The best season among the White Sox farm system teams was Great Falls. The kids, mostly led by 2018 draft picks, won the first-half division title to make the playoffs. The second half was not good at all, and the Voyagers finished the regular season 34-41.
However, the big names came to play in the postseason as Great Falls swept through its competition to win the championship. The Voyagers were the only team in the organization to win a playoff game, and they won them all — a good look for the draft class.
This is how the final out sounded on the radio broadcast Thursday night.https://t.co/7RAgepF7ia— Great Falls Voyagers (@gfvoyagers) September 14, 2018
Southpaw Konnor Pilkington, No. 23 on our @MLBDraft Top 50 list, was for @HailStateBB last night, fanning 13 @RaginCajunsBSB hitters. Watch full highlights: https://t.co/C7KJQnRjIf pic.twitter.com/htJmo5QvDi— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 3, 2018
Just another PSA on draft picks, especially pitchers: It is hard to get a read on them after a half of season of work. In Pilkington’s case, he only pitched 14 innings of professional baseball because of innings limitations. So again, pre-draft scouting reports still hold value. But in his 14 innings, Pilkington did show, to an extent, the pitcher he will be.
Overall, it was not a good 14 innings. He had a 4.92 FIP with the Voyagers, with a low strikeout rate and an average walk rate. Both will improve next season. And he had trouble keeping runners off base because of a .286 batting average against. But what Pilkington did show was his ability to force ground balls, at a 51.3% rate. The batted ball data coupled with the ground ball rate seems to show weaker contact, which is a good sign, even if it was in just 12 innings in Great Falls.
Indiana baseball takes game one of the double header vs Northwestern 12-0 behind 4 home runs and 7 shutout innings from Jonathan Stiever. @ConnorHines17 and @ZainPyarali recap the action. #iubase pic.twitter.com/3OikLCdVrN— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) April 13, 2018
Stiever doubled Pilkington’s innings total, as he spent all 28 innings with the Voyagers, and had much better overall and peripheral numbers. He started out hot and tapered off down the stretch, but his 4.23 FIP is a good indicator of how Stiever performed. Stiever should be more of a strikeout pitcher than Pilkington, and he showed it with a 12.54 K/9. The walks were lower, too, at 2.89 BB/9. Stiever did allow three homers in just 28 innings, but most of the batted ball data shows weaker contact. The line drives were down (14.1%) and ground balls were at 46.9%. Stiever fell to the fifth round for the Sox, and it seems they might have stolen a future top prospect.
Many people thought the catcher position would be addressed earlier for the White Sox in the 2018 draft, but the first catcher taken was Troutwine in round nine. Again, the early scouting report is that he is about average as a receiver, but his offense translated well in Great Falls over 35 games. He had a 122 wRC+, slashing .316/.412/.419. His BABIP was high (.368), so with the small sample that could be cause for some concern. However, the 13.8% walk rate and a 14.5% K rate show a good approach at the plate. For now, that is more important.
Where the BABIP does look to be more luck than anything is the batted balls, as 4.7% of them were grounders, and Troutwine had a low pull percentage (29.3%). Out of Troutwine’s 37 hits, 29 were singles. Still, the approach at the plate far exceeded expectations.
Bush has been surprising ever since being drafted in Round 33. He was a surprise signing, and once in the fold he absolutely destroyed his competition in Arizona. In 14 games with AZL, Bush had a 221 wRC+ while slashing .442/.538/.605. He was ready for better competition.
Bush started out hot again with Great Falls, but regressed back to the mean as his 24-game stint went on. He finished with an 86 wRC+, as his plate approach fell. He went from 15.4% walk rate to 9.3%, still good. His K-rate also rose, from 7.7% to 19.4%. However, Bush still has a long way to go, as he does not get enough batted balls in the air. With the Voyagers, he had a 57.5% ground ball rate, and that is not very good. It is also too early to judge any sort of defense from an 18-year-old, but he had 12 errors in 30 games at third base. Errors do not mean everything, but 12 errors in a small sample speaks for itself.
Sosa is another 18-year-old in Great Falls, skipping the DSL last season and moving right to the AZL. Sosa started out hot, seemingly getting a hit every game, but like Bush, slowed down in the stretch. Sosa finished with a .293/.317/.406 slash line, which is not great, but he still is very young. The walks fell to 2.4% this season, compared to last season’s 7.8% in the AZL, but it seems he was swinging more often, as his K rate only fell about 1%. The real improvement came from the lift Sosa added. Line drives (18.8%) and fly balls (35.0%) both rose to more respectable numbers, and Sosa’s ISO went up almost 30 points. He is still young and has a long way to go, but the subtle swing improvement means Sosa is looking up.
Honorable Mentions: Codi Heuer, Jason Bilous, Davis Martin, Romy Gonzalez, and Amado Nunez