The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers once again head into the 2022 season with eyes drawn on an intriguing collection of young talent filling out their roster.
The Ballers and their young roster struggled mightily in 2021, ending the year with a 40-79 record. Despite the poor overall team performance, Kannapolis did see instances of individual success in high rising prospects Jose Rodriguez and Bryan Ramos. While the team would surely love to improve upon 2021’s record, Kannapolis will ultimately be judged on how several White Sox prospects respond (and progress) to their full season assignment.
A minor change in league name has also taken place. Depending on your appreciation of the traditional minor league baseball names, gone is the short-lived Low-A East. The Cannon Ballers are now members of the Carolina League (they used to be in the South Atlantic League under the Intimidators moniker).
The Cannon Ballers began this season tonight at home with a three game set against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
Opening day ages of the players are listed in parentheses along with position for non-pitchers.
- Manager: Guillermo Quiroz
- Pitching Coach: John Ely
- Hitting Coach: Cam Seitzer
- Trainer: Jeremy Kneebusch
- Performance Coach: Kevin Childs
Guillermo Quiroz and John Ely return to their respective positions, with former Tampa Bay Ray/White Sox minor leaguer Cam Seitzer taking over as hitting coach.
The most prominent pitchers expected to take the mound for Kannapolis this season are not yet on the roster. Jared Kelley is expected to return to Low-A once he’s done ramping up in Arizona, after which he’ll hope to make up for a miserable 2021 season (6.86 ERA, 2.05 WHIP in 21 IP). Norge Vera’s start to the season was delayed by a lat strain in the spring, but he’ll be expected to debut in Kannapolis when healthy.
Cristian Mena is set to make his full season debut and build upon his three pitch mix that struck out 62 batters in 48.1 IP, but also had a 7.82 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. 2021 fourth rounder Brooks Gosswein gets the opening day start for the Ballers after logging nine innings for the club last year. Tommy Sommer, a 10th-round pick out of Indiana, overmatched less experienced ACL hitters in his pro debut last year.
- Johnny Ray (23, RHP)
- Kohl Simas (22, RHP)
- Adisyn Coffey (23, RHP)
- Christian Edwards (23, RHP)
- Haylen Green (24, LHP)
- Everhett Hazelwood (22, RHP)
- Tyson Messer (25, RHP)
- Jordan Mikel (23, RHP)
- Noah Owen (21, RHP)
- Chase Plymell (23, RHP)
- Garrett Schoenle (23, LHP)
- Vince Vannelle (24, RHP)
- Frander Veras (23, RHP)
The reliever group for the Ballers is oldest grouping of any players on this roster. Some of these players will likely garner some starts or be in the rotation, but those waters are currently murky.
2020 third rounder Adisyn Coffey will make his professional debut along with Vince Vannelle. Haylen Green, Everhett Hazelwood, Tyson Messer, Jordan Mikel, Kohl Simas, and Frander Veras are all returning to after brief tastes of Kannapolis in 2021. Christian Edwards, Noah Owen, Johnny Ray, and Garrett Schoenle are all making their full season debuts after appearing for the ACL White Sox in 2021.
Chase Plymell is currently on the Development List.
Victor Torres and Ivan Gonzalez both return to Kannapolis to help handle the catching duties. Torres began the 2021 season with Kannapolis, but struggled mightily with the bat (.195/.255/.284 in 52 games) before heading back to the Arizona Complex League (ACL). Similarly to Torres, Gonzalez also struggled with the bat for the Ballers in 2021, slashing .186/.269/.271 across 20 games.
Colby Smelley will also be making his full season debut after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2021 draft.
- Colson Montgomery (20, SS)
- Wes Kath (19, 3B)
- DJ Gladney (20, 1B/3B)
- Wilber Sanchez (20, 2B/SS)
- Wilfred Veras (19, 1B/3B)
- Samil Polanco (22, 2B/3B/SS)
The group of infielders is led by the White Sox top two picks in the 2021 draft, Colson Montgomery and Wes Kath. Montgomery had a nice professional debut season in the ACL, hitting for average (.287) while also showing a knack for getting on base (.396 OBP) in 26 games. Kath will look to shore up some of the swing and miss issues he displayed in his debut (42 K in 104 ABs) while also displaying his plus lefty power.
DJ Gladney, Samil Polanco, and the best defensive infielder in the system according to Baseball America Wilber Sanchez all return to help fill out the Kannapolis infield. Another intriguing prospect is in the infield mix, as Wilfred Veras set to make his full season debut. Veras had a fantastic showing as an 18 year old in the ACL (.322/.416/.533 with 4 HRs and 26 RBI in 178 PAs), splitting time between first and third base.
- James Beard (21, CF)
- Chase Krogman (21, LF)
- Misael Gonzalez (20, CF/RF)
- Benyamin Bailey (20, LF)
- Logan Glass (20, CF)
The Ballers will deploy a young outfield again, with lots of familiar faces. The speedy James Beard returns to Kannapolis, along with Chase Krogman and his updated swing. Beard is still looking to develop his hit tool (.192/.308/.286 in 273 PAs), as Krogman displayed some good on-base skills (.351 OBP) while knocking out 10 HRs, but will look to cut down on the his strikeouts (130 in 311 PAs).
Misael Gonzalez and Benyamin Bailey are slated to return after enduring struggles in their first crack at Single A ball (.178/.286/.322 and .156/.226/.195, respectively). Logan Glass makes his full season debut after being a 22nd round pick of the White Sox in 2019.
The Cannon Ballers will once again be a young team in 2022, and much of the focus will be set upon the big four of Montgomery, Kath, Kelley, and Vera (once healthy). Kelley is looking to rebound from an abysmal 2021, whereas Montgomery, Kath, and Vera are making their full-season (and in Vera’s case, stateside) debuts.
An intriguing mix of recent international signings and high school draft picks make up most of the offense. A significant portion of the offensive players are repeating the level after a cup of coffee and/or enduring struggles at the level in 2021. The pitching staff has a mix of college-aged relievers with some youthful starters sprinkled in.
All in all, Kannapolis should be one of the more interesting White Sox minor league teams to follow this season.