CHICAGO -- The White Sox invited Triple-A Charlotte, Double-A Birmingham, Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Class A Kannapolis to be their Minor League affiliates in Major League Baseball’s new player development structure, as the club announced on Wednesday.
It’s a very familiar look for the organization. Charlotte has been the White Sox Triple-A affiliate since 1999. Winston-Salem has been a White Sox affiliate since 1997, and Kannapolis, which recently changed its name from the Intimidators to the Cannon Ballers, has been a Minor League affiliate of the White Sox since 2001.
Birmingham serves as the longest-tenured affiliate in White Sox history, residing as the organization’s Double-A destination since 1986. As part of Major League Baseball’s plan to modernize its player development system, all four Minor League organizations received an invitation for a Player Development License.
Each club will consider the details of the license invitation before responding to the White Sox and MLB.
“We are extremely fortunate to enjoy strong and productive existing relationships with each of our four affiliates in Charlotte, Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis,” said White Sox director of player development Chris Getz in a statement.
“Issuing a license invitation to these four outstanding baseball communities is an important first step in Major League Baseball’s process of reshaping the player development system,” Getz continued. “We have worked closely with MLB on this new structure with Minor League affiliates to ensure a successful and sustained partnership and future for all Major and Minor League clubs, our players and the local communities.”
Integral parts of the White Sox present and past have suited up for all four clubs through the years. The Charlotte list includes third baseman Joe Crede and right-handed pitcher Jon Garland from the 2005 World Series champs; right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito, shortstop Tim Anderson, left fielder Eloy Jiménez and center fielder Luis Robert from the 2020 playoff squad; and left-hander Chris Sale, who is one of the top starting pitchers in franchise history.
From 2017-19, when the White Sox were in full rebuild mode, there was almost as much of a focus on the rising prospects in the Minors as there was on the big league squad.
Birmingham claimed Southern League titles in 1993, 2002 and ‘13. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas played 109 games for the Barons in 1990 before making his Major League debut, while other players who made the move from Birmingham to Chicago include Mark Buehrle, Jack McDowell, José Quintana, Bobby Thigpen and Robin Ventura.
“We’re excited and honored to receive the White Sox invitation to continue our partnership,” said Jonathan Nelson, president and general manager of the Barons, in the White Sox statement. “Over the years the Chicago White Sox have provided many great players and teams who have entertained our fans and positively impacted the Birmingham community.”
“White Sox players and coaches have positively impacted our community for many years, and we’re proud that our own Regions Field is recognized as one of the top ballparks in America,” said Randall Woodrin, the mayor of Birmingham. “We’re also excited that the White Sox have extended an invitation to continue their [Double-A] affiliation with the Birmingham Barons for years to come.”
Winston-Salem won the Carolina League title in 2003 and has played development roles with players such as Aaron Bummer, Adam Engel, Nate Jones, Carlos Lee, Jim Parque and Aaron Rowand. Kannapolis captured the South Atlantic League championship in 2005, and was a Minor League stop for Gordon Beckham, Matt Foster, Gio González, Nick Madrigal and Danny Mendick.
Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis all are within a 90-minute drive of each other, making it easier for White Sox front office personnel and scouts to see all three teams in the same trip. Further updates about the acceptance of license invitations and finalized details about the new player development structure will be issued by Major League Baseball in early 2021.
The White Sox also will continue to operate their Arizona Rookie-level club in Glendale, Ariz., home of their Camelback Ranch facility.