Last night the Pioneer League's defending champions, the Great Falls Voyagers, opened their 2012 with a 6-4 win in Helena. Ryan Newman returns as manager to lead the charge to defend the title for the Voyagers, which have made the playoffs five straight years. Let's break down who to watch on the Voyagers' roster.
The full roster is here. The 34-man roster is highlight with 16 pitchers, with a sprinkling of notable pitching prospects. Six players return from last year's championship squad. There are 12 2012 draft picks already on board with the possibility of more shortly. Eight more come from the 2011 class along with a handful of undrafted free agents, older players and one foreign born player.
2012 draft picks: Chris Beck (2nd round), Brandon Brennan (4th), Zach Isler (8th), Brandon Hardin (10th), Cory McGinnis (22nd), Zach Toney (26th)
With four pitchers from the top 10 rounds of the draft the Voyagers have some hurlers worth watching. Sixth rounder
Craig Kyle Hansen also recently signed after St. Johns' run to the Super Regionals and will likely join Great Falls shortly. It will be interesting to see the workload these pitchers get. Isler and Hardin are relievers, but Beck and Brennan (the youngest pitcher on the roster) already pitched 100+ innings this spring so they could be used in a more limited role.
Returnees: Joe Dvorsky (drafted 35th round in 2011), Brandon Parrent (30th, 2011), Thomas Royse (3rd, 2010) and Jonathan Casey (UDFA '11)
Royse returns to action after missing 2011 due to Tommy John surgery and will be looking to show the talent that made him a third round pick two years ago. Parrent started the year in Kannapolis' rotation, but had trouble throwing strikes consistently so he finds himself back in rookie ball. Dvorsky was an effective reliever for Great Falls in '11 and could be used in a bigger role this time around.
There are a number of pitchers from Bristol last year that will also play a big role. One such pitcher, Keegan Linza, started the opener and threw five quality innings to pick up the win. The pitching staff has a good mix of talent and experience, but you never know how it will pan out in rookie ball.
Zachary Fisher (27th, '12), Michael Marjama (23rd, '11), Bryce Mosier (33rd, '11) and Brent Tanner (32nd, '11)
Tanner played nine games for Great Falls last year while Marjama and Mosier played for Bristol. None of the three hit very well. Mosier signed out of high school so at 19 he's the youngest player on the roster by over a year. Fisher put up big numbers in college so he could produce.
Micah Johnson (9th, '12), Abe Ruiz (16th, '12), Thomas McCarthy (18th, '12), Zach Voight (20th, '12) Steven Nikorak (32nd, '12), Bradley Salgado (38th, '10) D.J. Jarrad (UDFA '12), Justin Jirschele (UDFA '12), Tyler Williams (UDFA '11)
Five 2012 draft picks and two more undrafted free agent signings give the Voyagers seven rookies in the infield. Salgado was a high school draft pick so he's the youngest infielder and third youngest on the team despite having two years pro experience. Johnson, Ruiz, McCarthy and Voight come from successful college programs and could be key to the Voyagers' success.
Daurys Mercedes (Venezuela), Yoandy Barroso (UDFA '11), Andrew Douglas (UDFA '11), Adam Heisler (UDFA '11), Kyle Robinson (28th, '10)
The very experienced outfield features no rookies and the youngest outfielder (Daurys Mercedes) is 22. Mercedes, the only foreigner on the team, was used as an infielder in the past. Him and Robinson come up from Bristol, where they both hit around .200 and Douglas is a returnee who hit .238 last season. To be honest, the outfield looks to be one of the weak spots of the team despite the age and experience.
The high profile draft picks come from the pitching side, but the infield is loaded with rookies that have the resumes to indicate rookie ball success. The pitching staff will likely have to carry this team to the playoffs, but in the Pioneer League offense is never hard to come by. That said, last year's team won the league title with the lowest team ERA at 4.58 so we've seen it before.
The Voyagers always have one of the more experienced teams in the league because Great Falls is the higher of the White Sox two rookie affiliates and they yet again should be able to contend for the playoffs. Half of the eight-team league makes the postseason after all.
For more info on the team read the Great Falls Tribune's preview.
Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Abe Ruiz, Brad Salgado, Brandon Brennan, Brandon Hardin, Brandon Parrent, Brent Tanner, Bryce Mosier, Chris Beck, Cory McGinnis, Daurys Mercedes, Joe Dvorsky, Kyle Robinson, Micah Johnson, Mike Marjama, Steven Nikorak, Thomas McCarthy, Thomas Royse, Zac Fisher, Zach Isler, Zach Toney, Zach Voight