Road trip: Checking in on the Single-A White Sox

White Sox prospect Jonathan Cannon
Jonathan Cannon (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

Last week was the perfect time to head up the road to Winston-Salem and Kannapolis for another look-see at some of the White Sox young pups. 

These are tough times for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, but there were some exciting happenings at the two other North Carolina Sox affiliates last week. Noah Schultz was back on the mound, Jonathan Cannon was preparing to head out to Seattle for the Future Stars game and Colson Montgomery was tuning up before a likely move to Birmingham.

I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Cannon.  He’s an articulate, likeable, thoughtful guy who is having a solid year in High-A.  It is often a crapshoot, especially with pitchers, to know how their games will translate to a higher level of baseball, but I think he’ll do great things in Birmingham.

At 6’6, 213 pounds, he has the frame to handle the rigors of being a major-league starter.  Perhaps another 10-15 pounds of muscle will translate into another tick or two on his fastball.

He has a starter’s pitch mix, with no less than six pitches in his arsenal.  Rather than have him scale back and focus on refining three or four pitches, the White Sox told Cannon this past off-season to continue working with all six.  That says a lot.

I also chatted with Colson Montgomery while in Winston-Salem.   We talked about his injury and I liked how he framed the conversation about overcoming adversity.  That’s a crucial skill for young baseball players.

A trip to Winston-Salem last Thursday also provided a chance to see Jacob Burke continue his consecutive game, on-base steak.  It stood at 42 games entering the game I watched, but he quickly ended any drama by opening the bottom of the first inning with the first of his two hits that night.  He’s highly motivated and a fun guy to watch play ball.

I was curious to see Loidel Chapelli.  He’s not exactly a marque name, but White Sox Hitting Coordinator Andy Barkett had talked about him as one of several interesting guys coming over from the DSL last year. 

He’s hitting just .225 and his stroke is definitely a work in progress, but I got a chance to see his lightning-quick speed in action when he scored from third on a great dirt-ball read of a passed ball.

Recently promoted Tim Elko is entrenched at first base in Winston-Salem now.  I’m a big fan and expect to see him go on a tear soon enough.

It was a quiet night for DJ Gladney (0-3) and Wilfred Veras (1-4).  The “Voice of the Dash,” Andrew Murphy, also suggested I keep an eye on Taishi Nakawake, a 25-year-old infielder who was signed as a free agent last summer, and the recent international free agent add, pitcher Josimar Cousin.

On Saturday, I went to Kanny to see Noah Schultz again, and has been the case with his previous three starts, he did not disappoint.  He faced 10 hitters, hitting one batting and retiring the other nine, three on strikeouts.  

He relied on a 95-mph two-seam fastball and a slider that sat 80-83.  He told me post-game that he’s been working on the side on a new grip for his changeup, and he tried out one in the game Saturday.  It was pretty easy to detect as his arm slot dropped dramatically lower.

A trip to see Noah Schultz is also a chance to see Mason Adams, the 2022 13th round draft pick who piggybacks with the 6’9 lefty to make quite the one-two combination.

I’m increasingly impressed with Adams.  On Saturday, he tossed five innings of six-hit, one-run ball.  It was his second straight start with double-digit strikeouts (10 on Saturday and 11 one week earlier).  

He spots a 91-mph fastball well, and pairs it effectively with both a slider and curve.  He’s now tossed 57.1 innings this year, and has 77 strikeouts to just 13 walks.  

Whither The Knights?

The Knights are 2-6 in July, 2-9 in the second half and 37-49 overall, and the team’s fortunes are bleak.  And the reason is the continued decimation of the pitching staff.

Injuries (Davis Martin, Jonathan Stiever and now Sean Burke again), call-ups (Jesse Scholtens), underperformance (AJ Alexy and Daniel Ponce de Leon) and a combination of an injury and now rust (John Parke) have ravaged the Knights rotation.

Reinforcements from Birmingham (Garrett Davila and Chase Solesky) have filled in nicely but it is hard to see the Knights playing .500 ball, with which they flirted for much of the first half of the season.

There are still players in Charlotte who could play a role in the White Sox’ future, beginning of course with Lenyn Sosa but also including a few arms in the pen like Declan Cronin, Sammy Peralta and Lane Ramsey.

And of course, there’s the mysterious case of Victor Reyes.  Perhaps he’ll be among the players on the move at the trade deadline and can bring back a prospect for the White Sox.

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As Cirensica

Love your interviews. Great job. Why do you like Elko so much?

upnorthsox

I liked Cannon on “Why is he calling me? I didn’t do anything.”