As Sox continue to struggle, top prospects flourishing in Minors

May 29th, 2024

CHICAGO -- became the 10th starting pitcher to take the mound for the White Sox this season during a rain-soaked 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The loss marked the South Siders’ seventh straight, and the now 15-41 White Sox are 1-11 in their last 12.

Woodford had his contract selected from Triple-A Charlotte earlier in the day and started in place of Mike Clevinger, who was placed on the 15-day injured list with right elbow inflammation. With one and four starts, respectively, those two join Crochet (12 starts), Erick Fedde (11), Michael Soroka, (nine), Chris Flexen (nine), Nick Nastrini (four), Jonathan Cannon (three), Brad Keller (two) and Tanner Banks (one) as the 2024 rotation representatives.

That list figures to grow as this rebuilding season continues. To get an idea of who’s next, look no further than the team’s Double-A affiliate in Birmingham, which features one of the best starting staffs in the Minors.

“You know me. I’m just trying to stay out of the way of these guys,” Birmingham pitching coach John Ely told with a laugh during a recent interview. “They are pretty darn good.”

Drew Thorpe, Chicago’s No. 3 prospect and No. 55 overall, according to MLB Pipeline, has a 7-1 record with a 1.50 ERA over nine starts for the Barons. Jairo Iriarte, Chicago’s No. 9 prospect, ranks second in the Southern League with 61 strikeouts over 48 2/3 innings to go with his 2.77 ERA.

Both were acquired from San Diego in the Dylan Cease trade, and both were talked about by general manager Chris Getz as having a chance to reach the Majors in 2024.

“If we feel like they will benefit by coming up to the Major Leagues, we’ll have those conversations,” Getz said. “But right now they are down in Birmingham and they are having a lot of success.”

Mason Adams earned the victory for the Barons on Tuesday night, striking out seven over six scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.09. That group doesn’t even get into Noah Schultz, the No. 2 White Sox prospect and No. 40 overall, who just joined the Barons.

“I really get excited about that, but that’s not the only thing I get excited about,” said White Sox manager Pedro Grifol of the young arms in the system. “I get excited about the type of dynamic athletes we have down there, too.

“We have guys that can disrupt a game. We’ve got guys that can run, that can bunt, that can do some things, and they’re slowly coming. And they’re performing. Especially guys in Double-A. And they’re really good athletes.”

Grifol was talking about catcher Edgar Quero, the No. 4 White Sox prospect, who tops the Southern League with 34 RBIs. He also mentioned infielder Brooks Baldwin, whose .366 average leads the Southern League.

Colson Montgomery, Chicago's No. 1 prospect and No. 11 overall, has the focus of the fan base for his arrival, and the shortstop homered for Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday. Grifol also talked about a potential summer return for outfielder Oscar Colás, who is attacking all parts of his game with the Knights.

“We have to find ways to do it up here, too,” Grifol said. “And we have 26 guys here working hard every day and we have to find ways to win baseball games.”

Luis Robert Jr., meanwhile, homered in his first at-bat for Charlotte on Tuesday, beginning his injury rehab assignment for a right hip flexor strain that has kept him out of action since April 5. It will be a gradual, careful process in bringing Robert back to Chicago.

So, it’s not just about the youth movement at the Major League level. But with Crochet -- who was ejected before a second rain delay in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday -- serving notice at the top of the rotation, Nastrini in the rotation and Bryan Ramos at third, the future is now.