By Jim Brown
As we approach the end of April, but still a couple weeks away from completing the first full month to the minor season season, a handful of pitchers are building the foundation toward a successful season. My tracking spreadsheet lists 15 UTR pitchers who are 3-0 or better, so I was faced with a menu of young arms to feature during the first month of the season.
Besides the Mets getting off to a fast start and capturing the top MLB storyline thus far, the Chicago White Sox grabbed the headlines recently with their fracas against A.L. Central division rival Kansas City Royals. Two of their starting pitchers (Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale) were involved and received suspensions for mixing it up. On the minor league side, the ChiSox have a youngster also mixing it up, not by throwing punches, but punch-outs.
At 20 years old, Jordan Guerrero is off to a hot start with LoA Kannapolis. The 6’3″ 190 lb. southpaw was taken in the 15th round of the 2012 draft out of Moorpark HS (California). In 3 starts so far this season, Guerrero has struck out 21 batters with only 3 walks over 18 innings. He’s near the top of the LoA leaderboard with 0.50 ERA (1 ER) and opponent batting average (.153). Guerrero started his pro career with the Bristol White Sox of the Appy League where he made 7 appearances from the bullpen. He repeated the rookie league in 2013, but saw his season cut short after 5 starts with a shoulder injury. The organization made a bold move in 2014 by assigning the left-hander to LoA Kannapolis with only 12 rookie league appearances on his initial resume. It paid off, as Guerrero broke out by posting a 9.2 K9 / 3.1 BB9 rates in 27 appearances with 9 starts. He has been lights out to start this season in the Intimidators rotation where he has thrown 6 innings in all 3 starts, only giving up 2 hits in each, and racking up 11 K’s during his April 15th outing.
Guerrero’s feel for pitching may really be coming into its own this season. He throws a 89-92 fastball that flashes some sink. His change-up though is the cash offering that could move him up the ladder, as it already rates as a plus pitch. Along with his curveball, Guerrero has been keeping hitters off-balance by the changing speeds of his pitches. Given that he’s healthy and has fully gained the arm strength from the 2013 injury, Guerrero’s stay with LoA Kannapolis shouldn’t be very long. Though he doesn’t throw the high-heat, Guerrero could be the “Francellis Montas” of 2015, in moving up the ChiSox rankings. The Sox have some top arms in the system (Carlos Rondon, Spencer Adams, Montas, and Tyler Danish), but there is a severe drop-off in talent at the lower levels. Severe might be the wrong description, as James Dykstra, Thad Lowry, and Andre Wheeler are also coming on strong. Jordan Guerrero didn’t make my ‘One To Watch” List for the White Sox, which went to Brian Clark (HiA Winston-Salem), but he’s definitely one to track for 2015.