Joel Booker

White Sox OF prospect helps one young fan leave Camelback Ranch extremely happy

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AP

White Sox OF prospect helps one young fan leave Camelback Ranch extremely happy

25-year old White Sox outfield prospect Joel Booker has plenty of untapped potential and once was called the most underrated prospect in the White Sox farm system by our own Chuck Garfien. In 2018, Booker batted .279/.360/.399 and supplied a solid combo of speed and power. He chipped in 26 stolen bases, 7 home runs and 38 RBI over his season between the Winston-Salem Dash and Birmingham Barons (in 2018).

But on Thursday, Booker showed how baseball can be bigger than the numbers, in making one lucky fan’s dreams come true.

Booker autographed a baseball for six-year-old Joan Stiltner and from the looks of the photo, Stiltner was absolutely overjoyed.

Amid all the initial disappointment amongst White Sox faithful over the lack of superstar free agents acquisitions this offseason, it is refreshing to get a reminder that the start of the MLB season is joyous time for all baseball fans, regardless of where your team ranks on the MLB-power-structure-totem pole.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Joel Booker's walk-off steal of home

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Joel Booker's walk-off steal of home

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Joel Booker steals home in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Winston-Salem Dash a walk-off win, April 12.

In 2018, minor league baseball adopted a new rule that had teams start extra innings with a runner on second base. It didn't take long into the season for that base runner to wreak havoc.

Dash outfielder Joel Booker was the pinch runner put in that spot against the Carolina Mudcats. He moved to third on a two-out single, but took care of the final 90 feet all by himself.

With Mitch Roman batting, Booker bolted on lefty reliever Daniel Brown's pitch. The ball bounced in front of catcher Max McDowell and by the time McDowell gathered the ball, Booker was already sliding home for the winning run in front of him.

Booker's season: Booker's steal of home came during a red-hot April. He hit .353 for the month and earned some attention as a potential sleeper prospect.

However, Booker slumped in May to the tune of a .192 batting average. Another hot month in June (.391 in 12 games) was enough to move the 24-year-old up to Double-A Birmingham.

Booker got off to a hot start with the Barons, but finished with an OPS under .700 in 66 games in Double-A.

Despite earning a midseason promotion, Booker isn't exactly on the prospect radar. He isn't included in MLB Pipeline's top 30 White Sox prospects. He'll be 25 when 2019 rolls around, but if he can start next season like he started this season he will have a chance to enter the crowded outfield conversation for the White Sox.

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.