White Sox Double-A rotation brimming with 'exciting' talent

May 30th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Something interesting is happening in Birmingham, where the Double-A affiliate for the White Sox resides.

The Barons have a four-game lead in the Southern League North first-half standings under the guidance of manager Sergio Santos, hitting coach Nicky Delmonico, pitching coach John Ely and bench coach Angel Rosario. And while the team is loaded with young talent, it’s the starting five leading the way.

Make that starting six with the recent promotion from High-A Winston-Salem of southpaw , the No. 2 White Sox prospect and No. 40 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline.

“Just great guys,” said Schultz of the Birmingham rotation during a Thursday Zoom. “They’re real professionals. Definitely guys to look up to, to see how they work, because they’ve been doing it longer than me.”

“It’s unbelievable what these guys are able to do,” Ely told MLB.com during a recent interview. “They are all friends, which is sometimes difficult to accomplish with so many [highly-ranked] prospects and so many guys who are throwing well.”

With Schultz pitching every Saturday for the Barons, they used Jairo Iriarte, the No. 9 White Sox prospect, in a piggyback relief role following Schultz’s debut on May 25. Iriarte allowed one run over five innings and struck out five against Biloxi after striking out 24 against two walks combined during his previous two starts covering 13 2/3 innings.

Then there’s , the No. 17 White Sox prospect, who has seen his velocity tick back up to the 94-96 mph range to go with a 1.95 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings over nine starts. Jake Eder, who checks in at No. 10 on the prospect list, has 50 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings, while Mason Adams, the No. 19 White Sox prospect, has dominated to the tune of a 2.09 ERA in nine starts with 58 strikeouts against nine walks.

“He’s throwing Wiffle balls up there,” said Ely of Adams. “He’s got five swing-and-miss pitches. His breaking ball package is pretty elite. It’s Major League-plus. His sinker is one of those sinkers that is hard to explain. They catch seams late and it just moves erratically and in the hitting zone.”

“His breaking balls are unreal,” said Bush of Adams. “I like to watch his bullpens, just stand behind him and see him move. It’s fun. I feel like he’s the same way as Jairo where he can execute in any count. He’s going to go right at you with his stuff because he knows it’s so good. He’s going to fill up the zone every time.”

Drew Thorpe, the No. 3 White Sox prospect and No. 55 prospect overall, resides at the top of this rotation with his 7-1 record, 1.33 ERA, .172 average against and arguably one of the best changeups in the Minors. Ely pointed to Thorpe setting the tone on the mound from the season’s outset and other Barons starters simply trying to be equal to the challenge.

Thorpe could see Major League time this season. There’s a number of Barons players, let alone the starting rotation, who are moving closer to a White Sox team struggling mightily in the present but buoyed by this talent that could help them in the future.

Remember that idea of culture talked about frequently by the White Sox since the offseason? It certainly seems to be forming in Birmingham.

“You look where our farm system is, and we feel pretty good about the health of our Minor League system,” general manager Chris Getz said. “Look at some of the public rankings, and we are working towards the top. We hope to add to that, nurture that group and eventually they will work their way up to the Major Leagues and start winning some ballgames on a regular basis.

“That Birmingham club is an exciting team to watch. Our White Sox fans, if they ever want to watch a Minor League game, I think they would enjoy watching the [Birmingham] club because it’s a strong indication of what’s to come in Chicago.”

Being part of a winning White Sox team, sooner than later, is not lost on the Barons.

“Obviously, it’s fun to win here,” Bush said. “At the end of the day, we all know in the back of our minds we want to do the same thing at the big league level.”

“A lot of high-end, observant, coachable, humble guys,” Ely said. “And they really want to win.”