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2019 Great Falls Voyagers season preview

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The 2018 Pioneer League champs are back, with a new and still very young squad

Crafty closer: A bit too early to tell whether Rigo has the right stuff to close, but the southpaw was perfect in AZL save opportunities in 2018.
Kim Contreras/South Side Sox

The time is here! With the draft now over and the signings of picks already underway, it is finally time to introduce one more rookie league. This also means that mass promotions will start, as well as some demotions, and unfortunately, some careers will come to an end.

But the most exciting part will be the new draftees getting their first professional appearances. The top round picks will mostly likely move up quickly, especially if they were played collegiately. Other players who could quickly be on the move are Great Falls holdovers from 2018, as well as a few players from the 2018 DSL White Sox.


Pitchers

Let’s start off with the drafted pitchers. Dan Metzdorf is the highest 2019 drafted player on this Great Falls team. His fastball sits high 80s (but can get up to 93 mph according to Carlos Collazo). Metzdorf is mostly known as an innings-eater, but this year at Boston College he was very good. With a 2.58 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, Metzdorf was one of the better pitchers on the BC staff. Metzdorf is not a strikeout pitcher, but if he can improve his command, he could be reminiscent of another White Sox soft-tossing lefty.

Karan Patel is next up for the 2019 draftees. The now-former cricket player has a good “fastball-curveball combo” according to BA that has led to a good amount of strikeouts (a 10.28 K/9 this past college season). Like Metzdorf, Patel’s best season was his last, recording a 2.82 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Patel is not as much of an innings eater, but with an already decent enough fastball and breaking ball, he could move up quickly with a hot start.

The last of the notable draft picks is 10th round selection Nate Pawelczyk. In the case of this draftee, Pawelczyk peaked earlier in his career at Winthrop but was still able to be a Day 2 draft selection. The starter showed much better command this season, but his ERA was at 3.90, Pawelczyk’s highest mark since moving to the starting rotation his sophomore year. Pawelczyk’s fastball likely runs low-to-mid 90s, as it was clocked at 91 mph while he was a prep senior by Perfect Game.

The big name for the returning pitchers is Brayan Herrera. Herrera made his professional debut in the DSL in 2017, moved to the AZL in ’18, and now is in the Pioneer League. The slow rise of Herrera belies the fact that he’s been successful at each stop so far. The starter went from a 2.62 ERA in the DSL to a 2.70 in the AZL. Herrera is not a strikeout pitcher, but with a walk rate in the lower-6% range and a high ground ball rate, he has been able to overcome a lack of swing & misses. Though this is his third professional season, Herrera is the youngest Voyagers pitcher.

A couple more notable pitchers are both relievers. Rigo Fernandez was a 24th round pick in 2018, did pretty well, and even earned a cameo promotion. He started in the AZL and had a 1.71 ERA with a good K-rate, with an average walk rate over 33 23 innings. He was the closer for AZL, going eight-for-eight in save chances, with two holds. Fernandez is also one of the younger pitchers on the staff. On the flip side, one of the older guys is Nick Johnson. He was with the Voyagers last season and was fantastic. He had a 0.90 ERA with premium command, only a 4.1% walk rate. He should not be in Great Falls for long.


Catchers

The catchers are a bit of a mixed bag, led by 2018 16th round pick Ty Greene. He is a bit of an anomaly in this age of baseball, as he walked (11.4%) more than he struck out (9.4%) last year. There was not much pop in Greene’s bat last season, but his .313 batting average along with the great plate discipline led to a 127 wRC+. The other catcher is Kleyder Sanchez, notable mostly because he is 19. He had a great year in the DSL in 2017 with a 127 wRC+, but he was terrible last year with (9 wRC+).


Infielders

Lency Delgado is the top prospect in the infield. The 2018 fourth round pick out of high school seemed a little overwhelmed last season in the AZL. He had a 79 wRC+, along with a 26.7% K-rate. Delgado also did not walk or show much power in his first stint in professional baseball. He also had nine errors, which was a little uncharacteristic for him from scouting reports before the draft. At the time of the draft, Delgado was described by PerfectGame as athletic, with a strong arm, and defensively advanced.

Camillo Quinteiro is another one of the holdovers from last season, kind of. He played just two games in Great Falls after crushing the AZL. He was signed out of Cuba in September 2017, and his 2018 season was his first professional experience stateside. Quinteiro had a wRC+ of 132 in the AZL that was heavily OBP (18.9% walk rate) and BABIP (.380) based. He showed little to no power, just a .034 ISO, and three extra-base hits in 46 games. He isn’t necessarily on the older side of rookie ball at 22, because he’s the same age as some college draft picks, but Quinteiro should still be on the move to Kannapolis at some point.

Harvin Mendoza has been a very slow-rising international free agent signing, and is still only 20. The lefty has had an above average season at every point, two DSL seasons (2016 and 2017) and in the AZL (2018). He does not have much power at all — only two home runs in those three seasons — but has shown to be a good contact hitter. Mendoza both walked and struck out at 7.7%, while making his mark with a .339 BABIP. Obviously more power would be great, but Mendoza has been a good hitter at each stop without it.

A couple other notable guys are Sam Abbott and Kelvin Maldonado. Abbott was drafted out of high school in 2017 and has had injury issues in the past two seasons. He has big power potential but just needs to get more at-bats. Maldonado was also selected out of high school but in the 2018 draft. He was not good last season, but he was only 18., and hopefully his age 19 season will be better.


Outfielders

The outfield is one of the younger and more noteworthy sections for the Voyagers, starting with Luis Mieses. Mieses is ranked 25th in the White Sox farm system according to FanGraphs. They project him to have a future value of 40 (MLB bench player) and an ETA of 2022, so Mieses is a ways away from the big leagues. The 19-year-old has a lot of tools, but has not been able to put them together yet. He does not walk, really, at all, with a rate near 2% last year. He does not strike out at an absurd rate, but because of the lack of walks, a 17.2% K-rate seems a lot worse. The raw prospect has his work cut out for him, but his ceiling is high.

Caberea Weaver was selected out of high school last season and did all right in his first pro ball stint. BA had him as the 25th best prospect in the Sox system prior to the 2019 draft. It commends his bat speed and running speed, but does note he has a long swing. That baserunning speed led to Weaver stealing eight of nine bases last year, along with three triples. The long swing, though, led to a K-rate near 30%, but thanks to a good walk rate at 10% and a .375 BABIP, Weaver ended the year with a 112 wRC+. He’s another guy with a lot of tools who just needs to put his swing together.

Anderson Comas rounds out the outfielders, and he is ranked 24th in the Sox system according to BA. I will let BA’s scouting report on Comas speak for itself: “Comas has produced solid averages and plenty of contact in his first two seasons thanks to a smooth, controlled swing from the left side. He’s got long levers, which will take some development time to learn to get in sync consistently.” The publication also points to a promising launch angle and barrel ability that portends future power offensively, and average glovework with good foot speed defensively.


More players will come through Great Falls once they sign, while still others will move up from the AZL if they get off to strong starts. But the main thing to remember for rookie league players is that if they even make MLB, they are all a long ways away from it right now.