Farm report: Sox prospects back to playing baseball
So much was missing from baseball last season. Because of COVID-19:
• The 162-game schedule was scaled to 60 games against divisional opponents only by Major League Baseball.
• There were no fans in the stands, unless you want to count the cardboard cutouts.
• Minor league baseball was canceled.
The White Sox were thrilled to partner with the idle Schaumburg Boomers and use Wintrust Field as the alternate training site for many of their top prospects.
They made the best of a difficult situation, but there were no games and the bulk of the Sox's farm system had to sit out and wait for 2021.
And now, minor league baseball is back.
"I know that they're salivating at the opportunity to go out there and show us what they're capable of doing," said Chris Getz, the White Sox's assistant GM/director of player development.
Minor league games started last week. Here are the Sox's teams competing this year:
Class AAA Charlotte
Most of the Sox's top young talent -- including injured outfielders Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, plus Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn -- has advanced to the majors, and there are some names to keep an eye on.
Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets are promising hitters that need at-bats after sitting out last season.
"They don't have a lot of playing time under their belt based on the obvious, but I feel like their game is not too far off," Getz said. "They just need to continue to play and if they're called upon, I feel they can be productive."
Jake Burger is playing with Charlotte after a three-year layoff. The Sox's first-round draft pick in 2017 sat out 2018 and 2019 with an Achilles injury and tried to salvage last season by playing in the CarShield Collegiate League in his native St. Louis.
After getting off to an 0-for-7 start at Triple-A, Burger hit a 2-run homer Sunday.
Class AA Birmingham
The Barons' starting rotation looks solid with Blake Battenfield, Kade McClure, Konnor Pilkington and Emilio Vargas, and right fielder Micker Adolfo is back after sitting out last season and missing most of 2019 and 2018 with an elbow injury that required surgery.
"He did well at the alternate site (in Schaumburg) and I saw him drive the ball to right-center and center field," Getz said. "If he stays with that approach, we're really going to be able to tap into the power that he naturally has, which is his strength."
Class A Winston-Salem
The White Sox in January signed the No. 1 international prospect, Yoelqui Cespedes.
The 23-year-old outfielder has major league talent but he last played in 2019 in his native Cuba and needs minor league experience.
High A Winston-Salem looks like a good launching point for Cespedes once his visa is approved, which should happen soon.
"He's obviously a guy that is worthy of paying attention to but he hasn't played professional baseball," Getz said. "He's an exciting player. He's got power, he's got a nice approach at the plate and just an overall feel for the game."
Class A Kannapolis
Starting pitchers Jared Kelley, Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist are high draft picks and all are Top 10 prospects. Thompson and Dalquist got very brief looks with the Arizona League Sox in 2019, and the trio will try to grow together at Low Class A.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Kelley also has a big upside.
"Jared's got a big fastball we've seen in the upper-90s, and he's continuing to refine his breaking ball," Getz said. "It's a slider. It's a pretty good pitch. It's a matter of getting it in the zone, making it a competitive pitch. And he's got a solid change.
"So it's really getting out there, playing under the lights with his teammates, building up innings and go from there."