First Pitch: West Virginia Testing the Pirates Amateur Scouting Skills

The big news in West Virginia today was that Connor Joe arrived at the level, and will make his long-awaited pro debut tomorrow. I’ll still be here in Charleston to cover that debut, and am looking forward to seeing him in action for the first time. I’ve seen him several times in limited roles during his rehab, and once in a five inning extended Spring Training game about a week ago, but nothing compares to the real games. At the same time, you can only tell so much from one game, so I’m looking forward to our continued coverage of the Power from other writers later this month.

Now that Joe is on the team, the majority of the key players from the 2014 draft are in West Virginia. You’ve currently got Cole Tucker and Joe, the two first round picks, with Tucker going 24th and Joe going 39th. Then there’s third round pick Jordan Luplow, fourth round pick Taylor Gushue, and fifth round pick Michael Suchy. The team also has eighth and tenth round pitchers Austin Coley and Alex McRae, along with several other players from the later rounds.

A lot of these guys will really demonstrate the scouting ability of the Pirates. Joe was rated much lower than where the Pirates took him, but they drafted him because they liked his bat and power potential, and will move him from the outfield to first and third base. Luplow is also making the move from the outfield to third base, where his bat profiles better if he can stick at the position. Both of those situations rely on the Pirates successfully determining that a player can have value at a more difficult position than where he is used to playing.

Then there’s Taylor Gushue, who was a year younger than every other college junior in the draft, with raw talent behind the plate. Part of the appeal for the Pirates was that he had that extra year to develop in their system, which could allow him to improve quickly beyond where he is right now, kind of in the way that a lot of college players break out in their junior year and establish themselves as top prospects. Of course, this all depends on the Pirates projecting his potential correctly.

Finally from that offensive group you’ve got Michael Suchy, who is a right fielder that is built like a linebacker, but has some impressive tools on the field. This one is as straight forward as you can get: will this unconventional player be able to become a solid all-around baseball player?

I’d include Cole Tucker in this list, but he’s a much different situation. He will absolutely test the scouting abilities of the Pirates, but it seems he turned into a trendy prospect after they drafted him, with a ton of reports saying he would have gone immediately after the Pirates selected if they didn’t take him, and a lot of people improving their grades on him since the pre-draft rankings.

I’ll have a lot of detailed reports looking at these guys over the next week or two. West Virginia is an interesting team for this dynamic. They don’t have an elite prospect like the other levels, or a big breakout candidate like previous Power teams, but they definitely reflect on the Pirates’ amateur scouting abilities more than any other team this year.

**Connor Joe Will Make His Pro Debut Tomorrow in West Virginia

**Prospect Watch: Hanson Homers, Brewer Pitches For First Time in Two Years. My live report from today’s Power game, with several player notes.

**Pirates Acquire LHP Jayson Aquino From Toronto. This move made sense. No cost, open 40-man spot, and an open rotation spot in Bradenton for him to develop. I spoke with a scout today who saw Aquino this year, and had a report in the article.

**Updates from Huntington on Kingham and Glasnow. Good news for Glasnow, as it doesn’t sound serious. As for Kingham, you hope that this is one of the rare cases where Tommy John isn’t needed.

**Morning Report: Ranking Players Based on Risk vs Reward


  • The Huntington regime has had a more difficult time identifying hitters in the draft than we have pitchers. Placing a premium on younger athletic players who have experienced success and hoping that they continue to grow and acclimate appears to be a new strategy from the front office. I hope we have some success with this.

    I’d also be interested to know whether the valuation model that we use to identify international players is the same that we use domestically.

    • I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I do wonder how much of that perception is simply a matter of attention.

      Haven’t the drafts *focused* on pitching more than hitting, generally speaking? Have they really missed on any position player picks of note other than Tony Sanchez? Even that pick was heavily influenced by the focus on pitching, with obviously terrible results.

  • Great article, Tim.

  • Breakout candidates are always good. Let’s hope for a few from that group.

  • Just a note on the upcoming draft – if the Pirates pick one of the kids who had TJ already earlier this year, this would be about the time when we would see them in 2016. It seems long, but in game time, Joe only lost July and August in 2014, and April in 2015. But, because he was a college draftee, he needs to make up some ground this year.

    • Back ‘in the day’ with the late signing deadline, there were quite a few players who ‘lost’ their first year. If CJ has the ‘goods’, this delay won’t hurt him.

  • Big day in the life of the young Connor Joe. Best wishes for much success to this young man.

  • Thanks tim