It is a new year, the 2023 season is around the corner, and Charlotte Knights’ correspondent Jeff Cohen takes a stab at predicting the 2023 Knights’ roster. Part I of this two-part series looks at the offense.
There may be another addition or two, but the 2023 Charlotte Knights’ team is beginning to take shape, and it promises another year of offensive fireworks.
As always, the lineup features a a heavy dose of older guys with MLB experience, as Triple-A affiliates have largely become extended taxi squads for major-league teams.
Here’s my best guess as to what the Knights will look like — based on free-agent acquisitions to date, 2022 holdovers and likely Double-A promotions — keeping in mind that some of these players will find themselves on the White Sox Opening Day roster.
Outfielders: Oscar Colas, Craig Dedelow, Adam Haseley, Tyler Neslony and three recent free-agent adds, Billy Hamilton, Jake Marisnick and Victor Reyes. Yoelqui Cespedes is probably also in line for a promotion from Double-A. None of the aforementioned are currently on the 40-man roster.
Key departures from 2022 include Mark Payton, Micker Adolfo and Blake Rutherford. Payton has opted to play in Japan this year after a phenomenal 2022. Adolfo and Rutherford remain free agents.
Colas is the odds-on favorite to get a shot at the big leagues. The only question is whether the White Sox decide he needs a bit more seasoning in Charlotte beforehand.
Reyes, 28, spent his career with the Tigers, where he was a .264 hitter in 1,214 MLB at bats, a pretty decent average these days for a fourth outfielder. He appeared to turn a corner last year but the Tigers opted to let him go rather than pay him. He could very well be a surprise contributor this year.
Marisnick, 31, spent six years with the Astros before playing with the Cubs, Padres and Pirates in 2021-22. He is a glove-first outfielder with a .228 batting average and 63 homers in almost 2,000 MLB at bats. The White Sox, of course, know Hamilton from his time with the team in 2021. He saw limited MLB action in 2022 with the Mariners, Marlins and Twins.
Infielders: Jake Burger, Gavin Sheets, Romy Gonzalez, Lenyn Sosa, Yolbert Sanchez, Laz Rivera, Erik Gonzalez and Hanser Alberto. Jose Rodriguez will probably also be bumped up from Birmingham. Sanchez, Rivera, Alberto and Erik Gonzalez are not on the 40-man.
Erik Gonzalez, 31, is a free agent add, having spent parts of the last seven seasons in the majors with Cleveland, Pittsburgh and most recently Miami. He has a slash line of .242/.276/.340 in 842 major-league at bats. Key middle-infield departures include Zach Remillard.
Alberto, 30, is a career .272 MLB hitter. After spending three years in the big leagues with the Rangers, Alberto joined the Orioles in 2019-20, where he had his two best years as a pro, hitting .305 and .283. He spent 2021 with the Royals and last season with the Dodgers.
Catchers: Seby Zavala, Carlos Perez, Xavier Fernandez and Sebastian Rivero. There’s a back-up roster spot to be had with the White Sox and Zavala has the inside track (and is out of options), though Perez had a strong year in Charlotte last season and appears ready to help out a big-league club.
Fernandez returns to the Knights for a second campaign after re-signing with the Sox, while Rivero is a free agent addition from the Royals’ system. The 24-year-old hit .218 in Double-A last year. Key departures include Nick Ciuffo.
Other New Faces?
Assuming there are no more additions to the major-league roster, four or five of the aforementioned players will almost certainly be on the White Sox Opening Day roster, which means the Knights’ roster could see a few more veteran free agents. But there are several viable candidates, given the glut of unsigned MLB players, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another one or two inked to a minor-league deal.
Coaches: Julio Mosquera was an interim manager in 2022, filling in for Wes Helms, who was dropped midway through the season, and Chris Johnson is off to Chicago as assistant hitting coach, so we’ll be seeing at least two new faces in the dugout this year, presumably joining pitching coach Matt Zaleski. The 2023 staff is likely to be introduced in the next few weeks.
How does Matt Zaleski keep a job? Certainly not on results.
Unless Laz Rivera has a monster spring I don’t see him sticking. That or some major injuries.
Every game last season was basically a bullpen game, so it’s kind of hard to fault him for that.
Zaleski coaches pitching in the most hitter-friendly park in the International League, it’s even more so than most PCL parks. He’s also not had much talent to work with recently, he’s not had a serious prospect there since 2019.
This. We practically salivate over the ascension of Davis Martin and the difference between his performances in pitcher-friendly Birmingham and Charlotte is pretty severe.
Please tell me what pitching coach was going to turn a rotation of John Parke, Kyle Kubat, and J.B. Olsen (their only pitchers with 15+ starts) into a solid unit. I guess Wes Benjamin was doing pretty well before he went to Japan, if that makes you happy.
I prefer the way the Indians use AAA as an “extended taxi squad”, over the Sox’ approach.
Colas in RF or we riot.
Yeah, at this point, I sure hope Colas gets a shot at the big leagues. Otherwise, it’s starting RF Gavin Sheets or Eloy Jimenez.
Then it’s Colas at 2B or we riot.
Wait a minute: riot, the riot, Ryan Theriot is going to be the solution for 2B. He was a 3 WAR player as recently as 2008. On the downside, he’s been out of baseball for 10 years. However, hiring a former St. Louis Cardinal who has been out of baseball for a decade isn’t always a show stopper with this team.
Not unlikely that Colas starts the year at AAA with service time manipulation shenanigans by this cheap ass ownership. You would hope not, but I wouldn’t put anything past these clowns.
Is the Ti’Quan Forbes era over? Man I really wanted him to happen.
He was in the Rangers organization last year and I think signed with the Diamondbacks after the season.
Wondering if the comment about Perez being ready to help a big league club is a bit optimistic considering his 30 rated throwing arm.
More about his work behind the dish than anything, and he’s got a good bat for the position. Regardless, until White Sox pitchers develop some aptitude for holding runners in position he could have an Ivan Rodriguez cannon for an arm and it wouldn’t matter.
Where are the Knights going to find playing time for all their middle infielders? Romy, Lenyn, and Jose should be playing every day. (And yes, Jose Rodriguez should definitely be in AAA most of the year.) Even if one of them is in the majors, there aren’t nearly enough innings left for Sanchez, Alberto, E. Gonzalez, and Rivera.
Are the White Sox building depth because they expect to trade away one or more prospects, or are they planning to genetically combine one of these guys with Jake Burger in a lab and hope for the best?
One of Romy or Lenyn is going to start the season on the major league roster in all likelihood. Sanchez and Gonzalez are probably going to be relegated to the bench in Charlotte. Even if Romy is left in AAA, he’s a super-utility who has spent time across the outfield also, so there’s that.