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White Sox: Winston-Salem Dash’s 2018 Season Review

White Sox: The Winston-Salem Dash were one of the most exciting White Sox affiliates in 2018. Sean Williams takes a look at some of the key performances that helped the team qualify for the playoffs.

The Winston-Salem Dash didn’t walk away with any hardware at the end of the playoffs, however, that didn’t stop them from being one of the most exciting affiliates this season. The Dash were flooded with some of the top talent in the White Sox farm system and they put together a truly incredible season from start to finish.

The Winston-Salem Dash clinched their spot in the playoffs after earning a first half title with a 41-29 record in the Carolina League Southern Division. They would go on to claim the second half division title after posting a 43-25 record. The Winston-Salem Dash finished their 2018 season with an overall record of 84-54.

Their remarkable season would quickly come to an end in the playoffs as they were swept in the first round by the Buies Creek Astros. Regardless of the postseason results, the Winston-Salem Dash had a great season and the team deserves to be proud of their accomplishments in 2018.

Let’s take a look at some of the players that helped the Dash qualify for the playoffs:

It didn’t take long for White Sox 2018 first-round selection Nick Madrigal to make his way to Winston-Salem during his first professional season. After a brief debut with the AZL affiliate, Madrigal was promoted to Kannapolis. Less than a month later, he was promoted to Winston-Salem and ended his season there. With the Dash, he hit .306 with 4 doubles, 5 walks, and 9 RBI’s. Nick Madrigal is known for putting the ball in play, and that showed quickly this season as he only struck out five times in 43 total games for all three affiliates. He did not strikeout until he made it to Winston-Salem, and had 57 consecutive at-bats without a strikeout to start his professional career. Madrigal played in a total of 26 games for the Dash and had more than one hit in 12 of those games. Defensively, he strictly played second-base with Winston-Salem and Kannapolis. He also saw action at shortstop for one game with the AZL affiliate. Throughout the entire 2018 season, Nick Madrigal had only 2 errors. He frequently flashed his athleticism and ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

Nick Madrigal at the plate for the Winston-Salem Dash (photo credit to: Clinton Cole).

Outfielder Blake Rutherford got his first taste of Hi-A baseball in 2018 and he put together a very impressive season. He hit .293 with 25 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs, and 78 RBI’s. He finished second on the team in doubles, and led the team in hits, triples, and RBI’s. Before this season, Blake Rutherford had five total home runs throughout his career. He came relatively close to doubling that total in the 2018 season thanks to the development of more pop in his bat. He’s always been a high average hitter in his career, and if he continues to add power to his arsenal, then he can become a very dangerous hitter in the future. On two separate occasions this season, Rutherford had a nine-game hit streak and a twelve-game hit streak. He gave opposing pitchers a lot of trouble this season, hitting .284 against left-handed pitchers and .295 against right-handed pitchers. Blake Rutherford will get promoted to Birmingham at some point next season, and it will be exciting to see what he can do and to watch him develop at the next level.

Luis Robert got his crack at professional baseball in the United States this season. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. He missed the start of the season with a sprained thumb ligament and would re-sprain that same ligament during the season which caused him to miss extended time once again. He was never able to get into a groove this season, however, that didn’t stop him from displaying all of the tools he brings to the organization. Upon returning from injury after Spring Training, Luis Robert was assigned to Kannapolis. Less than a month later, he was promoted to Winston-Salem and continued to play there for the rest of the season. With the Dash, Luis Robert hit .244 with 6 doubles, one triple, and 11 RBI’s. He has not hit his first professional home run yet, but he will hit plenty of them in the near future. He swiped eight bags at Winston-Salem and was only thrown out twice. In center field, he made multiple gold glove plays while utilizing his speed. Once he’s able to put it all together, he will be an incredible ballplayer. It was just tough for him to get his bat going with his season being interrupted by an injury twice.

Luis Robert at the plate for the Winston-Salem Dash (photo credit to: Clinton Cole).

Another outfielder that made a major impact with the Dash this season was Luis Gonzalez. When he was drafted in 2017, he was a lesser-known prospect. After back-to-back strong seasons to start his professional career, Luis Gonzalez has become a household name for White Sox fans. In 2018, he slashed .313/.375/.504 with 24 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, and 45 RBI’s. He was the team leader in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS this season. Between May and June, Gonzalez was on fire and put together a seventeen-game hit streak. Defensively, he played all three outfield spots for the Dash this season and only had two errors, showing he is not just a one-dimensional player. Luis Gonzalez has not been challenged much so far in his young career, but the main reason he is currently at Winston-Salem is because there is a logjam of outfielders at the other affiliates. He will get his promotion to Birmingham soon and it will be exciting to see if he can keep this up at the next level.

2017 second-rounder Gavin Sheets had his best professional season in 2018 and he spent the entire season with the Dash. Sheets hit .293 with 28 doubles, 6 home runs, and 61 RBI’s. He was the team leader in doubles and walks, and finished third on the team in RBI’s. He saw action at first-base in 108 games this season and only had four errors. Gavin Sheets was one of the most consistent players in the batters box and out in the field for the Dash this season. Even though he’s coming off his most successful professional season, I would like to see his home run total increase. Gavin Sheets has a 6’4″ 230 lb frame, which is great, but his home run numbers don’t fit the profile of a typical first-baseman. However, he has still been able to be effective at the plate during his first two professional seasons by hitting in the high .200’s in each of those seasons.

Gavin Sheets at the plate for the Winston-Salem Dash (photo credit to: Clinton Cole).

Left-handed reliever Hunter Schryver was lights out for the Dash this season as a high-leverage reliever. He posted a 1.20 ERA with 21 strikeouts, 3 walks, and 3 saves in as many save opportunities. Schryver also had a 0.80 WHIP and held opponents to a .170 AVG when facing him. Hunter Schryver made his Dash debut on August 4 and he didn’t give up an earned run until September 2. He made 9 appearances for the Dash in 2018 and had more than one strikeout in all but one of those appearances. The White Sox acquired Schryver for international bonus pool money and if his performance this season is any indication of the pitcher he can become, then the White Sox found themselves a hidden gem.

Lincoln Henzman did whatever he was asked to in 2018. His first four appearances with the Dash were out of the bullpen. He would then get bumped into the starting rotation where he would continue to succeed. This season, Lincoln Henzman posted a 2.60 ERA with 20 strikeouts and 10 walks. In the playoffs, he made one start and tossed 5.0 innings, gave up one run, had three strikeouts, and one walk. In his last 9 appearances of the season, he gave up one earned run or less in all but one appearance. Anytime a pitcher has an ERA under 3.00, they are on top of their game. What’s most impressive about Lincoln Henzman accomplishing that this season is that he managed to do that going from the bullpen and into the starting rotation. He’s been primarily a starting pitcher for his professional career, so it looks like he will continue that role moving forward.

Lincoln Henzman on the field for the National Anthem before taking the mound (photo credit to: Clinton Cole).

Another bullpen arm that was lights out for the Dash this season was Tyler Johnson. He played for both the Intimidators and the Dash this season and kept his ERA under 2.00 with both affiliates. With the Dash, Johnson had a 1.45 ERA with 89 strikeouts, 16 walks, and 7 saves in 58.0 IP. Tyler Johnson appeared in 21 games for the Dash and only gave up more than one earned run one time, and that happened during his second appearance with the team. He was perfect in save opportunities, until the end of August when the Salem Red Sox tagged him for two runs late in the game. Tyler Johnson finished second on the team in ERA and WHIP (trailing Schryver in both categories), and led the team in saves. His command of the strike zone was evident with his high strikeout and low walk numbers in 2018. He finished the season with a 12.4 K/9 and a 1.74 BB/9.

Tyler Johnson on the mound for the Winston-Salem Dash (photo credit to: Clinton Cole).

The Winston-Salem Dash will be losing a lot of their top talent as these players get promoted to Birmingham at some point next season. Because of this, the Birmingham Barons should be a very competitive and exciting team as more and more of the Dash players are promoted. It’s going to be tough for the Dash to recover from losing their key players, but they will be replaced with a variety of talented prospects that should keep the team competitive again next season. The White Sox have one of the best farm systems from top to bottom in all of baseball, so there will be plenty of talented players at all levels, even after promotions are granted.

Follow Sean on Twitter-Feature Photo Credit: Clinton Cole

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