Prior to the game today it was announced that Zack Dodson was promoted to West Virginia so I was able to get my first chance to see the 2009 4th round draft pick, and he was impressive. He went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with one walk and one strikeout as the Power defeated the Lakewood Blueclaws 7-3 tonight in the first game of a four game series.
Dodson worked quickly all night and was throwing strikes, getting a lot of groundballs with very few pitches hit hard. Three of the five hits he allowed were softly hit and two of them didn’t leave the infield. He ran into his only trouble in the 5th inning when Lakewood got the first batter on with an infield hit. That was followed by a long fly ball that seemed to hang up there long enough to be caught, but Mel Rojas Jr. was shifted well towards left field and was unable to track down the ball hit to the right field gap which fell for a double. The Blueclaws scored their only other run off Dodson following the double with a soft liner just over the second base bag into center field.
Zack threw a total of 71 pitches, 46 for strikes and never had to throw more than 15 pitches in any inning. He only struck out one batter, the last batter he faced in the game, Anthony Hewitt, who he got three swing and misses from. Despite getting just five swing and misses all game, he wasn’t getting hit hard. His fastball reached 93 a couple times and he seemed to be able to amp it up when he needed to but he was mostly 88-90 all game and he hit 91 four times. The first time through the lineup he was mainly fastballs but by the end he was using all of his pitches with mixed results on his curve which had a huge difference in speed at times and a nice break.
Brooks Pounders pitched the 7th inning and showed excellent fastball command and was throwing harder than I previously saw, hitting 94 four times and sitting 92-93. He had trouble with his off-speed pitches and despite facing just four batters it took him 28 pitches to get through his only inning. He got two soft grounders to 3B before walking the third hitter, then finishing his outing off with a strikeout.
Justin Ennis pitched the 8th, getting into trouble right away loading the bases in part due to his own fielding on two bunts. He was helped by a poor running decision on a wild pitch that didn’t get far away and he was able to get out of the inning with just one run allowed. Jason Townsend finished the game off working a scoreless ninth. He was throwing just 91-92 which was below the 93-95 I saw last time the Power played in Lakewood two months ago.
The Power scored five runs in the 1st inning chasing the Blueclaws starter before he could finish the inning. Drew Maggi with a double, Daniel Grovatt with a triple and Mel Rojas Jr with a line drive single made in 2-0 quickly. After a stolen base by Rojas, Chase Lyles and Justin Howard walked. You would think in a five run 1st it would be hard to find faults with the team but Kawika Emsley-Pai swung at the 1st pitch he saw, popping up weakly in the infield and Rogelios Noris followed him swinging at everything. Nothing is more irritating to me than watching a guy walk two straight batters to load the bases and then the next guys go up there hacking away at bad pitches.
Kevin Mort came up with the Power up 2-0 and bases loaded after those two poor outs and he was walked which spelled the end of the night for Lakewood’s starter. Eric Avila greeted the reliever with a nice liner to RF bringing home two runs to break the game open early.
The Power scored another run in the 2nd inning with a leadoff single from Rojas, who went to 3B on a Lyles single and a wild pitch. Rojas scored on a shallow fly out from Howard to CF showing good speed on a ball that didn’t seem deep enough to score a run. West Virginia added on a run in the 8th inning with a sharp single from Justin Howard followed by a double down the LF line from Emsley-Pai that scored Howard.
Some notes of interest in the game include the huge difference between Eric Avila at third base this game as opposed to last time I saw him. He was very mechanical last time I saw him as if you could see him saying to himself, catch the ball, get into position to throw, now throw the ball. He was very fluid tonight, a stark difference between tonight and early June when he looked lost out there at times.
Daniel Grovatt had a very nice game at the plate despite the boxscore showing just a 1-4. He drew a walk, his triple was hit well and two of his outs were hit just as hard as the triple but both found outfielder’s gloves. On the opposite end, Rogelios Noris seems to be set on being a free swinger his whole career. I’ve seen him have brief stints of patience and it paid off but for the most part he goes up there hacking and I’m guessing most of his hits are off mistakes. There is almost no reason to throw him a strike at this point. He obviously has tools, his power is legit and his defense, arm and speed all are at least average so it is annoying watching him swing at everything knowing that such an approach never pays off in the long run.
I will have more on the other batters at the end of the series, giving my scouting reports and comparing Maggi, Rojas, Howard, Avila, Elias Diaz (who didn’t play) as well as Grovatt and Noris to their performances in June.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.