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MiLB Preview – 5 Names to Know: AA Birmingham Barons

by Michael Suareo

The Birmingham Barons enter the 2022 season with some interesting names on their roster who could rise up prospect rankings with a strong season. The hitters carry the intrigue on this team to begin the season, however, they have some arms as well who have the ability to develop into major league bullpen arms. It isn’t out of the question that at least one of these guys ends up playing a role with the White Sox at some point this season.

Here are the top 5 names you should watch for this season in Birmingham!

Yoelqui Cespedes, OF

2021 Stats (High_A, Double A): 74 G, 299 PA, 8 HR, 18 SB, .285 AVG, .813 OPS, 121 wRC+

One of the top international prospects of the 2020 signing period, Yoelqui Cespedes has been a welcome addition to the White Sox farm system. Most have him cemented as a top 5 prospect in the system, and signing at more advanced stage of his career should allow him to move relatively quickly through the system. He has the potential to be an everyday starter in the majors, where he could possibly stick in CF, but has a cannon of an arm that will allow him to seamlessly transition to either corner. Whether he can tap into his raw power will give us a clearer indication of how likely he is to reach his ceiling, although hitting to an .895 OPS in Spring Training thus far doesn’t hurt.

Jose Rodriguez, 2B/SS

2021 Stats (Low-A, High-A, Double A): 113 G, 500 PA, 14 HR, 30 SB, .301 AVG, .807 OPS, 115 wRC+

One of the biggest risers of the 2021 minor league season, Jose Rodriguez far exceeded everyone’s expectations while making his full season debut. The soon-to-be 21-year-old middle infielder showcased his talent in Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston Salem, hitting for average and pleasantly surprising power, and showcasing his ability on the basepaths with 30 stolen bases. He looked so advanced for his age that the Sox decided to let him have a cup of coffee at the Double-A level to end his season. While he may eventually move from SS to 2B, there is no question he has the tools to be the White Sox starting 2B of the future.

Yolbert Sanchez, INF

2021 Stats (High-A, Double A): 115 G, 474 PA, 11 HR, 3 SB, .271 AVG, .702 OPS, 88 wRC+

Another player on this list who made his full season debut in 2021, Yolbert Sanchez was always expected to be quick mover through the system due to his advanced abilities as a middle infielder that can make him a future utilityman. Where he exceeded expectations was with his bat, specifically after his promotion to Double-A Birmingham. While it remains to be seen if he can continue to be a .300 hitter long term, he is building his case to take over as a contributor to the White Sox in the not-so-distant future.

Felipe Tejada, RP

2021 Stats (High-A, Double A): 35 G, 51.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 11.85 K/9, 3.14 BB/9

The White Sox added an intriguing arm to their farm system when signing Tejada to a minor league contract in January. A longtime member of the Houston Astros’ farm system, Tejada is coming off a relatively strong season that was split between High-A and Double-A, where he made the transition from starting pitcher to reliever. In his new role, he showcased an impressive ability to miss bats while keeping his walk rate relatively low. Still only 24 years old, the White Sox may have found a hidden gem through minor league free agency in Tejada. He will be a fun prospect to follow this season, as a strong showing will firmly cement him in the bullpen conversation for the Sox in the near future.

Lenyn Sosa, SS

2021 Stats (High-A, Double A): 115 G, 474 PA, 11 HR, 3 SB, .271 AVG, .702 OPS, 88 wRC+

Lenyn Sosa’s 2021 stats are weighed down a bit by a disappointing debut in Double-A last season. His High-A Stats show more promise with a .764 OPS and a 103 wRC+, and it is reasonable to think at only 21 years old, he needed a bit more time before making the jump to Double-A. He possesses solid contact skills and enough raw power to hit double digit home runs on a regular basis, but he can stand to tone down his aggressive approach at the plate. Defensively, he probably doesn’t have the range to stick at short, so a move long term to 2B or 3B is likely. He will likely be more well equipped to handle Double-A pitching his second time around, so look for him to build off his encouraging 2021 season.

Follow us @SoxOn35th for more minor league coverage throughout the season!

Featured Image: Birmingham Barons / Twitter

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