Minor league monthly: Charlotte and Birmingham

While the biggest name in the Chicago White Sox farm system received a well-deserved promotion, the bigger roster changes will be saved until after the draft on June 9.
That said, let’s shake up the format of the monthly minor-league review to focus on which players will be sporting different uniforms by the end of next month.  Here’s last month’s progress report for these two clubs, if you care to compare.
CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS
Record: 21-28 (last place)
Team offense: .721 OPS (5th in IL)
Team pitching: 4.31 ERA (10th in IL)
READY TO DEBUT
Gordon Beckham
in Charlotte: 7-for-15, two doubles, 0 BB, 1 K.
in Birmingham: .299/.366/.497, 17 2B, 4 HR, 14/24 BB/K
Beckham won’t hit the ground running like Evan Longoria did, but based on all the reports and numbers, it doesn’t seem like the big leagues would overwhelm him.
The bigger question is an old favorite: Where would he play?  Third base still looks like the best bet, but Josh Fields isn’t going down without a fight.  Then again, Fields might find himself back in the outfield if 1) Beckham takes to third base defensively, and 2) Carlos Quentin’s foot never recovers this season.
Jon Link
0-0, 2.01 ERA, 22 1/3 IP, 14 H, 9 BB, 29 K
Link only allowed one run all May, and has tied together eight straight scoreless outings (7 2/3 IP), allowing just three hits and a walk over that time while striking out 10.  Opponents are hitting just .189 off him.
I imagine he’ll be the first in line should anything happen to any of the Sox’s short relievers.
Carlos Torres
3-4, 2.77 ERA, 55 1/3 IP, 45 H, 1 HR, 24 BB, 59 K
Torres keeps plugging along under the radar, with a May that was nearly identical to his excellent April.  Although he’s being used as a starter, he probably profiles better as a reliever because he’s a bit of a nibbler, and he always pitches from the stretch.
(If you missed it, I caught Torres pitching in a hurricane and took some video.)
International League hitters are only batting .222 off him, and his fastball/slider combo is particularly effective against righties (.180, although he had an unsustainable .228 BABIP which might be regressing).  He could be an effective spot starter, but has probably more of a D.J. Carrasco-type utility.
NOT FAR BEHIND
Adam Russell
0-1, 4.15 ERA, 26 IP, 22 H, 3 HR, 7 BB, 27 K.
Russell is having a pretty good year in Charlotte, although the ERA masks it a bit.  He had a pair of outings in which he allowed three runs, but one was the game I saw in Rochester where all the runs came in his third inning of work.
His groundball rate is nearly 60 percent, and he’s improved both his strikeout rate and walk rate dramatically from his last time around in Triple-A (he walked 19 and fanned 28 in 37 1/3 innings last year).
He doesn’t have new-reliever smell, but he’s definitely worth another shot.  There just isn’t room on the roster right now.  Derek Rodriguez is in the same boat, except he isn’t on the 40-man roster.  Consider this his honorable mention.
WARNING LIST
Cole Armstrong, Donny Lucy
If Corky Miller accepts an assignment to Charlotte, one of these guys might get the boot.  Armstrong is on the 40-man roster and is having a slightly stronger May, although it’s only good for .275/.314/.373.  Lucy’s been far more consistent, but with an OPS of .602, that’s not a good thing.
Kelvin Jimenez
29 1/3 IP, 38 H, 7 HR, 13 BB, 16 K
He’s 28 years old and on the 40-man roster.  Probably not for much longer, if the Sox find themselves needing room.
BIRMINGHAM BARONS
Record: 33-16 (first place)
Team offense: .781 OPS (1st in SL)
Team pitching: 3.32 ERA (2nd in SL)
CHARLOTTE OR BEYOND
Aaron Poreda
4-4, 2.62 ERA, 58 1/3 IP, 44 H, 1 HR, 30 BB, 62 K
His fastball is major-league ready, but his slider varies wildly in its effectiveness.  That said, the only way he’s seeing Chicago is as a late-year bullpen boost, should the Sox want to try to get a Frankie Rodriguez-like impact.
A promotion to Charlotte isn’t automatic, either.  He should be there already in terms of talent, but he’s getting work in with J.R. Perdew.  So basically he can go wherever the Sox want him to go.
CHARLOTTE-READY
Brandon Allen
.289/.359/.469, 11 2B, 3 2B, 6 HR, 21 BB, 36 K in 194 ABs.
The Ryan Howard comparisons are still apt.  Allen has made the necessary adjustments in Birmingham, narrowing his walk-strikeout gap and making dramatic improvements in his performance against lefties.  He’s hitting .293/.382/.431 against southpaws, roughly on par with his .287/.249/.485 line against righties.
He should be heading to Triple-A shortly, where he’ll gain some experience hitting against LOOGYs and other pitchers who have actually retired big-league hitters at one point.  He’ll also get a break from the cavernous dimensions at Regions Park, which is depressing his homer total.
Brian Omogrosso
5-2, 2.90 ERA, 59 IP, 47 H, 3 HR, 30 BB, 51 K
Omogrosso, over his blister/tumor problems, is making up for lost time by pitching in the Birmingham rotation, even though his three-quarter delivery makes him a better relief candidate (righties are only hitting .150 off him, compared to .297 by lefties).
If he can regain control — he’s walked 14 batters over his last 18 innings — the Sox can probably use him wherever they need to.  He might stay in Birmingham due to the crowding issues referred to with Russell, but he’s too good for Double-A righties.
Stefan Gartrell and David Cook
They’re both organizational players, and they’re both hitting well in Birmingham.  Gartrell is leading the Barons in homers (nine) and RBI (33) while hitting .281/.366/.515, but contact issues will limit him.
Cook dominated Double-A last year, and while his average has taken a hit due to some tinkering, he’s drawn 20 walks to nine strikeouts in May while hitting five homers.  One or both of these guys might find his way to Charlotteto shake up an uninspiring outfield.
STAYING PUT
C.J. Retherford
.316/.353/.555, 17 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 10 BB, 28 K in 155 AB

Of all the players in this group, Retherford has the greatest chance of advancing.  There isn’t a need to promote him at this point, but considering he doesn’t have a set position and he’s going to be a hacker, he could be pushed to Charlotte to test the limits of his rather unique game.  If Beckham gets the call to Chicago or returns to short at Charlotte, Retherford could bounce between second and third just as easily in Triple-A.

Tyler Flowers
.261/.435/.471, 6 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 37 BB, 41 K in 138 AB

His bat will play anywhere, but he has plenty left to work on defensively.  With the addition of Ramon Castro, the Sox have zero reason to accelerate his course (and radio show callers won’t have reason to ask, either).
By the way — he hit .227 in May, but nearly doubled that with his OBP (.449) for the month.
Jordan Danks
at Winston-Salem: .322/.409/.525 in 118 AB
at Birmingham: .321/.409/.432 in 81 AB
He wasn’t supposed to be in Birmingham this soon, and the early returns are very encouraging — especially with regard to his power and contact rate.  He struck out 10 times in a three-game series against West Tenn, but rebounded well.  But he’ll end the year with the Barons, and we’ll see if the league makes adustments.
Something to keep in mind:  Ryan Sweeney hit just one homer during his 483 Double-A plate appearances.  Danks has already doubled that, including one at Regions Park.  Danks won’t reach that total of plate appearances this year in Double-A, but if he can achieve a rate of, say, 10 homers per 483 PAs, then power shouldn’t be a concern from that point on considering his other tools.
Dayan Viciedo
.269/.286/.358, 8 2B, 3 HR, 5 BB, 42 K in 193 AB
Now that we’ve confirmed that Viciedo is under control like any drafted player, there’s no need to worry about Viciedo at this juncture.  He improved his average and contact rate dramatically, hitting .293 in May while cutting strikeouts by five percent, so the next step is to see a small increase in walks.  Baby steps.
WARNING LIST
Kyle McCulloch
5-4, 4.08 ERA, 64 IP, 79 H, 3 HR, 13 BB, 32 K

McCulloch was the poor man’s Lance Broadway, and considering he’s still not peripherally impressive in his second go-around at Birmingham (Broadway aced it his first time around), it’s really only a matter of time before Duane Shaffer’s last pick is purged.
Those numbers are buoyed by a good April.  If he has another month like his May (2-3, 5.21 ERA, .313 BAA), his extremely decimated stock probably won’t recover.
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Minor league roundup:

  • Toledo 6, Charlotte 0
    • Beckham went 3-for-4 and stole his first base. He also committed his second error, but turned two double plays.
    • Torres was ineffective, allowing five runs on seven hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings.  He struck out five.
    • Jeremy Bonderman pitched eight scoreless innings for Toledo.
  • Huntsville 3, Birmingham 2
    • Tyler Flowers hit a solo homer, part of a 2-for-4 day.
    • John Shelby doubled and drove in the other run.
    • Jordan Danks and Brandon Allen went 0-for-4; Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-4.
    • Lucas Harrell allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks over seven innings, striking out four.  It was his longest outing of the year.
    • Jhonny Nunez pitched a scoreless inning, with a strikeout and a walk.
  • Winston-Salem 4, Kinston 3
    • Brent Morel went 1-for-4 in his return to the lineup after missing a week with a hamstring injury.
    • Christian Marrero hit a two-run homer; Jimmy Gallagher went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.
    • Charlie Shirek pitched 7 1/3 strong innings, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks.  No K’s, but 16 groundouts.
  • Delmarva 9, Kannapolis 2
    • Charles Leesman was roughed up for the second straight game, allowing six runs (four earned) on 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings.  He walked one and struck out two.
    • Sergio Santos, who was a spring training invitee as an infielder, pitched a scoreless inning as he tries a reliever’s life.
    • Garret Johnson struck out three over 1 2/3 scoreless innings, his best outing since returning from the DL.
    • Sergio Morales went 2-for-4 with his fourth homer.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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