2019 Birmingham Barons preview

The glut of talent that made Winston-Salem such a destination for prospect writers and evaluators last year has moved up the pipeline to Birmingham in 2019.

That even includes Omar Vizquel, who will oversee the same star-studded group of young players that won a division title in the Carolina League last year. It’s a fairly impressive roster, and one that can gain more guys worth monitoring when Kodi Medeiros, Luis Basabe and Tyler Johnson return from injury.

Here’s how the Birmingham Barons will look on Opening Day. Winston-Salem’s preview will be coming tonight, with Kannapolis Friday morning.

Starting Pitchers

Three of my top 10 spoonerisms are in this rotation. Flores and Lambert both return to Birmingham after encouraging partial seasons with the Barons in 2018. Flores’ brand of crafty-lefty run prevention carried up a level, as he posted a 2.76 ERA over 13 starts despite a 15 percent strikeout rate. Lambert experienced a major peripheral jump, but he was limited to five Double-A starts due to a strained oblique. He seems poised to fill the starting pitching gap opened by Dane Dunning’s injury. Paulino is the new guy, acquired from Philadelphia in the Luis Avilan trade last August. He walked seven batters over his only nine innings in Birmingham, but we’ll see if the Sox have any ideas for his first full season in the organization.

Banks and Nolin are both lefties in the organizational mold, although Nolin appeared in three MLB seasons before missing the entirety of 2016, 2017 and part of 2018 with injuries, most of which seem to be related to Tommy John surgery. This might be his last chance at rebounding.

Relief Pitchers

There are some breakout candidates in this group. Schryver — whose name I want to spell Hyntyr Schryvyr — seems the most poised to make a jump, as the White Sox got him from the Rays for international money in July 2018. He struck out 80 batters over 63 innings in High-A last year, albeit as a 24-year-old, so this one should keep him honest the way it’s tested the hard-throwing Walsh. Clark is a second lefty, and he’s succeeded at Birmingham before, but it seems like he’s lost the escape velocity out of the minors and will have to fight his way out of “org player” status. Tomshaw gives them three from the left side, but he’s more of a long reliever/spot starter.

From the right side, the Sox signed Cabrera last summer. He throws (or threw) 100 mph and briefly rode it to a decent 2016 with the Braves, but there’s little minor-league success on either side of it, including his brief appearances in Birmingham and the Arizona Rookie League. Dopico has been pegged as a potential switch-flipper since the Sox drafted him in the 11th round back in 2015, and there have been flashes, but he struggled to control his fastball-slider combo in the Arizona Fall League last year. Foster briefly retired in 2017, but returned later in the year and has resumed advancing up the ladder. Walsh hits 95, but wildness contributed to his 10.67 ERA at Birmingham last year. Martinez is one of two White Sox international signings to finally breach the Birmingham wall. He’s doing it more as an org guy, but still.


Gonzalez surfaced in the majors last year in between Welington Castillo’s suspension and Kevan Smith’s recovery from an ankle sprain and looked overmatched, but he did notch a couple firsts. Mercedes is a bat-first catcher who has been old for every level since we’ve known him, but he’s immensely entertaining.


Winston-Salem’s infield marches its way up the chain. Sheets is anticipating a power breakout in his third year, and it’d be impressive if he found a way to make it materialize in a tougher park. Rivera has maximized an aggressive approach to elevate his 28th-round profile — 13 walks in 124 games at Low-A and High-A in 2018 — but that’s also harder to pull off at Birmingham. Forbes slashed his strikeout rate dramatically in his age-21 season, but further impact from his contact is needed. Roman and Michalczewski will probably split time at second base until Nick Madrigal arrives. Roman’s getting his first taste of Birmingham, while Michalczewski might’ve bought a house there. Torres gives Rivera more experienced help at short than anybody else in the mix.


The Winston-Salem outfield logjam was alleviated by the Alex Call trade over the winter, and Basabe’s broken hamate bone also relieves any pressure to rush individual prospects. As it stands, I imagine Adolfo will DH early on while he rebuilds his arm strength, opening outfield reps for the rest. He’s the first Marco Paddy signing to advance to Birmingham on talent alone, and there’s a burgeoning power profile there if he can just. stay. on. the. field. Booker will get a month or two to show that last year’s performance at Birmingham wasn’t his wall (.266/.338/.348).

Gonzalez might be the most highly rated underrated prospect in the system, as he seems to garner the sleeper tag from just about every outlet. He spent his first 1½ seasons forced to play behind more highly touted outfielders, but now he’s free to advance on his own merit if he can pick up where he left off (.307/.368/.498 between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last year). Rutherford made strides with extra-base power last year, and, like Sheets, he’s trying to convert some of that into home runs in Birmingham. He showed up in spring with the most transformed physique, and hopes that it’ll generate more thunder like this:

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
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.

Articles: 3914
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
As Cirensica

Thanks for this Jim/ Didn’t know we have Sean Nolin…wow…I remember not long ago he was a highly thought pitching prospects for the Jays.


Schryver — whose name I want to spell Hyntyr Schryvyr

Nickname: Freebird.

As Cirensica

Walk up music: Ronnie and Neil *Drive-by Truckers*


Heh. Patterson now lives in Mariners country, but he might approve.


After some questionable development tactics and an embarrassing offseason job interview, here’s hoping Vizquel shows some growth as well.
Glad Robert and Madrigal are starting in A+.


Any MILB.TV users here? Somehow, the First Pitch app is even worse than before. First, the latest version is incompatible with my Samsung/Android tablet, which is what I typically used to watch minor league games in the past. Second, on my iPhone, I can watch games… but the scoreboard has the linescores, and that’s pretty much it. I can’t figure out how to view boxscores.

On a positive note, some games are finally being streamed in HD, including Charlotte’s.


Ok, I figured out how to view boxscores… by first going into Gameday from the home screen. It would be nice to have a link to it on the scoreboard too though (like the old version did).


Yeah, the app wasn’t great to begin with and the changes blow. Try mlbfarm.com to see all White Sox affiliate box scores on one page.


Thanks for the tip about mlbfarm… really like how it lays things out and highlights top 30 prospects. Apparently Collins and Robert had fully functional bats last night…

As Cirensica

What angered me most was that mlb.tv unilaterally stopped supporting LG smart TVs. I had bought a bad-ass smart TV, bug, and with all the bells and whistles so I can watch baseball neatly…but it is an LG TV, so I have to channel MLB app thru my xbox which I find annoying.