White Sox Minor Keys: May 25, 2021

If Jason Bilous wasn’t interesting to you before, he should be interesting to you now.

From a household name, Bilous was worth mild intrigue when the White Sox drafted him in the 13th round of the 2018 draft, if only because he signed for well above the third day limit ($185,000; bonuses higher than $125,000 count against the team’s draft pool), and those who watched him at Coastal Carolina thought he had a future in relief. The question was whether he had enough control to start, because while he succeeded at preventing runs with the Intimidators in his first full pro season, his peripherals hinted at future struggles going five.

There are a lot of guys who get more than $125,000 on the third day, and there are a lot of 21-year-olds who could be a future relievers in Kannapolis, so neither of those were enough to make him compelling on their own.

But now he’s starting to distinguish his prospect profile, because two years and four starts with Winston-Salem later, Bilous has enjoyed an unprecedented intimacy with the strike zone.


And the White Sox are apparently buying it, because they promoted him to Birmingham, a team that isn’t exactly short on productive starting pitching at the moment. The Barons shifted Emilio Vargas to the team’s developmental list to make room, and Vargas has been serviceable himself thus far.

Bilous’ Double-A debut against the Rocket City Trash Pandas on Tuesday night fits right in with his Dash game log. He pitched five innings, allowing just one run on six hits and zero walks while striking out five. One of those hits was a solo shot, but three others were infield singles to the left side, and another was a weak flare down the right-field line. He needed only 70 pitches, 48 of which were strikes.

This was my first time watching Bilous, as Kannapolis didn’t broadcast games at the old park and Winston-Salem isn’t yet appointment viewing.

His fastball ranged from 91-95. He only touched 95 once, but he found 94 plenty, and his velocity seemed stable over the course of five innings. He largely worked down in the zone with it, which isn’t necessarily the modern idea, but it seemed help his breaking balls play up.

His slider had sharpness at 84-87, with a curveball with downward tilt from 81-85. He induced three consecutive swinging strikes at one point with them, including two ugly ones to the same hitter in the second inning.

The strange sun pattern on Toyota Field made me wonder if visibility worked in his favor, but here he is, getting three consecutive ugly swings on three consecutive breaking balls from cleanup hitter Ibandel Isabel in the fourth, when there’s more consistent shade.

Bilous also featured a changeup, although one on a 1-1 count went over the right-field wall for the one run. He got a swing and miss on it later, but he seemed content throwing sliders in to a lefty as a first idea. He also seemed comfortable letting Carlos Pérez handle baserunners. The Trash Pandas ran on him four times, and Pérez cut two of them down.

Combine his time with the Dash with his Barons debut, and Bilous is up to 31 strikeouts against two walks this season, which is the kind of turnaround few envisioned. At 23 and the second-youngest player on Birmingham’s roster, he’s built himself a bit of a cushion in case an eight-team league figures him out, but if he wants to treat all future issues as simple to solve, that’s cool, too.

Norfolk 5, Charlotte 4

  • Adam Engel DH’d and went 1-for-4 with a homer, walk and strikeout.
  • Blake Rutherford was 1-for-5 with a double and a K.
  • Jake Burger went 2-for-4 with a double and a strikeout.
  • Gavin Sheets, 1-for-4 with a K and an error in left field.
  • Luis González went 0-for-4 with a K.
  • Reynaldo López rebounded from a disaster his last time out: 5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 50 of 69 pitches for strikes.


Birmingham 5, Rocket City 1

  • Ti’Quan Forbes went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Romy Gonzalez, 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • A fresh week wasn’t as kind to Micker Adolfo, who walked once and struck out thrice.
  • Carlos Pérez singled twice and struck out twice.
  • Jason Bilous had a successful Double-A debut: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR

Hickory 11, Winston-Salem 2 (6½ innings, rain)

  • Yolbert Sanchez went 0-for-3.
  • Lenyn Sosa, 1-for-3 with a double and a strikeout.
  • Luis Curbelo hit his seventh homer and struck out twice.
  • Luis Mieses was 0-for-3 with a K.
  • Harvin Mendoza, 1-for-2.
  • Isaiah Carranza: 2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 29 of 60 pitches for strikes.

Carolina 23, Kannapolis 7

  • Caberea Weaver went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts.
  • Lency Delgado, 2-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • José Rodriguez went 2-for-5 with a homer and a double.
  • Bryan Ramos doubled, singled twice, walked and struck out.
  • DJ Gladney was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Benyamin Bailey went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
  • James Beard was 1-for-4 with a homer and a strikeout.
  • Matthew Thompson: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 24 of 48 pitches for strikes.


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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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>James Beard gets on base!
>It’s a homer so he can’t steal bases

Right Size Wrong Shape

I read another account of the Charlotte game that indicated that Burger’s defense is beginning to be a problem. I’m disappointed to hear that, because I saw a few highlight plays earlier this year where he looked much more nimble than I remembered him. Any insight on this? Are they throwing errors, fielding errors or both?


This is a shame to hear, they will have a logjam of DH players when Eloy gets back. I wonder what they will do when that happens… if they will put him in left again, or decide he should never play the field again for his safety. In any case they have no room for Burger as a DH candidate if he cannot play the field somewhere. I love his comeback and hope he continues to rake, he is really their best offensive player in the minors so far, quite easily. But he seems like a bad long term fit for this team (even if he becomes adequate at 3b), and that they should look to deal him for a good outfield prospect if they can find any takers.


Sound advice. I was only replying to the other poster talking about potential defensive issues, and him playing a position that Moncada will hopefully anchor for the next few years.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I’m not making any judgments, just wondering if they were mistakes or if he’s looking overmatched. My biggest concern about him when he was drafted was his defense, but with his new physique I’m hopeful that it can improve. I remember one of the prospects last year saying that Burger was playing shortstop in Schaumburg sometimes and looked like the best player on the field.


I’m thinking that Burger should never play a game for the Sox. He is completely blocked at third and doesn’t seem like a good possibility for a corner outfield spot. But his greatest value to the Sox is as a trade chip. The more he rakes, the better chance someone sees him as a good option for their team, and he can be traded with one of the young high-upside arms (Dahlquist, Thompson) for a good player on a team out of the race.

Right Size Wrong Shape

No matter how well he plays, I wonder how much trade value he’ll have with his age and injury history.


Great to see Engel back with a homer already. He looked great in the spring, can only hope he is truly beyond his injury. He might wind up their most consistent offensive outfielder until late summer when hopefully reinforcements arrive.


Ibandel Isabel is an 80-grade name
Burger is on absolute fire!
Engel HR against a RH pitcher. Nice.


He hits lefties for a much higher average but almost all his power (17 of 21) career homers are vs righties.


Would not take a miracle for Engel to prove better against both righties and lefties than Eaton. I suspect he was their best RF all along against all pitching.


An idea for a post for Jim and/or Josh: I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how the Sox system looks based on the early returns. Maybe just Jim folds it into the fortnightly minor-league report. But, I’d especially be interested in hearing what changes you anticipate in prospect evals from MLB/BA/FG upon the next update or, better yet, your own evals based on what you’ve seen and performance so far. Maybe it’s too early for that, but the early returns from the prospects seem, overall, pretty good?


brb gonna buy some Rocket City Trash Pandas gear


I saw them in MLB the Show and thought they were just making stuff up but nope, they are 100% real.


There’s a marketing company that came up with all these weird names to get people to come to minor league games: New Orleans Babycakes,Binghamton Rumble Ponies,Amarillo Sod Poodles, Hartford Yard Goats and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp amongst others.


The Baby Cakes are the stuff of nightmares


I bought a hat.


Always wanted to get a Fresno Fightin’ Tacos gear but it sells out pretty fast.

Greg Nix

This thing where Luis Curbelo homers every other game is interesting.