The White Sox have entered a rebuilding year(s), that much has been established. While that is exciting as far as the team that plays at the Southside park, it also means that the organization is making changes and additions to their minor league affiliates. These are the places that the Sox need to build just as much as the big league team, if they want players they can bring up that can make a difference and if they want hot prospects to use for trades down the road.
The White Sox have, so far, shown an interest in building up those farm teams, too. However, as a Sox fan, what teams should you be following in the farm system? Given the fact that the affiliations often change, it can be a bit of a challenge, but if you are looking to update your Twitter, Facebook or other social media efforts to keep track of the Sox farm teams, these are the ones to keep track of.
Triple-A Charlotte Knights – Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, this is the upper-level of the Sox farm system. In 2016, manager Julio Vinas nearly led the team into the playoffs and it came right down to the last game. Sadly, they didn’t make it, but things have changed with the team now. The new manager is Mark Grudzielanek, which you may remember from his time with the Chicago Cubs. The team is first class, with a great stadium in downtown Charlotte and if you see players getting sent up or some players sent down, there is a strong likelihood this is where they’re going.
Double-A Birmingham Barons – The team that became famous when Michael Jordan indulged his baseball fetish and played for this time. They have a brand new stadium and now former Knights manager Julia Vinas has been moved to the Barons. The team has been a big winner in the past, although they struggled last season. Next to the Knights, this it the team most often used for rehabs and for plucking hot new talent to bring up to the majors. With the manager change, the Barons are a team to keep an eye on this season.
Single-A Wintson-Salem Dash – At one time the Dash were known as the Warthogs. They are considered a Class-A Advanced team and play a full season along with the big leagues. They made a good playoff run in 2015, but lost in the finals and finished the 2016 season with a record of 56-83. Again, signs are looking good that the Sox will be building this team up, too, so it’s worth checking them out in 2017.
Single-A Kannapolis Intimidators – Another team in the south and out of North Carolina. The farm system calls them a “Low A” farm team. They have been in the championships a few times, but nothing that has ever been amazingly impressive. They have been a team where some big-league players have played such as Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel and Clayton Richard. Not sure what to expect for 2017, but add them to the watch list.
Rookie League AZL White Sox – if you want to see the truly young talent, take care to watch this team. We are getting into the lowest levels, but that doesn’t meant great things cannot come from here. All of the players at all levels are recruited by White Sox scouts as having potential, including this Arizona League team. They play a shortened season and the players are all college age. These are the guys you may see making a splash in the big leagues years down the road.
Rookie League DSL White Sox – A team in the Dominican Summer League. Another team that promotes and incubates very young talent. Of course, as baseball fans we know that some of the best players come from South America, but sometimes young players in the US are sent south to get some training and to see their real potential.
Rookie League Great Falls Voyagers – Finally we head north. This team is located in Great Falls, Montana and have been part of the White Sox family for some time. More rookies here and a shortened season in Big Sky Country. Interestingly, they are named after a famous UFO incident known as the Mariana UFO incident, so there’s that. The team does make it into the playoffs pretty routinely, so they can be fun to watch.
So, while the major league White Sox team is trying to rebuild and struggling to find their footing, it’s worth following their minor league teams. Sometimes a lot of fun can be had seeing these young players and finding the future stars of the South Side. The Sox are rebuilding, and that means adding players here, too.
Photo from ChicagoNow website