Tremendous Pitching Powers Birmingham Barons


Image credit: Drew Thorpe (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

At the beginning of the minor league season, Baseball America released its list of the 10 most talented rosters on Opening Day. The group was led, predictably and understandably, by No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday among a core of young players which helped lead Norfolk to the 2023 Triple-A National Championship and the nod as BA’s Minor League Team of the Year.

Rosters have shifted since then, and a new contender has entered the fray: the Birmingham Barons.

It’s no secret that the White Sox’s system has been fallow in recent years, having ranked No. 30 in 2021 and No. 28 in 2022. The rises of shortstop Colson Montgomery and lefty Noah Schultz helped the group jump to No. 18 after the 2023 season, and a flurry of trades has further bolstered the organization.

A great deal of that talent is clustered at Birmingham, where the rotation is among the most nasty in the minors. After Schultz was promoted from High-A, here’s how the group stands.

  • Noah Schultz, LHP: 0-1, 3.95, 42 Ks in 27.1 IP (High-A)
  • Drew Thorpe, RHP: 6-1, 1.50, 40 Ks in 42 IP
  • Jairo Iriarte, RHP: 1-3, 2.89, 56 Ks in 43.2 IP
  • Jake Eder, LHP: 1-1, 4.91, 47 Ks in 40.1 IP
  • Mason Adams, RHP: 2-3, 2.52, 45 Ks in 39.1 IP
  • Ky Bush, LHP: 3-2, 2.09, 47 Ks in 38.2 IP

Removing Schultz from the mix, the current Birmingham quintet has rung up 235 strikeouts in 210 innings. Thorpe’s 1.50 ERA and Iriarte’s 56 Ks are the best in the Southern League, and Eder, Adams and Bush all rank among the SL’s top 10 strikeout artists. The team’s ERA is 2.55, just .01 behind Akron (Guardians) for the best in all of Double-A.

The composition of the rotation also reflects how well the White Sox have done in recent trades. Bush came to Chicago with catcher Edgar Quero in the deal that sent Lucas Giolio to the Angels. Thorpe and Iriarte were imported from the Padres in the Dylan Cease trade. Eder was the cost the Marlins paid to add Jake Burger to their lineup.

That leaves Adams, the White Sox’s 13th-rounder in 2022 out of Jacksonville, who moved from Low-A to Double-A in 2023 and finished with 125 strikeouts, fourth-most in the organization.

The Barons aren’t all pitching, however. They also have the current Southern League batting leader Brooks Baldwin, who piqued scouts’ interest in 2023 before exploding this year in a notoriously pitcher-friendly league.

The 23-year-old UNC-Wilmington alum still has a bit more swing-and-miss than you’d like to see, but his 90th percentile exit velocity has climbed from 102.8 mph in 2023 to its current mark of 104 mph this season.

Baldwin’s .438 on-base percentage also leads the SL, which helps when your team also has a player who is tied for the league lead in home runs. That player would be Quero, a 21-year-old backstop who opened the year as the sixth-youngest player in the league.

Quero came to the White Sox with Bush in the Giolito trade and has done a mostly solid job controlling the strike zone and hitting the ball hard—he’s already posted max exit velocities of 110 mph in 2024 and is striking out just 21% of the time. He’s also caught 28% of attempted basestealers.

Hulking outfielder Wilfred Veras has way too much swing and miss in his game, but he hits the ball quite hard as well and has a .486 slugging percentage that ranks third in the SL.

Put it all together, and this group of Barons might be just what the White Sox farm needs to shed its reputation for being barren.

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