[For our readers who are not aware, our newest minors contributor, Salina Rae Silver, is both a writer and photographer. In September, Salina undertook the monumental effort to secure media passes to each White Sox minor league affiliate. She drove over 20 hours total to capture the action at every level and deliver it to our readers. With no postseason minors baseball to speak of in Chicago, today begins a series of notebooks Salina crafted to capture her experience at each affiliate. The first of her insider stories takes place on September 2, in Kannapolis, N.C., home of the Cannon Ballers.]
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — A bright orange flare of incandescent sunlight cut through the natural shadows and humid summer heat at Atrium Health Ballpark, as the hometown Cannon Ballers readied to take the field on Sept. 2, 2023. Despite conditions that would likely melt a lifetime Chicago native, your Oklahoman author felt right at home as her tour of the White Sox farm system commenced.
On the mound, Pale Hose Top 30 prospect Peyton Pallette (No. 12).
Happy Peyton Pallette bump night to all who celebrate pic.twitter.com/FbrxJ8TLi5— Salina Rae Silver (@HeyHeySalinaRae) September 2, 2023
Pallette’s innings and pitch counts had been monitored and controlled with strict consistency since his return from a Tommy John surgery that delayed his professional debut to 2023. This start proved to be no exception. The promising righty displayed inconsistent command in his 3 2⁄3 innings courtesy of a big fastball that he was unable to work inside the zone with. His four walks on the night, however, were accompanied by four punchouts and a glimpse of what the White Sox saw when they signed the righty for an above-slot $1.5 million.
It was impossible not to be stricken by the depth, movement, and spin of Pallette’s off-speed offerings while watching from the dugout. His curveball in particular had the visiting club from Fayetteville off-balance all night, and was reminiscent of current Sox rotation arm Touki Toussaint’s primary offering.
There was a tense moment in the third inning where it appeared an athletic trainer was poised to make a trip to the mound to check on Pallette as he labored through a tumultuous frame, but at Peyton’s insistence, pitching coach and former White Sox prospect Blake Hickman came out to talk shop with his young righty.
Whatever Hickman said must have been impactful, as Pallette managed to breeze his way through the rest of the third, mostly without issue.
By this point in the game, the Ballers manufactured a healthy four-run lead.
The majority of the night’s offensive spark was provided by rookie outfielder Eddie Park. Park, a 6´1´´ lefty with an impressive eye at the plate to compliment his elite bat-to-ball skills, was electric in this game. Not only did he swipe two hotly-contested bags, he also reached base every single time he stepped up to the dish, scored once, and even drove in a run of his own to cement the Cannon Ballers blowout 9-0 victory.
OTHER NOTES FROM THE GAME:
- Ryan Galanie was a barrel king with an impressive approach at the plate and an aggressive right-handed swing. He recorded two hits, a double, and two runs scored.
- Despite not having a single home run in his rookie campaign, Eddie Park put up a 125 wRC+ in 25 professional games. His offensive and defensive value was on full display in this one.
- Wilber Sánchez continues to show marked improvement at the plate in his age-21 season. He stole three bases in this game, scored twice, and notched three hits. In 89 games in Low-A, he’s maintained a walk rate of 12.9% and swiped 28 bags.
- Sidewinder Ben Beutel had hitters BAFFLED at the dish. He went 2 1⁄3 innings in in relief while only allowing one hit. Despite scuffling a bit as a closer this season (40% save conversion rate), he pitched to a 3.12 ERA in 52 innings and should see Winston-Salem with eyes on Birmingham next season.
Nasty sidearm stuff from Ben Beutel pic.twitter.com/y2dNqbLsgL— Salina Rae Silver (@HeyHeySalinaRae) September 3, 2023
- Friend of the publication and White Sox 2023 11th round pick Rikuu Nishida recorded one hit in the contest and continues to be one of the most intriguing prospects in minor league baseball. Though his unusual approach and contact-oriented swing have yet to produce positive results at Low-A, keep an eye on his continued development in the coming seasons.
- Jacob González’s advanced approach at the plate was on full display in this game. The 2023 White Sox first-rounder regularly worked deep into counts, fouling away tough pitches and producing respectable results. He finished 0-for-3 with a walk, a run, and a sac fly.
All in all, despite a seeming lack of hustle and team culture at the major league level, Low-A Kannapolis displayed polar opposite tendencies that should provide even the most weary and disenchanted White Sox fans with optimism. As your author walked back to her car from beautiful Atrium Health Ballpark under the cover of a brilliant fireworks show and a mild North Carolina summer night, the phrase “hope springs eternal” bounded through her mind with inspiring persistence.
Seven stolen bases, nine runs, and a shutout victory from the future White Sox stars of tomorrow has a way of inspiring that kind of visceral reaction.
With special thanks to Dan Helotie and the rest of the Cannon Ballers team for making this possible, enjoy this brief gallery from the game delivered by yours truly, and thank you for reading.