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White Sox: Great Falls Voyagers 2018 Season Review

White Sox: the Great Falls Voyagers ended their 2018 season as Pioneer League Champions. Sean Williams takes a look at their season and some of the players that helped the team get to that point.

The Great Falls Voyagers got off to a hot start during their 2018 season, posting a 22-16 record which was good enough for a first half title and securing a playoff spot. The second half of the regular season would be a different story as the team struggled and finished with a 12-25 record. Overall, the Great Falls Voyagers ended their regular season with a 34-41 record and a bid to the Pioneer League Playoffs.

After ending their regular season on a four-game losing streak, the Great Falls Voyagers needed to turn things around in the playoffs to keep their season alive. In the first round of the Pioneer League Playoffs, they managed to do that with a two-game sweep of the Billings Mustangs.

The Voyagers would then have momentum leading into the championship round after knocking out the team that handed them the previously mentioned four-game losing streak. Great Falls would go on to sweep the Grand Junction Rockies in two-games to secure the Pioneer League Championship. The Great Falls Voyagers ended their playoff run going a perfect 4-0 to cap off an exciting season.

Let’s take a look at some of the players performances from the 2018 season:

Amado Nunez was the most impressive hitter on the team this season, slashing .357/.394/.568. He led the team in batting average, and finished second in slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He had 21 doubles, 6 home runs, and 52 RBI’s. His 21 doubles and 52 RBI’s led the team in both categories. Nunez ended the 2017 season in Great Falls and showed a massive sign of improvement in just one season. He was a key factor in the Voyagers playoff run, hitting .353 with one home run and five RBI’s during the postseason. Amado Nunez primarily played second-base this season and also saw some action at first-base. During the 2017 season, he played third-base for the Voyagers. Taking into account the ability to play multiple positions defensively and the major improvement from a season ago, Nunez has the potential to become a solid utility man in the future.

Lenyn Sosa saw his first Pioneer League action this season after spending his 2017 season with the AZL White Sox. The 18-year-old put together an impressive season, slashing .293/.317/.406 with 4 home runs and 35 RBI’s. Sosa started in all four playoff games, hitting .381 with a triple and two RBI’s. As a younger prospect, those are some impressive numbers for a guy seeing his first action at a higher level of rookie ball. Sosa finished second on the team in total hits with 81 and had the fifth best batting average on the team. Defensively, Lenyn Sosa played shortstop, second-base, and third-base this season and posted a .975 fielding percentage.

2018 33rd-rounder Bryce Bush had a fantastic first professional season. After just 14 games with the AZL White Sox, Bush would quickly be promoted to Great Falls and would end his 2018 season there. It didn’t take long for Bryce Bush to burst onto the scene and make White Sox fans excited about what he brings to the organization. During his time in the AZL he hit .442 with one home run and 8 RBI’s. Between both affiliates, he hit .309 with 9 doubles, 3 home runs, and 18 RBI’s. In the playoffs, he continued to impress by picking up at least one hit in three of the four games and he drove in four total runs during the postseason. When watching Bryce Bush, the first thing that jumps out at you is his bat speed and power. However, he showed great arm strength at third-base too. Bush flashed a lot of potential this season and it’s going to be exciting to see what he can do in his first full season next year.

Logan Sowers, another member of the White Sox 2018 draft class also had a successful first season as a professional. He was assigned to Great Falls after being drafted and spent his entire season there. He slashed .296/.385/.483 with 16 doubles, 9 home runs, and 35 RBI’s. The 9 home runs and 35 RBI’s were good for second on the team in both categories. In the playoffs, Sowers only saw action in one game where he picked up a single in three trips to the plate. Defensively, Logan Sowers played every outfield spot and only committed two errors, with both of the errors occurring in center field.

Romy Gonzalez had a very productive year both at the plate and in the field. At the plate, he slashed .254/.323/.498 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs, 33 RBI’s, and walked 18 times. His 10 home runs led the team and he finished third in total RBI’s. In the lineup, he was primarily used as the lead-off hitter and he blasted seven of his home runs in that spot. His averaged dipped in the second half of the season, but during that time his power numbers increased. He was a threat to leave the yard and a threat on the base path. He swiped 10 bags and was only thrown out once this season. Defensively, he was locked into the center field spot and was perfect, committing no errors in 119.0 innings.

Right-handed pitcher Nick Johnson had an excellent season for the Voyagers in 2018 and was a major piece of the bullpen. In his first professional season, Johnson posted a 0.90 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 5 walks in 30.0 IP. He also recorded 5 saves in 7 save opportunities and had a 1.00 WHIP. In the playoffs, he had two appearances with a perfect ERA, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, and gave up no hits in 3.0 IP. His 0.90 ERA this season led the team for pitchers who appeared in 10 or more games.

Jonathan Stiever also made his professional debut this season and put together some good numbers for the Voyagers as a member of the starting rotation. In 13 starts, Stiever had a 4.18 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 9 walks in 28.0 IP. Even though he went no longer than 3.0 innings into a start, he held opponents scoreless in 8 of those 13 starts. He made two starts during the postseason, with one of them coming in the championship clinching game. In that game, he tossed three scoreless innings, gave up three hits, had two strikeouts, and issued one walk. When he was drafted, Jonathan Stiever was known for control and command of the strike zone, and that looks to have translated to the next level in the early stages of his professional career.

Right-handed relief pitcher Jack Maynard had a successful 2018 campaign for the Voyagers. However, he did not see any action during the playoffs. In the regular season, Maynard posted a 3.00 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 12 walks in 39.0 IP. At one point during the season, he allowed one earned run or less in seven consecutive appearances. During that stretch, he also walked one batter or less in each of those games. In 20 total appearances during the 2018 season, there was only three occurrences where Maynard gave up more than one earned run.

The Great Falls Voyagers struggled in the second half, especially towards the end of the regular season. However, the team got hot at the right time and was able to complete something no other White Sox affiliate was able to in 2018 by winning the Pioneer League Championship. This was a talented team, filled with players making their professional debut, and some who were getting their first taste of higher level rookie baseball.

Chris Getz, White Sox Director of Player Development, had nothing but good things to say about this group and even stated that it was “not a surprise” to see them win a championship:

Follow Sean on Twitter-Feature Photo Credit: Great Falls Voyagers/Twitter

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