April Prospects Rundown: West Virginia Power

West Virginia has seen the most struggles so far this season out of all the teams in the Pirates’ organization.  They’ve been dealt some bad breaks (injuries to starters Quinton Miller and Phillip Irwin), saw some key players slumping (Hunter Strickland), and in several cases, seemed like just a spot for guys who were only there to get a full season of work in, before returning to the short season leagues when the time comes for those to start.

Here is a quick breakdown of the first month of the season, with players who played up to expectations, some surprises, and some disappointments.
Good as Advertised
Jarek Cunningham - Cunningham got off to a hot start in the month of April, hitting for a .304/.309/.392 line.  He only had one walk, which is something that needs improvement.  Cunningham missed the entire 2009 season, so I didn’t expect him to get off to a hot start in the month of April.  The walks aren’t good, but he’s certainly hitting for an impressive average.

Nathan Baker - Baker was impressive in his limited time in State College in 2009, after signing as a fifth round pick by the Pirates.  In the month of April he made four starts, with a 4.19 ERA in 19.1 innings, although his 16:5 K/BB ratio and .236 BAA were much more impressive than his ERA.

Ramon Cabrera - Cabrera split the 2009 season between the VSL and GCL, and had a lot of success at each level.  The jump to low-A was a bit of a surprise, but probably something to get him a full season of playing time.  Cabrera responded well, hitting for a .286/.314/.367 line in 49 at-bats in the month of April.  Like Jarek Cunningham, Cabrera needs to work on the walks.  He also could hit for more power, but it’s still early for Cabrera to improve on other areas of his game.

Kyle Morgan - Morgan got off to a hot start in April, hitting for a .271/.364/.542 line with two homers in 48 at-bats.  That shouldn’t be a surprise though, as he did very well in West Virginia in the second half of the 2009 season, hitting for a .296/.382/.541 line.  Morgan probably needs to move up to Bradenton soon in order to have any shot at advancing his development.

The Big Surprises

David Rubinstein - Rubinstein was probably the biggest surprise, starting the season with a .341/.400/.537 line in 41 at-bats.  This is after hitting for a .267/.309/.383 line in 243 at-bats in State College in 2009.  Rubinstein will turn 23 in the middle of May, and could find himself in Bradenton by the end of the season if this hitting continues, which has been the case in the early part of May.

Jesus Brito - Brito was acquired in the trade that sent Brian Bixler to the Cleveland Indians.  Brito only hit for a .250 average in the month of April, but combined for a .744 OPS and two homers in 64 at-bats. Not exactly the most lights out performance, but it’s nice to know the Pirates got some sort of prospect in return for Bixler.

Phillip Irwin - Irwin got off to a nice start, with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings of work, thanks to a 13:6 K/BB ratio and a .208 BAA.  Irwin had similar success in State College in 2009 after being drafted in the 21st round.  He’s currently sidelined with an injury, and hasn’t pitched since April 23rd, when he struck out seven in four innings.

Melkin Laureano - Laureano has mostly been a reliever, but has done a nice job stepping in to the rotation with Irwin being out.  Laureano had a 2.03 ERA in the month of April, spanning 13.1 innings, with a 13:6 K/BB ratio.  As a reliever, he had a 0.96 ERA and a 9:4 K/BB ratio in 9.1 innings of work, with a .156 BAA.

Kind of Disappointing
Wes Freeman - Freeman made the jump from the GCL, after struggling big time at the level in 2009.  That’s probably to get him a full season of work, but so far it doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near the low-A level.  Freeman hit for a .143/.222/.196 line in 56 at-bats, with 29 strikeouts.  That’s one strikeout every two at-bats.
/>Benjamin Gonzalez - Gonzalez has been considered a defensive shortstop, although his decent hitting in the GCL last year provided hope that he could at least hit for a passable stat line.  In the month of April he hit for a .208/.269/.222 line, which is far from passable.

Hunter Strickland - Strickland has probably been the most disappointing this season, mostly because he spent the entire 2009 season in low-A, and had a lot of success.  Strickland combined for a 3.49 ERA in 126.1 innings in the South Atlantic League in 2009, with a 74:19 K/BB ratio.  In April 2010 he had a 6.23 ERA in 26 innings, with an 8:8 K/BB ratio.

Kyle McPherson - McPherson put up great numbers as a starter in State College in 2009, after struggling with West Virginia to start the year.  He’s back to struggling in West Virginia, with a 4.87 ERA in 20.1 innings of work, plus a 9:6 K/BB ratio.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch 5/7/10

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