As the minor league season turns to September, prospects are focusing on finishing their seasons on a strong note. With the offseason nearing, minor league players want to build a good momentum to take into the winter.
One organization, the Chicago White Sox, has decided to give their top prospects the chance to prove themselves with a promotion project they call Project Birmingham. In this organizational experiment, the White Sox have taken players from Low-A Kannapolis, and High-A Winston-Salem and promoted them to Double-A Birmingham for the remainder of the minor league season.
Purpose of Project Birmingham
The purpose of Project Birmingham is to promote concentrated development between the top young prospects in the farm system. The idea came from White Sox Assistant General Manager, and Director of Player Development Chris Getz. Based on the idea of having an alternative training site during the 2020 season, a season that saw the minor league season canceled. The White Sox will concentrate their top prospects in Birmingham to make an instructional league atmosphere.
“It’s not about performance,” Getz said. “It’s about getting the individual instruction and the added motivation about being part of this to then fully enhance them for their careers.” During these three weeks, the prospects will come to Birmingham, Alabama, and play on the Birmingham Barons. It gives players the chance to face steeper competition towards the end of the season. The Barons intend to remain competitive as their season comes to a close.
The White Sox chose Birmingham as the organization did not wish to alter Triple-A Charlotte in case of big league need. Prospects playing in Birmingham will have a more hands-on approach to their development. All their minor league coordinators will also be headed to Birmingham to help with further instruction. Through this, they will implement individualized development plans for the offseason.
Who will be playing in Birmingham?
This transition will see five of the top-ten prospects in the White Sox organization playing alongside each other. It will feature players such as top prospect Colson Montgomery who was a 2021 first-round draft pick. Montgomery, who has played shortstop for Kannapolis and Winston-Salem this season, will get to play every day in Birmingham. Also included is prospect Oscar Colas, who was promoted to Birmingham earlier this season and has continued to dominate. An international signing in 2016, Colas has a chance to make the White Sox’ roster in 2023.
Norge Vera spent the 2021 season in the Dominican Summer League. The 22-year old right-hander pitched in Kannapolis and Winston-Salem before this promotion to Birmingham. “At first, it was hard for him, getting on the field and experiencing something new,” said Jose Contreras, a pitching consultant and member of the White Sox’ 2005 World Series Championship team. “He’s doing a lot better the more he trains.”
Other players promoted to Birmingham include; Bryan Ramos, Luis Mieses, Duke Ellis, Wes Kath, DJ Gladney, Wilfred Veras, Kohl Simas, Adam Hackenberg, Tyler Osik, Jared Kelley, and Andrew Dalquist. All of whom could be a significant part of the future of the Chicago White Sox. “Going into the year we certainly set our goals and feel like we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of them,” Getz said. “We’ve had some players recently enter the Top 100 Prospects list [Montgomery is ranked No. 60 by MLB Pipeline], and we feel like we’ve got some more that are just outside of it. And its a chance to show baseball and show the White Sox that we’ve got another wave of players coming.”
Project Birmingham is in full effect at Regions Field ➡️ Learn more about the White Sox initiative and all the prospects headed to the Magic City ⚾️
— Birmingham Barons (@BhamBarons) August 27, 2022
Of course, with players being called up, it allows other White Sox players to earn a place not previously available. These players could be coming from the Arizona Complex League, and others will be recent draft picks. One of the beneficiaries includes the 2022 3rd-round pick, Jonathan Cannon. After playing in the Arizona Complex League, he is now playing in Kannapolis. Project Birmingham could have a positive effect on these players to carry into their off-season or in their careers.
Will Other Organizations Replicate this?
There are numerous advantages to centralizing top prospects to one level. With the moving of all minor league coordinators to one location, they have the chance to focus on these top prospects who will likely be in the majors soon. The centralization of prospects builds better chemistry within the organization. Outside of Spring training, there is little cohesion among minor league players during the season. Project Birmingham hopes to create a better familiarization among top prospects.
“I view it as an opportunity to certainly celebrate what we’ve done departmentally with bringing these players there,” Getz said. “Going back to the strides we feel like we’ve made with some of these players and to show the organization, but also outside the organization, the next wave of hopefully our Major League talent here in Chicago.”
The Chicago White Sox have produced prospects in recent memory such as Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal, and Garrett Crochet. The organization has been average in terms of player development, in the last decade. Heading into the 2022 season, the Chicago White Sox were ranked last in farm system rank. If this experiment succeeds, other organizations may wish to replicate this idea. While it will be easy to see the short-term effects of this, it could take years to see if it is beneficial.
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Chris Getz, Colson Montgomery, Oscar Colas, Norge Vera, Jose Contreras, Bryan Ramos, Luis Mieses, Duke Ellis, Wes Kath, DJ Gladney, Wilfred Veras, Kohl Simas, Adam Hackenberg, Tyler Osik, Jared Kelley, Andrew Dalquist, Jonathan Cannon, Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal, Garrett Crochet