2022 White Sox affiliate preview: Birmingham Barons (Double-A)

The Birmingham Barons were the sole bastion of respectable team play in the White Sox farm system last year, although even they experienced heartbreak. Justin Jirschele’s crew went 62-56 for the best record in the chain, but they lost their final four games and had a last-ditch doubleheader rained out, missing the postseason by half a game.

The Barons were partially a victim of their own success. A stout rotation in the first half lost Kade McClure and John Parke to Charlotte, and Konnor Pilkington to Cleveland in the César Hernández trade. As you may remember from the Winston-Salem Dash preview, rotation replacements weren’t the easiest to find during the season.

Unlike the Dash, the Barons don’t have an infusion of exciting new names to open the season. Instead, they’re bringing back a number of notable prospects who have unfinished business establishing themselves at Double-A. If the adjustments come quickly, a few of them could end up in Chicago at some point in the second half.

(Ages in parentheses as of July 1)

Starters

This rotation lacks name-brand appeal, but Bilous and Martin are third-day draft picks who were selected one round apart in 2018, and they’ve had moments. Bilous dominated Winston-Salem to start his 2021 and had a few dominant starts early in Birmingham but wore down during the second half. The Sox stamped him with an endorsement via a 40-man roster spot. Martin had the inverse of Bilous’ season, with diminishing returns at High-A before throwing four straight scoreless outings out of six in Birmingham.

Henzman hasn’t pitched since 2019, so it’s unclear what role he takes on this team. He started all 24 games in which he pitched that year, but he also struck out 62 batters over 120 innings, so it’d be hard to fault the Sox if they shifted him to relief. Dominguez returns to Birmingham after a late-season cameo with Charlotte. Neither that stint, nor an Arizona Fall League tour, went well. He gave up 27 runs over 19 innings between the two. Paulino fills out the rotation.

Relievers

Freeman is the headliner of an otherwise anonymous bullpen. Drafted in the 15th round back in 2019, he’s figured out how to throw strikes with a fastball-slider combo, and he could factor into some bullpen plans later in the season. Glowicki is a Downers Grove South product, so here’s a shoutout to a fellow Mustang.

Catchers

Fernández has a Yermín Mercedes vibe about him, and also a shape. He stands 5’11” and 245 pounds and hits well for somebody playing catcher, including a .282/.353/.446 line over 60 games with the Barons last year. Skoug moves up and down the organization based on need. It’s a little surprising that Raudy Read isn’t listed as a catcher, but he played more first base than catcher for the first time in his career last year, and it appears he’s staying there.

Infielders

This is the deepest part of the Barons roster, with Rodriguez, Sánchez and Sosa all capable of playing shortstop. I’m guessing the arrangement will have Rodriguez there most of the time, with Sánchez leading the way at second. Sosa doesn’t have the power of a third baseman, but he needs the at-bats. Middle-infield reps should be available in a matter of weeks. Sánchez hit .343/.369/.469 over 41 games with Birmingham last year, with a hit tool that makes him likely to move up rather quickly. Rodriguez has been a quick study at every level thus far, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it takes him more time to figure out the speed of the Double-A game.

Curbelo racked up 51 extra-base hits last year at Winston-Salem, but he also struck out 152 times over 109 games, so this could be where his skill set runs its course.

Outfielders

Céspedes managed to overcome the weakness in his strike-zone judgment (three walks, 27 strikeouts over 100 plate appearances) to hit a respectable .298/.340/.404 at Birmingham last year, but a humbling turn in the Arizona Fall League emphasized the task at hand. He needs to tighten up his approach and get the ball off the ground, and if spring training is indication, he’s taken the assignment to heart.

The outfield is otherwise stocked with organizational players, which just means there’s room for Oscar Colás if and when he starts making a mockery of the Sally League.

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Jim Margalus
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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shaggy65

I was really surprised to see Sanchez ticketed for AA to start the year. I was also surprised by the limited at- bats he saw in the AZL, considering his production. Does anyone else get the feeling the organization is dragging their feet with a guy who already plays like a borderline major-leaguer?