Over the years, the hitting conditions at Great Falls and the Pioneer League and general have assisted in the production of some temporarily legendary performances from random Voyagers hitters.
Who could forget Amado Nunez in 2018? Or Clifton Park’s Justin Yurchak the year before that? The most famous of these cases might be Aaron Schnurbusch, who posted a 1.013 OPS the same year he was drafted in the 28th round. All were momentarily intriguing, and all spent the following season doing nothing of note in Kannapolis.
The hope is that Great Falls numbers don’t mean much in a vacuum no matter how shiny they are, because the 2019 Great Falls Voyagers didn’t really have one hitting standout. Cameron Simmons might be the lone exception, but the Sox bumped him up to Kannapolis after 12 wildly successful games in Great Falls, and like the aforementioned hitters, he too regressed to pedestrian level in A-ball.
The good news? The hitters were young for the league for once, with the lineup mostly comprising prep picks and international signings.
Their age is the only thing going in their favor when compared with the rest of the league. The Voyagers finished last in batting average, last in OBP, last in homers and last in walks.
The pitching side fared better, but largely because the pitching staff was the league’s oldest.
When you look at the aggregate, you might determine that the individual performances are going to leave something to be desired. You would be right. Let’s go through them in an attempt to distinguish the indistinguishable.
Cabera Weaver: The lanky Georgian selected out of high school in the seventh round of last year flashed a little of his renowned speed, mostly in the triples column (five in 62 games). He was 10-for-14 stealing bases, partially because he only had a .317 OBP. He only matched last year’s walk total (18) despite 81 more plate appearances, while striking out 85 times. This will be a theme, but it’s more forgivable for a 19-year-old.
Lency Delgado: Last year’s fourth-round pick, Delgado again surprised for good and bad reasons. He defied draft-day expectations by playing shortstop most of the time, as he was immediately pegged for third base. But he was supposed to have a corner profile, and the “thumper” part isn’t showing up yet. His slugging percentage (.377) was barely higher than his strikeout rate (.375). He did post an above-average batting average at .274, so the hope is the power will show up without detracting from the hit tool. This was his age-20 season.
Sam Abbott: The Water Polo Player Project made some strides in its third season, and he’s only 20 years old. Abbott hit .238/.355/.459 with a team-leading nine homers and a walk rate of 12 percent, which is by far his best production to date. He also struck out 36.4 percent of the time, so much work remains for a first-base-only profile. Nobody can really say if he’s meeting expectations, because what even were the expectations?
Harvin Mendoza: The 20-year-old Venezuelan had the most advanced approach of any Voyager hitter, batting .278/.362/.457 with 27 walks to 49 strikeouts over 260 plate appearances. Six homers isn’t an impressive total until you realize he hit just two over his first three seasons in pro ball. He was cold throughout August and has never played a position besides first even back in the DSL, so work remains on shaping his profile into something truly interesting.
Luis Mieses: A $426,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, a decent strikeout rate is the only thing his game features at the end of his third pro season. He hit .241/.264/.359 with no stolen bases and just four appearances in center field. The only progress is in his power column, as he set career highs with 14 doubles and four homers. The only solace is that he won’t turn 20 until next May.
Anderson Comas: Mieses is outpacing his fellow countryman and 2016 signee Comas, and in just about every category. He finished with a worse line (.222/.251/.351 over 203 plate appearances), he played the less valuable corner, and he didn’t even steal a base.
Kelvin Maldonado: Last year’s 11th-round pick probably made greater strides than anybody this year, but mostly because of his starting point. He hit .253/.288/.310 with yet another single-digit walk total (nine) over plenty of plate appearances (241). One feature separates him from the pack, in that he had lower error counts at both middle infield positions in his age-19 season. Going walkless over the month of August tempers enthusiasm about his finish.
Luis Curbelo: He led all White Sox prospects with 181 strikeouts over 120 games, and nobody came close. He hit just .169 over 64 games in Kannapolis before falling back to rookie ball, where he hit for power and did little else. Injuries stunted the start to the 2016 sixth-rounder’s career, but now he’s undeniably behind the curve.
Yoelvin Silven: The only pitching performance of note, the 20-year-old Dominican righty earned a promotion to Great Falls for the last week of the season. He impressed in the Arizona League, striking out 51 batters to just five walks over 44 innings, posting a 3.48 ERA. The Sox slowly stretched him out over the course of the season, peaking with nine strikeouts over six shutout innings on Aug. 15. His Great Falls debut was less impressive (five earned runs on nine hits and two walks over seven innings), but it was only three games. He’s 2-for-2 in strong performances, which is all that can be expected from a guy who didn’t sign for a meaningful amount.
Brayan Herrera: After throwing 126 impressive innings across the DSL and AZL in his first two pro seasons, Herrera only threw 13⅔ innings over 10 uneven appearances, none of them after July 19, so that looks like an injury. His line has more homers (three) than walks (two), which you don’t often see.
Avery Weems: The sixth-round senior signing out of Arizona outshone all the other collegiate pitchers. He struck out 60 batters to just seven walks over 47⅓ innings, over which he posted a 2.47 ERA. The 22-year-old wasn’t picking on players his own age, but he couldn’t control where he was assigned. He might be the one Voyager who you can say did all he could.
Weems is 22, plus 3 months. so still 22 to begin the 2020 season. I’d love to see him make it to High A next year. Lefty Starters are in demand.
I honestly don’t know who any of these dudes are. Can’t even recall them being in the Top 30 Sox Prospects.
Comas, Weaver, and Delgado were on FanGraphs’ prospects of note, so they were at least close to the top-30 at some point. Curbelo was a consensus top-30 at one point, but lack of playing time and generally poor results knocked him off in a hurry. Mieses is currently 29 on MLB.com’s list.