2014 Great Falls season preview

The draft is over and most White Sox picks have signed. That means rookie ball is here.

Great Falls began its season Monday and has a number of 2014 draft picks on its roster. This is also the first year of the White Sox having an Arizona League affiliate instead of an Appalachian League team (Bristol) for its second rookie ball team. Let’s see if that had any impact on who was assigned to Great Falls.

The full roster is here. The Voyagers have 31 active players on the roster, as well as five players either on the disabled list or restricted list who will not be included in this preview. There are 14 2014 draft picks and seven 2013 draft picks.

2014 draft picks: Jace Fry (3rd round), Zach Thompson (5th), Brian Clark (9th), Connor Walsh (12th), Matt Cooper (16th), Aaron Bummer (19th)

Fry headlines the group as the highest 2014 draft pick on the team. It’s not clear how much he will pitch after completing his college season just a couple weeks ago, and it’s probably not fair to judge him on how he pitches this summer.

Cooper already made his pro debut, coming on in relief in Tuesday’s game.

Returners: Jeff McKenzie (28th, ’13), Brad Salgado (38th, ’10), Anthony Santiago (UDFA, ’12)

McKenzie, 23, was solid in the Voyagers’ bullpen last year (1.44 ERA, 23 K, 6 BB in 25 IP), and started in Monday’s opener. Salgado is a converted middle infielder who first pitched with Great Falls last season for three innings. Santiago, 24, had a 1.59 ERA in Great Falls’ bullpen last year.

Spent 2013 with Bristol: Chris Freudenberg (8th, ’13) Matt Ball (11th, ’13), Charlie Sharrer (26th, ’13), Jon Bengard (30th, ’13), Grant Monroe (46th, ’09)

Ball is somewhat interesting because he had a nice 23:8 K:BB ratio with Bristol last year out of high school. He came out of the bullpen then, but is expected to shift into the rotation this summer. Freudenberg, 20, has already made a start, although he didn’t record a strikeout in six innings.

Converted catcher: Mike Blanke

Blanke, a 2010 draft pick, gets a special mention because he was a moderate prospect as a catcher, but eventually couldn’t hit in the upper levels of the minors. He made a AA all-star game, but is using his strong arm behind the plate as his second chance on the mound.

Indy ball signing: Dane Stone

Stone is a 23-year-old who pitched in the Miami organization for two years before pitching in the Frontier League earlier this season.

Dillon Haupt (20th, ’13), Zach Stone (12th, ’12), Zach Fisher (27th, ’12)

Haupt and Fisher are returners and Stone played in Bristol for two seasons after signing out of high school so there’s plenty of experience with this group.

2014 draft picks: Jake Peter (7th), John Ziznewski (8th), Ryan Leonards (21st), Ethan Gross (26th), Ryan Jones (27th)

Five draft picks including two in the top 10 rounds headline the Voyagers’ infield. Neither Peter nor Ziznewski have played yet.

Spent 2013 with Bristol: Toby Thomas (21st, ’13), Patrick Palmeiro

Thomas got some attention after hitting .319 for Bristol as a 19-year-old, but he walked just four times and had an ISO of .133, which is fine for a young infielder but doesn’t make up for the lack of walks. He’s 2-9 in two starts so far, but is worth following.

New signing: Jackson Laumann

Son of White Sox amateur scouting director Doug Laumann joins the organization after two years in the Atlanta system.

Louie Lechich (6th, ’14), Zach Fish (11th, ’14), Mason Robbins (26th, ’14), Chevy Clarke

Three fresh draft picks are joined by a former first rounder. Clarke was taken 30th overall in 2010 by the Angels and posted a .772 OPS in the Pioneer League two years ago. Earlier this season he had a .475 OPS in the High-A California League before getting released.

Interestingly, there are no foreign players on the roster. Maybe this is a shift due to the new Arizona affiliate or maybe it’s just coincidence. Plenty of 2014 draft picks are on the team, but honestly most of the more interesting players on the team are younger 2013 draft picks like Chris Freudenberg, Matt Ball and Toby Thomas.

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