First Pitch: The Most Exciting Team in the System

Remember last month when I said that West Virginia would be the most exciting team to watch this summer? It would have been easy to put Bradenton in there. They’ve got the top two prospects in the system in Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, plus talented guys like Colton Cain, Alex Dickerson, and Mel Rojas Jr. But West Virginia has a lot of guys with breakout potential. There’s not much that Cole or Taillon can do to surprise us. They either dominate and live up to expectations, or they disappoint by doing less.

We’re starting to see why West Virginia is the most exciting team to watch in the system this year. What have fans been saying the system needs? Hitters. What does West Virginia have? Hitters.

In addition to the obvious hitter, Josh Bell, the Power offense has a lot of intriguing guys.

There’s a long term hole at first base in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile West Virginia has Jose Osuna, who hit two doubles tonight, has raw power, and is hitting for a .345 average in the young season.

There’s a long term hole at shortstop in Pittsburgh. West Virginia has Alen Hanson, who hit his third homer of the year tonight, and also tripled in a 3-for-4 day at the plate. Hanson is speedy, has a quick swing, a line drive stroke, and he’s athletic. He’s got a lot of skills, and could be this year’s version of Starling Marte 2009.

Then there’s my sleeper pick this year, Gregory Polanco, who went 2-for-4 tonight with his second homer in as many games. And the Pirates aren’t exactly in desperate need for another speedy center field prospect with power potential.

This isn’t counting Willy Garcia, who hasn’t gotten off to the same start this year, but who has just as much talent as the rest of these guys. Nor is it counting Jodaneli Carvajal, who has strong defense and is off to a good start at the plate.

On any given night, two thirds of the lineup is made up of breakout candidates. If the early results hold up, we’ll see a lot of guys soaring up the prospect ranks this year.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 3-2 to the Dodgers. Game story here.

**Prospect Watch: Speaking of the West Virginia offense, they had another strong night.

**Prospect Notebook: Hunter Strickland’s return to the mound after missing the last year and a half.

**Chris Resop added new pitches over the off-season.

**The draft prospects preview takes a look at the mid-season rankings.