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2015 Great Falls Voyagers Season Preview

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Where the college draft picks go

The White Sox ordinarily send their non-elite college picks to Advanced Rookie Great Falls and this year is no exception. It also means that there aren't that many exciting names opening the season with the Voyagers.

Pitchers

The highest 2015 draft pick on the roster is 4th rounder Zack Erwin out of Clemson. Here's what Baseball America had to say about him:

Erwin is the top pitching prospect on a talented Clemson squad that includes pro prospects all over the diamond. At his best, Erwin will show the potential for three above-average pitches. His fastball can bump 92 mph, but operates mostly at 88-90. Erwin commands his fastball well to his arm side, with the ability to go up and down the zone, and he can also hit the zone down and to his glove side. His best secondary pitch is his curveball, which projects as an above-average pitch. When Erwin is on top of it, the offering shows 1-to-7 break and consistently tight spin. His third pitch is a split-finger changeup, which he can pound down and to both sides of the plate. The change shows late fade and tumble, and is a swing-and-miss pitch when Erwin buries it at the knees, though he can hang it at times. Erwin is an outstanding athlete, with a well-coordinated stride and excellent balance. He uses his torso well, and gets outstanding extension towards the plate, allowing his stuff to jump on hitters.

With 106.2 innings at Clemson, he's already thrown a substantial amount of innings this year. In 2014, though, between the college season and the Cape Cod Leaguer (summer ball), he threw 112.2 competitive innings. While the White Sox usually try to keep the workload down for their college draftees in their first season as pros, Erwin looks like he may not have that apply to him. You can reasonably expect to see the 21-year-old work as a starter for most of the season.

Joining him in on the pitching staff, at least temporarily, is RHP Braulio Ortiz, who is essentially rehabbing with the Voyagers, after having been on the Dash's disabled list since the start of the year. Ortiz is also listed at 6'5" and he throws a fastball that can reach into the mid-90s and a mid-80s slider. The 23-year-old Dominican's problem has always been control. He's maintained a strikeout rate of above 20% at every stop stateside but his walk rate generally isn't far behind at around 15%. We'll see what effect, if any, whatever injury he had has on him. Previously, I've thought there was a possibility for a power relief arm.

Position Players

The most interesting position players are both Latin and they both spent time with the AZL White Sox last year. SS Johan Cruz was part of Marco Paddy's first full signing class. Here's what I said about him after last season:

SS Johan Cruz was one of the success stories from the DSL White Sox, as he started the season there with .329/.424/.471 in 103 PA - a rather marked improvement from his .126/.220/.163 in 2013 - before getting the promotion stateside. The 17-year-old found the AZL a bit more difficult, as he batted just .175/.267/.250 in 91 AZL plate appearances. Still, he kept the strikeout rate reasonable at 22% and the walk rate slightly above league average at 9.9%. The Dominican is considered a good defensive player. We'll see if he'll continue towards a pattern of needing time to adjust to a league, as I'd expect he'll be back in the AZL for 2015.

Of course, the White Sox are more aggressive with him than I'd be. Even adjusting for the fact that offense is really, really low in the AZL, that was still a pretty poor line from the right-handed hitter. Very young players, though, can see massive development jumps in a short period of time so who knows.

Also part of that signing class was OF Antonio Rodriguez. Here's what I said about this right-handed hitter:

OF Antonio Rodriguez is reputed to have potential plus speed, arm and power and his stat line largely bears that out: .256/.293/.393 in 181 PA, 4 for 5 in stolen bases and 7 outfield assists. This was the 19-year-old's second taste of stateside ball, as he had a forgettable seven games with Bristol in 2013 before being sent to the DSL. The Dominican's 26% strikeout rate and 5% walk rate obviously need work but I wouldn't expect to see him getting that work in the AZL next season.

At least I got that one right.

The other possibly notable guy is 2015 8th round pick C Casey Schroeder out of Coastal Carolina. Reputed to be an excellent defender, he also has the added benefit of being a switch-hitter. Here's what Baseball America had to say about him:

Schroeder is an athletic catcher who moves well and shows solid arm strength behind the plate. At the plate, he is a switch-hitter with some bat speed, but had a poor offensive season.

Well, he wouldn't have lasted to the 8th round if he didn't.

The Voyagers open their season tonight. The full roster is available here.