We are two weeks into the season, and once again it looks like West Virginia is the team to watch for breakout performers. The offense currently has four regulars with an .800 OPS or better. Other guys on the roster have potential and talent, but don’t have the numbers yet. It’s still early in the season, so some of those numbers could come up in a hurry.
I’ve talked about the basic numbers a lot in the early part of the season for a lot of the top performers. But digging deeper into the numbers tells a different story. It shows how impressive Stetson Allie’s start really is, or how Max Moroff is more promising than his triple slash line, or just how there’s some good and bad to the .254 average and .742 OPS from Josh Bell so far. So let’s break down some of those top performers, going beyond the triple slash line and the home runs.
Stetson Allie (.407/.478/.780, 6 HR, 69 PA) - What I really like about Allie so far is that he has a 21.7% strikeout rate and a 13% walk rate. Allie has been making some good, and surprisingly fast progression. At the start of Spring Training he looked lost at the plate. He was going down early in counts, and having issues with strikeouts. Toward the end of camp his hitting looked better, although I wasn’t seeing that raw power I saw from him in the past. That quickly arrived once the season began. It took Allie four games to hit his first homer, and he’s done that five more times since. But the strikeouts and walks are impressive, especially when you consider that those first three games included five strikeouts and one walk. He’s really picked up the walk rate in the last few games, with five in his last four outings. The strikeouts have also dropped, with only two in those four games, and six in his last ten games (spanning 42 at-bats). It’s great to see him hitting for power and average, but the K/BB ratio is going to determine how successful he can be as he moves up. He’s turned that around in a hurry. If he continues with these ratios, he’s got a very strong chance of making it to the majors as a power hitting first baseman, since he’ll force pitchers to throw strikes, and has the power to crush those strikes when they’re in the zone.
Eric Wood (.358/.393/.660, 4 HR) - What I really like about Wood is that he has the skills to stay at third base, and also has some power. He showed both of those skills last year. The Pirates are thin at third base in their system, to the point where Wood was the top third base prospect before his hot start this season. The average and the power are both amazing right now, but they will come down. The one area he does need improvements is the walk rate. Wood currently has a 5.3% walk rate, which needs improvement. He’s only 20 years old, and he came out of the JuCo ranks, so Wood is still pretty young and has time to make improvements.
Max Moroff (.231/.265/.385, 1 HR) - Moroff doesn’t have the amazing numbers that Allie, Wood, and some of his other teammates have. The average is low, but there are some positive signs. The big positive is his K/BB ratio. He currently has an 18.5% strikeout rate, which is lower than Allie and Wood. He also has a 16.9% walk rate, which ranks second on the team to Dilson Herrera among regulars. Moroff was drafted out of high school in the 16th round last year. Putting him in low-A is an aggressive assignment, although he’s an advanced hitter with a good glove at shortstop. The average isn’t there right now, but he’s definitely not looking over-matched with the strikeouts and walks.
Josh Bell (.254/.302/.441, 1 HR) - When you consider the bonus Bell received, and how much upside he had, you’d like to see him putting up numbers like Allie and Wood. His numbers aren’t horrible, but they’re also not great. He is hitting for some power, with a .186 ISO. Most of that has come from his doubles. The downside is that his K/BB ratio has been weak. He’s striking out 27% of the time, and his walk rate is at 6.3%. Last year in his one month in West Virginia he had a 31.8% strikeout rate, and a 3% walk rate. So the walks have come up a bit this year, but the strikeouts are still too high, and the walks could use some improvements.
Raul Fortunato (.345/.367/.569, 2 HR) - Fortunato is a very toolsy outfielder who has shown a good hit tool in his time in the lower levels. The numbers are good this year, and the power is off to a great start. The problem is that he’s only walking 3.3% of the time. That’s kind of unusual for Fortunato. In his final year in the DSL he walked 10.6% of the time. He’s only striking out 16.7% of the time, which is in line with his career numbers. He’s 22, and because he spent three years in the DSL he’s older than some international guys who have been pushed to this level. Therefore he doesn’t have as much time to fix his walk rate as guys like Eric Wood or Josh Bell, who are both two years younger.
It is early for all of these players. One big game or one big series could be adding a lot of influence to the numbers. The same goes for a bad game or a bad series. It’s good to see some early results from most of these guys, but in a lot of cases it’s the strikeouts and walks that are going to tell the story of how good a player can be as he moves up to the upper levels.
Tyler Glasnow Looking Un-Hittable, But With Poor Control
One of the top young pitching prospects to watch this year is Tyler Glasnow. He’s 6′ 8″, 220 pounds and can hit as high as 98 MPH with his fastball, while also throwing a plus curveball. So far this year, Glasnow has an interesting stat line. In three starts he has a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 innings, with a 10.03 K/9 ratio. That is a great follow up to his GCL season last year, where he had a 2.10 ERA in 34.1 innings, with a 10.49 K/9 ratio.
The problem for Glasnow is that he’s had some horrible control. So far this year, the tall right-hander has a 6.94 BB/9 ratio. Walks were a problem last year, when he had a 4.19 BB/9 ratio. The walks aren’t hurting him, mostly because he doesn’t allow many hits. Glasnow has an extremely low .122 BAA this year, and had a .156 BAA last year. In his last two games he has given up just one hit in 6.2 innings, but has walked nine.
Glasnow’s stuff is advanced for a guy who is a year removed from high school. It’s advanced for full season A-ball, even though that’s a somewhat aggressive assignment for him. So he’s not going to give up a lot of hits in the lower levels. The walks come from his inability to repeat his mechanics, which come from his height. One common thing that I’ve heard is that it takes taller pitchers a bit longer to control all of the moving parts in their delivery. Glasnow has a chance to be an ace, and his stuff is dominant for the lower levels. If he adds control down the line, he’ll have a shot at being a top of the rotation prospect.
Jason Creasy’s New Out Pitch
The 2011 draft looks good so far from a prep pitcher standpoint. Aside from Tyler Glasnow (5th round pick), there’s also ninth round pick Clay Holmes who is off to a strong start with West Virginia. Jake Burnette (7th round) and Colten Brewer (4th round) will each be starting the year in Jamestown, and both as starting pitchers.
One guy who has been moved to the bullpen already is Jason Creasy, taken in the eighth round. Creasy moved up to West Virginia this year, despite poor numbers in State College last year. He’s been pitching in a long-relief role, getting multiple innings each outing.
Last year a big issue for Creasy was the lack of a strikeout pitch. He had a 4.8 K/9 ratio while using his curveball, which didn’t produce results. Toward the end of the year he started throwing more of a combination of a slider and a curveball, trying to get a better out pitch.
The overall numbers have struggled, but the secondary numbers are looking better early in the season. Creasy has a 6.5 K/9 this year in 9.2 innings, and has also lowered his walk rate from 3.3 to 1.9. His ERA is still high, sitting at 5.59, although almost all of his runs came in a four earned run appearance on April 10th when he didn’t record an out. His other appearances have been much better, with each one lasting two or more innings.
One thing Creasy was trying to do with the pitch was get more ground ball outs. So far in the early season that hasn’t been the case. His ground ball rate is 29.7%, and his GO/AO ratio is 0.57, which is down from 0.91. Just like with all of the hitters above, it’s still early in the season for Creasy’s numbers. A good sign is that he’s now getting strikeouts, which makes him look better than he did last year.
He’s a tall, projectable pitcher at 6′ 4″, 197 pounds. That’s up from 185 pounds when he was drafted. Creasy spent a lot of time in the gym over the off-season, working out five days a week. His focus was to be as strong at the end of the season as he was in the early part of the season. He’s kind of at a disadvantage being from the 2011 draft class. That group of pitchers has amazing stuff, with three of them already hitting 95 or higher. Creasy doesn’t have that stuff, but he can still find success by continuing to strike out batters, and improving his ground ball rates to get some easier outs.