2019 Kannapolis Intimidators season review

Well, I was planning on writing about Zack Collins’ first couple games back, but Baseball Savant’s search tool is down. Let’s call an audible and go out-of-order with the affiliate reviews so I can cross a post off my list one way or another.

The Kannapolis Intimidators, who bid farewell to their home of 25 year last week and will do the same to their Dale Earnhardt-based moniker next month, were put in a tough position to succeed on a teamwide level in 2019. The only players likely to spend the full season in Kannapolis were teenagers on aggressive assignments. Any of the previous year’s picks would head to Winston-Salem if they were good enough, and guys like Steele Walker, Jonathan Stiever and Konnor Pilkington did. To cap it off, the welcome shift to a prep-heavy draft left the A-ball affiliates with few immediate replacements in the second half.

As a result, the hitters didn’t fare particularly well:


And neither did the pitchers:

Kannapolis22.74.408.5 25.0

The hope is that certain key prospects will benefit from their struggles, because they showed signs of getting it at various points throughout the season. Here’s hoping it has staying power, because Kannapolis is a testing ground for new methods of hitting preparation, and with more prep and international prospects heading that way, it’d sure help if it all yielded quick dividends.

Position players

Lenyn Sosa: He’s the biggest success story of the season, even if his full-season numbers don’t reflect it (.251/.292/.371). The 19-year-old Venezuelan looks a lot better if you judge him by his progress:

  • First half: .229/.261/.351, 9 BB, 57 K over 276 PA
  • Second half: .276/.326/.393, 18 BB, 45 K over 260 PA

He found another level over the final month, hitting .310/.348/.460 over his last 30 games, including three of his six homers. His glove at shortstop is also getting some hype. He only committed 14 errors in 117 games there, which is impressive for A-ball. He signed for $350,000 as a 16-year-old back in 2016.

Bryce Bush: The other 19-year-old project, Bush saw his season peak in mid-May. After moving from third base to right field after two disastrous weeks to start the season, he hit .338/.440/.620 over a 20-game stretch from April 22 to May 13, when he departed a game after fouling a ball off his foot. He soon hit the injured list for the first of two stints — he also suffered bronchitis — and he never found a groove in between or after. I remain bullish, because he was clearly Kannapolis’ best hitter when at the top of his game, but now he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy on top of the other areas of development.

Corey Zangari: The good news? The big first baseman finally stayed healthy. After appear in only 18 games from 2017 through 2018, Zangari returned to the Kannapolis lineup after a delayed start to his season and didn’t need another trip to the injured list the rest of the way. The bad news? He hit .203/.314/.428 and struck out a third of the time. The power’s nice, and while he’s 22, maybe it’ll click later for him because of all the time he’s missed, but first base really isn’t an area of concern o the organization’s depth chart.

Amado Nunez: A Great Falls mirage for a new generation, Nunez’s OPS was 380 points lower with the Intimidators (.582) than it was with the Voyagers in 2018 (.962). He turns 22 next month and doesn’t have a position.

Romy Gonzalez: Nick Hostetler talked up last year’s 18th-round pick as a potential steal, and her backed it up with a good 54 games in Great Falls last year. This year, he hit just .244/.329/.364 with 108 strikeouts over 101 games. A brief uprising in July was negated by a slump in August.

Tyler Osik: A shoutout to the one 2019 position player pick to crack the Intimidators roster. The 27th-round pick out of Central Florida hit .278/.352/.557 over 26 games with Kannapolis while shifting from first base to left field. This could all be small sample size noise, but the only guys who performed as well for longer were older (Ian Dawkins, Alex Destino).


Davis Martin: When McClure, Pilkington and Stiever all left the Kannapolis rotation, Martin was one of two six-figure college arms to hold up the rotation. The 22-year-old righty from Texas Tech led the White Sox farm system in strikeouts (156) while finishing two outs short of the top spot in innings (144⅔), and he only walked 38 batters. All of those figures are comparable to Stiever’s season.

Where they differ is run prevention. Martin posted a 5.05 ERA on the season due to his tendency to run hot and cold. He had five outings where he didn’t allow an earned run, and he had five where he allowed six or more. (In a marriage of the two, in one of the starts where he didn’t allow an earned run, he allowed seven unearned runs.)

That said, his biggest issues were in the first two months, and he posted a 3.75 ERA over his final three, allowing only five homers in those 17 starts, as opposed to 12 over his first nine. It was a little weird that he wasn’t promoted, and if you’re concerned about the ERA, Stiever had a 4.74 ERA over 12 starts in Kannapolis. The Sox drafted Martin in the 14th round last year, but he signed for $130,000.

Jason Bilous: Drafted one round earlier than Martin and signed for $55,000 more, the 21-year-old Bilous was seen as a much bigger project coming out of Coastal Carolina. The Sox managed his workload carefully, limiting him to two or three innings over the first couple months before stretching him out out to four, five and six starting in June.

Control problems persisted like a low-grade fever, but nothing about his game became worse as he adopted a real starting workload. He had stretches of dominance — six no-hit innings on June 27, one total run over three starts in late July — but the walks ticked up as he approach and surpassed the 100-inning marker. He finished the year with a 3.70 ERA and 113 strikeouts to 61 walks over 104⅔ innings.

Draft experts projected him as a bullpen arm from the get-go, so that shift may be coming in the near future. His year in starting probably exceeded expectations given that history.

Previous affiliate reviews

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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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