Cristian Mena Authors Surprising Breakout For White Sox

When discussing some of the organization’s top pitching prospects earlier in the season, White Sox assistant general manager/director of player development Chris Getz made it a point to name check righthander Cristian Mena.

“He’s a joy to watch,” Getz said. “He loves to compete. He doesn’t get too emotional on the mound. He’s got a fastball, curveball, slider and a changeup. And he’s only 19 years old.”

The age factor is definitely worth noting, considering Mena opened the season at Low-A Kannapolis and was bumped up to High-A Winston-Salem after posting a 2.68 ERA over 11 starts while striking out 66 in 53.2 innings.

Mena piled up 47 more strikeouts over 40.2 innings with Winston-Salem and earned another promotion to Double-A Birmingham.

In a typical season, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Mena would have remained at Winston-Salem. But this year, the White Sox decided to move several of their best young players to Double-A in late August for “Project Birmingham.” They were joined by all of the organization’s minor league coordinators.

“We’re really proud of some of the accomplishments we’ve made on the player development side and the strides that our players have made,” Getz said. “To kind of bring that to life in Double-A for the last month is something that’s motivating for our staff, our organization and certainly I hope for our players who are part of this.

“To be able to compete on a nightly basis, certainly the personalized instruction—and we also treated it almost as an advanced instructional league. So these guys are set up for their offseasons and work toward next year.”

Mena struck out 13 in 10 innings at Birmingham, putting the finishing touches on a standout year few saw coming.

Working off a fastball that ticked up to 95 mph, the Dominican Republic native climbed the organizational ladder when his secondary pitches started taking shape.

“The consistency of the slider stood out,” Getz said. “Confidence in the changeup. He could be more effective on the edges, but a lot of that is catcher related as well.”


— Righthander Sean Burke was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte for the final week of the season. For the year, Burke went 4-10, 4.75 with 137 strikeouts in 108 innings for High-A Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte.

— Outfielder Oscar Colas has a shot at making the major league roster out of spring training next year after hitting a combined .314/.371./.524 with 23 home runs in 117 games with High-A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

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