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With three of the four affiliates returning from the minor leagues’ All-Star break, today was Moving Day for the White Sox farm system. Chris Getz and Co. cemented numerous anticipated promotions and threw a couple surpries in the mix, too.
Let’s recap the transaction action separately, because the Minor Keys are likely to be devoted to some of the debuts.
Summary: Considering Jimenez has been one of the White Sox’ three most talented outfielders for months, his promotion to Charlotte was long overdue. Zavala gets a couple months to handle first-string catching duties away from Zack Collins before the pair is potentially reunited next year. The fact that he got the call ahead of Collins speaks to his advantage in the pitcher-handling department. Hamilton posted a 1.78 ERA over 25 innings with the Barons, although his numbers have looked more ordinary of late.
Incumbents: Michael Kopech and Carson Fulmer have some company, and/or others to take the focus off their struggles. Kopech in particular has labored in June, but he looked like he finally might’ve turned the corner over his final four innings on Wednesday, and Getz said the same.
Summary: The Barons received a big dose of Winston-Salem starpower on both fronts. The already-improving pitching staff now gets the best of the Dash rotation with Cease and Flores. Both have made significant strides this year — Cease with a changeup complementing his already big fastball-curve combination, and Flores with a well-rounded approach that is the result of more diligent preparation. Foster briefly retired last year, but he’s bounced back with 40 strikeouts to seven walks over 28 innings. Relief work looks better on Thompson, although at 24, the 2014 fifth-round pick may not have been picking on guys his own size, literally and figuratively (he’s 6-foot-7).
Birmingham lost Jimenez, but they get a whole new outfield. Basabe is the best prospect of the bunch when squaring up his performance (.266/.370/.502) against his age (21), and Regions Park will test his power surge. Booker rebounded from a May slump to post a 1.092 OPS in June, and he might’ve capped off his Carolina League career in style by winning the All-Star Game MVP. The 2016 22nd-round pick out of Iowa is 24, so Double-A will be age-appropriate, and he’ll probably need to be a quick study to get the most out of his speed-based game. Call lagged behind the other outfielders in terms of production, but mostly due to a miserable start. He’s kept pace since the start of May, hitting .273/.379/.469 over his last 38 games.
Incumbents: Cease and Flores won’t exactly be under the microscope, because Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen already hog a lot of the attention. Collins will get two months to catch without a challenger, and Ryan Burr gets a respite from “Hamilton” jokes. The entire infield remains undisturbed, which is fine in some areas (Danny Mendick) and not so much with others (Keon Barnum).
Summary: The world-renowned Winston-Salem outfield logjam is temporarily relieved, as the Dash received one fewer outfield than they sent up to Birmingham. There’s no decrease in star power though, as Robert returns to Winston-Salem in playing shape after a successful tune-up in Kannapolis (.289/.360/400 over 13 games). Gonzalez also gets a long-deserved promotion after spending the first half raking in the leadoff spot for the Intimidators. Rivera outperformed everybody at Kannapolis, hitting .346/.395/.502, although with just six walks to 48 strikeouts over 63 games. He’s offset the low walk rate by getting plunked 14 times, but that’ll be the aspect most tested with this advancement. Omar Vizquel may have a thing or two to say about his play at shortstop.
The loss of Cease and Flores hurts, but Henzman and Battenfield will get a chance to duplicate their low-A numbers one level up. The fourth-round pick Henzman didn’t have any issues adjusting to the rotation after serving as Louisville’s closer, posting a 2.23 ERA and walking just eight batters to 60 strikeouts over 73 innings. Battenfield, a 17th-round pick out of Oklahoma State, beat Henzman in ERA (2.00) and strikeouts (69), earning the White Sox’ pitcher of the month honors for May. Johnson struck out 43 percent of the batters he faced as an overqualified closer.
Incumbents: Blake Rutherford will have two new outfielders flanking him, and maybe a third if Micker Adolfo is able to get some outfield reps in. Rutherford could spend the entire year in Winston-Salem without it hurting his stock, and it’d help if he showed more pop. Gavin Sheets and Ti’Quan Forbes should get most of the reps on the infield corners. Yeyson Yrizarri lost his starting job to Rivera, and he and Mitch Roman are probably keeping an infield seat warm for Nick Madrigal. 2016 fifth-rounder Jimmy Lambert is now the leader of the Dash rotation in terms of reps, posting a 4.02 ERA with 69 strikeouts over 63 innings over the first half.
Summary: The Intimidators received two players who received notable bonuses in recent drafts, third baseman Luis Curbelo and pitcher Will Kincanon, so they opened up their gifts in advance. Their roster is malleable enough to accommodate more recent draft picks, whether they’re in Great Falls (Jonathan Stiever?) or currently unsigned (Steele Walker and Konnor Pilkington?).
Incumbents: Aside from “just about everybody,” it’s notable that Tate Blackman is still in Kannapolis after hitting .304/.392/.474 with 20 extra-base hits over 65 games in the first half. Granted, the 75 strikeouts are a little high, but that gives weight to the idea that Madrigal will start his pro career in High-A.