The 2013 minor league season begins on Thursday. In the days leading up to the opener, I will be previewing the full season affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is a look at the 2013 West Virginia Power, who will feature top prospects Josh Bell and Dilson Herrera on their Opening Day roster.
C – Wyatt Mathisen
1B – Stetson Allie
2B – Dilson Herrera
SS – Max Moroff
3B – Eric Wood
LF – Walker Gourley
CF – Raul Fortunato (Barrett Barnes)
RF – Josh Bell
DH – D.J. Crumlich
Last year West Virginia had the most talent in the system, and two of the biggest breakout prospects in the game. This year they’ve got a roster full of young talent, with several players having breakout potential. That could lead to another strong year for the Power.
Josh Bell was a guy to watch heading into last season. He only played for one month before going down with a knee injury. Bell had his recovery delayed due to swelling in the knee, and ended up missing the season. As a result, he added some weight, then turned some of that weight into muscle over the off-season at IMG Academy. The shiny new toy factor with Bell seems to have worn off. People are starting to get down on him, even though we’ve only seen him play one month of pro ball. The reports from Baseball Prospectus on his Spring were exaggerated. Some of the downsides have always been there (average arm, he’s not the best runner). As for his hitting, Bell didn’t crush the ball like he did last Spring, but he also didn’t look like a guy who needed more time in extended Spring Training. I think we need to withhold judgement on him until we can actually see what he can do over a full season.
Last year the breakout prospects were Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco. This year the favorite to break out is Dilson Herrera. If we’re comparing him to last year’s breakout hitters, Herrera would be closer to Hanson. They both have received favorable prospect reports in the lower levels. Scouts love them, and they both get their value from the bat. Herrera has excellent bat speed and can hit for some power. Defensively he’s limited to second base, but his bat is good enough to make him a top prospect there.
Wyatt Mathisen is another guy to watch. The Pirates drafted him in the second round last year. He was drafted as a catcher, even though he played more games at shortstop in high school. Mathisen is very athletic and has great pure hitting skills. Because he hasn’t spent much time behind the plate, he’s raw. The Pirates immediately had him working on his catching with Tom Prince and Milver Reyes in the GCL after signing. The bat is there, but the big focus will be on developing his skills behind the plate.
Max Moroff and Eric Wood are two sleeper prospects from the 2012 draft. Moroff is a shortstop who displayed some good hitting skills last year, and showed off a lot of range at short this Spring. Eric Wood is a third baseman who has a strong arm and hit for some power in the GCL after signing. They might not have the upside of Herrera or Mathisen, and if they break out it probably won’t be as big as Hanson and Polanco, but they both have the chance to be promising infield prospects.
Stetson Allie will return to West Virginia for the third year in a row, only this time he’ll be a hitter. I wasn’t impressed with Allie’s hitting last year in the GCL. He didn’t do much early in camp this year. Later in camp he started getting more hits, but the power wasn’t showing up. He also dealt with plate patience issues throughout the process. The Pirates started him off at third base, but quickly moved him to first base last year, and he’s remained at the position. That’s a position where his value is going to be based entirely off his bat, so the lack of power and the strikeout problems are a concern.
Barrett Barnes will start the season in extended Spring Training after dealing with some back tightness at the end of Spring. He’s currently slated to get some at-bats, and will eventually join West Virginia. Barnes will play center field, and has a chance to be a future impact bat.
Francisco Diaz, Ashley Ponce, Junior Sosa, Jonathan Schwind
Francisco Diaz has good defense and hit well, but looks more like a lower level depth option. Ashley Ponce is an infielder and is also an organizational guy. Junior Sosa is a small, speedy outfielder with no power. Jonathan Schwind was converted to a catcher when the Pirates drafted him, but started playing left field at the end of camp. He played almost every position on the field at Marist, and could get plenty of time as a utility player this year.
Tyler Glasnow, Clay Holmes, John Kuchno, Joely Rodriguez, Orlando Castro (Zack Dodson)
Last year West Virginia had a lot of offensive talent, but only a few top pitching prospects to watch. This year the lineup looks promising, and the young pitchers also look promising. Tyler Glasnow leads the group. He’s a 6′ 8″, 220 pound 19-year-old right-hander who can touch 96-98 MPH with his fastball. He also throws a curveball which can be a plus pitch. Glasnow doesn’t really have a ceiling at this point. He could be as good of a prospect as Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon down the line. For now he’s still developing. His control will be a big thing to watch this year, along with the development of his changeup.
Clay Holmes posted some strong numbers last year in State College. He’s another tall, skinny, big bonus pitcher, receiving $1.2 M as a ninth round pick. Holmes was working in the 90-93 MPH range last year, but was 93-95 in his last start this Spring. He has a good curveball, but didn’t use it often last year as the Pirates were stressing fastball and changeup. He’ll be using the pitch more this year, which will hopefully lead to more strikeouts.
The Pirates have a history of using their best arms as starters, even when those arms profile as relievers. That’s pretty common with most teams. John Kuchno fits that description. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s, and has a good curveball to pair with that fastball. He’s also a big pitcher at 6′ 5″, 210 pounds. He’ll get innings as a starter for now, but he looks more like a power reliever who could pitch in the late innings down the line.
Joely Rodriguez is a guy I’ve been intrigued by for the last few years. I first saw him at the end of the 2010 season hitting 94 MPH with a lively fastball. He moved up to the State College rotation in 2011, but an arm injury ended his season after two starts. Last year he returned to State College and looked pretty good, working in the 87-91 MPH range with better control of his pitches. He’s got a good three pitch mix with his two-seam fastball, a slider, and a changeup. His off-speed stuff is advanced, and all three of his pitches cut. Control is still something to watch, and he could use a little separation between his pitches, since the off-speed stuff sits in the low-to-mid 80s and the fastball sits in the upper 80s, lower 90s.
Orlando Castro will start off the season in the West Virginia rotation. He’s a lefty with a good breaking pitch, but unlike a lot of similar left-handers, Castro can touch the low-90s with his fastball. Zack Dodson will return from his suspension sometime at the end of April. It’s not clear yet whether Dodson would return to West Virginia, or make the jump to Bradenton. If he goes to West Virginia, I’m guessing he’ll replace Castro, or at least piggyback with him.
Pat Ludwig, Jason Creasy, Ryan Hafner, Kyle Haynes, David Jagoditsh, Josh Smith, Bryton Trepagnier
In the past, West Virginia has had more pitchers than spots. That has led to a lot of piggybacking, a lot of multi-inning relievers, and a lot of roster moves throughout the season to bring in fresh pitchers. This year shouldn’t be much different. Jason Creasy and Ryan Hafner should both see multiple innings when they pitch, possibly getting 3-4 innings in some outings. David Jagoditsh and Bryton Trepagnier could also be candidates for multiple innings. The rest look more like one inning options.