The White Sox tend to send recently drafted college pitchers and not much else to Great Falls, Montana. This has produced some solid dividends, as both Addison Reed and Daniel Hudson used a season with the Voyagers as a springboard to the majors a little more than a year after they were drafted. (And, when the White Sox had their once and now future Arizona League affiliate, a step up to the Pioneer League was often the next step.) With a shift in draft strategy, which includes a shift away from college pitchers, the lack of top-level prospects has become almost the norm at Great Falls.
The Voyagers again made the playoffs, after winning their first half division title. Unfortunately, the postseason lasted only two losses.
Now to the baselines. The average hitter in the Pioneer League hit .277/.355/.419. The average pitcher struck out 18.9% of batters and walked 8.9%. It is very much a hitter's league. The average player was 20.9 years old. The average player on the Voyagers was 22 years old, almost a full year old than the average player on the next-highest team.
Note: Season totals below include playoffs, as it's pretty stupid to pretend like those stats don't exist. But that's a discussion for another day.
Frankly, there wasn't much here to begin with and the season ended with nothing of note. C Jose Barraza, a seventh-round pick in 2012 out of California high school, was on the Voyagers' DL the entire season. The 19-year-old signed for over slot but, as one would expect, he was very raw. Missing a season is never good, of course, but his his fellow catchers in the low minors didn't do much to separate themselves, either.
RHP Andrew Mitchell was the highest-drafted college pitcher, out of TCU in this year's 4th round. The 21-year-old certainly got in some work, getting 15 starts and 59 innings. But he certainly didn't prosper in the offensive environment. He struck out a solid 19.5% of hitters but also walked 13% while allowing 60 hits, including six home runs. The Voyagers' defense didn't do much to minimize those, as he frequently had to try to pitch around errors. As a result, 17% of the runs he allowed were unearned. He was rated as having the best curve in the 2013 draft and his fastball sat low 90s for Great Falls. He's probably a reliever long-term but his fastball gets into the upper 90s in short stints and, combined with his elite curve, he could be a valuable late-inning guy.
LHP Jose Bautista is a potentially interesting name to follow. Signed in 2009 out of the Dominican, he acquitted himself well over three seasons in the DSL and got a stateside taste with Bristol late in 2012. In his first full season in the US, he pitched pretty well. He also did not benefit from good defense, as a rather extraordinary 29% of his runs allowed were unearned. Splitting time between starting and relieving to limit his innings, the 21-year-old struck out 19.8% and walked 10.1% and gave up 52 hits in 52 IP.