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2018 Great Falls Voyagers Preview

The club is filled with talent to begin the year — but it will thin out soon

Opening Day, in June: The rookies are here! And some familiar faces, too.
Great Falls Voyagers Twitter

The Chicago White Sox have two rookie-level squads, one in Great Falls and the other at Camelback Ranch. The main difference is that Great Falls has more of a minor league feel. Great Falls doesn’t have major league-quality facilities, and unlike games at Camelback, the Voyagers play in front of fans, albeit a small number.

Before we start looking at the players, let’s get a couple things straight. Top 10 picks are the players most likely to see the majors, and obviously the next group of 10, with longer shots to make the bigs, are players drafted in rounds 11-20. After round 20, players are rarely anything more than cheap labor, so only players from the first 20 rounds will be analyzed.

Since Nick Hostetler took over as the White Sox director of amateur scouting in 2016, most players selected in the first 10 rounds earn a promotion from Great Falls. In 2017, all the players selected in the first 10 rounds were promoted to Kannapolis. In 2016, only Jameson Fisher and Bernardo Flores were not promoted during their first year in Great Falls.

However, few players selected in rounds 11-20 get promoted their first year. In 2017, in fact, no players selected from rounds 11-20 moved up to Kanny, and in 2016, only Ben Wright earned a promotion. With this in mind, instead of looking at Great Falls as a whole, only the players with a possibility of promotion are addressed here, as well as notable holdovers and international signees.

Likely to be Promoted

Jonathan Stiever

The fifth round pick was a starter his last two seasons in the Big Ten, with multiple relief appearances in 2016. In his relief season, he pitched in 40 innings, with a 2.47 ERA, 30 strikeouts and only five walks. His second season, in 2017, was when he fully transitioned to a starter. In 77 13 innings, he had an ERA at 4.31, with 57 strikeouts and nine walks. This year was a definite improvement, and what made him a fifth round pick: In 100 13 innings, Stiever had a 3.41 ERA, with dramatic increases in strikeouts (97) as well as walks (32). The Sox were able to sign Stiever at slot value ($386,800), and should continue running him out as a starter because of his pitching arsenal. He has a low- to mid-90s fastball, with an above-average curveball and an average changeup, and can work in a slider as well. MLB Pipeline makes special note of the movement on his fastball.

Codi Heuer

The sixth round pick spent most of his career as a reliever, but should be given the opportunity to start at Great Falls. In his freshman year, Heuer had a 9.12 ERA in 24 23 innings, along with 27 strikeouts and 18 walks. The next season would be much better — but still in relief. The 2017 season was more or less a statement of his potential, with a 4.42 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 16 walks. However, his best season was as a starter, in 2018, with a 4.31 ERA in 79 13 innings pitched (two complete games). He also punched out 82 batters and walked 37. Heuer signed for $260,000, which is $30,200 under slot. That might indicate that the White Sox view Heuer as a reliever, with his mid-90s fastball.

Andrew Perez

Perez was a relief pitcher all three years at school, where Brian Sakowski of Perfect Game reports Perez’s fastball in the mid-90s. Perez’s freshman season was not good: He had a 6.75 ERA in 30 23 innings, with 36 strikeouts and 26 walks. However, something clicked for him heading into his sophomore year. The eighth round pick improved on all fronts in 2017: In his 39 23 innings he had a 2.72 ERA, with reduced walks (18) and increased strikeouts (52). This past year was Perez’s best, featuring a 2.34 ERA in 42 13 innings. His walks decreased again, to 12, but his strikeouts did as well (50), en route to picking up 12 saves. The lefty should be a candidate to close games for the Voyagers.

Gunnar Troutwine

In Troutwine’s freshman season at Wichita State, the catcher slashed .298/.404/.405, with 17 walks and 26 strikeouts along with three home runs. His sophomore season saw an increase in power, but regression everywhere else: Troutwine hit .278/.371/.439, with seven bombs and 28 walks, but had an abysmal 60 strikeouts. His junior year was a lost season, slashing .224/.333/.263 in his worst showing in college. In 2018, Troutwine was at his best. He slashed .302/.413/.505, with seven homers and a career high in walks (34). His strikeouts were at a more than manageable 38. No word on the ninth rounders’s bonus yet.

Bennett Sousa

The six-foot-three, 210-pound hurler has a career ERA of 5.50, with little appreciable improvement through his four years as a Virginia Cavalier. Sousa’s big season was his junior year (2017), when his ERA was 4.09, with 44 Ks over 33 innings/24 games. His senior season in 2018 featured a 5.23 ERA, with 61 Ks over 43 innings/23 games. Sakowski reports that Sousa heavily favors his slider. Hostetler categorized the 10th round pick as a LOOGY, and that’s what he will be in Great Falls and beyond. His bonus has not been announced.

Corey Zangari

Zangari was a sixth round pick out of high school in the 2015 draft. High-schoolers in the White Sox system do not move up quickly anymore. The first baseman was great in his first professional season in Arizona, so much so that he earned a promotion to Great Falls. He slashed .316/.358/.481 that season. In 54 games, he had six homers, 14 walks and 52 strikeouts. However, 2016 was a disappointment. Between Kannapolis and Great Falls, Zangari slashed .209/.287/.367. In 110 games, he mashed fifteen homers, walked 41 times, but struck out 176 times. Then, Zangari missed the entire 2017 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. He recently turned 21 so he is still young, and Zangari should be back in Kannapolis soon enough.

Long-Shot Promotions

Jason Bilous

In Bilous’ freshman season, he pitched in 44 23 innings with a 4.43 ERA, punching out 47 batters but walking 35. In 2017, a bit of a down year, Bilous pitched 52 23 innings with a 4.61 ERA. The 13th rounder increased his strikeouts to 60, but added 42 walks. This past season was his best: He pitched in 83 13 innings with a 4.00 ERA. Still not elite, but not bad for a 13th rounder. He added a career high in strikeouts (105) and walks (66). He clearly has command issues. In his three years in college, he threw 20 wild pitches and hit 32 batters. with a plus (almost plus-plus) fastball that topped out at 99 mph. He has an above-average slider with an average changeup. However, he has below average control of those pitches, as noted by the high wild pitch and hit batters. The righty signed for $185,000 ($60,000 goes to the draft pool), and should be a starter this season.

Romy Gonzalez

As a freshman, Gonzalez slashed an atrocious .173/.215/.280 with only three walks and 21 strikeouts, adding one homer. In the 18th rounder’s sophomore year, he slashed .265/.344/.462 with 11 bombs, 27 walks and 58 strikeouts. Gonzalez’s power fell back to earth as a junior in 2018, when he slashed .273/.358/.394, with just four home runs with 21 walks and 60 strikeouts. Gonzalez received a bonus of $125,000, and should be the starting third baseman as a Voyager.

Notable International Players

Ramon Beltre

Beltre signed with the Sox back in 2013 but did not appear in the United States until last season. Dominican League stats are not the best indicators of future talent, but Beltre put up good numbers. In 230 games (203 in the DSL, 27 in Arizona), Beltre slashed .289/.361/.477. He only struck out 137 times, to go along with 99 walks. He does not have a lot of pop, with only 10 homers, but did show speed (53 stolen bases). Beltre has started games at second, third and shortstop. However, when he got to the States, Beltre played mostly third base, along with a few games at second. His defense is iffy (67 career errors), which might by why he was in the Dominican for an extended period of time. Because Beltre is older and more experienced, a promotion would not be out of the question.

Lenyn Sosa

Might as well finish with a player born in 2000. Sosa is 18, and is already in Great Falls. He was signed in 2016 and played in Arizona last season. In 42 games last season, Sosa slashed .270/.330/.358 with two homers, 14 walks and only 24 strikeouts. He does not have much pop yet, but could gain some as he ages. He split time at second and shortstop last season with nine errors, but again, he was 17 last season and the average age of his competition was almost three years older than him. Sosa’s stats are not eye-popping, but the difference between 17 and 20 should be taken into account. He will probably play the entire season in Great Falls.

All signing bonus information comes from Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline.