Previewing the 2018 Kannapolis Intimidators

Luis Robert, photo courtesy of
http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/sites/csnchicago/files/2017/05/27/luisrobertok.jpg

Hey guys, Happy Holidays and welcome to the 2018 Sally team preview series, I’m excited to get these going again.  This is my 3rd year of doing the previews, they make for a great off-season project and I learn a ton from them.

Today I’ll be looking at the 2018 Kannapolis Intimidators, the single-A full season affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.  The 2017 Intimidators were my pick for the most talented team in the Sally.  Click here for a look back at last years preview:  Previewing the 2017 Kannapolis Intimidators

For those not familiar with the series: I scour the rookie levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2018 and whenever possible I try to include a scouting report.   New for this year, I’ll also be interviewing some of my favorite prospectors to find out who they’re most excited about coming out of rookie ball.  Both the high end players and some sleepers to watch for.  I’m looking forward to collaborating with some talented people. Some that I know fairly well and others that I’m just a fan of there work.

Big thanks to Matt Cassidy, Editor of “Future Sox” (http://www.chicagonow.com/future-sox)(and on Twitter @FutureSox) for doing a lot of the heavy lifting on this piece.   Matt has actually helped out tremendously on all of the Kanny previews.  He’s an excellent resource and no one knows the White Sox system better.   It’s an honor to have him here.  And go check out “Future Sox”, one of the best team prospect oriented websites on the net.

At Notes from the Sally it’s all about live look scouting.  Once I see the 2018 Intimidators, you can expect write ups on many of the players listed.  Also Dan Victor (on Twitter @slydanno70) a frequent contributor to Notes, is based in Charlotte and sees a ton of Kanny games.  So he’ll likely be posting  his thoughts on many of the players as well.

 

Lets meet the notables

 

Luis Robert, photo courtesy of http://scontent.cdninstagram.com/t51.2885-15/e35/p480x480/13584142_1073360109418609_959031045_n.jpg?ig_cache_key=MTI4NjIxOTgyMzIzNjIyMzYwMw%3D%3D.2

CF)  Luis Robert- Age 20, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was a high profile signee out of Cuba in 2016.

Look for Matt’s thoughts on Robert below.

 

 

Blake Rutherford, photo courtesy of https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DFM5cx1U0AAI19z.jpg

CF-LF) Blake Rutherford- Age 20, 6’3″ 190 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted 18th overall in the 2016 draft out of high school in Southern California.

You wouldn’t know it by his .88 ISO in 2017 but Rutherford is a strong young man with plus raw power.  Right now he’s content staying back and driving sharp grounders and low line drives towards the center of the diamond.  He’s pretty proficient at it but an outfielder who hits 280 and 10 home runs and 10 steals isn’t very interesting.   At some point he’s going to have to alter his swing plane and start looking to drive the ball more.  If he does that, he’s capable of being a 260 Ish hitter with 25+ HR. And that will play in CF or a corner.  He could potentially be back in the Sally in 2018 for at least a 1/2 season.

 

 

Dylan Cease, photo courtesy of https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-media-theathletic-production/app/uploads/2017/08/22083254/AP_479259191966-1024×683.jpg

RHP) Dylan Cease-  Turns 22 in December, listed 6’2″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 draft out of high school in Milton, GA (Atlanta Metro).

I missed the young fireballer in the 2nd half of 2017 after his trade to the White Sox.  Last yr I wasn’t expecting Hanson or Dunning and we got both.  I think there’s a chance Cease comes back.

Rich Wilson of “Prospect 361”  released his White Sox top 10 prospect list back in October and had this to say about Cease:

“Dylan Cease has a power arsenal that consists of an 80-grade fastball that sits in the upper nineties, hitting triple-digits with regularity.  He complements the fastball with an improving curveball that he’s now able to throw for strikes.  The change-up also took a nice step-up and while it’s still his third pitch, shows enough promise that we can grade it out as a future above-average offering.”

“The delivery is very easy, oozing with athleticism.  He’s able to repeat his delivery well and his 3.00+ walk-per-nine rate should improve as he’s able to throw his curveball more consistently for strikes.  Yeah, he’s had Tommy John Surgery, but so did Jacob deGrom early in his career and things have worked out just fine.”

For the rest of the White Sox top 10, click here:

Chicago White Sox

 

Luis Gonzalez, photo courtesy of https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/VAyVMs1z78YrsdJupbDuuvLcb4U=/0x0:3635×2253/1200×800/filters:focal(1063×754:1643×1334)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/56471213/luisgonzalez.0.jpg

CF) Luis Gonzalez- Age 22, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats and throws left.   He was drafted in the 3rd rd (Pick 87) of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of New Mexico.

Rob Young of “Future Sox” has a detailed report on Gonzalez, he sounds like a high floor medium ceiling type of player:  http://www.chicagonow.com/future-sox/2017/06/white-sox-draft-cf-luis-gonzalez-in-the-3rd-round/

 

 

Corey Zangari, photo courtesy of http://www.milb.com/assets/images/1/6/8/180188168/cuts/Zangari_it3f9hjh_07zc3z9v.jpg

1B)  Corey Zangari- Age 20, listed 6’4″ 240 lbs, bats and throws right.  Zangari was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 draft out high school in Midwest City, OK ( Oklahoma City metro)

Zangari missed nearly all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery.  I got a few looks early in 2016.  He’s a large man and is country strong.  He can drive a baseball a long way but the swing is long and pitch recognition had a ways to come.  I thought at the time if the Sox were patient, a 250-260, 30 HR hitter may emerge.  Also he reportedly has a cannon and is a former pitcher, so he may go that route if the hitting doesn’t work out.    Sorry to hear about the lost development time, still young though.

 

 

 

Now here’s Matt Cassidy giving us some players to watch for coming out of rookie ball.  And his thoughts on what the Intimidators roster might look like.

Question #1  Who is Luis Robert, does he have a chance to stick up the middle defensively and what kind of offensive ceiling are we talking about?

Matt-  “Luis Robert is one of the biggest LatAm amateur signings, ever. His tools are so impressive that publications put him in their MLB T100 lists despite the fact that he had never played outside of Cuba and was just 19 years old. He’s a 70 runner with 60 raw power potential, an above average outfield arm and indications he should be a solid hitter overall. At this point, he’s a true 5-tool talent likely to stick in CF, but there are obviously lots of questions just due to the lack of exposure to pro pitching. He should spend time in Kanny in 2018. His ceiling is a potential All Star if he reaches potential across the board.”

Question #2   Lincoln Henzman, Tyler Johnson, Kade McLure, JB Olson and Will Kincannon were the top 5 arms selected in the 2017 White Sox draft.  They all spent time in the pen post draft, do you see any of them being stretched out?  Any potential impact SP or RP in the group?

Matt-  “Among those, Henzman and McClure are seen as likely starters long term. Johnson is likely to get stretched out to starter innings even though he’s probably a reliever, as the Sox have said they will probably put him on the typical “Sox Plan” for key relievers. That means they start for a year or so to get better at pitching faster, then move back to the pen later. Occasionally pitchers end up doing that then sticking as a starter, like Chris Bassitt did some years back, but that’s rare. Olson and Kincanon are pure relievers, as far as I know. Look for Henzman, McClure and Johnson to all be in the starting rotation in April.”

Question #3  Any hitters taken outside of the top 5 rounds in the most recent draft that caught your eye post draft?

Matt-  “Catcher Evan Skoug was an over-slot signing in the 7th round – big raw power but swing and miss in his game and needs work defensively. He likely opens in Kanny. 12th rounder (and also slightly overslot at 150k bonus) Justin Yurchak will probably start at third for the I’s, and he’s got a very advanced bat. Then there is the mystery that is Sam Abbott – over-slot high school 1B (8th round, $200k) whose primary sport was Water Polo (he had a scholy for that), but he so impressed the Sox in a few looks that they took a gamble on him at that money.”

Question #4  Who are the top Latin players to watch for coming out of the AZL or Great Falls?

Matt- “Amado Nunez is a probable 3B (has played a lot of SS) long term, but has very good feel for hitting, plenty of arm and good infield actions. He’s probably in Kanny in 2018. Lenyn Sosa spent 2017 at age 17, as a middle infielder, having skipped DSL entirely, and still managed to put up some of the best numbers on the AZL White Sox. I doubt he sees Kanny in 2018, at least not to open the season, but it’s not impossible. A trio of catchers have all drawn some interesting reviews – Jhoandro Alfaro (Jorge’s brother), Carlos Perez (brother of also Carlos), and Jose Colina all have notable defensive chops, are young, and will develop slowly but are worth keeping an eye on.”

Question #5   Sleepers?  Is there a player or two not named above that stood out, perhaps with one loud tool (power or speed)?

Matt-  “I can come up with lots of sleepers, but I’ll focus on guys who might play in Kannapolis in 2018. Luis Curbelo lost time to injury, but he’s a guy that was near Top 10 in the ChiSox system before the big offseason hauls a year ago, and he should see Kanny at some point during the year. And the super-deep sleeper? Shortstop Laz Rivera, 28th round this past June. Destroyed AZL (though he was 22) core-numbers-wise, but he also played premium defensive positions, exhibited plate discipline, has plus speed per reports, and I really like the way his swing looks. I think he could break into a SS/2B role with Kannapolis despite the lack of pedigree, but I could be wrong.”

 

And here’s Matt’s best guess for the Kanny roster:

Lineup by position…

C: Evan Skoug
1B: Corey Zangari
2B: Tate Blackman, maybe Luis Curbelo later
SS: Laz Rivera or maybe Amado Nunez if ready
3B: Justin Yurchak
OF: Luis Robert, though maybe not on OD
OF: Blake Rutherford
OF: Luis Gonzalez
DH: Craig Dedelow or Logan Taylor (both outfielders)
Bench: Carlos Perez (C, in platoon), David Cronin (SS/2B), Anthony Villa (1B/3B), Logan Taylor or Tyler Frost (OF)
Rotation…
Tyler Johnson
Lincoln Henzman
Kade McClure
Blake Hickman
One of Kyle Von Ruden, John Parke or Zach Lewis
Bullpen…
Victor Diaz
Will Kincanon
JB Olson
Leonardo de la Cruz
Jaider Rocha
Ryan Boelter
Blake Battenfield
The outfield is the clear strength here, but the rotation should be fun too.

 

Around the diamond

Catcher

Evan Skoug- Age 22, listed 5’11” 200 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft out of the Texas Christian Univ (TCU).

Blake Ward of “247 Sports” had Skoug as the 38th overall draft prospect back in October of last Yr.  You can read his thoughts here:  https://247sports.com/mlb/scouting/Article/2017-MLB-Draft-Top-50-Prospects-31-40-105507408

 

Carlos Perez- Age 21, listed 5’10” 160 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of Venezuela in 2013.

 

1B-C) Michael Hickman- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 215 lbs, bats and throws right.

 

Others who could appear at Catcher:  Nate Nolan

 

Corner Infield

1B)  Corey Zangari

 

 

1B-3B) Anthony Villa- Turns 24 in March, listed 6’3″ 220 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 19th round of the 2016 draft out of St Mary’s Univ.

He crushed Great Falls in 2017 to the tune of 314/453/619.  Already 24, he seems like a candidate to maybe skip Kanny.  Perhaps they can push him to A+ or AA and see if he can excel there too.

 

 

3B-1B) Justin Yurchak- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 240 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of SUNY Binghamton.

 

 

3B-SS) Amado Nunez- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 178 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

Eric Longenhagen of “Fangraphs” counted down his top 27 White Sox prospects last off season and had this to say about Nunez

“Nunez signed for just shy of $1 million back in 2014 and turns 19 in October. His body has matured quite a bit over the last year or so, and he’s increasingly likely to move off of shortstop. I’ve gotten several 30- to 40-grade run times from Nunez, and I don’t think the range for shortstop is going to be there. His footwork, athleticism and arm strength are all fine, though, and he could be an above-average defender at third base. Offensively, Nunez’s hands have life through contact. His wrists are loose and strong and he can drive the ball to all fields despite poor use of his lower half. The swing and overall approach to hitting are both raw, but I think Nunez has the physical tools to do some damage with the bat if that stuff gets ironed out.”

For a look back at the rest of Eric’s list click here:   Top 27 Prospects: Chicago White Sox

 

Other options at corner infield 3B-SS) Ramon Beltre

 

 

Middle Infield

2B) Tate Blackman- Age 23, listed 6′ 195 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 13th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Mississippi.

 

 

 

2B-SS)  Luis Curbelo- Age 20, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Cocoa, FL.

Nick J Faleris of “2080 Ball” ran a feature called “The helium prospects” prior to the 2016 draft.  Curbelo made the cut and Patrick Ebert of Perfect Game wrote a pretty glowing caption.   You can find that here:  MLB Draft Bites: Week 1 – The Helium Prospects

 

 

2B) David Cronin- Age 23, listed 5’9″ 175 lbs, bats left and throws right.   He was drafted in the 20th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Illinois/Chicago.

 

 

SS) Laz Rivera- Age 23, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.   He was drafted in the 28th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Tampa.

This James Fegan Tweet as well as Matt’s comments above have me looking forward to watching Rivera.

 

 

SS) Mikey Duarte- Age 23, listed 5’11” 195 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of California/Irvine

 

 

 

SS, 3B, 2B, LF)  Tracy Hadley- Age 22, listed 6’1″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.   He signed as an undrafted free agent

 

 

Other Middle Infield options:

 

 

Outfield

LF, CF)  Blake Rutherford

CF) Luis Robert

CF) Luis Gonzalez

 

 

LF-RF) Craig Dedelow-  Age 23, listed 6’4″ 195 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 9th round of the 2017 draft out of Indiana Univ.

One of my favorite Braves follows Matt Powers (on Twitter @MattPowers31) put together a piece for “Talking Chop”  titled Atlanta Braves draft preview: Senior Signs.  Dedelow made the cut and you can read about him here:   https://www.talkingchop.com/2017/6/5/15737288/2017-mlb-draft-atlanta-braves-preview-senior-signs

 

 

CF)  Tyler Frost- Age 22, listed 5’10” 183 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2017 draft out of Gonzaga Univ.

 

 

CF) Logan Taylor- Age 23, listed 5’9″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2017 draft out of Louisville Univ.

 

Other OF in the mix:  RF) Nolan Brown, C-LF) Jacob Cooper, RF) JJ Muno, CF) Jose Garcia, LF) Alex Destino

 

Starting Pitching

RHP) Dylan Cease

 

RHP) Lincoln Henzman- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 205 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Louisville.

 

RHP) Kade McClure- Turns 22 in February, listed 6’7″ 230 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 6th round out of the Univ of Louisville.

 

Rob Ozga’s “the Baseball Draft Report” is one of my favorite sites for draft coverage.  Here he compares the two Louisville arms Henzman and McClure:

2017 MLB Draft Report – Louisville

 

 

RHP) Tyler Johnson- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of Univ of South Carolina/Columbia.

 

RHP) Blake Hickman- Age 24, listed 6’5″ 225 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 draft out of the Univ of Iowa.

 

Other SP in the mix:  RHP) Kyle Von Ruden, RHP) Chris Comito, RHP) Brandon Agar, RHP) Parker Rigler

 

A few young players to watch that probably don’t see Kanny this year:

 

2B-SS) Lenyn Sosa- Turns 18 in January, listed 6′ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.   He was signed out of Venezuela in 2016.

When a 17 year old SS holds his own offensively in the AZL or GCL.  You have to sit up and take notice.

 

3B) Maiker Feliz- Age 20, listed 6′ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

197 ISO in the AZL in 2017.

 

1B) Sam Abbott- Age 18, listed 6’4″ 225 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 draft out of high school in University Place, WA (Tacoma metro).

Here’s a link to the South Side Sox MLB Draft day two recap.  Written by Steve_p (on Twitter @Steve_p) Good read.   https://www.southsidesox.com/2017/6/14/15798486/mlb-draft-2017-2nd-day-recap

 

1B) Franklin Reyes- Age 19, listed 6’4″ 205 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was a high profile signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Jeff Buchanan of “Future Sox”, talks about Reyes and others on his White Sox July 2nd 2015 piece.   http://www.chicagonow.com/future-sox/2015/07/chicago-white-sox-announce-july-2nd-signings/

Sounds like he’s got some loud tools but as expected he’s on the raw side.  And could probably benefit from another year or two in rookie ball.

 

 

I enjoyed the deep dive into the White Sox system, thanks again to Matt Cassidy for helping out, awesome job as always. Luis Robert will be a scout magnet, I’m looking forward to getting some early looks.  Talent wise this squad as a whole looks solid across the board and should get into the upper echelon.  OF and SP look to be the strengths of the team.  But the infield looks solid as well.  Curbelo, Nunez and Rivera look very interesting and the two corners Zangari and Yurchak should provide a lot of thump.

Up next at Notes is a look at the 2018 Augusta GreenJackets (Giants).  Three of my favorite Twitter followers will be joining me for that one.  Avi Waters, Daryl Zero and Roger Munter.

 

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