The Charlotte Knights had a rough season in 2018. The team finished with an overall record of 64-75 which placed them in last place of the International League South Division. The team was unable to find consistency throughout the year, and their best stretch of games was a five-game win streak that didn’t occur until August. Despite the inconsistencies as a team, the Charlotte Knights had some impressive performances from players on their roster during the 2018 season.
Let’s take a look at some of those performances from this past season:
Eloy Jimenez continues to get better and better, which is hard to believe, and is also terrifying for pitchers who have to face him. During the 2018 season, Eloy got his first opportunity to play at the Triple-A level and with that opportunity, he tore up the International League. He slashed .355/.399/.597 with 13 doubles, 12 home runs, and 33 RBI’s in 55 games with the Knights. He was sidelined twice with an injury this season, but that never slowed him down or prevented him from getting into a groove. Eloy also spent some time at Birmingham, and between both affiliates he hit .337 with 28 doubles, 3 triples, 22 home runs, and 75 RBI’s. The highlight of his season came during his time with the Barons. Eloy put together a 15-game hit streak, and during that streak he had two or more hits in 9 consecutive games. There was a lot of speculation that White Sox fans would be seeing Eloy Jimenez with the major league club this season. However, White Sox fans will have to wait until next season to see his highly-anticipated MLB debut, and they shouldn’t have to wait too long into the season for it to happen.
Catcher Seby Zavala is another White Sox prospect that saw action in Triple-A for the first time in his career during the 2018 season. With the Knights, Zavala hit .243 with 15 doubles, 2 home runs, and 20 RBI’s. He was very productive with runners in scoring position, hitting .288 with one home run and 19 RBI’s in those situations. The highlight of his season offensively came in July when he picked up at least one hit in seven consecutive games. He had another streak in late August where he picked up a hit in five consecutive games. Seby Zavala was shuffled around the Knights lineup quite a bit, but he was most successful hitting in the sixth spot. In that spot, he hit .333 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI’s. We should be seeing Seby Zavala join the major league club at some point next season, barring any injuries or unpredictable circumstances. At the very least, he will be a September call-up, but the White Sox might want to see what they have in him a little earlier than the end of the season.
Patrick Leonard signed a minor league contract with the White Sox this off-season, and was assigned to Charlotte where he spent the entire 2018 season. In his first season with the Knights, he hit .242 with 29 doubles, 11 home runs, and 50 RBI’s. He led the Knights in total hits, doubles, and RBI’s, and finished fourth on the team in home runs. On two separate occasions, Patrick Leonard picked up a hit in seven consecutive games twice, and picked up a hit in six consecutive games twice. He hit just .216 in the first half of the season, however, he would settle in and hit .289 in the second half. Patrick Leonard’s numbers dipped a little bit from the 2017 season. However, he provides the White Sox with at least some depth at a position that is currently a hole on the roster. Pending what the White Sox do in free agency, Patrick Leonard might have an opportunity to see some playing time at the major league level next season.
Infielder Jose Rondon was acquired from the Padres this past off-season and was initially assigned to the Charlotte Knights. Rondon would spend his season rotating between the Knights and the White Sox, and would eventually end his 2018 season with the major league club. With the Knights, Rondon hit .249 with 15 doubles, 4 triples, 18 home runs, and 38 RBI’s. Before this year, the most home runs he hit during a season was 7. His 18 home runs with the Knights led the team in that category this season. Defensively, Rondon played third-base and shortstop for the Knights. With the White Sox, he played third-base, shortstop, second-base, and got one inning of work at first-base. With the surprise development of power and his ability to be able to play multiple positions in the field, Jose Rondon seems like he can become a solid utility man for the White Sox moving forward.
Right-hander Jordan Stephens was promoted to Charlotte in May, after having a very successful stint with the Birmingham Barons this season. In 21 starts with the Knights, Stephens had a 4.71 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 42 walks in 107.0 IP. Between Birmingham and Charlotte, he totaled 139 strikeouts and 54 walks in 146.2 IP. In his first four starts with the Knights, Jordan Stephens gave up two earned runs or less and went for at least six innings in each of those starts. His most impressive start came on June 23 when he tossed six shutout innings, gave up just three hits, and struck out a season-high nine batters. Between Birmingham and Charlotte, he had a total of five shutouts on the mound. With the White Sox having potentially two rotation spots available next season, we should see Jordan Stephens competing for one of those spots. Spring Training will be very important for him, as that will be the last time the White Sox can get a long look at what he can do before deciding on what their rotation will be moving into the 2019 season.
Spencer Adams is another starting rotation arm that spent time with Birmingham and Charlotte this season. In 15 starts with the Knights, Adams posted a 3.19 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 38 walks in 90.1 IP. His 3.19 ERA was the second best for Knights starting pitchers who made 10 or more starts during the 2018 season. Out of all 15 of his starts, Spencer Adams gave up two earned runs or less in 10 of those starts. His best start of the season came on July 7 when he tossed seven shutout innings, gave up four hits, and struck out four batters. Spencer Adams will also have an opportunity to potentially earn a starting spot with the major league team heading into next season. He’s just 22-years-old, but the White Sox will want to see what they have in him at the major league level sooner rather than later. Plus, at that age, he’s already finished up his fourth full professional season.
Left-hander Jordan Guerrero split time between Birmingham and Charlotte this season. After struggling in Birmingham, he still got his shot at Triple-A when he was promoted to Charlotte towards the end of June. Guerrero would bounce back from his struggles and put together a successful end to the season with the Knights. In Charlotte, he made 12 starts and had a 3.46 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 28 walks in 65.0 IP. Between both affiliates during the 2018 season, he had a total of 120 strikeouts and just 47 walks. Jordan Guerrero managed to give up one earned run or less in five of his twelve starts with the Knights. His most impressive start came on July 12, which was just his third start with the team. In that start, Guerrero threw 6.2 scoreless innings, gave up only two hits, and struck out seven batters. Jordan Guerrero provides the White Sox with the option to be an additional left-handed pitcher in their starting rotation. If the team decides they want to add another lefty to the rotation without doing it through free agency, they have a couple of intriguing options in the farm system and Jordan Guerrero is one of those options.
Ian Hamilton managed to play at three different levels of baseball in 2018. He started the season in Birmingham and was promoted to Charlotte in June. On the final day in August, he got the call and would make his professional debut with the White Sox shortly after. Ian Hamilton was lights out for the Barons and the Knights this season. He had a 1.74 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 16 walks in 51.2 IP combined for both affiliates. Also, he recorded 22 saves in 26 save opportunities this season. When his team needed him in high leverage situations, he would answer the call and get the job done. Ian Hamilton made 10 appearances for the White Sox and held opponents scoreless in six of those appearances. He made a couple of mistakes here and there during his time with the major league club, but he will learn from it and will be one of the more exciting arms in the White Sox bullpen next season.
Even though the Knights struggled during the 2018 season, they should see some improvement for this upcoming year. The team will be losing Eloy Jimenez eventually, along with potentially losing some starting rotation arms. However, there is a line of talented prospects ready to replace those guys. Just to name a few, Charlotte will be adding Dylan Cease, Bernardo Flores, Zack Collins, Kodi Medeiros, and more at some point next season. Those guys will be ready to contribute and should make a significant impact with the team. Regardless of their record, the Charlotte Knights have had a lot of talent on their roster in recent years, and that will be no different story for the 2019 season.
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