Minor league monthly: Charlotte and Birmingham

While Larry looks at the minor-league season in terms of weeks, I like to take a look at the system in months.  April’s in the books, so what does the farm look like?
Not much, sadly.  Tyler Flowers makes it Christina Hendricks-grade top-heavy, but there isn’t anything below to balance it out.
We’ll always remember 2009. So will the folks in Birmingham.
CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS
Record: 9-14 (tied for last place)
Team offense: .720 OPS (9th in IL)
Team pitching: 5.15 ERA (13th in IL)
READY FOR WHATEVER

Tyler Flowers
.323/.432/.614, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 9 BB, 21 K
Flowers is clearly in time-biding mode.  If Andruw Jones is ever pressed into full-time outfield duty, whether it’s due to Juan Pierre’s ineptitude or Carlos Quentin’s poor health, Flowers should be the first option to serve as the majority DH and occasional catcher.
Allow me to reiterate that Flowers seems like he’ll be a slow starter at the major-league level due to his K-rate.  For whatever reason — probably because A.J. Pierzynski is a great clubhouse source — there are a lot of people waiting, perhaps even hoping, for Flowers to fail.  But he’s the only hope the Sox have of getting an above-average hitter for the league minimum, so that kind of pressure seems to be counterproductive.
NOT QUITE THERE
Daniel Hudson
2-2, 9.37, 16 1/3 IP, 25 H, 6 HR, 8 BB, 18 K
Hudson has allowed more homers this season than he did in his 147 1/3 IP across four minor-league levels last season.  But is it time to sound the alarm?  Considering this is the first time he’s ever struggled in his pro career, I’d say “no.”  Remember, if he were on a normal prospect’s timetable, he’d be getting his feet wet in Double-A right now, and we’d treat it with a shrug and fingers crossed. No reason to not do the same right now.
Jordan Danks
.278/.363/.468, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 BB, 24 K, 6-for-8 SB
This is an encouraging start for Lantern Jaw Junior. He struggled over his last couple of months at Double-A and cooled off after a torrid start to his AFL season, so I’ll take an .831 OPS from Danks in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching.  Strikeouts are an obvious and well-documented concern, especially against left-handed pitchers (six K’s in 13 ABs), but it’s nice to see some power that is only slightly aided by Knights Stadium.
Carlos Torres
1-3, 5.14 ERA, 28 IP, 25 H, 5 HR, 12 BB, 28 K
Torres is still striking out a batter an inning, but has seen his other peripherals go in the wrong direction.  But we know what he is at this point — swingman/long reliever material at best — so it’s hard to get too wrapped up in a rough month.  He’s at the point where he could be working on his worst pitches.
RUDE AWAKENING
C.J. Retherford
.203/.267/.333, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 BB, 14 K in 69 ABs
Retherford had a nice start to his Triple-A career, but his April ended with a 2-for-36 slump, over which he’s struck out 10 times. There’s some evidence that bad luck is also at play (a .245 BABIP despite a 23.5 percent line-drive rate), but he hasn’t put himself in front of Brent Lillibridge on the below-average utility infielder succession plan. There’s no rush; he’s not on the 40-man roster yet.
Dayan Viciedo
.265/.282/.434, 2 2B, 4 HR, 2 BB, 23 K in 83 ABs
Had the month ended five days earlier, we would be talking about how Viciedo should be back down in Double-A.  Before this late 20 AB run (eight hits, three homers, one walk, three Ks), Viciedo was hitting .222 and slugging .301.  That awful BB/K ratio seems to say it’s only a well-timed hot streak, but at least he changed the conversation a little.  He’s shown an ability to hit lefties, if nothing else (7-for-14, two K’s).
FROM THE FRINGE
*Lucas Harrell has an inside track on Jeff Marquez due to his superior groundball rate. But they’re both overmatched by Triple-A hitters, so … yeah.
*Clevelan Santeliz has struck out eight batters over 8 1/3 innings. That’s good. But he’s walked eight, and that’s bad.
*Brent Lillibridge is 11-for-11 in the stolen-base department. But he’s struck out 19 times over 81 at-bats.  What an odd flaw for such a small guy.
*Take your pick: Alejandro De Aza is the Greg Aquino of hitters, or Aquino is the De Aza of pitchers.  Oh, spring sample sizes — will they ever resist your siren call?
BIRMINGHAM BARONS
Record: 6-15 (last place)
Team offense: .641 OPS (last in SL)
Team pitching: 4.49 ERA (8th in SL)
COULD SEE CHARLOTTE
Charlie Shirek
1-0, 0.69 ERA, 26 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 14 K
Shirek has been the organization’s best pitcher in the early going of 2010.  He’s holding hitters to a .213 BABIP, but the 61.5 percent groundball rate (compared to a 10.3 percent line-drive rate) has a lot to do with it. He’s 24 — albeit an injury-riddled 24, so young in terms of innings — and already has 90 decent Double-A innings under his belt.  One more month like this, and he’ll be in Triple-A.
That he’s only one won decision with a 0.69 ERA says a lot about why this team is in last place.
BEST OF THE REST
Brent Morel
.286/.333/.390, 6 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 5 BB, 11 K, 0-for-3 SB
Morel picked it up after a sluggish start, going 14-for-41 with four walks to two strikeouts over his last 10 games.  It was expected that Regions Park would test his power, but this is a surprise: After going 25-for-34 in the stolen-base department last year, he’s been thrown out in all three attempts this season.  Zero homers + zero steals = a definite concern.
That he’s Birmingham’s most exciting offensive player is the reason why they’re 6-15.
Christian Marrero
.221/.372/.324, 4 2B, 1 HR, 15 BB, 11 K in 68 AB
Just one month through the season, Marrero is already halfway toward his 2009 walk total (29 over 455 at-bats).  That’s a positive development — unless it comes at the expense of the rest of his game.  Right now, he’s inverted the skill set he showed in a half season at Birmingham last season, where he hit .301 and slugged .520, but had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.5-to-1.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of…
John Shelby
.273/.318/.481, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 5 BB, 20 K, 3-for-6 SB
Shelby dramatically improved his walk rate last season, but saw his average and slugging drop.  He went back to his old ways starting 2010, but has drawn all five of his walks over his last seven games.  He’s a hard guy to figure out.
FROM THE FRINGE
*Jhonny Nunez has hit a rough patch in his return to starting, allowing nine earned runs and 20 baserunners over his last 10 1/3 innings.  We’re close to closing the book on the Nick Swisher trade.
*Tyler Kuhn has no power and no defensive position. But he’s hitting .302 with a .375 OBP, and I felt like the fringe category at Double-A needed more than one guy. Now it has two. The end.
***********************
Minor league roundup:

  • Charlotte 9, Columbus 2
    • Tyler Flowers went 4-for-5 with his fourth homer and four RBI. He struck out once.
    • Jordan Danks went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and one strikeout.
    • Dayan Viciedo singled twice, struck out twice and drove in three in five at-bats.
    • C.J. Retherford went 0-for-4.
    • Jeff Marquez was good: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K.
  • Huntsville 10, Birmingham 1
    • Brent Morel went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
    • Christian Marrero went 0-for-2 with a sac fly.
    • John Shelby walked once in four PAs.
  • Wilmington 3, Winston-Salem 1
    • Justin Edwards was solid in defeat: 6 IP, 6 G, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.
    • Dan Remenowsky allowed one run on a hit over an inning of work, recording one strikeout.
    • Gregory Infante pitched a scoreless ninth.
    • Jon Gilmore and Brandon Short each went 1-for-4.
  • Kannapolis 7, Lakewood 3
    • Kyle Colligan singled, tripled, homered, and drove in two over four at-bats.
    • Miguel Gonzalez went 1-for-4 with an RBI.
    • Nick Ciolli singled, walked twice and struck out once.
    • Trayce Thompson went 0-for-4 with two K’s.
    • Joe Serafin struck out eight over seven innings, allowing two runs (both on solo homers) on five hits and three walks.
    • Ryan Buch allowed his first earned run of the season over two innings of work.
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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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Buehrlesque

“We’ll always remember 2009.” Sigh.
Hey, do you have any updates on OF prospect Jose Martinez? I remember hearing over the winter that the Sox hadn’t completely written the guy off, but any further info on him is hard to come by.