Opening Day Look: The Dash and Beyond

I’ve been promising to take a look at the Voyagers filling out the White Sox minor league system above Kannapolis, and now I’m finally going to make good. Obviously, there are lots of guys to take a look at, so for the most part, I’m just going to provide a nice, broken down list of where guys have ended up. Don’t worry, I’ll help you keep up with them throughout the season too.

Most Mondays, starting next week, I’ll be doing look around the entire White Sox minor leagues and updating readers how things are going. There will be special attention paid to Voyager alumni. That should make it pretty easy to keep informed about all the guys I’ve been tracking as rosters were set. Though the weekly feature will be called “Monday Minors Recap,” I’ll still put up the first one tomorrow, so the first iteration of ‘MMR’ will actually be on a Tuesday. How’s that for confusing?

We already went over the White Sox A-ball team in Kannapolis, so next up is the High-A Winston-Salem Dash of the Carolina League. Here’s the list of former Voyagers assigned to Winston-Salem along with the years they appeared in a Voyager uniform.

Winston-Salem Dash

  • Gary Ward (Hitting Coach 2011)
  • Michael Early (2010, ’11)
  • Spencer Arroyo (2010)
  • Jon Bachanov (2010)
  • Paul Burnside (2009, ’10)
  • Michael Blanke (2010)
  • Ross Wilson (2010)
  • Ryan Buch (2009)
  • Justin Collop (2009)
  • Nick Ciolli (2009)
  • Trayce Thompson (2009)
  • Leroy Hunt (2007)

In addition to Paul Burnside, who played in Great Falls for two seasons, and Michael Blanke, who slugged the ball around a good bit in 2010, there are two names off that list that I think should jump out to Voyager fans. Both Michael Early and Gary Ward took the leap straight to the Dash from Great Falls and skipped Kannapolis in the middle. Both guys have rings from the Voyagers championship run last year as well. Early was of course a key hitter for the Voyagers last year and has played 124 lifetimes games in a Voyager uniform. Gary Ward makes the jump not as a player, but as hitting coach. It’s an exciting move up the ladder for both guys, and it speaks well for how both factor into the White Sox future plans.

Moving along to AA ball, here’s the list of former Voyagers with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League.

Birmingham Barons

  • Andy Wilkins (2010)
  • Matt Wickswat (2008, ’09)
  • Kevin Dubler (2009)
  • Cameron Bayne (2008)
  • Dan Remenowsky (2008)
  • Luis Sierra (2008)
  • Kenneth Williams (2008)
  • Henry Mabee (2007)

The fast rise of Andy Wilkins is noteworthy; the patient first baseman hit well for the Voyagers in 2010 and then skipped Kannapolis altogether, jumping straight to Winston-Salem in 2011. After continued success at that level – something that bodes well for Michael Early – Wilkins continued to progress up the system into AA, where he is now a few games into the season. With long time White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko signed through 2013 perpetually nearing retirement, the White Sox will be looking for a new first baseman before too long, and Wilkins may be making himself part of the plans.

Last, we take a look at the AAA Charlotte Knights of the International League. As is often the case with AAA teams, Charlotte is filled with much older players than the rest of the farm system as the White Sox have loaded the roster with a variety of positional backups for the major league roster. Is various key White Sox go down, it’s important for GM Kenny Williams to know he has a variety of veteran journeymen with major league experience to step in if needed. There are still 5 Voyagers on the Knight’s roster though.

Charlotte Knights

  • Anthony Carter (2007)
  • Jim Gallagher (2007)
  • Tyler Kuhn (2008)
  • Kyle Shelton (2008)
  • Terry Doyle (2009)

Tyler Kuhn was definitely a noteworthy Voyager when he played in Great Falls in 2008. He absolutely raked while in a Voyager uniform, finishing the year with a .375 batting average and 23 doubles in 62 games while roaming second base at Centene Stadium. He’s never quite replicated that level of success, but he had a very good 2011 season in his second go-around in AA Birmingham (.341 batting average with 28 doubles in 107 games) and will get his first full-season crack in AAA ball this year. The White Sox infield is quite set for the foreseeable future, but Kuhn is a good option should a player like 2B Gordon Beckham get hurt, and if he performs well in Charlotte this season he just may become valuable trade bait to another major league franchise looking to acquire a young starting second baseman.

I also want to mention Terry Doyle, who has rocketed through the White Sox system. This year will be his first in AAA, but he’s already there after playing in Great Falls in 2009. That’s a very quick amount of time to go from Rookie ball to AAA. Doyle almost became a Minnesota Twin after he got taken by that team in the Rule V draft, but the Twins decided to send him back to the Sox, so he’ll get his first action in Charlotte instead of Minnesota this season. He’s definitely on the radar of the Sox if they need long relief help any time this year.

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