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2016 Kannapolis Intimidators season review

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Sally League affiliate received year-end boost from second- and third-round picks

Alex Call
Alex Call

Like most other White Sox affiliates, the Intimidators finished with a thoroughly losing season at 58-82. Unlike other affiliates, they benefited from some high-profile draft picks at the end of the season.

Some context for the level:

  • South Atlantic League hitters: 21.4 years old, .250/.319/372, 8.0% BB, 21.7% K
  • Kannapolis hitters: 21.8 year old, .248/.317/.349, 8.0% BB, 22.5% K
  • Kannapolis pitchers: 22.5 years old, 3.55 ERA, 8.3% BB, 20.1% K
  • South Atlantic League pitchers: 21.9 years old, 4.20 ERA

Position players

Alex Call: The White Sox’ third-round pick out of Ball State landed in Great Falls for a month before finishing out the final 46 games of his 73-game pro debut in Kannapolis. Comparing his lines between the Pioneer League (.308/.444/.439, 19 BB, 18 K) and the Sally League (.308/.361/.449, 15 BB, 40 K), the latter league challenged his strike zone judgment. His performance over his last 20 games caused most of the disparity, as he struck out 24 times to just five walks over his final 87 plate appearances. Keith Law saw a four-strikeout game against hard-throwing Phillies prospect Alberto Tirado and wondered if there was a flaw:

Call struck out four times Thursday night, the first three against Tirado, all on fastballs up out of the hitting zone. It's probably not the ideal look for evaluating a player, but when a hitter strikes out three times in identical fashion it is a legitimate concern.

So perhaps the league figured out a weakness. If it’s just fatigue from a long year, then he’s a well-rounded outfielder with extra-base power that manifests itself as mostly doubles for now.

Micker Adolfo: The prized $1.6 million international signing from 2013 has had a hard time getting traction due to injuries. He set a career-high in games, but it was a mere 69 games (65 with Kannapolis and four in the Fire League during a rehab stint). He hit .219/.269/.340 over 265 plate appearances with 14 walks and 88 strikeouts. It would’ve looked worse had he not picked it up toward the end of the season, as his average fell to .200 with eight games remaining. After his 2015 season ended with an ugly ankle injury, he lost nearly all of May and most of June with a broken hamate bone this year. He just turned 20, so age alone isn’t a concern, but the injuries make it harder for him to find any developmental groove. He’s not polished enough to thrive in full-season ball, but waiting for the short seasons to start isn’t much help, either.

Johan Cruz: Maybe White Sox international signings aren’t allowed to play 70 games? Cruz, a $450,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, looked to be on a decent course. He succeeded in Great Falls last year, hitting .312/.338/.442 over 65 games as a 19-year-old. Unfortunately, he played just 65 games again this season, making three separate trips to the DL and missing most of April, half of June and all of August/September). In between injuries, he performed respectably at shortstop, hitting .255/.323/.371 with steady improvement in strike-zone management over the season. He was especially effective against left-handed pitching, hitting .386/.438/.614 over a very small sample (48 PA). Even White Sox prospects don’t face lefties.

Antonio Rodriguez: A fellow 2012 signing out of the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez stayed healthy enough to play 123 games and accumulate 501 plate appearances in his first shot at A-ball. He just didn’t do a whole lot with them, hitting. 237/.268/.320 with 19 walks and 104 strikeouts, with his progress stalling after May. He also had more errors in the outfield (10) than assists (eight), which calls into question what had been his most prominent asset. He’ll be entering his age-22 season in 2017, so he doesn’t have precociousness on his side.

Nate Nolan: While other position players like Call, Zack Collins and Jameson Fisher met expectations in their pro debuts, Nolan, an eighth-round pick out of St. Mary’s College, had some big-time problems making contact. The catcher hit just .138/.241/.203 over 142 at-bats divided between Great Falls and Kannpaolis, striking out in 44 percent of his plate appearances. Back on the second day of the draft, Nick Hostetler talked up Nolan as a guy they thought could’ve gone in the second round. That might be a bit of an oversell.

Pitchers

Alec Hansen: Hansen’s Kannapolis career comprises two starts at the end of the season. He pitched 11 innings between them, striking out 11 while allowing 11 hits and four walks. Those numbers are good enough for a second-round pick getting his first exposure to A-ball that season, but it was a bit of a letdown compared to his unreal performane at Great Falls. As a Voyager, Hansen posted a 1.23 ERA, striking out 59 batters while allowing just 12 hits and 12 walks over 37 innings. Combine the two levels, and this half-season was a major success. Hansen tamed control problems that undermined what was supposed to be a top-10 junior season at Oklahoma. In an interview with Future Sox, Great Falls pitching coach Matt Zaleski shares some details about the work with Hansen’s delivery (Law adds that the White Sox have shortened his stride a little to rein him in). If the control problems and injury issues avoid resurfacing in the Sox system, the Sox drafted themselves a first-round talent with their third pick.

Jimmy Lambert: He pitched nearly 100 innings as a starter for Fresno State before being selected in the fifth round, so the White Sox limited his workload during his introduction to pro ball. He started 11 games for the Intimidators but threw just 29⅔ innings. The right-hander appeared to hit a wall:

  • First six outings: 16.2 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 18 K, 2 HR, 1.62 ERA, .650 OPS
  • Last five outings: 13 IP, 25 H, 6 BB, 12 K, 0 HR, 11.08 ERA, .961 OPS

Lump in an introductory stint in the Arizona Rookie League, and he threw 135 innings on the year. He’s considered a pitchability guy more than one who has a lot of projection left.

Luis Martinez: One of the White Sox’ first significant investments in Latin America in the Marco Paddy era, Martinez’ progress has been slow going, but it is progress. He had Tommy John surgery out of the gate, so 2016 was only his second full season. Full it was, as he threw 137 innings. And there were successes, as he struck out 141 batters while posting a 3.89 ERA. Control came and went -- his 51 walks came in clumps, but he showed no fatigue, holding hitters to a .182/.285/.242 line over August and September. All in all, his second year in Kannapolis represents a massive improvement over his first. Since his fastball has some sizzle at 94, he might have a future in the bullpen if he isn’t able to iron out the inefficiency as a starter. He signed for $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Ian Hamilton: The White Sox went $1,800 into their bonus pool to sign the Washington State product in the 11th round. His stock dipped a little because the Cougars shifted him from closing to starting (a rebuilding program doesn’t have much use for a great closer). The results weren’t inspiring, but the White Sox sent him bcak to the bullpen in Kannapolis, which appears to be his destiny. The numbers don’t wow (3.69 ERA, 31.2 IP, 22 H, 14 BB, 27 K), but his game log shows a pitcher who faced the minimum on a fairly frequent basis. Bad games dragged down his overall line. He’s a fastball-slider guy who is worth following next year, assuming he spends the year in the bullpen start to finish.

Louie Lechich: A sixth-round college senior pick in 2014, the White Sox let him play outfield for 2½ seasons before trying him as a pitcher. The early returns are intriguing. He finished the year with a 0.00 ERA over 12 games and 15 innings, allowing one unearned run and recording more strikeouts (16) than baserunners allowed (12 hits, three walks). He allowed the unearned run during five appearances in the Arizona Rookie League; his Kannapolis record was spotless over 10 innings.

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