November 2012

Thursday News And Notes

Bobby Thigpen spent three years in Winston-Salem before his recent promotion to the White Sox coaching staff (Brian Westerholt/Sports on Film).

December is almost here, so the Dash front office is busy spreading holiday joy, hanging out with Santa and gearing up for the holiday season. With 2013 approaching, big league organizations are making some important decisions for the upcoming season. Here are a few notes to quench your baseball thirst on a Thursday afternoon:

  • Congrats to Bobby Thigpen, who will join the White Sox staff as the bullpen coach. Thiggy was the Dash’s pitching coach from 2009-11 before spending this season with Double-A Birmingham in the same role. Thigpen was certainly a fan favorite here in Winston-Salem, and Chicago skipper Robin Ventura has known him for his entire career.
  • The Sox also announced that Daryl Boston, who spent 12 seasons as the organization’s outfield instructor, will join the big league staff in 2013 as the first base coach. Boston made a handful of stops in Winston-Salem this season, and it was good to occasionally chat with him. Congrats to him, too.
  • The only Carolina League team to announce its field staff for 2013 is the Carolina Mudcats, who will have a new look when the Dash open the campaign in Zebulon April 5. David Wallace becomes the Muddies’ manager after guiding Lake County, the Indians’ Low-A affiliate, to the playoffs this season. Hitting coach Rouglas Odor and pitching coach Jeff Harris will accompany Wallace, who replaces 2012 skipper Edwin Rodriguez. The former Marlins boss will lead Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate in Akron.
  • The White Sox have yet to announce their minor league staff assignments for 2013, but this news should be released soon. Last year, Dash fans learned that Tommy Thompson was Winston-Salem’s 2012 manager in mid-November, while the 2011 staff decisions were made public a few days before Christmas.
  • Earlier this week, the BBWAA released the 37-man ballot for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. More than 600 voters have until December 31 to submit their vote, and some notable (and controversial) names are on the list. A few players linked to performance-enhancing drugs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa) will prompt many debates on the standards to reach the Hall of Fame. It should be fascinating to watch.

The Dash’s season opener is only 127 days away. We can’t wait!

- Brian

Very Thankful Weekend

Happy Monday! Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving weekend was filled with family, food and fun.

Two Dash All-Stars are very thankful for this weekend, thanks to Notre Dame. Outfielders Michael Earley and Brady Shoemaker are big Fighting Irish fans, and Notre Dame clinched a spot in the BCS National Championship Game Saturday night with a 22-13 win over USC.

The Irish have not played for a national title since the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, when Shoemaker was one year old and Earley was nine months old. They were understandably excited Saturday night:

The Irish will likely be underdogs when they play either Alabama or Georgia in the title game January 7, but both Earley and Shoemaker will be believers. Notre Dame is one of the marquee programs in college football, so it is great to see the Irish return to the national title game.

In another Dash-football connection, 2012 Dash trainer Cory Barton attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and his Crimson Hawks will square off with Winston-Salem State in the quarterfinals of the Division II football playoffs. IUP held on for a dramatic 17-14 win over New Haven this weekend, while WSSU rolled Shippensburg 37-14 to advance to this week’s “Barton Bowl.”

Did your football team win this weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Go Browns.

- Brian

Why The Dash Are Thankful

Thanksgiving week is here, and the Dash wish you and yours a tremendous holiday weekend. We are thankful for so much, so we wanted to share some of these things with you, our loyal readers.

The Dash are thankful for…

  • all 305,515 fans who visited BB&T Ballpark for the 2012 season.
  • an All-Star season, capped by a 9-1 victory in the Midsummer Classic.
  • having the MVP (Dan Black) and the Manager of the Year (Tommy Thompson) in Winston-Salem.
  • the decimal .630. It was the Dash’s 2012 winning percentage, good for the best in full-season minor league baseball.
  • large windows in the control room so that they can see T-Rock bust a move to “Tricky” and “Call Me Maybe.”
  • Brady Shoemaker’s first-half dominance.
  • Kevan Smith’s playoff prowess.
  • having the opportunity to see highly-touted prospects Jackie Bradley, Dylan Bundy, Billy Hamilton and George Springer, among others, play at BB&T Ballpark.
  • the potential of the 2013 squad, with players like Courtney Hawkins, Erik Johnson, Scott Snodgress and Keenyn Walker candidates to begin the season in the Triad.
  • the fact that things like Bolt, Lemonheads, ZOOperstars mean something to folks in Winston-Salem.
  • a beautiful ballpark that features family-friendly entertainment all summer long.
  • the 2013 season, which is just 136 days away.

Have a tremendous Thanksgiving, and thank you so much for reading this blog all season long. Enjoy your turkey.

- Brian

Another Division Title?

Taylor Thompson and six other Dash alums will play for a title Saturday (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

The Dash claimed the first-half and second-half division championships in the Carolina League’s Southern Division, and a few contributors to those crowns finished up another division title run last night.

The Salt River Rafters, a club that has featured seven former Winston-Salem stars, claimed the Arizona Fall League’s East Division title with a 6-4 win over Peoria yesterday.

As a result, the Rafters, who wrap up their regular season this afternoon, will play in the AFL Championship Game Saturday at 3 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on MLB Network, and live stats will be available here.

Congrats to Andre Rienzo, Santos Rodriguez, Carlos Sanchez, Salvador Sanchez, Taylor Thompson, Trayce Thompson and Andy Wilkins, all of whom contributed to the Rafters’ run. Every member of this group will be in uniform except for Rienzo, who left the team to pitch for Team Brazil in a World Baseball Classic qualifier.

We’ll have a full recap of all seven players’ efforts in the AFL on the blog in the coming days. Dash fans are Rafters fans this weekend!

- Brian

Tools Time

Kevin Vance has the best curveball in the system, per Baseball America (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

No, I’m not talking about Tim Allen’s “Tool Time” show in the Home Improvement series.

The Dash shined in Baseball America’s top 10 White Sox prospects countdown, which we broke down yesterday. However, the publication went beyond the top 10 list.

The annual countdown includes a look at the top prospect in Chicago’s system based on various tools, and seven 2012 Dash alumni earned at least one spot on this list:

Best Hitter for Average – Carlos Sanchez
Best Power Hitter – Courtney Hawkins
Fastest Baserunner – Keenyn Walker
Best Athlete – Courtney Hawkins
Best Curveball – Kevin Vance
Best Slider – Erik Johnson
Best Defensive Catcher – Miguel Gonzalez
Best Defensive Infielder – Carlos Sanchez
Best Infield Arm – Juan Silverio

Congrats to Sanchez and Hawkins, who both took home a pair of these “tools awards.”

You can read more about these players and the rest of Baseball America’s countdown here.

- Brian

Top 10 White Sox Prospects

Trayce Thompson’s 90 RBI in the CL helped him earn a spot on the Top 10 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Baseball America is regarded as the go-to spot for Minor League Baseball analysis, so its prospect rankings are always interesting. Yesterday, the publication released its top 10 White Sox prospects entering the 2013 season.

Winston-Salem enjoyed a banner year on the field, so it should not be surprising that many members of this list donned the Dash purple at some point this season. However, even the most optimistic Dash fans have to be excited to see that the organization’s top seven prospects contributed to Winston’s surge to the Mills Cup Finals.

You can read the entire piece from Baseball America here. Check out the list of the top 10 players, which includes details of their work in 2012:

1. OF Courtney Hawkins

Chicago’s first-round pick in June, Hawkins began his White Sox tenure with short-season Bristol before August promotions to Low-A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. With the Dash, Hawkins was 5-for-17 in five regular season games before hitting a pair of homers in the club’s postseason run.

2. OF Trayce Thompson

Thompson spent most of the 2012 season in the Carolina League, and he finished atop the circuit with 90 RBI. He then played 14 games with Double-A Birmingham before joining Triple-A Charlotte for its playoff journey. Currently, Thompson is hitting .200 with two homers and seven RBI in 15 games in the Arizona Fall League.

3. INF Carlos Sanchez

One of the high risers on the White Sox farm, Sanchez shined in 92 games with the Dash. He finished with the CL’s top batting average (.315) before hitting .370 in 30 Double-A games. Sanchez finished the campaign in Triple-A Charlotte and is now thriving in the AFL (.312 average and 16 RBI in 20 games).

4. RHP Erik Johnson

Johnson joined the Dash’s rotation in late July and immediately became one of the circuit’s best hurlers. Seven of his eight starts in Winston-Salem were quality starts, and both of his playoff starts showed flashes of dominance.

5. OF Keenyn Walker

The White Sox minor league system is loaded with outfield talent, and Walker’s compliments the likes of Hawkins and Thompson with his speed. Walker finished in the top 10 in the minors with 56 combined swipes between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.

Scott Snodgress’ stint in the rotation went well in Winston-Salem (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

6. LHP Scott Snodgress

Snodgress joined Johnson in Winston-Salem halfway through the second half, and the duo helped the Dash seize the top record in full-season minor league baseball. Despite pitching out of the bullpen in college, Snodgress joined the rotation and boasted a 1.50 ERA in eight efforts.

7. RHP Andre Rienzo

Rienzo overcame a 50-game suspension to record one of the best seasons by a White Sox pitching prospect in 2012. The Brazilian crushed CL competition in the first month and eventually made his way to Triple-A Charlotte. He could be a factor for the Sox in spring training.

8. INF Keon Barnum

Barnum was the White Sox second pick in this year’s draft, and he hit .279 in 13 games with short-season Bristol. The 19-year-old could make his way to Winston-Salem with a strong showing in the offseason and throughout the first half of the 2013 season.

9. OF Jared Mitchell

Mitchell is yet another solid outfield prospect within the White Sox system. He struggled with strikeouts last year in the Carolina League, but a bump to Birmingham helped him immensely. He does not have a great batting average in his minor league career (.237 in 293 games), but the potential is certainly there.

10. RHP Chris Beck

The White Sox pegged Beck in the second round of this year’s draft, and the righty turned in a 4-3 record and a 4.69 ERA in 15 appearances (six starts) with rookie-level Great Falls. He should see some time in Winston-Salem in 2013.

Tomorrow, we will go over some of the other superlatives Baseball America bestowed on some former Dash stars.

- Brian

Friday News And Notes

Blake Tekotte will compete for a big league spot in spring training. His hair should certainly give him a chance! (KOMU).

We are less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving, but there are plenty of news and notes to discuss from the last few days.

  • Former Dash hurler Brandon Kloess is now a member of the Padres’ organization. The White Sox traded Kloess, who was 3-4 with a 3.70 ERA in Winston-Salem between 2010 and 2011, to San Diego for outfielder Blake Tekotte, who has played a combined 30 games in the big leagues over the last two seasons. Tekotte should figure into the outfielder mix in spring training with the Sox.
  • Another Dash alum is heading out of the White Sox organization. Former Warthogs pitching coach Juan Nieves, who was Chicago’s bullpen coach for the last five seasons, is heading to Boston to become the Red Sox pitching coach. He will join new Boston skipper John Farrell, who was recently hired from Toronto.
  • Baseball America’s annual list of the top 10 prospects in each organization is underway, and the White Sox will learn about their top farmhands Monday. I would anticipate that the list will be outfielder-heavy.
  • Here is my guess (in no particular order) of the top 10: Keon Barnum, Courtney Hawkins, Erik Johnson, Charlie Leesman, Nestor Molina, Jake Petricka, Carlos Sanchez, Scott Snodgress, Trayce Thompson, and Keenyn Walker.
  • For a comparison, MLB.com has its top 20 available here. It is great to see so many players who have come through Winston-Salem.
  • Finally, I had a chance to return to my alma mater Ohio University for a couple of days this week. My time in Athens made me who I am today, and it was great to see some familiar faces and take in a football game. If you are looking at colleges, you can’t go wrong with Ohio.

Have a great weekend, and we’ll talk to you next week when the Baseball America rankings are released.

- Brian

2013 Schedule Analysis (Second Half)

Bolt is ready for the Dash’s 2013 season. Are you ready to join him?

Winston-Salem’s 2013 schedule came out yesterday, and excitement is already building for the club’s fourth go-around inside BB&T Ballpark.

Yesterday, we broke down the key games of the first half. Now it’s time to examine the important dates during the final 70 games of the regular season:

  • July 4 v. Myrtle Beach: The Fourth of July and baseball go together well, and the Dash will play at BB&T Ballpark on our nation’s birthday. Last season, the Dash set a BB&T Ballpark attendance record with 7,285 fans at their Fourth of July loss to Myrtle Beach. Winston will have a chance at revenge against the Pelicans in 2013.
  • July 10 v. Potomac: Winston-Salem’s final “early” game of the season comes in the middle of July against Potomac, a team that the Dash swept in all 10 games at BB&T Ballpark in 2012. The Dash will host a pair of 11:00 a.m. games April 24 and May 8 along with two noon games June 26 and July 10. It is always fun to play hookey and take in a baseball game, and this will be the Triad’s final chance next season.
  • August 24-26 v. Myrtle Beach: The two best teams in the Carolina League during the regular season were Winston-Salem and Myrtle Beach. The Pelicans challenged the Dash in the second-half division chase and took Winston-Salem to a winner-take-all Game 3 in the Southern Division Championship Series, and the Rangers tend to stock Myrtle with solid prospects. This series, which marks the final regular season meeting between the two squads, could be meaningful down the stretch in 2013.
  • August 30 v. Potomac: The Dash clinched the second-half crown August 30, 2012. Exactly one year later, Winston-Salem will conclude their home slate with a “Fireworks Friday” clash against the P-Nats. Hopefully the Dash will not be saying “so long” to BB&T Ballpark on this night. Instead, maybe it’ll be a “see you in the playoffs” moment.
  • September 2 at Wilmington: Game #140 always features a wide range of emotions, but the main question will be this: what will the Dash do after making the 7-hour trip back to Winston-Salem on Labor Day? Will the playoffs be on the docket, or will the players be heading home?

The games highlighted above will be fun and could be meaningful. Either way, we know what journey the Dash will have to take to get back to the playoffs. I can’t wait to begin that trip to begin April 5 at Carolina.

- Brian

2013 Schedule Analysis (First Half)

The Dash have the best home record in full-season minor league baseball since 2010.

The Dash released their 2013 schedule today, which is one of the first signs of baseball’s return during the long offseason. You can check out the entire schedule here.

There are many marquee matchups throughout the season, and I highlight five parts of the first half schedule below.

  • April 5 at Carolina: The Dash kick off their 2013 campaign in Zebulon against a Mudcats squad that didn’t like Winston-Salem. The feeling was mutual. These two teams had some memorable battles (and a few fights) a year ago, and both teams figure to have a strong squad, especially in the first half. These two teams could be the cream of the crop in the Southern Division in 2013.
  • April 12 v. Carolina: Once again, the Mudcats will be the opponent when the Dash kick off their home slate one week after opening their season at Five County Stadium. Winston-Salem went 48-23 at BB&T Ballpark, which was good for the best home mark in the minors in 2012. Last season, the Dash claimed their home opener over the Muddies 1-0.
  • April 22-25 v. Lynchburg: Winston-Salem finished two wins shy of what would’ve been a perfect season. The Dash won both the first- and second-half division titles, hosted the All-Star Game, posted minor league baseball’s best record and went to the Mills Cup Championship Series. The Lynchburg Hillcats prevented the Dash from finishing off the clean sweep in 2012. The ‘Cats bested Winston three games to one in the Mills Cup Finals. Both teams will look much different when they square off for the first time in 2013, but there will be plenty of carryovers from that thrilling Mills Cup Finals to make this late-April clash one of the season’s most intriguing sets.
  • May 27 v. Frederick: Memorial Day is always a great holiday during the baseball season, and the Dash will celebrate it at BB&T Ballpark for a third straight year. Winston entertains the Mills Cup champs from 2011 this time around, and the Keys always tend to have a highly-touted prospect in the fold.
  • June 13-16 at Wilmington: Once again, the Dash conclude the first half in Wilmington, the site of the club’s first-half clinch last season. If the Dash are in contention for a first-half crown in ’13, it will likely come down to this final set in the First State. Here’s hoping a new crop of White Sox prospects will be celebrating in the visiting clubhouse at Frawley Stadium in seven-and-a-half months.

Stay tuned for our breakdown of the second half tomorrow! Only 154 more days until the season opener in Zebulon. Since we now know the schedule, the countdown can officially begin.

- Brian

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