I was able to see the West Virginia Power twice this year when they came to Lakewood. The first time they came in was for the three game series from June 9-11 and they took two of three. The starters for that series were Colton Cain, Jameson Taillon and Brandon Cumpton. The next series was a four game series last week August 5-8 that the teams split and again Jameson Taillon started along with Zack Von Rosenberg, Zack Dodson and Eliecer Navarro.
For the hitters I tracked Andrew Maggi, Mel Rojas Jr, Justin Howard, Eric Avila and Daniel Grovatt who each played all seven games, Elias Diaz who caught four of the games and Rogelios Noris who not only played five games this year but also was with the team next year.
The game recaps can be found here.
For the player updates I will go over every prospect that I saw twice, starting with Jameson Taillon, the top prospect on the team and in the system. He had two vastly different starts but one thing that was constant between the two starts was his velocity, throwing many of his pitches in the 94-95 range. The first series he allowed just one hit, a broken bat infield single. He was throwing strikes and keeping the ball down. The second start he was missing the zone and gave up some hard hits when he left the ball up in the zone.
I think part of his current problems are just the extra work that goes into full-season ball as opposed to starting in high school. The struggles recently are a bit alarming but as long as he continues to get his work in I’d expect him to be ready to show next year in Bradenton why he was drafted so high and why he is rated as having one of the best fastballs and curveball in the minors. He is without a doubt the top prospect from this team.
Colton Cain only started one game but he pitched in relief in the second series. When I saw him the first time I was disappointed. The velocity wasn’t there and he seemed to leave the ball up a lot. I wondered back then how he didn’t get hit harder pitching like that. The second game he got hit very hard and with slightly lower average velocity on his pitches despite pitching in relief.
Last year Cain got a late start with his season recovering from a back injury. He only pitched 48 total innings. This year was his first full season of work and despite the description that he has a workhorse frame. It should still be noted that he already has pitched 56 more innings than last year, so like Taillon, you should expect some bumps in the road as the face the rigors of full season ball for the first time.
For the relievers I saw Brooks Pounders, Victor Black, Casey Sadler and Jason Townsend both times. The first three all showed nice improvements in their velocity the second time around while Townsend actually regressed back to the pack.
Pounders the first time went three innings and looked to tire as the outing went on. He, more than anyone else I saw, pitches inside to hitters consistently. His first series that worked well but the second series he was missing in and it led to high pitch counts each time. The important things with him is he can use all four of his pitches, he has nice velocity and he pitches inside. He needs to work on his conditioning, that is evident.
Black had some backward results. The first series he pitched twice, was throwing 89-90 and was getting quick outs, throwing a ton of strikes. The second series he was in the 92-94 range but was wild and didn’t look as good. He has since been promoted to Bradenton despite some recent struggles. If he’s able to combine the strong points of his two showings while staying healthy, he looks like he could make it as a reliever someday.
Sadler I tracked the first time but didn’t plan on tracking him the second time. His first outing yielded nice results but he was throwing 86-88 as a reliever with some college experience so I figured that was all I needed to see. When he started pitching the second time I noticed the first pitch at 91 so I wrote it down just in case it wasn’t a fluke. The second pitch came in at 92 and I was back to tracking him. He got real nice results again but with increased speed hitting 93 a couple of times, a full 5 mph over his outing just two months prior.
This is an example of why it is good to see pitchers more than once before making any decisions about them. Just going on his first series, I would be writing him off until he showed success in higher levels but now I would put more stock in what he does (he has 6 straight multi-inning outings without a run allowed). With the stats he’s put up this year, it might be interesting to see if they think about using him as a starter next year.
Townsend last year hit 97 on the radar gun and got some attention around minor league baseball. This year in June I saw a flash of that speed as he hit 95 once during the first series but was hitting 93 pretty regularly. Down from what we heard but not bad. The second series he pitched twice and the highest speed was 92 and at that peak he loses some of that luster that goes with the mid-90’s tag. He does have nice stats this year but the K rate indicates the fastball isn’t a plus pitch for him and hitters were definitely getting better swings off him the second time around.
For the hitters I will start with Mel Rojas Jr who tops the prospect list for this group. His overall stats are not impressive but after seeing him in person for seven games I am not as down on him as I would be had I not seen him play. He looks like a baseball player, a solid baseball body and he definitely has the tools to play at a high level. They said he was raw when he was signed but I can see the potential they saw. He drives the ball well and with his size he should definitely hit more homers in the future. He has real nice speed both on the bases and in the outfield.
I don’t know if he has the patience to hit for a high average but he has the speed for infield hits and ability to drive the ball which should lead to a decent average in the future once he gets more consistent. It all goes along with the added experience. Before this season I had him as the highest ranked of this group and he is still at the top after seeing him play.
Andrew Maggi batted leadoff all seven games so I saw a lot of him, 35 AB’s in all. I like his approach, only once in all those times up did he see just one pitch and he almost hit that ball out. He works counts well, has decent speed and plenty of hustle plus he fields his position nicely. I don’t think he will ever hit for power as he is more of a line drive hitter but I could see him closer to .290 with a lot of doubles and a high stolen base total. As someone who plays shortstop well, he is probably under-appreciated at this point due to his extremely slow start. He also signed as a sophomore so you should keep in mind this would’ve been his junior season.
Daniel Grovatt is a decent solid ballplayer. He doesn’t do anything to jump out at you except for having a strong throwing arm but I definitely wouldn’t write him off as a future major leaguer. He drove the ball well plenty of times and most of the time was patient at the plate. He has average speed and except for one bad misplay he looked decent in the outfield. With his strong arm I’d put him slightly over average on defense. At this point I would have him one step down in overall play from Maggi which when you take positions into account is a bigger step.
I like Justin Howard, just not as a future prospect due to his age and position. He is a very patient hitter but as a first baseman he does not hit for enough power and at age 24 that is not a good sign. His 66 walks and 30 doubles look nice but a .250 average and just 6 homers basically writes him off. He needs to be more aggressive at the plate, he had a ton of 3-2 counts on him during the two series but they mostly resulted in a walk or a weak hit ball. From a middle of the order hitter, and someone playing a corner spot, you need to see better results.
Elias Diaz played two games in each series. He looked much better at the plate the second time around. Behind the dish he looks like a solid catcher with a strong arm. I wrote about it earlier but I still saw it again, while he does have a strong arm and good footwork he has a slow release. When he stands up to throw he for a split second holds the ball high over his head and then unleashes a strong throw. It is basically a slight hitch in his throw I saw everytime he threw it down to 2B between innings and during games. Other than that he seems like a strong receiver and he is still just 20 years old in full-season ball plus the Pirates are very high on him.
Eric Avila was probably rushed to full-season ball by the Pirates after a nice showing in the GCL and it didn’t help that they batted him cleanup to start the season. He has struggled almost all year and I could see why, he is an aggressive hitter but he also starts his swings late resulting in a lot of poor contact with bad pitches which lead to weak groundouts and pop ups. There was also a huge problem I saw the first time and that was some atrocious fielding. He had bad glove work, bad footwork, poor throws and technique. When I saw him the second series he looked like a totally different player in the field. I was told they have been working real hard on getting him better and it has definitely paid off, all four games he looked solid.
With Avila, at least at times he looked patient. With Rogelios Noris he doesn’t know what that word means and that is a shame. He has plenty of power, some of the best in the system. He can run, field and throw at least average in all three areas. What he refuses to do, and it has been exactly the same for two years now, is wait for a good pitch to hit. If it ever clicked with him he would instantly be an interesting player to watch but in two full seasons of low-A ball he is the same player he was day one.