After a 19-19 first half Great Falls was on fire in the second half of the Pioneer League season, going 29-9.
Of course, as playoff baseball often proves, the best or hottest team doesn’t always win. That momentum from the end of the regular season stopped very quickly as the Voyagers lost the best-of-three North Division championship series in two games to Helena.
The Voyagers’ 48-28 regular season record was the best in the league by five games, but all they were given was a quick playoff exit.
Offensively, the Voyagers were mostly middle of the pack in the major statistical categories, but encouragingly they did lead the league in walks. Chief among the walk brigade was Jacob Morris, who was the surprise of the team.
Morris was drafted in the 24th round after hitting under .200 his junior year at Arkansas. He hit much better with Great Falls (.246/.394/.478), displaying both walks and power (12 HR to lead the team). The average isn’t thrilling and he struck out 97 times so it’s questionable to think he can maintain that success as he moves up the minors, but considering he was drafted as a centerfielder known for his defense, Morris is worth following in 2014.
Zach Voight, 23, and Zach Fisher, 21, were the Voyagers’ two best other hitters, but both are repeats from 2012. Voight has posted an OPS above .900 both years. It doesn’t seem to make sense why Voight repeated the league with those numbers.
Most of the rest of the offense was older draft picks with solid, but not standout numbers.
The pitching staff, while successful, didn’t feature many prospects of note yet. The Voyagers shared the league lead in ERA while allowing the fewest homers in the league (38) by a wide margin (next fewest was 48).
Indy ball signing Jake Sanchez, 24, was the team’s best pitcher, but at his age it’s hard to see a big league future for him.
Fourth round pick Andrew Mitchell was mediocre (4.50 ERA, 47 K, 30 BB in 56 IP). Ninth round pick Nick Blount was solid, but unspectacular in between the rotation and bullpen (3.18 ERA, 41 K, 17 BB, 51 IP). The other successful pitchers on the team, David Putman, Jeffrey McKenzie and Anthony Santiago, are relievers not currently on the prospect radar.
So as usual Great Falls had a few surprises, but fewer prospects. The wins the Voyagers pick up are mostly built on experienced players and any prospects that find success early get moved up quickly like Jacob May and Brad Goldberg did this season.