Season Preview: 2018 Great Falls Voyagers

The Great Falls Voyagers open their campaign Friday, June 15th (that's tonight!), at home against Helena. The Pioneer League affiliate is one of two rookie-level clubs in the White Sox organization. The team in Montana typically is populated with the more polished rookie leaguers, often recent college draft picks (the younger, prep and less polished prospects usually go to the AZL team first). The Voyagers are thus usually a very competitive team in their league, going to the playoffs on a nearly annual basis.

This year's roster follows a similar pattern, featuring 14 players from the recent 2018 Amateur Draft. There are another four players taken in the 2017 draft, and two from 2015 (both taken as prep players). Of the non-drafted players, five are domestic UDFA pickups and five are international. The entire roster is made up of either collegians, or players with multiple years of stateside pro experience, save for one (more on him later). This experienced team should do quite well on the field.

For the many 2018 draftees on the roster, if you want further information, you can see our write-ups for each in our Draft Tracker.

The club is managed by Tim Esmay for the second consecutive year. The pitching and hitting coaches are former White Sox minor leaguers John Ely and Eric Richardson respectively, again just as it was in 2017. Now let's get into the players on the roster.

Corey Zangari awaits the pitch for AZL White Sox (Kim Contreras / Future Sox)

Corey Zangari awaits the pitch for AZL White Sox (Kim Contreras / Future Sox)

INFIELDERS

Great Falls is carrying seven infielders on it's initial roster, so as is typical, there will be plenty of shuffling around to get everyone playing time. That said, we have some idea of position slot for some of these prospects.

First base will be manned primarily by Corey Zangari, the big 21-year-old having missed all of 2017 to Tommy John surgery. The slugging Zangari was a mild surprise not to open with a full season club, but his youth and missed time provide some logic to the decision.

From here it gets a little fuzzy. But most likely the hot corner will be manned by some combination of Amado Nunez and Ramon Beltre. The 20-year-old Nunez should get the majority of play there, as a notable prospect who cracked our Top 30 list as recently as pre-season 2017. He struggled last year in Great Falls but also missed time to injury. Beltre played a combination of third and second in his brief (27 game) but statistically successful (.308 AVG) stint in the AZL last year, and he probably does something similar this season.

Three players look to share time at the two middle infield slots. Lenyn Sosa is the youngest player on the roster, having only turned 18 this past January (that's right - he was born in the year 2000). Despite being only 17, Sosa showed well in the AZL last year (.270/.330/.358, 14 BB, 24 K in 180 PA) while playing shortstop and second base, and got the attention of some scouting types. Then there are a pair of college shortstops drafted earlier this month: Travis Moniot (17th round from Arizona) and Jimmy Galusky (20th round from West Virginia).

That leaves Maiker Feliz, who is generally a third baseman but spent just as much time as a DH last year in his third go-around in the AZL. So he appears to be a bench bat.

OUTFIELDERS

There are three 2018 draft picks in the 5-man outfield pool. Two are late-round seniors: Ian Dawkins (27th, from Sacramento State) and Logan Sowers (28th round, from Indiana). Then there is Romy Gonzalez, a junior signed for a non-pool-max $125k from the 18th round. Gonzalez was announced as a third baseman but is listed as an outfielder for Great Falls.

Alex Destino was taken in the 14th round last year, played well in the AZL, but was then an apparent victim of the A-ball outfield crunch and ended up stuck in Extended Spring Training to open 2018. He did recently show up in Kannapolis for just three games, and is probably in Great Falls to get more regular playing time. The final outfielder here is Jay Estes, a UDFA signing out of Auburn.

NOTE: While this is not reflected on the roster, Chris Getz was reported to have said (per the Great Falls Tribune) that 2nd round pick Steele Walker will report to Montana when he signs. Not a character from a James Bond film but in fact an outfielder, he would immediately become the most notable prospect on the team upon arrival.

CATCHERS

The backstop situation is probably the least complicated. Starting duties likely will be shared between Gunnar Troutwine and Jhoandro Alfaro.

Troutwine was the team's 9th round pick this year, out of Wichita State. In addition to an 80-grade name and fabulously large red beard, this 22-year-old senior sign showed impressive plate discipline this spring (34:38 BB:K) in a First Team All-AAC campaign. The switch-hitting, 20-year-old Alfaro is seen as a defensive specialist, having struggled offensively in two years in AZL and one in the DSL. He has only played 98 games as a pro thus far.

Adam McGinnis is a 23-year-old Western Illinois product who played sparingly in the AZL last year from the bench, and likely reprises that role in 2018 at the other rookie affiliate.

PITCHERS

Chris Comito delivers a pitch in Fall Instructs with a rehabbing Yasiel Puig on base, 2015 (Kim Contreras / Future Sox)

Chris Comito delivers a pitch in Fall Instructs with a rehabbing Yasiel Puig on base, 2015 (Kim Contreras / Future Sox)

Before we dive into the 15 pitchers on this roster, some context is important. Who is in the rotation versus the bullpen is not necessarily indicative of who will be in which role for their pro careers. All the 2018 draft picks have already thrown full spring seasons and will see their innings managed carefully, some working in very short stints. The starters will even work much shorter outings.

That said, let's start with the Voyagers rotation as it was described to us by the team. Chris Comito will be the team's Opening Day starter. Comito was an over-slot 15th round prep signing in 2015, and has spent the last two seasons bouncing between Great Falls and Kannapolis, showing well at times but struggling at others. He is still 21 years old for a couple more weeks and has time to develop. The other relative veteran in the rotation is Spencer Moran, a 6'6" 22-year-old acquired in the offseason after four years in the Tampa Bay system.

The rest of the rotation appears to come from this year's draft class. The club confirmed that Codi Heuer and Jason Bilous will be starters. The 21-year-old Heuer was the Sox' 6th round pick, after being the Friday starter at Wichita State in the spring, and signed for a little under slot. Bilous was taken in the 13th round from CCU but signed well over slot. Both were noted by national publications as high ceiling project arms.

The final rotation slot has not been confirmed yet, but best guess is that it will be Jonathan Stiever, the team's 5th round pick and the highest round pick on the club in its current construction. Stiever, who just turned 21 last month, comes in with a more polished profile than the other two recent draftees in the rotation. We wrote up Stiever in detail when he was drafted.

The bullpen arms can be broken into three groups. The hurlers from the 2018 draft include left-handers Andrew Perez (8th) and Bennett Sousa (10th), and right-handers Nick Johnson (21st), Lane Ramsey (23rd), and Jack Maynard (25th). All five worked mostly or exclusively as relievers in college.

Then there's a trio of 2017 draft selections. Righties Vince Arobio (24th) and Michael McCormick (34th) and lefty Greg Minier (32nd) all spent last season with the AZL squad, and all had some success there statistically. Minier is 22, Arobio 23, and McCormick 24 years old.

Finally we have a pair of free agent signings filling out the pen. 23-year-old lefty Drew Weston pitched last year in the Detroit organization, and is the son of White Sox team chaplain and former major leaguer Mickey Weston. Right-hander Wyatt Burns was a 4-year reliever at Samford and recently signed as a UDFA.

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