Opening Day is a mere 80 days away, so news is picking up throughout baseball. Here are a few notes on a pleasant Monday in Winston-Salem.
- MLB released all 30 teams’ Spring Training start dates, and the White Sox will begin on February 15 with the report date for Pitchers and Catchers. The first full squad workout will take place February 20, which is 38 days from now.
- However, many players will migrate south much sooner. In the coming weeks, you will certainly see many tweets similar to what 2013 Dash alum Micah Johnson sent out earlier today.
Back to Arizona to get ready for ’14. It’s been real endless amount of video games
— Micah Johnson (@Micah_Johnson3) January 13, 2014
- Minor league fans are keeping their eyes peeled to discover which youngsters will receive invitations to big league Spring Training. Last season, the White Sox announced their non-roster invitees on January 10, so we should hear this news soon.
- Unfortunately, with Spring Training on the horizon, every organization must make difficult decisions. The White Sox released eight minor leaguers, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. This list includes four valuable members of the Dash’s 2013 bullpen–right-handers J.R. Ballinger, Jeremy Erben and Jason Van Skike, and southpaw Max Peterson.
- One of the best blogs of the 2013 season was our video on life in the bullpen from Curt Lestan. Both Peterson and Van Skike were prominent in this video, which you can view here.
- All things considered, relievers are normally the most engaging personalities in the clubhouse. All four of these former White Sox farmhands were good pitchers and even better people. I wish them the best of luck moving forward, and I hope they latch on with another team soon.
- Finally, thanks to all of you for reading the Dash Board. We learned last week that the Dash Board was the most popular team-specific blog in all of Minor League Baseball! We could not have done this without all of you, and we can’t wait to bring you even more content in 2014!
Baseball America is, in many ways, the bible of baseball prospects. Few publications examine Minor League Baseball more thoroughly than Baseball America, which has released its 2014 White Sox Top 10 Prospect list.
Over the last few seasons, Baseball America has been critical of the White Sox system, but the publication believes that the system is making significant progress:
For the first time since at least 2000, when the White Sox had the game’s No. 2 farm system, the organization has prospect depth.
How can one best illustrate this depth? Let’s take a look at Baseball America’s Top 10 list from this time last year and compare it to this year’s.
2013 White Sox Top 10:
1. OF Courtney Hawkins
2. OF Trayce Thompson
3. INF Carlos Sanchez
4. RHP Erik Johnson
5. OF Keenyn Walker
6. LHP Scott Snodgress
7. RHP Andre Rienzo
8. INF Keon Barnum
9. OF Jared Mitchell
10. RHP Chris Beck
2014 White Sox Top 10:
1. INF Jose Abreu
2. RHP Erik Johnson
3. INF Tim Anderson
4. INF Matt Davidson
5. INF Marcus Semien
6. INF Micah Johnson
7. OF Courtney Hawkins
8. OF Trayce Thompson
9. RHP Chris Beck
10. OF Jacob May
Only four members of the 2013 list appear on this year’s edition. This reflects the benefits of the transactions the White Sox have made much more than the struggles of a few of these players over the last 12 months.
Not only have these players impressed the White Sox and other baseball people, but many of them have produced at or near the top of the organization. Three of the current Top 10 have played in the big leagues, with Jose Abreu likely to play much of next season on the South Side. Excluding Abreu, only Tim Anderson and Jacob May have yet to play in High-A, and both could start in Winston-Salem in 2014.
Beyond the Top 10 rankings, Baseball America’s “Best Tools” and “Top 15 Players 25 and Under” lists, which can also be viewed here, feature more of Chicago’s minor league depth.
The White Sox had a tough 2013 in The Show, but the farm system should instill plenty of hope in the fan base for 2014 and beyond.
It has been another successful year here with the Dash Board Blog. Thanks to all of you, our readers, the Dash Board Blog has been one of the most popular blogs in Minor League Baseball.
After compiling a “Dash Top 10” based on the team’s 2013 accomplishments back in September, why not share our list of the Top 10 blog posts of the 2013 season.
This list is based on hits, and I omitted the posts solely dedicated to transactions or game previews. Without further ado, here are the blog’s best posts from 2013.
1. “When a foul ball meets a computer screen” – July 22
The picture of the monitor is crazy, but the conversation in the broadcast booth before the damage was even crazier. I’m happy that my computer’s demise did have one positive impact.
2. “Breaking down the Dash…on Twitter” – May 20
Baseball players can send some unique tweets. A few Dash players discuss their different tweets.
3. “One millionth fan tribute” – May 10
BB&T Ballpark reached one million total fans quicker than any other facility in High-A history, so we put together a video tribute to our loyal fans.
4. “All-You-Can-Eat Night by the numbers” – April 19
The Dash hosted their first All-You-Can-Eat Night in April, and our fans left the game quite stuffed. The final numbers were very impressive.
5. “Snow at BB&T Ballpark” – January 18
Snow covered the stadium early this year, and the photos are great.
6. “The shoes of MiLB’s stolen base leader” – August 2
Micah Johnson has style and speed. Both of those traits came together in his shoes.
7. “Smith’s unique journey to Pittsburgh” – June 9
Kevan Smith was a college football quarterback before he joined the White Sox system. How he arrived at the University of Pittsburgh is a fascinating story.
8. “Shagging baseballs at the Home Run Derby” – August 7
Josh Richmond played on a big league field at a young age. He was in uniform at the 1998 Home Run Derby.
9. “Dash to a million: BB&T Ballpark in pictures” – May 15
Before the millionth fan celebration, we took a look back at some of BB&T Ballpark’s best moments.
10. “Catching up with Tommy Thompson” – April 29
The Dash’s 2012 manager, who has a fascinating personality, reflected on his time in Winston-Salem and looked ahead.
Thanks again for following along with the Dash Board Blog throughout the 2013 season. Happy Holidays!
The Miami Marlins selected former Dash outfielder and Carolina League All-Star Brady Shoemaker in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, which took place Thursday morning.
After a late promotion to Winston-Salem in 2011, Shoemaker shined for the Dash during the first half of the 2012 season. He hit .331 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 78 games, during which Shoemaker led the Dash to a first-half Southern Division title.
Shoemaker was one of three players who represented the Dash in the 2012 California-Carolina League All-Star Game, which was held at BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem. With his father throwing to him, Shoemaker won the 2012 Home Run Derby.
However, Shoemaker missed the entire 2013 season with a torn labrum, and he is now heading to the Marlins organization. The former Indiana State star is likely to spend much of the 2014 season on Miami’s Triple-A roster in New Orleans.
Last season, Boston selected 2012 Dash reliever Jon Bachanov in the Triple-A phase, while 2010-11 Winston-Salem hurler Terry Doyle was chosen by Minnesota in the Major League phase of the 2011 Rule 5 Draft before being returned to the White Sox before that season began.
The White Sox did add a player via this year’s event. Catcher Adrian Nieto, who played for Potomac here in the Carolina League, joins Chicago’s organization from the Nationals. Nieto, 24, hit .285 with 11 home runs, 53 RBIs, and 68 runs scored over 110 games with the P-Nats in 2013.
Nieto becomes a member of the White Sox 40-man roster, which is now one shy of its maximum number of players.
One other notable tidbit from this year’s Rule 5 Draft. The Rangers selected Russell Wilson in the Triple-A phase of the process. Yes, that Russell Wilson. The former NC State signal caller who now leads the 11-2 Seattle Seahawks of the NFL.
Why would they do this? Here are some thoughts via baseball writers on Twitter.
#Rangers GM Jon Daniels talked to Russell Wilson and he told him he wanted to come to spring training and just work out with guys.
— Richard Durrett (@espn_durrett) December 12, 2013
Mark Rodgers, agent for Russell Wilson, says QB will want to be more than motivational speaker for #Rangers in spring training. MORE
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2013
Rodgers said, “Russell will want to take BP and ground balls. He loves baseball. This is 3d time he has been drafted.” Rule 5 pick for 12.5K
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2013
#Rangers spent $12K on Russell Wilson in case a) he decides he wants to explore baseball (realizing it’s a long shot) and b) makeup example.
— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) December 12, 2013
It was certainly an interesting decision, but one that makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The Rangers’ farm system is regarded as one of baseball’s best, so why not have a young role model athlete swing by and talk with some of its prospects.
Believe it or not, but the season starts in 112 days. Look for our countdown of the top 10 blog posts from 2013 early next week.
Once the 2014 season rolls around, BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem will not be the only such stadium in North Carolina. A new BB&T Ballpark is nearing completion in Charlotte, and it will officially open on April 11 of next year.
The similarities between the two BB&T Ballparks do not end with the name. Both the Dash and the Knights regarded these stadiums as the centerpiece of a move to downtown. Winston-Salem and Charlotte are both associated with the White Sox minor league system, too.
Scott Brown, the Knights’ General Manager of Baseball Operations, took some time to chat about the ballpark and much more. His thoughts are below.
Brian Boesch: How is BB&T Ballpark progressing?
Scott Brown: Great. It’s about 80 percent done and still on target to be significantly completed by the end of the calendar year. It might bleed into January a little bit, but we should be in our offices by February 1.
Brian: Sometimes, minor league stadiums are not ready when its debut season begins. How important was a completed stadium to you and the Knights for your Opening Day?
Scott: It’s a mammoth leap heading from Fort Mill, S.C., 15 miles north to Uptown, and we certainly didn’t want to handicap ourselves. We had the luxury of time so that the building could start while we were still occupying Knights Stadium.
It was the goal to get it done early, and I think it’s going to bode well for us and for our fans, and that’s also helped us on the marketing and sales side. People can see this structure coming out of the ground and see the grass in now and realize that this project that had been talked about for a decade-plus is coming to fruition.
Brian: The Dash’s move downtown was instrumental to the organization, and you saw how that happened when you worked in the Carolina League with Myrtle Beach. Have you been able to gauge how positively this move will affect the Knights?
Scott: It gets us to the center of the Charlotte metropolis region, so it puts us back in the middle so we can attract people from all over. Uptown Charlotte is a vibrant, growing area. A lot of people are choosing to live in the uptown area within walking distance of the ballpark. Those two things are really going to help our cause.
People are used to coming to Uptown for Panthers games, for Bobcats and soon-to-be Hornets games, for Checkers games. This completes the year-round sports cycle and makes Uptown an even bigger destination point for everybody in the region.
Brian: How much have you learned from watching other organizations build a new ballpark?
Scott: I think sometimes in this business we are “glass half full” most of the time, but I think when it comes to ballpark construction, the conversations with the people who have built ballparks recently are more about, “What went wrong?” and “What mistakes can we avoid?” So, I think we all become better as things evolve. You know there’s going to be something you missed, something that isn’t exactly the way you want it, but I think with each opening of each ballpark, they become better and better. We’ve benefitted from the knowledge and experience of others.
Brian: What are some of the neat features for fans to look for in 2014 and beyond?
Scott: It’s kind of similar to the Winston-Salem BB&T Ballpark with the skyline view. I really enjoyed that city feel to that ballpark, but also the view. In Charlotte, we’re even closer to the skyscrapers in Uptown, so it’s a tremendous view. Even when the lights are off, it’s almost like a starry sky you’re looking out to, so I think that’s one of the real benefits.
Just like BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, we’ll have the walk-around concourse, which is more of the fad with designs now where you can stroll around the ballpark and get every vantage point. I’m really excited about our video package. We’ll have the widest screen in Minor League Baseball, along with a ribbon board.
We will also have some great club areas. We will have an upper club and a lower club, and one of the more unique features are the two dugout suites. Those are all real cool things. All of the ingredients are coming together to make a great buzz, and people are really excited about the opening.
Scott: It has been overwhelmingly positive. We wanted to keep the Knights because Charlotte is called the Queen City, and the Knights tie into the whole royalty, medieval times type of feel that we’re trying to get. We felt like it was a perfect time to freshen up our brand.
We liked our old logo, but we wanted, as we moved Uptown and started to get exposed to even more of our fans, to get it so that when you walk down the streets and saw one of our hats, you said immediately, “That’s the Charlotte Knights.” That will take some time to get to that point, but we’re real pleased we changed our color scheme.
There’s not another affiliated Minor League Baseball team that has that color scheme. We love to copy off each other and steal ideas, and, not by design, but by end result, we ended up with a unique look and something that we are really proud of.
Brian: The White Sox have to be giddy that their top three affiliates (Charlotte, Birmingham and Winston-Salem) have brand new ballparks, don’t they?
Scott: There’s no doubt. They’re so excited. Knights Stadium treated us well for 24 years. It was an adequate baseball facility, but as designs and construction have evolved, it really kind of fell behind the times. The White Sox had stuck with us and worked with us in an older ballpark, which we didn’t have a lot of the amenities that you’re looking for in professional baseball. Their patience has paid off. They’re going to be a part of this, and we expect a full contingent of White Sox folks to be on hand for Opening Night.
Brian: You probably can’t tell me what these things are, but do you have any other big announcements on the horizon?
Scott: Nothing earth-shattering, at least for the next week or two. Then, maybe after that, we might have another big announcement. We’re constantly working on it, wearing our media guys out. You know those media guys. We don’t feel like they work hard enough in the offseason, so we want to keep them occupied.
That final sarcastic jab aside, I always enjoy catching up with Scott, who is one of the hardest workers in baseball. I can assure you that the final product will be great come April 11 in Charlotte.
Good luck to our White Sox brethren in Charlotte as another BB&T Ballpark is only a few months away from completion.
Two Dash alumni have joined the White Sox 40-man roster. Infielder Carlos Sanchez and Trayce Thompson, key contributors during the Dash’s magical 2012 season, have joined the top group in Chicago’s organization.
For those who are unclear why this is so important, only the 40 players in this group can appear in the big leagues. Inclusion on a 40-man roster also promises a higher salary.
Sanchez spent his 2013 campaign with Triple-A Charlotte after a breakout 2012 throughout three levels of the system. The Venezuela native hit .241 with 28 RBIs, 50 runs scored and 16 stolen bases with the Knights. A year ago, Sanchez helped the Dash win a first-half division crown while finishing with the best qualifying batting average in the Carolina League.
Thompson was an everyday outfielder on Double-A Birmingham’s championship team this year. The former second-round pick posted a .229 average to go along with 15 homers and 73 RBIs with the Barons. He shared the CL’s home run lead (24) while spending much of the 2012 season in Winston-Salem.
Both prospects have participated in the Venezuelan Winter League with Tiburones de La Guaira this offseason, and Sanchez has been one of the club’s best hitters.
Congratulations to both Carlos and Trayce on the accomplishment! Both will be on the White Sox radar in the coming years, and this is an important step in that process.
The Arizona Fall League came to an end over the weekend, and many Dash alumni performed well during the six-week prospect showcase. Eight White Sox prospects helped the Glendale Desert Dogs to a 13-16-2 record, and seven of them have called Winston-Salem home at some point during their minor league career.
Here are those seven players’ stats from the AFL:
RHP Chris Bassitt:
1-0, 0.90 ERA, 10.0 IP, 1 R/ER, 9 K in 10 appearances
INF Micah Johnson:
.320, 6 RBI, 6 R, 3 SB in 6 games (injured in middle of season)
LHP Charlie Leesman:
0-1, 1.74 ERA, 10.1 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 K in 7 appearances (1 start)
RHP Stephen McCray:
2-2, 2.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 10 R, 6 ER, 9 K in 6 starts
OF Jared Mitchell:
.304, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 12 R, 6 SB, 1.005 OPS in 20 games
INF Marcus Semien:
.156, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R in 21 games
RHP Kevin Vance:
0-0, 2.13 ERA, 12.2 IP, 3R/ER, 13 K in 10 appearances
A few of these players weighed in on Twitter after wrapping up the 2013 season about two months after most minor leaguers.
2013 in the books. Thank you to everyone for the constant love and support. 2014 is gonna be a fun one
— Chris Bassitt (@C_Bass419) November 13, 2013
Arizona fall league was fun and now have a lot of great friends because of it, but it’s time to enjoy the offseason
— Stephen McCray (@McCrazy44) November 14, 2013
Spring coming around soon….time to go home and re-up. Coming back a better me in 2014.
— Jared Mitchell (@jaredCmitchell) November 15, 2013
It was quite a showing for the White Sox in the AFL. Now, the countdown to the 2014 season has begun for everyone in baseball. We will keep you posted on all of it as winter approaches. Stay tuned.
From 100 yards to 100 miles to 100 percent, we have plenty to discuss on the blog.
- Winston-Salem State football will play for its third consecutive CIAA championship this weekend, and the 100 yards at Bowman Gray Stadium will have a different look for the game. Led by groundskeeper Doug Tanis, the Dash will give the grass, which is dormant (and, thus, brown), a green paint job in advance of the contest. The Dash did the same thing prior to the Rams’ national semifinal a year ago.
- White Sox television play-by-play broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is a finalist for the Ford Frick Award, which is the highest honor for a baseball broadcaster. Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune wrote a great feature about Harrelson, who admits that he may have to wait his turn before becoming a legitimate contender.
- The most fascinating part of this article? Hawk lives in South Bend, Ind., during the baseball season. Thus, he commutes approximately 100 miles to and from U.S. Cellular Field every day. Crazy stuff.
- This year’s installment of the Arizona Fall League is two days away from being 100 percent over. The Glendale Desert Dogs features a handful of Dash alumni, but they will not be heading to the AFL title game on Saturday. We will have a full update on these alumni once the season concludes.
- By the way, one ticket to that championship game is gone. The Surprise Saguaros, with prospects from the Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox, will play either Mesa or Salt River in three days, and the game will air on MLB Network.
It’s 15 days until the best holiday of the year (outside of Opening Day, of course!). Enjoy the rest of your day!
The Dash’s 2014 schedule was made public Tuesday, and the 140-game journey will be an exciting one. However, all schedules feature some games that soar above the rest. Here are the top five games of the upcoming slate, which begins in 154 days.
1. Opening Day – April 3 vs. Wilmington
For the first time in BB&T Ballpark history, the Dash will begin their season at home. Winston-Salem meets the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the first of a four-game set on Thursday, April 3. This franchise has not begun a season with a home game since the Warthogs kicked off the 2007 campaign with a seven-game homestand.
Opening Day is always special in the Triad, but it will be even more unique to see the season begin here at BB&T Ballpark. Over the last two seasons, the Dash suffered consecutive nine-run defeats at Carolina to begin the season. This year, the club will enjoy a fresh start in the friendly confides of BB&T Ballpark.
2. Fourth of July game – July 4 vs. Wilmington
The Blue Rocks will be back in town for the other landmark game of the Dash’s schedule. The Fourth of July always attracts one of the best crowds of the season, and this year’s game promises to be huge because it lands on a Friday night.
In 2013, the Dash set a BB&T Ballpark record with a crowd of 7,576 on July 4. Can Winston-Salem top this impressive number next summer? If one game can draw that type of crowd, it is this one. You will not want to miss it.
3. The champs come to town – April 18 vs. Salem
The Salem Red Sox climbed to the top of the Carolina League in 2013 with a strong second-half surge. Winston will have quite a say in how Salem’s repeat bid begins. The Dash and Sox will meet 11 times in the first 27 days of the campaign.
Salem’s first trip to Winston comes in the form of a four-game wraparound weekend set from April 18-21. This series also includes Easter Sunday, so it should be a jam-packed four days as the Dash attempt to reclaim their hold on the Southern Division’s top spot.
4. Southern Division rivalry week begins – July 7 vs. Myrtle Beach
Since Winston-Salem’s nickname change prior to the 2009 season, the two best teams in the Southern Division have been the Dash and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Myrtle is the only CL club that has qualified for the postseason in three straight seasons.
From July 7-18, the Dash will host the Pelicans seven times, while the full month of July features 10 battles between two squads that always seem to be contenders. The second half race will start to take shape when the Birds and Dash get comfortable with each other in the Triad in July.
5. First-half finale – June 15 at Potomac
Over the last five seasons, Winston-Salem has claimed three first-half division crowns, while last year’s Dash bunch had a chance at the title until the second-to-last day of the half.
If Winston wants to clinch a playoff spot in June, the squad may need to go through Potomac, who was the best team on the circuit in the regular season a year ago. Meaningful baseball is the best kind of baseball, and we are hoping for some in Woodbridge next June.
For a printable version of the Dash’s 2014 schedule, click here. Hope you have a happy Halloween tonight! Enjoy the candy.
The World Series may come to an end tonight, but there is still plenty of news in the baseball world. Here are some of the top stories.
BASSITT, SEMIEN NAMED AFL ALL-STARS
Minor League Baseball holds many All-Star Games each year, but none are more exclusive than the Arizona Fall League’s showcase. The AFL itself is an exclusive collection of the game’s top prospects. Thus, the annual “Fall Stars Game” features the best of the best within the minor leagues.
Both Chris Bassitt and Marcus Semien will represent the White Sox in this prestigious exhibition, which can be seen Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT on MLB Network. Earlier this week, we discussed the success of former Winston-Salem players in the AFL. Bassitt and Semien have been two of the breakout White Sox prospects of 2013, so it is fitting that they receive this opportunity.
Bassitt has surrendered just one run in six relief appearances this fall. The former Akron Zip was a starter throughout the minor league season, amassing an 11-4 record with a 3.08 earned run average. He was a Carolina League All-Star and a Southern League champion.
Semien had a similar level of success at the top of the Chicago organization. Following a strong 2012 showing in Winston-Salem, Semien hit .290 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs en route to the Southern League’s Most Valuable Player Award while with Double-A Birmingham. He also earned promotions to Triple-A and the big leagues, where he held his own against the game’s best competition.
WHITE SOX SIGN CUBAN STAR ABREU
The White Sox front office stated that they were going to reload the big league roster following the club’s disappointing season. Before the true free agency period, the Sox have already added a huge piece to the present and the future.
Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu has joined the White Sox thanks to a six-year, $68 million deal, the club announced Tuesday. Abreu shined in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year and in Cuba since 2007, but fans should be most excited about executive vice president Ken Williams’ quote about the 26-year-old.
“Well, he’s the only player that I’ve seen work out and then play in a game that I wanted to give a standing ovation to.”
Williams expounded upon these comments in that same piece from whitesox.com.
“It was the most professional exhibition of hitting and really defensive work the way he went about things. It was professional. It was focused. It was geared to not just impress, but impress the right way,” Williams said. “One of the things that we did not want to entertain was a guy who was just one dimensional. This guy is a hitter.”
The White Sox have a long way to go to rebound from a 99-loss campaign, but this is an important first step.
CRAZY BASEBALL STORIES
- San Diego State University’s baseball team played an exhibition game in Halloween costumes, and many national outlets picked up the story. Check out the crazy video, which includes Buddy the Elf with a plus glove at third base.
- The Cardinals had some trouble getting to Boston yesterday in advance of Game 6 of the World Series. A mechanical issue on the team’s plane brought about a seven-hour delay; therefore, the Cards arrived at their hotel around midnight EDT.
You can read the entire account of the long travel day, including some funny tweets and comments from team members, here.
The Dash’s 2014 schedule has been released, and we will break down some of the biggest games of the season tomorrow on the blog. Talk to you then.