Yesterday I previewed the 2011 West Virginia Power infield, looking at players who could open the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ low-A affiliate, and looking at players who could make the jump from the lower levels later in the season. Today we’ll look at the outfield, again looking at all of the possibile players who could play in West Virginia this season.
The Top Prospects
The biggest outfield prospect who will play in West Virginia this year is 2010 third round pick Mel Rojas Jr. Rojas had a bad debut last year with State College, hitting for a .207/.309/.250 line in 164 at-bats. He plays strong defense, with a great arm, and has a lot of speed. He started off well, with a .265/.368/.347 line in his first month, but struggled the rest of the year. That could be due to the fatigue of playing such a long season. He definitely has the tools to be a good hitter, with some power potential, making him a guy to watch in 2011.
Another 2010 draft pick that should join West Virginia is Dan Grovatt. Grovatt has great contact skills, decent speed, and great plate patience. He has a strong arm, which makes him a candidate for right field, a position he played a lot of in Spring Training. He lacks power, so his value is going to have to come from his average.
One of the most promising young international prospects in the system, Exicardo Cayonez, could make the jump to full season ball this year. Cayonez was the owner of the highest international bonus given out by the Pirates prior to Luis Heredia, signing in 2008 for $400,000. He’s a line drive hitter that hits to all fields, and has a lot of speed, making him a center field candidate. In his debut in the US last year he hit for a .263/.369/.362 line in 152 at-bats. He might not start the season with the team, but should be up at the level by the end of the year.
Wesley Freeman has largely been a disappointment since being signed to a $150,000 bonus as a 16th round pick in the 2008 draft. Freeman’s strikeout issues have been very alarming, striking out in over half of his at-bats in 2010 with West Virginia. Following that campaign, he was sent down to the GCL, where he struck out in 46.7% of at-bats. Freeman is a very raw player with some good tools. His best tools are speed, a strong arm, and power. However, his contact skills leave a lot to be desired.
Freeman played a lot with the A-ball team in Spring Training, and could return to West Virginia again this season. He has nothing to gain by waiting around for the short season leagues to start, and needs to start producing in the low-A level. I could see him being put in a sink-or-swim role in West Virginia, starting off the season in the lineup, and being replaced not long in to the year if his struggles continue.
Adalberto Santos is another guy who could contend for starting time. Santos was drafted as a second baseman, but played outfield with the State College Spikes last year. He hit for an impressive .319/.406/.479 line, which could make him a sleeper to watch this year. He will have to repeat that in higher levels, as his numbers come with the disclaimer that he was a college player playing in low-A ball.
Cole White and Justin Bencsko are two bench candidates. White returned from the US Army last year to rejoin the organization, playing in State College. He should move up to full season ball this year. Bencsko is a very fast outfielder, with plus-plus speed, although speed is his only tool, making him more of a bench option.
Prospects For Later in the Season
The guys that will start off in West Virginia this year are mostly guys who should stay at the level for a full season. The one exception would be Grovatt, if he carries his strong hitting skills over to the pros. Cayonez could be a mid-season arrival, but outside of that, the chances of other players arriving later in the season are slim, outside of 2011 draft picks.
One sleeper candidate could be Gregory Polanco, who played in the Gulf Coast League last year, and is one of the more promising international prospects the Pirates have signed in the last few years. Polanco isn’t as polished as Cayonez, but he is tall and athletic, with good speed, along with some power projection. He should start off in short season ball, and the only way I see him moving up this year is if something clicks and he puts everything together right away. Luis Urena is a similar story to Polanco, but could be less likely to make that jump, since he was in the international leagues last year.
Opening Day Projection
The estimated opening day starters:
LF – Wesley Freeman
CF – Mel Rojas Jr.
RF – Dan Grovatt
Candidates for outfield playing time off the bench: Adalberto Santos
Could be a late season arrival: Exicardo Cayonez
Could play in A+ in 2011: Dan Grovatt, Adalberto Santos