It was a tough season for the Birmingham Barons as they were unable to qualify for the playoffs. In the first half of the season, they posted a 32-36 record which had them in last place of the Southern League North Division. In the second half of the season, they went 34-36, giving them an overall record of 66-72 and they finished in fourth place of the Southern League North Division.
The highlight of the Barons season occurred in August when they were able to set a new club record. On August 10, the Barons hit seven home runs in one game against the Montgomery Biscuits and were able to write their name in the record books.
Despite not making the playoffs, the Birmingham Barons still had some impressive player performances from this season. Let’s take a look at how some of the players performed during the 2018 season:
Outfield prospect Luis Alexander Basabe got his first taste of Double-A baseball this season when he was promoted to Birmingham at the end of June. With the Barons, Basabe hit .251 with 9 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, 26 RBI’s, and had 9 stolen bases in 13 attempts. In the month of July, he put together a 15-game hit streak. Defensively, Basabe played every outfield spot for the Barons and only committed one error with the team. Luis Alexander Basabe is a five-tool player that brings a lot to the organization. He went from being a “throw-in” trade piece to being one of the more exciting White Sox prospects to watch while he develops. His first crack at Double-A got off to a slow start, but he turned things around and put together some solid numbers. Luis Alexander Basabe will bring his talent to the Arizona Fall League and White Sox fans will get the opportunity to see how he can do against some great pitching prospects.
Zack Collins had an interesting year to say the least. He hit .234 with 24 doubles, 15 home runs, 68 RBI’s, drew 101 walks, and had 158 strikeouts. His walk total was fantastic, proving that he has an above average eye. However, he paired that with a ton of strikeouts. His power numbers continue to look promising as his 15 home runs were the most he’s had since the 2017 season with the Winston-Salem Dash, and his 68 RBI’s are a new career-high for him. The highlight of his season came on August 10, when he hit a grand slam and two-run home run in the same inning. He finished the day going 3-6 at the plate with 6 RBI’s. If Zack Collins can continue to develop his power and cut down the strikeouts, then he can become a very dangerous hitter that he was projected to be when the White Sox drafted him tenth overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. He will be getting promoted to Charlotte at some point next season, and it will be intriguing to see how he can perform at the next level.
Joel Booker split time during his 2018 season playing for both Winston-Salem and Birmingham. In his first shot at Double-A, Booker hit .266 with 12 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 17 RBI’s, and stole 12 bases. His time with the Barons got off to a hot start as he collected four hits and three hits in his first two games at Double-A. Booker got into another hot streak in August as he hit .293 and drove in six runs in 26 games during that month. Defensively, he played all three outfield spots for the Barons where he had seven assists and registered two double plays. Joel Booker was successful in his first shot at Double-A in 2018, and he should continue to see success next season as one of the Barons’ everyday outfielders.
Infielder Danny Mendick ended his 2017 season with the Birmingham Barons and he struggled, hitting under .200 in 41 games. However, in 2018 he would see some improvement and spent the entire season with the Barons. Mendick hit .247 with 25 doubles, 14 home runs, and had 59 RBI’s this past season. He finished third on the team in home runs and RBI’s, and finished second in walks with 57 and total hits with 112. In late April, he hit three home runs in three consecutive games. Mendick also had a stretch in August where he collected three or more hits in four consecutive games, and he hit a home run in back-to-back games during that same stretch. Defensively, it was a struggle for Danny Mendick who committed 17 errors at shortstop. However, he made up for it by providing a valuable bat in the lineup each day.
Left-hander Kodi Medeiros was acquired in a trade with the Brewers and was immediately assigned to Birmingham. His first start was rain-shortened, and he would go on to struggle in his next two starts. In those starts, he gave up six earned runs or more in both of them. However, he would have a strong end to his season following the rough patch. Over his next four starts, Medeiros posted a 2.45 ERA with 19 strikeouts and 11 walks in 22.0 IP. He kept opposing hitters to just a .215 AVG when facing him over those four starts. In seven total starts with the Barons, Kodi Medeiros had a 4.98 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 22 walks in 34.1 IP. Medeiros has a plus slider and fastball that both have a lot of life to them, and both pitches can be lethal, especially to left-handed hitters. Even though he put together some decent numbers as a starting pitcher, he is likely headed to the bullpen in the future. Kodi Medeiros is another guy that will be heading to Charlotte at some point next season. After seeing just how good his arsenal can be at times, it will be exciting to see what he can do when he faces a higher level of competition.
Dylan Cease was dominant throughout the 2018 season, and he continues to show that he can become a great pitcher at the major league level. For a while, people saw him eventually making his way to the bullpen. However, after an incredible 2018 season, people now see Dylan Cease as a top of the rotation starting pitcher. In 10 starts for the Barons, Cease had a 1.72 ERA with 78 strikeouts, 22 walks, and opponents hit .168 against him in 52.1 IP. Between both Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2018, he finished the year with a total of 160 strikeouts and just 50 walks. In his final 9 starts of the season, Dylan Cease gave up one earned run or less in 8 of those starts. Cease’s success this season was not just recognized by White Sox fans. MLB Pipeline named him their 2018 Pitcher of the Year and he was also named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year. Dylan Cease will be moving on to Charlotte next season, and he should continue to see as much success there as he did in Birmingham.
2016 seventh-rounder Bernardo Flores was another player that saw his first opportunity in Double-A during the 2018 season. In 13 starts with the Barons, Flores had a 2.76 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 14 walks in 78.1 IP. He started the year in Winston-Salem and had a total of 105 strikeouts and 31 walks between both affiliates. Bernardo Flores only gave up more than two earned runs in three out of his thirteen starts in Birmingham. His stuff isn’t overwhelming, but he has a good command of the strike zone, and got the majority of his outs on ground balls. His best start with the Barons came in his final start of the season where he tossed six shutout innings, gave up five hits, issued no walks, and struck out three batters. Bernardo Flores gives the White Sox an intriguing left-handed starting pitching option, however, if being a starter doesn’t workout, he can become a valuable member of the bullpen with his ability to pound the strike zone.
Zach Thompson appeared in 21 games for the Barons out of the bullpen this season. He posted a 1.35 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 18 walks in 40.0 IP. Between Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2018, Thompson had a 1.55 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 29 walks. He gave up one earned run or less in 20 of his 21 appearances with Birmingham. In his final 8 appearances of the 2018 season, Zach Thompson gave up zero earned runs in each appearance. His 1.35 ERA was the second best on the team, and his 1.15 WHIP was the sixth best on the team. White Sox fans will be able to get an extended look at Zach Thompson since he will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League. It will be a good test for him as he gets to face off against some of the top talent in the farm systems throughout the MLB.
As it was previously mentioned, it was a disappointing season for the Barons with the team being unable to qualify for the postseason. However, that disappointment will not last long as this team has the potential to be one of the most exciting affiliates next season. The Barons will be losing quite a bit of talent as some of the key players get promoted to Charlotte. Those players will be replaced with some of the key members from the Winston-Salem Dash, and that team is coming off a very exciting season. There will be much brighter days coming soon for the Birmingham Barons.
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