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MiLB Preview – 5 Names to Know: Cannon Ballers and Dash

by Michael Suareo

The White Sox two lower level minor league affiliates possess the bulk of the high upside prospects in their organization. Each of my top 3 ranked prospects are in this group of names to watch, along with other high upside prospects and players who could move up the ranks quicker than some think.

Check out the first two parts of this series as well: previews for the Knights and Barons!

Low-A Kannapolis Cannonballers

The White Sox Low-A affiliate is going to have a lot of intriguing prospects to begin the 2022 minor league season. This is most likely the affiliate that will have the most upside in the organization, as their top 2 draft picks from the 2021 draft will start here, along with a few other high upside prospects making their full season debuts.

Colson Montgomery

2021 Stats (Arizona Complex League): 26 G, 111 PA, .287 AVG, .758 OPS, 112 wRC+

The White Sox’ 2021 1st round pick and consensus top prospect in the organization, Colson Montgomery, will be on many people’s radar this season after a promising rookie debut in Arizona. While his power potential didn’t show up as much as some might have hoped, there is no reason to be concerned yet, as he still possesses 60 grade raw power and an approach at the plate that is advanced for a recent high school graduate. The plan is still to keep him at SS until he shows that he can’t handle it, and so far it sounds like the White Sox organization is pleased with what he has shown them in the field.

Wes Kath

2021 Stats (Arizona Complex League): 28 G, 115 PA, 3 HR, 1 SB, .212 AVG, .623 OPS, 66 wRC+

While the 2nd round pick in the 2021 draft doesn’t have quite as much hype as Montgomery, Wes Kath still has a the talent to jump up prospect rankings. A SS in high school, the Sox made the decision to move him over to 3B, where he has a chance to be an above average fielder. He has some work to do at the plate after an underwhelming debut, but his tools should allow him to progress nicely this upcoming season after working with a professional coaching staff in his first offseason.

Cristian Mena

2021 Stats (Arizona Complex League): 13 G, 48.1 IP, 7.82 ERA, 11.54 K/9, 3.91 BB/9

Making his pro debut as an 18-year-old former international signing, Mena showed more promise than his ERA might lead you to believe. His FIP was more than 2 full points lower at 5.42, and the gap between his ERA and xFIP was even wider with an xFIP of 4.46. While those numbers still aren’t overly encouraging, his ability to strike batters out is. With an 11.54 K/9 and a respectable 3.91 BB/9, his stuff is that of a prospect with extremely high upside. His full season league debut will be a big landmark in terms of his development.

Jared Kelley

2021 Stats (Low-A): 12 G, 23.2 IP, 7.61 ERA, 10.47 K/9, 10.09 BB/9

The White Sox lured Jared Kelly away from college ball with a well above slot signing bonus as a 2nd round pick in 2020. Most outlets had pegged Kelly as a 1st round talent, citing a heavy fastball, advanced changeup, and frontline starter potential. Unfortunately, he struggled with health and command in his full season debut, and will need a strong 2022 season to get back on track. The talent is still there, and he says that he feels good heading into this season, so he will be a big prospect to keep an eye on.

Norge Vera

2021 Stats (Dominican Summer League): 8 G, 19.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 16.11 K/9, 2.37 BB/9

In a season where the top pitching prospects in the organization all failed to live up to expectations, Norge Vera dominated in his first season in the Sox organization. While his age suggests that he was probably too advanced to be pitching in the Dominican League, he still showcased high-end strikeout stuff with advanced control and feel for all of his pitches. While he is expected to miss the start of the season due to a lat strain, he will make his stateside debut in May or June of 2022, and could cement himself as the top arm in the farm system with a strong full season debut.

High-A Winston Salem Dash

Now on to the Dash, where highly anticipated international prospect Oscar Colas will be making his White Sox organizational debut in 2022. He isn’t the only player to watch this year, however, as the Dash have a combination of high upside prospects and bounce back candidates looking to get their careers back on track.

Oscar Colas

2021 Stats: N/A

All eyes will be on Oscar Colas in his first professional baseball season in the United States. Previously dubbed as the “Cuban Ohtani,” Colas is primarily focusing on hitting and playing in the outfield. Colas possesses some loud tools that are headlined by his plus-plus raw power, and he is Colson Montgomery’s biggest challenger as the top prospect in the White Sox organization. If he hits the ground running, it isn’t out of the question to see him escalate through the White Sox system quickly.

Sean Burke

2021 Stats (Arizona Complex, Low-A): 7 G, 17 IP, 2.65 ERA, 13.2 K/9, 5.8 BB/9

The first of many college arms that the Sox drafted in 2021, Sean Burke had an exciting professional debut between the Arizona Complex League and Low-A Kannapolis. While he was probably a bit more advanced than the level of competition he faced, he still showcased impressive strikeout potential. He stands to improve his command, but Burke has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter in the majors.

Bryan Ramos

2021 Stats (Low-A): 115 G, 504 PA, 13 HR, 13 SB, .244 AVG, .761 OPS, 109 wRC+

Bryan Ramos is a prospect that has many evaluators excited. While his numbers last season weren’t eye popping, he absolutely held his own as a 19-year-old in his first year in full season pro ball. He has a lot of raw power in his bat and some defensive versatility, getting reps at both 2B and 3B. He profiles better at 3B, and possesses the talent and upside to eventually develop into a major league regular.

Matthew Thompson

2021 Stats (Low-A): 19 G, 71.2 IP, 5.90 ERA, 9.67 K/9, 4.77 BB/9

Thompson was a high upside 2nd round pick out of a Texas high school back in 2019, and had lofty expectations when he was drafted by the White Sox. Unfortunately, inconsistency and difficulty repeating his delivery has led to control issues and lackluster results. While both his FIP and xFIP were a full point lower than his ERA, indicating some bad luck, he still has not developed the way the Sox were hoping. Losing a year due to COVID in 2020 did not do his development any favors, but he is going to have some pressure to get his career back on track to reach his ceiling of a mid-rotation starter in the majors.

Adam Hackenberg

2021 Stats (Arizona Complex, Low-A): 27 G, 110 PA, 1 HR, .320 AVG, .822 OPS, 123 wRC+

Adam Hackenberg is off to a strong start to his professional baseball career. An 18th round pick out of Clemson, he should be able to stick at catcher and is starting to impress with his bat as well. While his lack of power potential limits his overall upside, he appears to be someone who can rise through the system quickly and challenge to be the backup backstop within the next couple of years if he continues to produce.

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

Featured Image: @kcannonballers / Twitter

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