Sunday, February 23, 2020

2020 Winston Salem Dash Prospect Preview

The White Sox had a very clear transition this off season going from a rebuilding team to a team that is planning to compete. They were one of the most aggressive teams in baseball in pursuing free agent and signed Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnacion. In 2019, top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease graduated to the majors and several other young players, Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson took huge steps forward. 

In 2020, Luis Robert, Michael Kopech and Nick Madrigal are top prospects that are certain to be in the big leagues. Robert, of course dominated the first part of the 2019 Carolina League season with a.453 bating average and eight homers and eight steals in 19 games. 

Once Robert, Kopech and Madrigal lose their prospect status, the White Sox farm system will become one of the leanest in baseball.  Most of the remaining prospects have already passed the Carolina League although Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert will be returning from Tommy John surgery and could spend time on the Dash while rehabbing.  

Of the ten organizations with teams in the Carolina League, The White Sox have the least number of interesting prospects with a realistic chance to play in the Carolina League in 2020 by a wide margin. 

Best Guess on Assignments

Position  Prospect  Assignment
RF Alex Destino Winston Salem
RHP Andrew Dalquist Kannapolis is most likely with an outside chance to reach Winston Salem if things go well.
1B Andrew Vaughn Likely starts in Winston Salem and gets promoted to Birmingham early in the year.
OF Benjamin Bailey Will be stateside.  Likely starting in the AZL with a chance to be promoted to Great Falls
OF Bryce Bush Start in Kannapolis with a chance to get promoted to Winston Salem based on performance.
3B Jake Burger Just getting on the field and proving he is healthy is important.  Once healthy he could move quickly.
RHP Jonathan Stiever Birmingham
RHP Kade McClure Either Winston Salem or Birmingham.  Should be on the Barons most of the year.
LHP Konnor Pilkington Likely starts in Winston Salem with a chance to get promoted to Birminham later in the year.
SS Lenyn Sosa Either Kannapolis or Winston Salem.  Should be on the Dash for at least the 2nd half of the year.
RHP Matthew Thompson Kannapolis is most likely with an outside chance to reach Winston Salem if things go well.
LHP Taylor Varnell Likely starts in Winston Salem with a chance to get promoted to Birminham later in the year.
SS Yolbert Sanchez Given his age and signing bonus, full season is likely, probably Kannapolis. 

Returning Dash Prospects

Andrew Vaughn (6'0" 214 lbs DOB 4-3-98 1B RR 1st round in 2019) the hitting skills have to be exceptional to be limited to first base at only six feet tall and be the third overall pick in the draft.  Vaughn was very good as a Freshman and dominant his last two years in the PAC 12 at Cal.  

Vaughn  played 29 games for the Dash in 2019 and was solid but did not dominate (.278 / .349 / .760 with 36 strikeouts to 30 walks).  He will likely begin in Winston Salem and should be promoted to AA Birmingham in one to two months.

Taylor Varnell (6'1" 190 lbs DOB 5-5-95 LHP 29th round in 2018) has been impressive since the White Sox took him as a late rounder.  Varnell was a four year college player that had a disappointing senior year at Oral Roberts although he had his best game of the year against a talented Wichita State team that featured Alec Bohm.  In his first full season as a pro in 2019, Varnell had twenty starts for Kannapolis in the Sally league and finished with four starts for Winston Salem.   Overall he pitched 127.1 innings allowing 106 hits and 44 walks while striking out 136.

Varnell is one of those southpaws with good movement on his fastball which reaches the low nineties.  He has a slow curveball which is especially tough on a lefthanded hitters and a change up which has been a successful pitch for him at the Sally and Carolina League levels.  Varnell is likely to began 2020 with the Dash since he only threw 21.1 innings in the Carolina League in 2019 but could be promoted to Birmingham quickly if he gets off to a good start given his age and his success in 2019.

Konnor Pilkington (6'3" 225 lbs DOB 9-12-97 LHP 3rd round on 2018) has followed a remarkably similar career path to the Orioles prospect, Blaine Knight. Both were successful SEC pitchers selected in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft who were dominant to begin 2019 in the Sally League and disappointing in the Carolina League.   In six starts to begin the year for Kannapolis, Pilkington threw 33.1 innings allowing only 15 hits and 11 walks while striking out 42.  Pilkington was promoted to Winston Salem on May 11th.  In 95.2 innings for the Dash, Pilkington allowed 99 hits and 44 walks while striking out 96. 

Early in 2019, Pilkington was far more successful that Jonathan Stiever who the White Sox selected a couple rounds after Pilkington in the 2018 draft.  Yet by the end of the year, Stiever was a hot prospect and Pilkington fell off the radar.   

After Pilkington's sophomore year at Mississippi State, he was expected to be a very high draft pick, but his fastball has gone from a mid nineties pitch to a low nineties pitch.  Both the curveball and change up have the potential to be plus pitches but they have been hit or miss.  When Pilkington is pitching well, his command is strong, but it has been inconsistent the last couple of years.  Pilkington was young for a college draft pick, he will be twenty two for the whole 2020 season so there is time to rebound.  

Winston Salem or Birmingham  

Kade McClure (6'7" 230 lbs DOB 2-12-96 RHP 6th round in 2017) was a very good college pitcher at Louisville where he went 12-0 as a Sophomore.  McClure missed most of 2018 with a leg injury but rebounded with a solid season in 2019 making ten starts for Kanapolis before being promoted to Winston Salem where he made twelve starts.

Despite his size, McClure is more of a command and control pitcher than a power arm.  As a pro McClure is averaging 2.46 walks per nine innings.  McClure throws in low nineties and with his height he gets good extension.  He mixes the fastball with a decent slider and change up.  McClure has the potential to be a back of the rotation innings eater.

McClure's childhood buddy was Mitch Trubisky, the Chicago Bears quarterback.

Likely To Be Promoted from Winston Salem to Birmingham

Jonathan Stiever (RHP)- it is extremely unusual for a pitcher to improve during the season like Stiever did in 2019.  Stiever always had strong command but both in college at Indiana University and as a pro through the first part of 2019, he was not dominant.  The White Sox say that Stiever had some bad luck at Kannapolis and his BABIP was .361.  However, at Kannapolis, Stiever pitched 74 innings allowing 88 hits and 14 walks while striking out 77.

After Stiever was promoted to Winston Salem on June 20th he worked closely with Dash's pitching coach, Matt Zaleski.  Stiever had been throwing in the low to mid nineties but was now in the mid to upper nineties.  In addition, Stiever became more consistent with his slider.  He also throw a curveball and change up which he is still refining.  In 71 innings for Winston Salem, Stiever only allowed 56 hits and 13 walks while striking out 77.  

New Dash Prospects

Lenyn Sosa (6'0" 180 lbs DOB 1-25-00 SS RR 2016 IFA signing) has the potential to be an elite defensive shortstop.  Sosa's glove is ahead of his bat, but 35 doubles as a nineteen year old in the Sally league is impressive. In Prospect Live's fly distance data, Sosa's fly ball distance of 287.4 was 31st out of 100 players in A ball.  Sosa was signed out of Venezuela for $325,000 and held his own as a seventeen year old in the AZL before spending 2018 with Great Falls in the Pioneer League.  

Sosa does need to improve his patience (5% walk rate) but he has always been one of the youngest players in the league.  Sosa is one young White Sox prospect that has progressed nicely and there is a lot to like.  Sosa looks very underrated.

Bryce  Bush (6'0" 200 lbs DOB 12-14-99 OF RR 33rd round in 2018) the White Sox took a late round flyer on Bush who was expected to attend Mississippi State.  It was a surprise that they signed him for a way over slot $290,000 signing bonus.  Bush was a cold weather high school player from Michigan.  He was assigned to the AZL, where in twelve games he hit .442 / .538 / 1.143 earning a promotion to Great Falls in the Pioneer League.  Bush held his own in twenty four games for Great Falls hitting .250 / .327 / .713 and was assigned to Kannapolis to begin 2020.

The Sally League as a nineteen year was a big challenge for Bush who only hit .201 / .285 / .631 in sixty seven games for Kannapolis.  Bush started to swing the bat better when he began wearing glasses.  He made nine errors in ten games at third base and was converted to a corner outfielder.  Bush also got  bronchitis and did not play for Kannapolis after July 13th.

It will be a fresh start for Bush in 2020 at Kannapolis and there is  the potential for a very different outcome now that he is a year older, does not have to worry about playing third base, no longer has vision issues and the bronchitis is behind him.  

Jake Burger (6'2" 210 lbs DOB 4-10-96 3B RR 1st round  in 2017) when the White Sox selected Burger as the eleventh overall pick three years ago they likely envisioned Burger being on the cusp of the majors heading into 2020.   Unfortunately Burger has missed the last two years due to tearing his achilles tendon twice and a slow recovery.  Burger was a tremendous hitter at Missouri State where he hit 43 homers with OPS around 1.100 his last two years in college which was in a total of 119 games.   

Burger was expected to return in June of 2019 but a severely bruised heel delayed that and now the White Sox are talking about a June 2020 return.  Burger is a stocky guy and it was always questionable if he was going to stick at third base.  The injuries certainly make it more likely that he is limited to designated hitter when he does come back. 

Alex  Destino (6'2" 215 lbs DOB 10-24-95 RF LL 14th round in 2017) as an advanced college hitter with 605 at bats for University of South Carolina in the SEC, it was disappointing that Destino's 2018 statistics in the hitter friendly Pioneer League were mediocre (.250 / .296 / .711).  However, Destino rebounded with a strong year for Kannapolis in 2019.  He hit .298 / .376 / .852 with 17 homers.

Destino is considered an above average rightfielder with a strong arm.  I came across this play he made in college in 2016.

Destino should be the Dash starting rightfielder to begin 2020. He did play four games for Winston Salem as a fill in in early 2019 but we will consider him a new prospect here.  Given his age, Destino will look to get promoted to Birmingham for the second half of 2020.

Yolbert Sanchez  (5'11" 176 lbs DOB 3-3-97 SS RR 2019 IFA signing) the White Sox signed Sanchez on July 2, 2019 for a 2.5 million dollar signing bonus.  Sanchez is from Cuba and is considered a defensive first shortstop.  He was ranked by MLB Pipeline in 2018 international free agents higher than prospects such as Misael Urbina, Orelvis Martinez, Francisco Alvarez and Noelvi Marte.

Sanchez played twenty nine games in the Dominican Summer League where he hit .297 / .386 / .827.  Given his age, Sanchez should start 2020 in full season ball. It will be interesting to see if the White Sox have both Sanchez and Sosa at Kannapolis to begin the season and how they handle who plays shortstop.  

2019 Notable White Sox Draft Picks

Round  Pick Player Age Position School Bonus
1 3 Andrew Vaughn 21 1B California $7,221,200
2 45 Matthew Thompson 18 P Cypress Ranch HS $2,100,000
3 81 Andrew Dalquist 18 P Redondo Union HS $2,000,000
4 110 James Beard 18 CF Loyd Star HS $350,000
11 320 Victor Torres 18 C International Baseball Academy $175,000
12 350 Misael Gonzalez Acosta 18 CF Leadership Christian Academy $185,000
13 380 Cooper Bradford 21 P Florida Southern $125,000
14 410 McKinley Moore 20 P Arkansas-Little Rock $100,000
17 500 Jeremiah Burke 21 P Georgetown $125,000
19 560 Joshua Rivera 20 SS Chipola JC (FL) $125,000
21 620 Chase Solesky 21 P Tulane $125,000
22 650 Logan Glass 18 CF Mustang HS $170,000
34 1010 Chase Krogman 18 OF Liberty Senior HS $190,000

The White Sox had a very top heavy draft.  Andrew Vaughn wass the only 2019 draft pick for any team that made it to the Carolina League in 2019 and certainly was one of the more advanced players from the draft.  As a result Vaughn is listed in the returning player section.  After Vaughn, the White Sox took two overslot high upside high school pitchers which left only $10,000 bonuses each for their picks from round five through ten. 

It is entirely possible that Vaughn whose stay in the Carolina League is likely to be short, is the only player from the 2019 draft class to play for Winston Salem in 2020.  

Matthew Thompson ( 6'3" 195 DOB 8-11-00 RHP) has a great pitchers body with an exceptional curve and throws a low to mid 90s fastball.  Thompson has all the skills but was somewhat inconsistent in high school where he played with JJ Goss, who was picked by the Tampa Bays Rays at pick 36. 

Thompson is more likely to reach Winston Salem in 2021.

Andrew Dalquist (6'1" 175 lbs DOB 11-13-00 RHP) another very projectable high school arm. Dalquist perhaps is a bit more advanced than Matthew Thompson now, but Thompson may have a bit more upside.  The White Sox paid almost three times the slot value to sign Dalquist.

The White Sox would have to be aggressive and everything would have to go perfect for Dalquist to reach Winston Salem in 2020.

One Down the Road to Monitor

The White Sox have a trio of prospects in short season ball that could make it to Kannapolis by the end of the season and be ready for Winston Salem in 2021.  This group includes James Beard (19 year old CF), Bryan Ramos (18 year old 3B), and Luis Mieses (19 year old OF).  

Manuel Veloz (19 year old RHP) had a nice year in DSL and will be stateside in 2020.   

There are a trio of 2019 / 2020 J2 signings to watch that will likely be in the DSL in 2020 including two from famous baseball families.  This group includes Cristian Mena (17 year old RHP), Elijah Tatis (18 year old shortstop) and Randel Mondesi (17 year old OF).

The White Sox reportedly have an agreement in place to sign Cuban right handed pitcher Norge Carlos Vera on July 2nd for a 1.5 million dolar signing bonus.  The White Sox will also have the eleventh pick in the 2020 draft.

However, the White Sox prospect to watch that is a few years away from Winston Salem was a late unheralded signing from the 2018 / 2019 international class.

Benyamin Bailey (6'4" 215 lbs DOB 9-18-01 OF RR 2019 IFA signing) signed out of Panama for only a $35,000 signing bonus.  Bailey impressed with his size and hit .324 / .477 / .931 in the DSL.  Bailey had a walk percentage of 21.4% versus a strikeout percentage of 16.5%.  Bailey had ten stolen bases and two homers in 55 games.  Obviously given his size there is hope that his power develops. 

Bailey will likely start out in the AZL in 2020 and looks like a potential steal for the White Sox. 

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