2018 Charlotte Knights affiliate reviewEloy Jimenez (Clinton Cole)

2018 Charlotte Knights affiliate review

Not counting rehab stints, 28 players spent time on the roster of the Chicago White Sox and Charlotte Knights — 10 position players, 18 pitchers. The White Sox were careful with their top two prospects, but everybody else could be called up to Chicago at a moment’s notice for whatever he could offer.

That’s great news for individuals on the fringes of the roster, but not great news for either team when it comes to wins and losses. The Knights went 64-75, good for last place in the International League South Division.

Here’s how the Knights stacked up against the league:

  • Charlotte hitters: 26.5 years, .248/.316/.383, 8.4% BB, 23.4% K
  • Charlotte pitchers: 25.8 years, 4.52 RA/9, 9.2% BB, 22.0% K
  • The league: 26.5/26.2, 4.31 RA/9, .252/.320/.389, 8.3% BB, 22.0% K

Most of the key Knights have spent September showing what they can and can’t do in Chicago, but among those who didn’t make the cut for one reason or another…

Pitchers

*Carson Fulmer probably would be a very surprising omission from the active September roster, considering he opened the season in the White Sox rotation. As it played out, not much was made of it. Fulmer had a 6.75 ERA in Charlotte’s rotation, so they put him in the bullpen around the All-Star break. His performance there was … OK. His bullpen ERA to 4.50 with 24 strikeouts to nine walks over 24 innings, and more outings were good than bad. But still, he didn’t get the call over guys like Thyago Vieira, Jeanmar Gomez, etc. One theory: He’s getting a head start on some offseason work:

*Spencer Adams led White Sox minor-league pitchers in innings with 159, which is a triumph in and of itself considering he averaged fewer than five innings over his first 10 starts at Birmingham in 2018. Over his final 18 starts — 15 of those at Charlotte — Adams averaged better than six innings a start, and posted a 2.67 ERA over that stretch. There are some causes for concern, starting with the walk rate that jumped to roughly twice his career average with Charlotte (10.2 percent). He issued 38 walks to just 42 strikeouts over 90 1/3 innings while being a fly ball pitcher, which is playing with fire to say the least. That’s summed up in the discrepancy between his ERA (3.19) and FIP (5.14). He’s still only 22, but the White Sox will have to decide whether to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

*Jordan Stephens is another Rule 5 candidate, and he looked like a September call-up until a second-half fade set in. Through his first 15 starts between Birmingham and Charlotte, Stephens posted a 3.40 ERA with competitive peripherals (95 strikeouts to 29 walks) over his first 100 innings. Over his remaining 46⅔ innings, Stephens walked 25 on top of 56 hits, giving him a 5.98 ERA over that stretch. That seemed to take him out of the running for a 40-man roster addition, at least in September. Considering he was projected to be a bullpen arm even when the Sox drafted him out of Rice in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, he seems more likely to be selected.

*Jordan Guerrero is no stranger to being left off the 40-man roster, and he technically had a worse year than his 2017, so he’ll probably get the same treatment. But he at least made himself more interesting, with a 3.46 ERA with 62 strikeouts against 28 walks over 65 innings at Charlotte. Over the same workload at Birmingham, he had a 6.06 ERA.  I’d guess that’s not enough to change the conversation, but it’s worth noting.

Position players

*Eloy Jimenez could’ve been called up in September … or August … or July … or June. Hell, he probably could’ve survived on the Opening Day roster. Instead, he played the entire year in the minors, splitting his 108 games nearly down the middle between Charlotte and Birmingham, and hitting .337/.384/.577 with 28 doubles, 22 homers and just 69 strikeouts. Baseball America called Jimenez the top prospect in both the International and Southern leagues, with his left-field-only defense his lone shortcoming. It wasn’t a reason to hold him down, but that’s service-time manipulation for you.

*Seby Zavala gained separation from the productive platoon with Zack Collins at Birmingham, getting the first crack at catcher reps in Charlotte starting in late June. It’s a testament to his advantage in defense, but he’d also hit .271/.358/.472 at Birmingham and was going to turn 25 in August, so it was time. Triple-A challenged him. The walks and homers were fewer and further between, resulting in a .243/.267/.359 line. A wrist injury affected him, but finishing the season 0-for-16 after he said he was healthy didn’t help matters, either. He could get a chance to slide into Kevan Smith‘s third catcher role. If he can conquer the learning curve.

*Charlie Tilson can call his year a victory, if only because he got back to the majors after a series of leg injuries threatened to limit his MLB experience to a half-game. He hit .264/.331/.292 and didn’t offer much more than an OK control of the strike zone — just two extra-base hits, two steals in five attempts, and his defense didn’t impress, either. The big picture is still a problem, as he finished with a .577 OPS at Charlotte, and Ryan Cordell got called up to Chicago for September instead. Cordell hasn’t taken advantage of his audition, either, so it still could be a fairly even competition in the center field ranks, assuming both players survive 40-man roster shifting. That might not be the case.

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Greg Nix
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I’m intrigued that Fulmer is working with Driveline. I’d like to see more fringe players take advantage of outside coaching. A guy like Nicky Delmonico doesn’t have much to lose by working with a launch angle coach. 

Willardmarshall
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Willardmarshall

What a dearth of MLB and MiLB Sox who achieved even a “surprisingly decent” season….Guess my expectations were too high….