2018 Charlotte Knights preview

Michael Kopech brings star power to roster with experienced bullpen and fringy position players

A year after graduating a whole lot of highly touted talent (Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer) and sending up a pleasant surprise (Nicky Delmonico), the Charlotte Knights start this season in a bit of a lull.

Michael Kopech will surely give the Knights’ marketing team plenty to play with, but otherwise Charlotte opens biding its time until the next big names — notably Eloy Jimenez and Alec Hansen — arrive. In the interim, Knights have opportunities for fringe prospects, as well as a bullpen full of veterans who could be seen in Chicago over the next few months.


It’s feasible that Gonzalez, 25, could glue together his skills into a backup catcher package. Baseball Prospectus’ catching metrics have loved his framing, and he showed a decent batting eye (11.6 percent walk rate, 17 percent strikeout rate in 2017). He just doesn’t have power, so when the hit tool disappears on him like it did last year, he doesn’t offer anything offensively. Austin is likely a placeholder until Kevan Smith is healthy, after which it seems like he’ll return to A-ball.


The Sox are intriguing on the corners, even if nobody has a clear trajectory to the majors. Gillaspie will try to reclaim his top-100 prospect status at first base, while third looks like it could be split between Leonard and Skole. Leonard, 25, has carved out a decent minor-league career but doesn’t have a carrying tool.  Skole, 28, will try to break through his International League ceiling after a monster spring.

Rondon is on the 40-man, and has a little bit of MLB experience. He’s the shortstop insurance. With he, Elmore and Perez taking up the middle infield spots, this is why many were apprehensive about trading Jake Peter. Alvarez’s skill set seems to have a Double-A ceiling, but it’s understandable if you want to hold a flicker of hope for the speed skating story.


Tilson looked like a potential second-division starter in center field before a string of injuries caused him to miss the last year and a half. He’ll get the chance to play every day, hopefully showing that the leg/ankle/foot problems didn’t cost him his impact speed.

Cordell commanded his share of the attention during Cactus League play as he built a legitimate case for a fourth-outfield spot. He missed the second half of the season with a fractured vertebra, so it makes sense to give him a month of everyday play to better understand his game. Both players will try to position themselves for a promotion in case of injury, or maybe Adam Engel being unable to hack it.

Palka adds to the pile of corner power bats on the team, and he has the added bonus of being on the 40-man roster. May isn’t, so he’ll need the dominoes to fall the right way to get back in the mix. Otherwise, his ship may have sailed last season.

Starting pitchers

After a rotation featuring Giolito, Lopez and Fulmer last year, this is quite the drop-off. Kopech brings star power and a desire to improve his changeup and composure during what is hopefully his final stop before the big leagues. After that, the rotation is filled out by the Rule 5 pick Covey, a crafty lefty with shoulder issues (House) and two journeymen righties (Roach and Volstad).

The good news: There’s plenty of room to accommodate Birmingham’s starters over the course of the season, whether it’s Spencer Adams, Jordan Guerrero or Jordan Stephens in the near future, or Hansen in due time.


If Thursday’s home opener is any indication, there could be a bit of a revolving door between Chicago and Charlotte in this area. We spent plenty of time in March tracking the bullpen battle, and you can divide this field into four groups as April begins.

No. 1: Proven righties: Scahill, Gomez. Gomez made the best opening move during Cactus League play, but a shoulder issue caused him to miss enough time to fall back into the pack. Neither he nor Scahill are overpowering, but they have plenty of experience between them.

No. 2: Proven lefties: Cedeno, Ross. Both came to the Sox as non-roster invitees after missing most of 2017 with injuries. Both were throwing fine by the end of the spring, so both are in play if Aaron Bummer slips up.

No. 3: Velocity, but…: Rondon, Vieira. They’re coming from different places. Vieira throws 102, but his MLB experience has been limited to an inning because he doesn’t have a defined secondary pitch. Rondon’s had a closer’s arsenal at times, but he’s been saddled — and saddled himself — with injury and makeup issues.

No. 4: Fell off roster: Beck, Danish. Both were removed from the 40-man after the season, and neither had a spring to write about.

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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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I really want Danish to make it. He’s still the guy I’m irrationally hopeful for. Perhaps the move to the bullpen will be good for him.


If this team can produce 3 players who are mainstays on the Big League roster, I’d be happy. 4 and I’d be ecstatic. Hope the Sox find a way to keep Hansen fixed. Need him to succeed.

Patrick Nolan

I was pretty confused last season as to why at least one of Guerrero, Adams, or Stephens didn’t get a crack at AAA.

I’m even more confused now that something called “Donn Roach” is in the AAA rotation.


I’m slightly thankful he’s on the roster, as it led me to discover that he pitched for something called the KT Wiz last year. And now I know a baseball team exists called the KT Wiz.


KT Wiz sounds like slang for something you want to see your urologist about

Eagle Bones

Agreed, I don’t understand them being so conservative with the assignments for those three, especially when there are so many non-prospects in this rotation.

Trooper Galactus

I think Aaron Bummer has slipped up.