I spent the weekend in North Carolina getting to see the Kannapolis Intimidators and Charlotte Knights in person, with the primary purpose of seeing what a couple of 2016 draft picks -- supplemental first-rounder Zack Burdi and third-rounder Alex Call -- are all about.
Chances are I didn't resolve that with one game, but I return bearing video and images so you can put motion pictures to the names as well.
A change of plans -- mostly prompted by American Airlines, which botched nearly the entire process -- put me in Kannapolis on Friday night, where I got to see Call, the outfielder from Ball State who has been tearing up the South Atlantic League. Because of lost luggage, I didn't have my camera or scorebook on me.
The first thing I noticed -- besides the fact that the cold-weather draft pick was mopping off his brow multiple times before coming to the plate in the first inning — was that he can work a count. He struck out in his first at-bat, but it was on a foul tip on the 10th pitch, after fighting off several high fastballs. In his second at-bat, he pounced on a 3-1 pitch and drove it to the warning track in left for a single (the bases were loaded, and all runners held to see if it would be caught).
Alex Call hitting a drive on a 3-1 count to the warning track for bases-loaded single. pic.twitter.com/UgahGUEzLL— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) August 13, 2016
His third time up, he fell behind 0-2, then stayed down on a breaking ball and chopped this one over the first baseman’s head.
Here's an unlikely single bounced over the first baseman. pic.twitter.com/kPCcVRcYWp— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) August 15, 2016
He popped out and grounded out in his final two plate appearances to cap a 2-for-5 night, but he played under control all night. I saw the same game that Dan Victor at notesfromthesally.com did, and my assessment falls in line with his:
Listed at 6’0" 188 lbs Call is built like he came off of a baseball player assembly line. If you saw him in a crowd of 21 year olds wearing street clothes, you would be able to guess he was the ball player. The skill that has really stood out during the games I have witnessed is the hit tool. Batting from the right hand side he exhibits a quick swing through the zone with very little extraneous movement. During college, and so far as a pro, he has been a doubles machine displaying gap power. I suspect with maturity and a couple extra pounds of muscle he will reach a ceiling of around 15 homeruns a year. His eye and ability to work the count are exceptional for a player in Low-A ball.
In Durham, N.C. on Saturday, I watched my fellow Downers Grove native pitch in his second Triple-A game against Durham. He came in for the eighth inning with the Knights trailing 1-0 and threw a scoreless frame -- strikeout, popout, walk, walk, strikeout.
Then Jerry Sands hit a three-run homer to spark a five-run ninth, and Burdi got a chance to close out his own win. Burdi didn’t have to work nearly as hard, getting two popouts on broken bats, followed by a first pitch lineout to center to end it.
Burdi topped out at 98 on the stadium gun, but he couldn't get strike three with it, (over)try as he might. I was more impressed by his slider, which had multiple uses. Here’s a traditional strikeout pitch to a righty.
Zack Burdi started his night with a strikeout on this slider. pic.twitter.com/zsLk3mjf2X— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) August 15, 2016
Here’s a slider to strike out a lefty.
Zack Burdi finishes up his night of work: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K. Both K's were on sliders. Here's the second. pic.twitter.com/nKqAb4h9JH— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) August 14, 2016
And here’s a front-door slider to a righty that broke a second bat in as many tries in the ninth inning.
Zack Burdi getting a broken-bat popout on a front door slider. pic.twitter.com/9KHPu9ojlF— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) August 15, 2016
Burdi looks like he’s lessened the severity of his closed approach to hitters — his left foot appears less piegon-toed in his set -- but otherwise, he’s showing his Louisville form. It’s worked well enough. After a disastrous Double-A debut in which Burdi allowed all five hitters to reach (a single and four walks), he's warranted the fast track. His line over his last 13 games: 19 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 7 BB, 27 K, 2 HR, 1 HBP. Dave from Barstool says Burdi expected to join the White Sox after one more game with the Knights, so you should able to see him for yourself soon enough.