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White Sox Minor League Update: Sept. 14, 2017

Kannapolis keeps its season alive, but others are looking at fall ball

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Zack Collins
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Kannapolis won to keep its season alive, while Great Falls lost the opener of a best-of-three Pioneer League Championship Series against Ogden. Both teams need to win two games in two days to end up on top.

Before we get to the box scores, some White Sox farm system news and notes ...

*The Kannapolis Intimidators seem like an unlikely subject for New York Times Magazine, but Chris Jones wrote an excellent article on 27-year-old manager Justin Jirschele. There isn’t one blurb that sums it all up, but this sets it up:

Jirschele had been promoted to a Double-A team in Birmingham, Ala., when Nick Capra, then Chicago’s director of player development, sat him down in the dugout before a game and told him that his baseball mind, not his arm or his bat, was his bigger asset, and the organization’s. “He was probably the best player on the field with the least amount of talent,” Capra says. “He did all the little things. That stood out.” The White Sox needed a hitting coach in Great Falls, Mont., to work with their Advanced Rookie-level Voyagers. Did Jirschele want the job?

He was just 24. Capra’s offer was the beginning of an unusual experiment. Maybe the struggling White Sox didn’t have to wait till Jirschele was grizzled. Maybe baseball intelligence can be put on a path of accelerated development just like the game’s young bodies. Maybe managers don’t haveto look like guys who hang around dog tracks. Or maybe managers are who they are for a reason, and in them we see an increasingly rare instance of baseball’s ancient practices standing up to modern scrutiny.

*Baseball America has the White Sox’ instructional league roster. Dylan Cease and Ian Clarkin will get a chance to pile up more innings after dealing with late-season injuries, while Zack Collins, Jake Burger and Blake Rutherford are the biggest position players on board. Luis Curbelo is also on the roster, which is a good sign since his regular season was cut short after just three games due to a meniscus injury.

*Collins will try to address the hitch in his swing during the fall, according to James Fegan. He looked at Collins’ season for a piece at The Athletic, and he gets good stuff from John Orton, the organization’s catching instructor.

While Orton acknowledged Seby Zavala's pitch blocking as an area that could use improvement, Collins' passed ball numbers (16 in 87 games caught) are arguably more troubling. He widened his stance over the course of the year, but Orton wants to seem him get lower eventually. Beyond getting stronger in his legs as the years add up and his workload slowly increases, Collins' stance for blocking pitches has to work in concert with his general setup with runners on, and he has to balance being in a comfortable position to throw with being able to get down to block. Though as Orton said, providing Kevan Smith's development as an example, sometimes you can only build up one skill at a time.

*It’s hard to say that Keith Law hates the White Sox since his love for Lucas Giolito has not diminished in the least. He was one of Giolito’s biggest supporters in 2016, steadfast in his belief that Giolito’s struggles could be traced to the Nationals monkeying with his mechanics.

As Giolito’s season winds down, Law said in his chat on Thursday that the White Sox have mostly unwound the tweaks implemented by Washington.

Brad: Hey Keith! It really looks like Giolito had turned the corner. I don’t know if he will ever be a true ace but I think there is a good chance he is at least a solid #2 or a really good #3. Do you think this is another on the list of Don Cooper doing his magic or where his issues only minor mechanical ones?

Keith Law: Cooper and others deserve credit for restoring Giolito’s old mechanics. It’s still not 100% – he didn’t look like himself yesterday after a couple of starts where he really did look like the pre-2016 version – but I’m fine projecting him as a 2 or better.

Kannapolis 5, Greenville 4

  • Alex Call went 1-for-5 with a triple and three strikeouts.
  • Blake Rutherford, 2-for-5 with a double.
  • Willy Garcia was 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.
  • Gavin Sheets was 1-for-4 with a K.
  • Jake Burger singled once and struck out thrice.
  • Luis Gonzalez went 1-for-3 withi a walk.
  • Evan Skoug, 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a sac fly.
  • Blake Hickman: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR

Ogden 7, Great Falls 4

  • Craig Dedelow went 2-for-5 with a double and two strikeouts.
  • Justin Yurchak was 2-for-3 with a double and two walks.