Actions always speak louder than words, and as spring turns to summer, pre-season expectations quickly transform into in-season results.
With a roster comprised of both highly-touted prospects and established veterans, the 2017 Knights received heaps of praise before they even took the field at BB&T Ballpark for the first time together.
The Athletic in Chicago called Charlotte "The Best Triple-A Team in Baseball" before the season got underway. Baseball America listed the Knights as no. 1 on their list of "Top Minor League Teams" and MLB.com added that Charlotte had the most stacked roster in the minor leagues.
And even with expectations so high, and eyes across the country centered on the Queen City, the Knights managed to outdo themselves by posting 39 runs on 60 hits on the way to a 4-0 start. Those results have given this group a confidence about their ability to match lofty pre-season projections.
"We came to spring training, we prepared well, and we're just going about our business the right way," right-hander Lucas Giolito said following his first start of the season. "Everyone's all-in on just going out, playing 100 percent and going for a win every time."
While the numbers are certainly not sustainable, the nature of minor league baseball also means that talented teams are tough to keep together. Reliever Tommy Kahnle was the first Knight called up to the show, and he was joined by RBI-leader Kevan Smith almost a week later. Outfielder Willy Garcia also made his MLB debut just days after being named the International League's Batter of the Week, much like shortstop Tim Anderson did last season. Seeing success on the field as well as results off of it can be inspiring, and the Knights look to continue to build on that early momentum as the season continues on.
"It's where you want to be," starter Carson Fulmer said following Charlotte's four game sweep of Norfolk which gave the club their best start since the 2011 season. "Our rotation pushes one another, someone has a good outing and the guy behind them wants to do the same thing. It really helps us do well, we're really motivated. We have a really motivated group to do well and to develop. Having the talent that we have and having the pitching staff that we have, it pushes us and I think it's really beneficial."
Nonetheless, the constant movement of players to and from the major leagues can be a lot to take in. One day you're celebrating a walk-off win and the next, the locker next door is empty; only to be replaced by a new face with the same goal: to win every game possible and eventually make the major leagues.
For players such as Fulmer and Giolito, who have already had their first taste of Major League action and seen the White Sox organization transform into one of the most prospect-packed in all of baseball, it's all about keeping things in focus and enjoying each moment as it comes along. Especially when so much has already occurred in just three percent of the entire season.
"We're honestly just having a ton of fun," Fulmer added. "Obviously a lot of us know that there's a different time frame and there's a different plan for every one of us but we're having so much fun."
"This is a special team, we cover pretty much every aspect of the game, and we do it well. We just enjoy coming to the field and being around each other each and every day."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.