2018 Kannapolis Intimidators season review

The Kannapolis Intimidators squeaked into the postseason despite not winning a half. The Lakewood BlueClaws took both of them, and so Kannapolis grabbed the other spot with the second-best overall record in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division at 74-63. They needed help, and their win combined with a West Virginia loss on the final day of the season got the job done.

Lakewood then swept the Intimidators out of the postseason by taking both games.

But hey, the Intimidators can call it a successful season, especially with a lack of real star power. They benefited from Luis Gonzalez’s presence in the first half, and Laz Rivera, Tyler Johnson and Lincoln Henzman were among other overqualified for low-A ball, but they didn’t have much in the way of consensus top-10 prospects on the roster at any point.

Recent college-heavy drafts from Nick Hostetler did make the rosters older than the league average, both on the hitting side (22 years; average age 21.3) and pitching side (22.7 years; average age 21.9). That gave Kannapolis’ roster a certain level of polish that allowed it to be greater than the sum of its parts against less experienced competition. They allowed the third-fewest runs per game at 3.86, while finishing fifth in runs scored with 4.40.

Other peripherals:

  • Intimidators hitters: .254/.321/.378, 22.9% K, 7.9% BB
  • Intimidators pitchers: 22.1% K, 8.5% BB
  • League averages: .249/.315/.375, 23.3% K, 7.5% BB

Historically, Intimidators Stadium is a little bit of a pitchers’ park, especially when it comes to homers. Next year will be their last year in that location, as they’re set to open a new downtown ballpark in 2020. Whether the White Sox will be a part of it remains an open question, as they have not yet renewed a player development contract.


*Kade McClure was one of two Louisville pitchers the White Sox drafted on Day 2 of the 2017 draft — the much taller one (6-foot-7), and one with a history of starting. He was on track for a fine first full season — 3.02 ERA, 42 strikeouts to 14 walks over 41⅔ innings — until he screwed up his knee scrambling to recover a line drive he knocked down. He eventually needed surgery to repair the dislocated kneecap with accompanying ligament damage.

*Andrew Perez looked like a potential fast-track candidate when the Sox selected him in the eighth round — partially because of his collegiate closing experience at South Florida, and partially because of his left-handedness. He made his debut in Great Falls for a four-game tune-up before finishing the year in Kannapolis. Control problems may slow him down. He walked 13 batters and plunked five more over 25 innings, with just 24 strikeouts. He limited his ERA to 2.88 despite unimpressive peripherals, so speeding through the lower levels is not guaranteed.

*Will Kincanon has been used exclusively in relief as a pro after spending his collegiate career as a starter. The Sox signed the local product for over the Day 3 limit after drafting him in the 11th round in 2017, and he showed some improvement in his first full pro season, with 42 strikeouts to 15 walks and 29 hits over 34⅔ innings. The strikeouts really showed up in August — 20 out of 54 batters — which is either the result of something clicking, or a 21-year-old with collegiate experience picking on recently promoted players.

Position players

*Steele Walker saw his pro ball debut was delayed by an oblique injury he suffered late in the season with the Oklahoma Sooners, and he never quite found the groove you might expect from a second-round pick in rookie ball. He hit just .206/.263/.412 with the Voyagers, with more homers (two) than walks (one) over 38 plate appearances. Nick Hostetler says to wait until next year.

*Luis Curbelo stayed healthy this season, which was his first goal. He missed just about all of 2017 due to a knee surgery, so the White Sox were without their only prep pick over the first two days of the 2016 draft (sixth round). Now 20, low-A might’ve been an aggressive assignment given the lack of reps. He hit just .237/.282/.338, and the production was front-loaded. He got off to a strong start at the plate, but committed errors in bunches at third base. He then shifted to short after about 20 games, but that’s just about when his production tailed off. He’s only up to 131 games after playing 83 this season, so next season will be a better reflection of where he is as a ballplayer.

*Carlos Perez is all about hit tool, and that showed up in his first full year at Kannapolis during his age-21 season. He hit .290/.298/.395 with just four walks and 31 strikeouts over 286 plate appearances. These qualities were even more magnified over the last two months of the season. He hit .353/.353/.485, with two sacrifice flies canceling out the contribution of one walk to his OBP. This stretch also included all three of his homers. He was considered a good receiver with an average arm when the White Sox signed him out of Venezuela for $50,000 in 2014.

*Evan Skoug looked like a potential steal when the White Sox drafted him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft, as a strikeout surge in his junior year at TCU caused his stock to slide out of first-day territory. Alas, there aren’t any easy fixes. Skoug hit .192/.283/.299 with 93 strikeouts with a 29.9 percent strikeout rate in his first full pro season. His season peaked in May when he posted an .883 OPS, but he hit just .163 with a .200 slugging percentage from the start of June through the end of the season. Skoug played more games behind the plate (60) than Perez (53), but Perez gained the lion’s share of starts at the end of the year.

*Michael Hickman, whom the White Sox selected in 2015 out of the same junior college that produced Tyler Flowers, found middle ground between Perez and Skoug, hitting .241/.298/.339. The 21-year-old carried an OPS in the mid-.500s before a furious finish, going 21-for-41 with two homers and six doubles over the final two weeks of the season. He split time between first base and catcher, and he ended up at the former position down the stretch.

*Justin Yurchak turned heads with an outstanding performance at Great Falls after the Sox selected him out of Binghamton in the 12th round of the 2017 draft, but the Clifton Park product couldn’t take the next step at the next level this season. The control of the strike zone hung around (45 walks to 53 strikeouts over 363 plate appearances), but he hit just one homer over 95 games, down from eight over 60 with the Voyagers. The slugging percentage is the disappointing component of his .256/.348/.326 slash line, especially since “first baseman” is aspirational for him at this point.

*Corey Zangari missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, but came out firing at Great Falls, blasting nine homers over 17 games. He forced his way to Kannapolis, but his A-ball season lasted just one game. He was hit by a pitch in his second plate appearance, which broke his wrist (and it was called a foul ball). Zangari sounds like he made the most out of one lost year, but any more missed time after this season could be hard to recover. He’ll turn 22 in May, so he’ll want Winston-Salem on his radar at some point in 2019.

*Ramon Beltre posted a couple of intriguing lines in the Dominican Summer League as a teenager, but didn’t seem to be in any of the Sox’ priority lanes to stateside ball until 2017. He crossed off two new levels this season — Great Falls and Kannapolis — but the plate discipline that made him noteworthy in the Caribbean hasn’t followed him to A-ball. He drew just eight walks against 56 strikeouts over 236 plate appearances between the two levels.

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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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