games back. He bounced back to hit .294/.335/.400 over his last 49 games and saved his best for August, so I can imagine the lack of a promotion stung. The Sox give positive reports about his game-calling, but he threw out only 19 percent of baserunners, as much as you can trust that stat in isolation, especially at Triple-A.

Chris Beck: His steady if unexciting climb up the ladder peaked on May 28 with his MLB debut, as he started the second game of a doubleheader in Baltimore and served his purpose (took the loss but pitched six innings). He then returned to the minors and only pitched in two more games. He was pulled after four innings on June 3, took the mound 10 days later and lasted only four innings then, too. He went on the DL with elbow inflammation, and he didn't pitch again the rest of the season. It's a shame, because he deserved that doubleheader start. He owned a 3.15 ERA over 54 innings, and, more importantly, posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career by far (40 strikeouts, 14 walks).

Read the previous reviews

Birmingham Barons | Winston-Salem Dash | Kannapolis Intimidators | Great Falls Voyagers | AZL White Sox | DSL White Sox