While the struggles of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers were a lot more severe, the Winston-Salem Dash fared only three wins better by the time the seasons were settled. They went 43-76, good for the worst record in the High-A East despite an older roster on both sides of the ball.
‘Twasn’t ever thus, though. The Dash opened the season with a fairly sturdy pitching staff, but an offense that was saddled with struggling hitters who couldn’t handle aggressive initial assignments. At the end of the season, the Dash’s offense had stabilized, but the pitching staff lost just about all of its promising arms due to promotions or injuries.
The Dash offense finished ninth out of 12 teams at 4.46 runs per game, but the pitching staff allowed 5.94 runs per game, second only to Asheville, which plays at the preposterously puny McCormick Field.
The hitters struggled as a group, although one could argue the guys who needed to succeed did. Yoelqui Céspedes, Yolbert Sanchez and Lenyn Sosa all earned promotions to Birmingham, as did Jose Rodriguez after a successful and surprisingly brief run with the Dash. The biggest issue was aggression. Even the better hitters didn’t walk all that much, which made the WInston-Salem lineup especially easy to cut through when they had off nights.
The pitching staff shed almost an entire rotation through promotions, with Jason Bilous, Davis Martin, Johan Dominguez and Taylor Varnell all getting moved ahead to Birmingham. Unlike the position-player ranks, replacements from Kannapolis were much harder to find.
The combination resulted in a year where they failed to win any of their last 18 series on the schedule.
Yoelvin Silven: He was among the numerous pitchers who couldn’t get any traction in Low-A, but his age (22) and previous success at short-season levels in 2019 made him the guy to get shoved ahead. It could’ve been worse. He carried a 6.68 ERA at Kannapolis, but allowed only 11 baserunners while striking out 11 over 13 innings over seven games with the Dash. The combination of a below-average strikeout rate and below-average home-run rate (seven over 47⅔ innings) doesn’t bode well for future advancement, although he similarly survived three outings in Birmingham when he was called upon for emergency fill-in work in August.
Luke Shilling: The Dash’s bullpen was similarly bled dry over the course of the season, due to promotions (Caleb Freeman, Lane Ramsey) and Shilling’s torn UCL. The University of Illinois product almost went his entire post-draft career without pitching for the White Sox thanks the combination of a torn lat and the pandemic, but he made up for lost time by striking out 27 over 18⅓ innings. The arsenal is legit, but the durability is still a concern after the season-ending injury.
McKinley Moore: After the Dash lost both Shilling and Freeman from their late-inning options, Moore provided a credible replacement. The White Sox promoted him from Kannapolis in late July, and while the 4.00 ERA suggests limited effectiveness despite nice peripherals (seven walks, 24 strikeouts over 18 innings), the issues with run prevention were front-loaded. Twelve of his last 13 appearances were scoreless, over which he struck out 17 batters against three walks and 13 hits over 13 innings. His pitch mix starts with a high-90s fastball that can hit triple digits, and he’ll get a chance to use it against better competition in the Arizona Fall League.
Luis Mieses: Mieses’ total numbers over his 58 games with Winston-Salem don’t jump off the page — .236/.278/.464 — but it makes more sense to break them up between his two stints. The guy whose OPS topped out at .623 over short seasons spent in the DSL, AZL and Great Falls in his first three years was dropped into the Dash’s outfield in an ambitious assignment that initially didn’t pan out. The Sox demoted him to Kannapolis at the end of May — happy 21st birthday to him — and when his success at the lower level solidified, the Sox gave him another crack at the High-A East when August arrived. He was better the second time around.
|W-S Part 1||74||4||1||3||4.1||25.7||.155/.189/.366|
|W-S Part 2||160||15||1||6||5.0||18.1||.275/.319/.510|
Mieses avoided a multi-K performance over his last 25 games in Winston-Salem, which is a further refinement of contact abilities that were already decent as a teenager. This is just the first year he’s made quality contact, and with that typical pretty swing that a lot of tall lefties have, the homers he hits make sense. He’ll be somebody to watch in Birmingham next season, assuming he gets there. He’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft. He doesn’t seem like a candidate for selection, but his advanced contact abilities give him a shot at surviving that first year.
Harvin Mendoza: Mendoza followed a similar script to Mieses, almost to an adorable level (their lines in Kannapolis were nearly identical game to game). Let’s break out his chart:
|W-S Part 1||57||0||0||1||14.0||15.8||.170/.298/.234|
|W-S Part 2||94||5||0||1||4.3||12.8||.287/.340/.379|
He cooked a little longer in Kannapolis than Mieses did, and that’s one of several reasons he’s slightly less exciting. He’s 22, not 21, he’s first-base only, and while he has one of the best plate approaches in the White Sox system, it doesn’t result in homers, which is one reason why the walks dried up in his second stint. That said, the Sox don’t have many players with his kind of eye, so he’ll probably get the priority at first with Winston-Salem or Birmingham for the time being.
Luis Curbelo: The last time we saw Curbelo, he flailed to a .503 OPS in Kannapolis before Great Falls’ season finally arrived. He fared better with the Voyagers, but it wasn’t a particularly meaningful sample, not after 147 games of diminishing returns with the Intimidators. The season-opening assignment to Winston-Salem felt like a reach, but given his age (23) and level of experience, the Sox shoved him ahead to make room in Kannapolis for guys like Jose Rodriguez and Bryan Ramos. Curbelo turned into a happy hacker with the Dash, collecting 51 extra-base hits (22 homers, two triples, 27 doubles) over 109 games despite a pretty atrocious strikeout-to-walk disparity (152 to 34 over 109 games). He didn’t show any signs of closing up that gap over the course of the season, so it’s hard to see how he goes much further, but at least he got a chance to flash his power.
Terrell Tatum: The 16th-round pick out of NC State had one of the two best seasons among the collegiate bats selected by the White Sox in the 2021 draft. He hit .256/.438/.397 while going 7-for-7 in stolen-base attempts, although the 32-percent strikeout rate makes it hard to get carried away. He went 2-for-10 with four walks, six strikeouts and four steals in four games with the Dash at the end of the season.
2021 WHITE SOX AFFILIATE REVIEWS
The Cannon Ballers opened the season with a number of ambitious assignments for prep players, but it turns out they really could’ve used a stint in Great Falls. The elimination of the short-season leagues posed a special problem for the White Sox in 2021, as they had finally drafted and otherwise accumulated enough teen talent to have an A-ball team under the league’s average age, at least for position players.
The ACL White Sox didn’t have the easiest time in the new landscape, going 25-34. There were some success stories, but they only graduated a couple of players to Kannapolis, and they had their work cut out for them in A-ball. Most players who opened the season with the ACL White Sox stayed put. There were some success stories amid the struggles, which were pronounced at the plate.
* * * * * * * * *
WHITE SOX MINOR KEYS: SEPT. 24, 2021
- Romy Gonzalez singled twice, walked and struck out in his return to Triple-A.
- Jake Burger went 0-for-4.
- So did Micker Adolfo and Carlos Pérez, both of whom struck out once.
- Blake Rutherford was 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
- Kade McClure: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 WP