The following game report is from Omar, who was in attendance for the West Virginia Power/Lakewood Blueclaws series this past week. Also, be sure to check out his report on the West Virginia pitchers.
On the hitting side of the team I’ll remind you that they were facing some real good pitchers, and in the Saturday game the home plate umpire’s strike zone got huge from the 5th inning on for both teams, so keeping those facts in mind I’m not going to go too hard on the hitters.
Evan Chambers started the series off amazing, getting 4 hits his first game along with 3 steals, but from the start of game two on, he didn’t get another hit and game two he barely took the bat off his shoulder with 3 walks and one strikeout on the day. They also moved him down in the order during this series, batting 3rd instead of his usual leadoff. His speed is very impressive both on the bases and in the field which helped him make up for a couple bad jumps. He also made a terrible error he wasn’t credited for, definitely a gift triple for the home team. It was a long high fly ball on Thursday that he got back to the track in plenty of time for, looked like he was camped under it, but he tried to catch it off to his side and he just flat out missed it. Overall I’d say he needs some outfield work but he should get plenty as he won’t be fast-tracked and hopefully the bad jumps are just from inexperience. The ball jumps off his bat when he does swing. He’s a stocky strong kid and it shows, though I’m hoping as he gets older he won’t lose speed because of it.
Jarek Cunningham looked much better than when I saw him in May. He had a horrible series back then. On Thursday he hit what I think was the longest home run I’ve seen in well over 100 games in Lakewood. It was his 2nd homer of the series and in game four he just missed a 3rd one with the ball hitting high up on fence, which is about 14 feet high, on a night nothing was carrying. The first series I saw he looked lost striking out about half the AB’s but he had just a couple bad swings all this series. He has decent speed and in the field he had a rather easy series but he looked good. Definitely a huge improvement.
Aaron Baker had a subpar series with the highlights being two hard hit doubles but he went just 3-16 overall with five K’s. He looked much better the first series, no bad AB’s all four games but yesterday for example,one pitcher fed him nothing but breaking balls and got three swing and misses out of him. He also made a bad error that ended up costing the team, and in the last game he played DH leaving Kyle Morgan there who made Baker look like a gold glover. With 16 homers and 27 doubles to his credit I’d say he’s somewhere between the two versions I’ve seen.
Ramon Cabrera will be much better when he can grow another 3-4 inches, very small guy but he looks like a legit ballplayer. He makes a lot of good contact, defensively he’s not lost, has a strong arm and for his body type(squat) he really gets down the line good. He again caught 3 of the 4 games I attended like back in May, and seeing him play six games I can see why the Pirates like him despite stats that don’t impress. At age 20 he already looks like a leader on the field, works well with the pitchers and plays the game right.
Rogelios Noris had his moments just like in the first series. In the third game he went 3-4 and all three hits were hit hard but the other three games he had just a single in 13 AB’s. He was the main victim of the wide strike zone Saturday striking out three times with a bunch of questionable strike calls against him. In the first game he made a great throw nailing a runner at second on a bloop down the line. The next inning Evan Chambers hit a ball to RF that was a mirror image of the ball Noris made a play on and Chambers had an easy stand up 2b to show for it. I’m holding out hope for him, I expect better things from him next year in his 2nd try at full season ball. He’s got average speed, a good glove, a great arm and some power. I think his main culprit is his plate patience but he seemed better this series than he did in May in which he swung at everything.
Elevys Gonzalez is a tough guy to judge, he’s playing 3b/ss/2b and he seems pretty good defensively at all three, plus he also has a strong arm. I think he has good baseball instincts, and he doesn’t hesitate like you see so many guys do at this level. At the plate he seemed better the first series in which he really impressed me. He also showed good speed that series and tons of hustle but the speed seemed just average this time. The reason he’s tough to judge is that Jesus Brito, who is lazy in everything he does, lacks the baseball instincts Elevys has shown me and is 2 years older (Elevys is just 20) with poor stats, continues to play everyday. If it were up to me Brito would be gone and Elevys would be playing everyday with most of his time at 3b giving Benji Gonzalez and Jarek a breather every once in awhile, because I think Elevys future is as a utility guy.
Benji Gonzalez is a very good fielder despite all the errors he’s made, and his glove/arm/slightly above average speed is what will take him as far as he goes because right now the bat isn’t there. He’s still young so you would hope the bat could catch up to the glove but right now he looks overmatched and the Bucs are doing something with him I don’t like much. He’s already batting ninth so his AB’s are limited, plus he seems to bunt at least once a game and he got pinch hit for one game. When a guy is that far behind with the bat you would think you would try to get his as many as possible to help but when you’re taking the bat out of his hands at least once a game while he’s hitting 9th, you’re holding back progress. It’s great to teach a guy how to win in the NL but how much practice do you need getting a bunt down, especially when, if he ever does make the majors, he will have a pitcher hitting behind him?
A few people last time I saw West Virginia asked me what I thought about David Rubinstein and my answer was he’s just there. That’s exactly how I felt about him this time around. I don’t know how to put it any better, he doesn’t do anything to makes you take notice either bad or good. If he was in a baseball movie he would be in a non-speaking role credited in a group with ten other guys as baseball players.
Jairo Marquez, Jose Hernandez and Kyle Morgan are just other players there, also known as roster fillers, so no reason to go in depth about them. I will mention one funny thing about Jose I noticed, when he takes his practice swings, he swings at imaginary eye high pitches. During the game he swings at eye high pitches and doesn’t come close to catching up to them. You would think someone would notice that and say “stop practicing hitting pitches you’re not supposed to swing at, especially when you can’t hit them”! Just a thought from the stands.