The White Sox Low-A affiliate the Kannapolis Cannonballers possess a wealth of prospect talent. James Beard (42), Lency Delgado (39), Chase Krogman (38), Benyamin Bailey (15), Bryan Ramos (28), Jose Rodriguez (25), DJ Gladney (27), Andrew Dalquist (18), Jared Kelley (8), and Matthew Thompson (10) all garnered attention in Prospects1500’s organizational top 50 rankings.
In their opening series against the Down East Wood Ducks the young team exhibited some growing pains. Although the roster oozes talent, the Ballers made costly errors and mental gaffes while dropping their first six games.
Here were some key takeaways from my live looks:
Low-A Kannapolis Cannonballers
These kids can play; Jose Rodriguez and Bryan Ramos were standouts making their full season debuts as precocious 19 year-olds. Rodriguez went off, hitting .404 while collecting 14 total bases. He displayed an impressive all-fields approach and challenged the dimensions of the new home ballpark by repeatedly pelting the outfield wall with batted balls. He also showed the maturity to recognize spin as he stayed back on breaking balls.
Jose Rodriguez 100 mph to the CF wall for a triple. He makes it look easy pic.twitter.com/ToPhzDgtRS
— Daniel Victor (@slydanno70) May 9, 2021
Ramos took consistently solid at-bats, he narrowly missed homering twice Saturday night by pulling a pair of no-doubters that were just foul.
Bryan Ramos nearly walks it off with this nuke but foul look at the hang time. Spencer Mraz took exception with Ramos actions which were perfectly acceptable benches cleared after Ramos whiffed on the next pitch. pic.twitter.com/ZPjvXfNPDb
— Daniel Victor (@slydanno70) May 9, 2021
Krogman got off to a hot start going four for his first eight with a home run but had the misfortune of suffering a fracture to his hand after being hit by a pitch in the season’s third game.
Pitching wise the triumvirate of Dalquist, Kelley and Thompson have yet to find their groove. Dalquist had two lackluster abbreviated outings as the organization began working him slowly toward a full workload.
Kelley had a truncated first outing going only two-thirds of an inning. Although he threw only 54% of his pitches for strikes, he showcased the power arm that established him as perhaps the most sought-after prep pitcher in the country entering the 2020 draft. His fastball was 94-97 mph during his start.
In his outing, Thompson pitched four innings allowing seven hits. He struck out four and walked one while surrendering two earned runs. In the field he showcased his athleticism while making a defensive play suitable for ESPN’s plays of the day.
MATTHEW THOMPSON WEB GEM!!
— Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (@Kcannonballers) May 7, 2021
Bailey Horn showed polish in his start. Horn threw four hitless innings while allowing only one walk, the lefty’s fastball touched 95. My gut feeling is that he will prove too much for this league and earn an accelerated promotion.
High-A Winston-Salem Dash
The High-A affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash, roster some interesting players in Jason Bilous (29), Isaiah Carranza (37), Caleb Freeman (34), Lane Ramsey (30), Taylor Varnell (50), Lenyn Sosa (16), Yolbert Sanchez (40), Bryce Bush (26), Harvin Mendoza (45), Luis Mieses (49), Tyler Osik (35) and Alex Destino (31). Although the dearth of these prospects fall in the bottom half of the White Sox top 50 they warrant attention.
With the exceptions of Yolbert Sanchez and Harvin Mendoza, the Dash hitters populating the top 50 list all notched their first A+ home runs during the season’s opening week. In notably aggressive assignments Mieses and Mendoza leapfrogged over Kannapolis after spending 2019 in the Short Season Pioneer League.
Luis Curbelo, a bonus baby from the White Sox 2016 draft hit two home runs and drove in seven in only 16 at bats. The youngster lost some of his prospect sheen after an unceremonious demotion from Kannapolis to Great Falls in 2019. However, hope exists as he is still only 23 years old.
— White Sox Daily (@dailywhitesox) May 8, 2021
AA Birmingham Barons
The AA Birmingham Barons roster most of their top prospect talent on the pitching side. Kade McClure (36), Konnor Pilkington (47), Will Kincanon (24), Bennett Sousa (33), Andrew Perez (32) and Alec Hansen (43).
The Barons went 5-1 for the week, but gained notoriety over a fateful inning in their third contest. Alec Hansen came on to protect a 2-1 lead for starter McClure beginning a chain of events that can best be described as the inning from hell. Hansen promptly coughed up the lead by walking four batters, surrendering one hit, and uncorking a wild pitch. He gave way to Luis Ledo who walked five hitters of his own and threw another wild pitch. Anderson Severino came in to extinguish the fire but promptly threw his own gas can on the inferno. Severino walked four hitters and hit a batter while surrendering two more runs. Jake Elliott mercifully ended the inning. All tolled, the Barons allowed 12 ER on 1 H and 13 BB in 1 IP. After performing a little research I arrived at the possibility that this may have been the worst inning pitched in baseball history.
Offensively the Barons were supported by the firepower of Ti’Quan Forbes, Romy Gonzalez, Zack Granite, Zach Remillard, Ian Dawkins and Carlos Perez. Forbes, a second round pick for the Texas Rangers in the 2014 Draft is 24 years old with a season of AA under his belt. Perhaps a breakout performance is in store for the former top prospect?
AAA Charlotte Knights
In Charlotte the Knights boast prospect talent in Jonathan Stiever (5), Luis Gonzalez (6), Gavin Sheets (9), Jake Burger (13), Blake Rutherford (14), Tyler Johnson (17), Seby Zavala (19), Zack Burdi (21), Jimmy Lambert (22), Jacob Lindgren (48).
A feel-good story came to be when Burger returned to the diamond after being off the field since he was downed by a devastating Achilles injury during 2018 spring training. Although off to a slow start, Burger is making plenty of contact and collected his first AAA home run on Sunday, May 9th.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 9, 2021
Sheets who is likely to see his first big-league action at some point this season collected seven RBI in the season’s first two games. Gonzalez has been added to the White Sox roster twice this season although he has yet to register an at-bat. He is currently listed on the Knights injury report while awaiting his AAA debut.
Zavala got off to a hot start going 7-22 in his first five games with 2 HR and 7 RBI.
Stiever, the Knights’ top pitching prospect, had a short first outing throwing 69 pitches in three innings. His box score was an acceptable 3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 ER, but he is looking to re-establish the dominance he exhibited in A+ in 2019. This should be a tall order as the Knights home stadium is very penal on pitching.
An overview of my Prospects1500 White Sox top 50 prospect list:
Retired (2): Tyler Frost (41), Corey Zangari (44)
Left the organization: Bernardo Flores (23)
Yet to debut in 2021 (3): Yoelqui Cespedes (12), Norge Carlos Vera (11), Elijah Tatis (46)
Injured (3): Luis Gonzalez (6), Chase Krogman (38), Lency Delgado (39)
Helium alert: Jose Rodriguez, Bryan Ramos, Taylor Varnell, Bailey Horn
Dan Victor grew up in the fandom of the White Sox and Cubs in a place commonly referred to as “da region.” He has been extensively covering and tweeting about the White Sox farm system since 2016. He currently resides in North Carolina within an hour and a half circle of three White Sox minor league affiliates (Kannapolis Cannonballers, Charlotte Knights and Winston-Salem Dash). In addition to writing about Sox prospects, Victor and his wife help support the minor leagues by serving as a host family for Kannapolis farmhands. He has written features for Notes from the Sally, South Side Sox, South Side Hit Pen (Sports Illustrated’s White Sox site), Future Sox, Ranger Ball, and Buc’s Dugout. In the past year he has interviewed Andrew Vaughn, Futures Game MVP Sam Huff, and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league player of the year Mason Martin.