The Kannapolis Intimidators had an impressive season in 2018. The team qualified for the playoffs through a “wildcard” spot, since the Lakewood BlueClaws clinched both the first half and second half title. The Intimidators set themselves up nicely in the first half of the season, going 39-28. In the second half of the season, the team struggled a little bit as they posted a 35-35 record. However, their overall record of 74-63 placed them in second place of the South Atlantic League Northern Division and they received a bid to the playoffs because of that.
Unfortunately, the Intimidators extended season would quickly come to an end as they dropped back-to-back games to the BlueClaws and were swept out of the playoffs. Regardless, they were one of three White Sox affiliates to make the postseason and the team saw a lot of success during the 2018 season.
Let’s take a look at some of the players performances that helped get the Intimidators to the playoffs:
After making his professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League and moving up to Great Falls, White Sox 2018 second-rounder Steele Walker was promoted to Kannapolis in August and ended his season there. Walker missed the end of his collegiate season with an oblique injury that also caused him to miss time before making his professional debut. He struggled a bit in Kannapolis, hitting .186 with 5 doubles, 3 home runs, and 17 RBI’s. However, Walker was very productive with runners in scoring position, hitting .267 with 13 RBI’s in those situations. Defensively, he primarily played center field for all three affiliates and committed no errors. He did see action in right field for one game in the Arizona Rookie League and was perfect in that spot as well. Steele Walker had to deal with playing an extended season for the first time, along with traveling and playing for three different affiliates in three months. It was a big adjustment for him in his first professional season after coming back from an injury, and that’s likely the cause of his struggles. It will be exciting to see what he can do in his first full professional season as a member of the White Sox organization.
Carlos Perez played his entire 2018 season in Kannapolis and it was his first action with the affiliate since 2016. Perez hit .290 with 18 doubles, 3 home runs, and 32 RBI’s this season. That’s his best average since coming over to the United States to play professional baseball and it was the best average on the Intimidators in terms of players who participated in a full season at Kannapolis. His season got off to a slow start offensively, but he picked it up in the second half of the season. After the All-Star break, Perez hit .342 with 3 home runs and 18 RBI’s. In the playoffs, Perez hit .287 and drove in a one run while seeing action in both playoffs games. Defensively, it was a struggle for Perez behind the plate, but his productive bat made it tough for Intimidators Manager Justin Jirschele to keep him out of the lineup.
Tyler Frost, a member of the 2017 White Sox draft class, played his first full professional season in 2018 and brought a powerful bat into the Intimidators lineup. This season, Frost hit .241 with 21 doubles, 18 home runs, and 65 RBI’s. He was the team leader in home runs, and finished second on the team in doubles and RBI’s. He was unable to get a hit in both postseason games, but he did reach base twice on a walk. The highlight of Tyler Frost’s season took place on April 20-22 when he hit a home run in three consecutive games. Defensively, he committed five total errors while playing right field and center field. However, he also had a total of 13 assists this season from the outfield.
Another member of the White Sox 2017 draft class that played a key role for the Intimidators this season was Tate Blackman. This season, he hit .244 with 18 doubles, 17 home runs, and 65 RBI’s. Blackman finished second on the team in RBI’s, home runs, and hits, and was the team leader in walks with 62 on the season. His season got off to a hot start as he picked up at least one hit in the first five games. His season also ended on a positive note as he reached base in the final eight games of the season. In the playoffs, he hit .333 with two singles, one RBI, and one walk. Tate Blackman’s strikeout total this season (153) was very high, but this was his first taste of Low-A and full season baseball, so that number should hopefully decrease moving forward.
2018 tenth-round selection Bennett Sousa split time between Great Falls and Kannapolis this season, with the majority of his time being spent in Kannapolis. At Great Falls, he had a perfect ERA through 13.0 IP and he would continue to have a successful season after being promoted to Kannapolis. With the Intimidators, Bennett Sousa posted a 2.01 ERA with 24 strikeouts and only 7 walks in 22.1 IP. He made 11 appearances with Kannapolis and gave up one earned run or less in 10 of those appearances. He was only tagged for more than one run once this entire season between both affiliates. Sousa also had a streak this season where he walked one batter or less in eleven consecutive games. His ability to command the strike zone was great this season. If he keeps it up, he could potentially become an effective bullpen arm in the future.
Zach Lewis signed a minor league contract with the White Sox in 2017 and was initially assigned to the AZL affiliate. In 2018, Lewis put together a fantastic season with the Intimidators. In 16 starts, he had a 2.60 ERA with 103 strikeouts and 48 walks in 103.2 IP. He also had a 1.13 WHIP and kept opponents to a .189 AVG when facing him. In his final nine starts of the season, Zach Lewis struck out five or more batters in all nine of those starts, and he gave up two earned runs or less in eight of those starts. The right-hander made one start in the playoffs where he tossed six innings, gave up two runs, struck out eight, and issued just one walk. Lewis had a rough stretch of starts in May, but he turned things around and became a very reliable starting pitcher for the Intimidators this season.
Andrew Perez was an eighth-round selection in the 2018 draft and was taken as a late innings reliever out of the University of South Florida. During this past season, he continued that role with both the Voyagers and the Intimidators. In Kannapolis, Perez had a 2.88 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 13 walks in 25.0 IP. The left-hander was very efficient out of the bullpen, having 12 consecutive appearances where he gave up two earned runs or less and he walked two batters or less during that same stretch. His walk numbers are a little high, however, those numbers should gradually decrease as he develops through the minor league system. Perez is a hard throwing left-hander that could eventually become a high-leverage reliever at the major league level when he develops more control.
Another 2017 minor league signing that had a significant impact with the Intimidators was Jose Nin. He put up some very impressive numbers with the DSL White Sox in 2017 and would continue to improve in 2018. Nin posted a 1.68 ERA and 0.99 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and 13 walks in 48.1 IP. In 37 appearances for the Intimidators this season, Jose Nin gave up more than one earned run on only two occasions. In 27 of those appearances, he shutout opposing hitters. In the playoffs, he made one appearance and tossed 2.1 scoreless innings. At 23-years-old and playing in his fifth professional season, Nin had the second best ERA of his young career in 2018.
Even though the Kannapolis Intimidators had a disappointing end to their season in the playoffs, they still had a great season from top to bottom in 2018. The Intimidators will be receiving some of the key pieces from the Great Falls Voyagers in 2019, a team that just recently won the Pioneer League Championship. With that being said, as some of the players on the Intimidators roster get promoted, they will be replaced with some good, young talent that should make this team competitive again next season.
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