White Sox creating winning culture in Minors

Something special is brewing with Triple-A Knights

White Sox creating winning culture in Minors

INDIANAPOLIS -- Seven media members traveled three hours across I-65 to Victory Field last Monday to get a look at the Charlotte Knights.

It's a fairly safe guess, although not completely official, that seven media members in total haven't followed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate on the road over the last two or three years combined. And that journey doesn't include those reporters who have made the trip to Charlotte itself to check out the plethora of top prospects among the Knights' roster.

In addition to the media attention, there is intense fan interest in pretty much every move made by Knights players such as Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, Zack Burdi and Carson Fulmer, to name a very few.

"I'm laughing every day with everybody waiting for a few of our guys on this squad to get them to sign something," said White Sox catcher Kevan Smith, during the Charlotte visit to Indianapolis and before Smith returned to the Majors. "Obviously the main goal for all of us is to be up in the big leagues and stay up in the big leagues. The more we can mesh down here, the more chemistry we can build. It's only going to benefit us in the future."

That meshing and comfort level becomes almost as important for this crew as the individual development through repetition of at-bats and innings on the mound. Highly touted prospects reside at other stops in the White Sox system, such as Michael Kopech with Double-A Birmingham and Zack Collins and Dane Dunning at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.

But all of these players at Charlotte play together and learn together daily. As Smith pointed out, the White Sox hope is they eventually win together, much like what has happened at the rebuilding conclusion with the Royals, Cubs and Astros.

"Ideally you get waves of guys who have known each other, been with each other since the lower levels, and they've had success together at each of the levels," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during a recent interview with MLB.com. "They come to Chicago with a greater level of comfort in their own abilities as well as those around them.

"One thing [White Sox manager] Ricky [Renteria] and the rest of us have tried to emphasize since the organization meetings and again in Spring Training is to have a culture of what it means to be a White Sox and how we expect the game played and how we expect to go about our business from a preparation standpoint and in-game-execution standpoint. That's not just in Chicago. That's throughout the Minor Leagues."

Smith pointed to the older players creating a good environment at Charlotte and the younger players bringing the energy. That Knights team plays for each other and has fun, which are good traits to carry together as they advance.

"We are super close," Fulmer said. "Our organization put us all together to develop that championship type of culture. Being around each other on and off the field, playing with energy and really just trusting everybody. We definitely have something special here.

"The more we play together, we'll get more comfortable. We are all pretty comfortable and ready each and every day to come to the field."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.