CHARLESTON, WV – In a long season of offensive ineptitude by the West Virginia Power, Jordan George stood out. George, who began the year in Extended Spring Training, quickly jumped from Morgantown to West Virginia in 2016. The taste of the higher level sets up George for a leading role on next year’s Power squad, and if he can develop his outfield skills and power, he could again make a midseason jump up the minor league ladder.
Drafted as a first baseman, George suffered from being stuck behind Carlos Munoz in Bristol and behind Albert Baur in Morgantown. Luckily, George has been working on his defense in right field and at third base. In his 23 games in Morgantown, he spent ten at third, three in right, and only two at first. His move to West Virginia gave him even more time in right, due to the Power’s already complicated first base situation.
“It was different at first, but now I’m starting to get the hang of it,” George said of his move to the outfield. “I still need a lot of work but starting to get a feel for it.”
Defense, however, isn’t what the Pirates drafted him for. George bounced back from knee injuries in both his junior and red-shirt junior seasons with a monster senior year at Arkansas State. He reached base in each game in his last three college seasons, leading to a 74-game on-base streak.
That plate discipline and consistency has continued in pro ball. His time in Bristol featured a 16-game and a nine-game on-base streak. In fact, George failed to reach base in only two games in 2015.
George’s knack for getting on-base stuck around in Morgantown, when, again, he only failed to reach in two games. He ended his stint with the Black Bears with a .440 on-base percentage, the best on the team, despite a slight decrease in average. He made the jump to West Virginia after only a month with the Black Bears.
West Virginia desperately needed an offensive boost this season. They ranked in the bottom half of the South Atlantic League in nearly every offensive category and, considering the early promotion of Tito Polo and the injury to Ke’Bryan Hayes, featured no true offensive prospects.
George, on the other hand, needed to face more advanced pitching. Due to the two college knee injuries, George’s development has tracked a step behind other players his age. At 23 years old, even in Low-A, George is old for his level so success should be expected.
Looking at George’s 34 games with the Power, success is an understatement. George finished the year with a .324/.455/.448 stat line and reached in all but four of his appearances with the team. George is now riding a 10-game on-base streak into the off-season.
Despite the advanced age and the small sample size, Power manager Brian Esposito has been singing George’s praises.
“He’s not afraid to hit with two strikes,” remarked Esposito. “He finds the barrel, puts the ball in play. He does everything we need him to do in the batter’s box.”
George attributes his success to a very simple mantra: “Attack the pitcher before he attacks me.”
That aggression hasn’t translated to a tremendous amount of power, though (as seen below). George likes to pull the ball, especially when he bats right-handed. Most of his opposite field hits result in weak grounders to first or second. Additionally, George has shown an ability the drive doubles to the gaps but little home run capability.
For a player approaching his mid-20s, you’d like to see the power start to develop. George has committed to focusing on developing his strength and power in the off-season.
“Once I make some off-season adjustments to my swing, I think those numbers will go up,” said George. “I’m going straight home. Just looking to get stronger, faster, that type of thing.”
Esposito, though, isn’t concerned by the lack of pop in George’s bat.
“I’m good with him being the hitter that he is right now,” Esposito said. “The best part about him and the reason he does put up some good at-bats is he is not looking to drive the ball out of the ballpark. When you have a hitter that’s just concentrating on finding the barrel and using the whole field, those are the hitters you want.”
Even if George’s ability to drive the ball doesn’t develop, the Pirates clearly have an on-base monster in the lower levels. Throw in his ability to intermittently steal bases (five in eight chances in 2016), and Jordan George could turn into a strong leader for the West Virginia offense next season, with the chance to move up to Bradenton. He will need to either add power, or show the same on-base ability in the higher levels to establish himself as a prospect.