This is the second time I’ve had a chance to see West Virginia play a four game series in Lakewood this year. The first time, the highlights of the series were the home runs hit by Stetson Allie and the pitching of Tyler Glasnow. This last four game series was a bit different — no Allie in the lineup, but Luis Heredia pitched his second game of the season. The recap for the first series can be read here and for everyone except Heredia and Barrett Barnes, I was able to make a comparison to their previous Lakewood series. For some players, I have now seen them play eight times and there will be another four game series in Lakewood later this year.
The Two Big Pitchers
When I call Tyler Glasnow and Luis Heredia “the two big pitchers”, I’m talking about both their size and prospect status. The last time I saw Glasnow, he gave up a two-run home run in the second inning, then retired the next 11 batters in a row, six on strikeouts. This time around, he start was cut short due to rain, getting in just four innings. His velocity was down just a tick. I didn’t see as many 96 MPH pitches and there were no 97′s like last time.
What I liked about this start was the fact he got quick outs on soft contact. He had just three strikeouts, but still looked dominating. Someone like Glasnow always has the ability to put batters away with either his fastball, or a mid-70′s curve that he can throw for strikes. He still has that wildness factor, which isn’t extremely bad, but when you couple it with his high strikeout totals, you have a pitcher that throws a lot of pitches in short outings. When he gets quick outs by pitching to contact, he will be able to work later into games and always have that ability to put batters away when he needs to.
As I mentioned in the first series, his change-up is a work in progress and it wasn’t really effective in either game. There wasn’t a big difference in velocity either, as his change was coming in at 90 MPH and he was working in the 94-96 MPH range with his fastball. They want him working on the pitch though, so he will continue to throw the pitch with mixed results until it gets better. It’s not always about immediate results, it’s about making someone a better pitcher.
With Luis Heredia, this was just his second start of the season and he too had some weather issues, although that isn’t what limited him to four innings. He ran up a high pitch count in the second inning, coming within two pitches of being pulled that inning. Instead, he was able to get the final out and stick around for two more frames. The beginning of the game was delayed more than two hours, so it is tough to be critical of a young pitcher who had to sit around an extra 150 minutes before making his start.
Heredia was throwing low 90′s early on, topping out at 93 MPH numerous times. After the long second inning, his velocity dipped and he was in the 88-91 MPH range. Heredia showed good command, worked very quickly, which you like to see. Even with runners on, he got the ball back and was ready to throw the next pitch. A lot of young pitchers will take longer once they start to get in trouble.
He gave up six hits on the night, but as I mentioned in the game story, four of those hits were very weakly hit. Heredia used his change-up all game and had some good results with it. About halfway through his outing, he mixed in some sliders and was using all three pitches in the last two innings. Those last two innings saw him give up four hits, but two could have easily been scored errors (I would have) and a third didn’t leave the infield.
Holmes and Creasy Perform Well
Last time I saw Jason Creasy, he was coming out of the bullpen, throwing a little bit harder and he gave up a couple runs. This time around, as a starter, he had the best start of the weekend for the Power, which is impressive considering who the other three starters were during this series.
Creasy worked efficiently and quickly, using just 55 pitches in five innings. He threw shutout ball, allowing one hit, one walk and he struck out six batters, including striking out the side in the fifth inning, which he knew would be his last inning going into it. He was throwing mostly fastballs and pounding the strike zone.
When you look at a combination of the two games I saw, you can pull good things from each. He didn’t need the higher velocity he displayed in his relief outing to get outs as a starter, but it is there and he still had command with the increased speed. I wasn’t overly impressed the first time I saw him because his command wasn’t sharp on his breaking pitches. As I mentioned, he was mostly relying on his two-seam fastball during this start, so there still could be issues with his other pitches, but the few he threw were better this time.
Clay Holmes threw five shutout innings in his first start I saw, allowing one hit while walking five and striking out five batters. On Sunday, he gave up two runs on two hits and two walks, with three strikeouts. I liked the second outing better, yet still saw some impressive things during his first start too.
The big difference between the two starts in Lakewood was his command. Last time he was missing all over the place, having his command disappear batters at a time. This time, he was missing mostly down in the zone. Just like Glasnow, Holmes was throwing a tick harder last time, but working 91-93, touching 94 MPH is still strong and if it means better command, then you go with what works.
Last time out, I mentioned that Holmes lost some fastball velocity when he started throwing more breaking balls. That didn’t happen this time out and his curveball was much more impressive this outing. He has a decent difference in speed, throwing the curve in the 78-81 MPH range, not as big as Glasnow, but it still worked well.
Barnes Impresses On Offense
Last time West Virginia came to Lakewood, Barrett Barnes wasn’t there, but Stetson Allie was and he stole the show. This time out, Barnes was the most impressive offensive player. Going 5-for-19, with one double and five strikeouts doesn’t sound impressive, but then again it wasn’t a great series for any batter and Barnes looked better than the boxscores.
You can see the tools on offense that got him drafted with the 45th pick last year. It was amazing, that in four days of watching him play defense, there weren’t any real tough plays or throws he had to make, so there’s not much information I could give out on that end of things.
On offense, he makes a lot of solid contact and he is aggressive on the basepaths, both out of the box and once he is on base. Part of me was thinking how great that is to see, while the other side thought that all out play could be the reason he’s been hurt so many times. He’s a line drive type hitter with a quick bat. His 9/33 BB/K ratio is poor for a lead-off hitter, but I think he is better than that. He wasn’t chasing pitches, but he’s aggressive in the strike zone and putting the ball in play. I expect that if he stays healthy, you will see a much better player the second half.
Bell Still Has Problems
Now I’m not a hitting coach and I wasn’t the person that first noticed it — it was pointed out to me by a long-time NL scout prior to the first game last series and it was something I watched in every AB for Josh Bell during both series. He has a lot of movement in his swing and it doesn’t help him. I’ve only seen him bat lefty because the BlueClaws don’t have any lefties on their pitching staff, so that is something to remember with a switch-hitter. With Bell, it’s interesting to note that against lefties, he’s hitting .322, with an .855 OPS and striking out once every six AB’s. Against righties, he’s batting .276, with a .791 OPS and a strikeout every 4.2 AB.
Bell keeps his back elbow high well into the pitcher’s delivery, basically it is horizontal to his shoulder. He also has a leg kick and strides forward during his swing. So not only does his swing take too long to happen, he has a lot of moving parts and he is changing his eye level during his swing. I think that goes to show you what a talented hitter he really is, because he doesn’t have a swing that should produce the stats he has put up. He has great bat speed and obvious raw power, but with that stance/swing, I don’t see him having success against hard-throwing pitchers or guys that work him inside.
His plate patience is another area that needs work, though he looked better this series. He chases a lot of pitches down and in, which he has no chance at with that swing, not that you want him swinging at them anyway. He showed decent range in the outfield, but I heard from the same scout his times down the line were slower than before and we wondered if that had anything to do with his minor knee injury that kept him out for a few games around the All-Star break. Finally, and I don’t want it to sound like I’m killing Bell here, just reporting what I see, I wasn’t impressed with his arm. The few throws I saw, were not strong and on a play at the plate, it was not accurate at all.
Comparing The Other Hitters
Dilson Herrera, Max Moroff and Eric Wood all basically had the same type of series. Nothing too impressive, looked good at times, looked bad others. It was really a hard series to get a read on. One time you would say, nice AB going the other way on that ball, then one of them would go down chasing a bad pitch. The other thing was, none of the three infielders really had a chance for tough plays, so just like with Barnes, there isn’t much to go on. Moroff turned one nice 6-3 double play, but also booted a ball up the middle, which was credited (generously) as a hit. Herrera had an easy series (didn’t play Sunday) and Wood showed a decent arm from third base.
Last time I said Dilson Herrera was a solid all-around player and he really did more that series to show his skills, defensively, at the plate and on the bases. He went 3-for-12, with four strikeouts this series and a couple of the hits were bloops. His numbers have dropped recently, but we are still talking about a teenager in full-season ball, so overall he is having a fine season.
Max Moroff has some odd AB’s, but for the most part, I like him. He goes up there hacking sometimes and other times, I’ve seen him watch six pitches with his bat on his shoulder, drawing a walk or striking out. Doesn’t seem to be much middle ground with him in that respect. He makes solid contact a lot, uses the gaps and goes the other way. I thought he looked like a better hitter than stats indicated last time and they are finally getting to where they should be now with his strong June that saw him hit .304, with a .936 OPS.
Eric Wood likes to go the other way a lot, hitting many pitches to right field. He has been the opposite of Moroff, starting off fast, but now his stats have really dropped. He seems like he could be a solid player, but nothing really stands out on offense or defense.
Walker Gourley is really a surprise this year. I guess when a player is around for so long and is just now getting to low-A ball, you tend to wait longer on calling him a prospect, waiting for him to drop back to the norm that we have come to know. He definitely looks like he could be a player to watch though. He drives the ball, makes good contact, has surprising speed and is a very smart baserunner. His defensively versatility helps and he has been consistent all season long. For what it’s worth, the same scout who pointed out Bell’s stance, wasn’t too high on Gourley.
Finally, the real sleeper of the group played just twice this series, Raul Fortunato. He hit the only Power home run of the series, a laser to left field that looked exactly like one he hit last series. Fortunato goes up there swinging and he never gets cheated. He’s got good speed and is all-out hustle on the basepaths. I wasn’t huge on his defense last series and he seems to catch the ball awkward (or unsure), but he has played center field in the past, so it’s possible his speed makes up for mistakes. At age twenty-two, he may be finally breaking out, especially after missing almost all of last season with an injury. I wouldn’t rate him too high just yet, but he is one to keep an eye on.
The following video was provided courtesy of Josh Norris, and features Luis Heredia, Dilson Herrera, Josh Bell, and Barrett Barnes.