The White Sox have drafted largely from the collegiate ranks over the last couple of years, and the Kannapolis Intimidators stand to benefit from that approach. You can almost fill out an entire lineup card with Division I talent on most nights.
There are a ton of 22- and 23-year-olds on the roster, which means the Intimidators should be fairly skilled for a Low-A team. Wins would be beneficial for affiliate health, but it’ll be hard to distinguish legitimate development from merely being old for the level, at least from afar. Only Delmarva, the Baltimore Orioles affiliate, has an older roster in the South Atlantic League.
OK, Skoug is one guy whose development should be detectable. He was a preseason top-25 collegiate prospect who slipped to the seventh round because of a surge in whiffs. His strikeout rate nearly doubled from his sophomore year (16.2 percent) to his junior year (31 percent) at TCU, which diminished enthusiasm for his newfound power (20 homers). He proceeded to strike out 36 times over his 96 pro plate appearances last year, so cutting that rate is Job One.
Perez is the opposite. He’s only struck out in 25 of 550 plate appearances over his pro career, but he hasn’t been able to translate that into production after an encouraging season in the Dominican Summer League a few years ago. Hickman is in between the two. The Sox drafted him out of Tyler Flowers’ program (Chipola College) in the 13th round of the 2016 draft and signed him to the max bonus of $100,000. He spent his first two pro seasons in the Arizona Fire League, where he’s hit well enough, but also where he’s spent less and less time at catcher.
This is an all-college infield with the exception of Cruz, the Dominican signing who is repeating the level after an unproductive season in Winston-Salem. Blackman (13th round, Ole Miss) appears to be the everyday second baseman, and Cruz and Laz Rivera (27th round, Miami) look like they’re handling the left side of the infield. The question was whether Clifton Park’s Yurchak (12th round, Binghamton) would play there, but it seems as though the Sox are moving him to first base, where they hope the bat that dominated for Great Falls can make the jump to Low-A.
And this is an all-college outfield. Gonzalez (New Mexico) headlines the group, as the third-round pick offers intriguing on-base skills with some pop in center field. Frost (15th round, Gonzaga) and Dedelow (ninth round, Indiana) will man the corners. The latter showed some standout power in Great Falls, hitting 13 homers and slugging .548 for the Voyagers. Brown, 24, was an undrafted signing out of TCU last year.
This requires a bit of deduction because the Intimidators didn’t formally announce a rotation. The top four have already pitched, but rainouts allowed the Intimidators to skip a turn. Henzman (fourth round) and McClure (sixth round) are both top-10 2017 draft picks from Louisville. Henzman was Zack Burdi‘s successor as the Cardinals’ closer, but the White Sox are trying to stretch him out into a sinker-oriented starter. Henzman started for Louisville, and he’s got a 6-foot-7-inch frame to refine.
Parke (21st round, South Carolina) and Rigler (31st round, Kansas State) are a couple of 23-year-old lefties, and Von Ruden is an undrafted signee out of Hawaii. The last pitcher listed hasn’t yet pitched, as the Intimidators went with a bullpen game on Thursday.
- Blake Battenfield
- Andre Davis (DL)
- Jake Elliott
- Kevin Escorcia
- Tyler Johnson
- Luis Ledo
- Aron McRee
- J.B. Olson (DL)
- Yelmison Peralta
- Yosmer Solorzano
Johnson is atop the list when it comes to pedigree. The fifth-round pick was South Carolina’s closer, and while the Sox had ideas of stretching him out, it apparently became clear to everybody that he’s cut out for high-leverage work. Solorzano is an international signing who is shifting to relief work after starting all but one of his 52 appearances. He made an impressive debut as an 18-year-old in the Arizona Rookie League, but hasn’t been able to summon an encore. The rest have not stood out to date in their pro careers for one reason or another.