Morning Report: A Look at the First Month for the West Virginia Power

The month of April came to a close yesterday, so for the next four days we will take a quick look at the first month of the season for all four affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We start today with the West Virginia Power. It’s a team filled with young prospects who have breakout potential. We have seen mixed results from that group so far.

The best story so far has been the quick start by 19-year-old outfielder Calvin Mitchell, though it’s probably tied for the biggest story so far with the slow start from center fielder Lolo Sanchez. I think it’s safe to say that Mitchell won’t finish the season with a 1.043 OPS and Sanchez won’t finish with a team worst .518 OPS. You should expect somewhere in the middle of those numbers when an advanced young bat gets an aggressive push to full-season ball.

First baseman Mason Martin and second baseman Rodolfo Castro, both got that same aggressive push. They are both around a month shy of their 19th birthdays, making them two of the youngest players in the league. Martin has been hitting well so far, putting up an .837 OPS, while Castro has a .588 mark. The big difference between these two players is the plate approach, with Castro being too aggressive at times, while Martin can be too patient. Mitchell and Sanchez would be in the middle with their approach.

Shortstop Oneil Cruz (pictured above) received his aggressive push last year by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who sent him right from the Dominican Summer League to full-season ball. His stats were solid when you factor in his age and that jump, but not the type of stats that would get you a promotion. He’s striking out a lot this year, though he’s also doing a better job of getting on base and hitting for power. He’s also working on playing shortstop, which is a position he is familiar with, although that doesn’t equal comfort. It’s been a tough go defensively so far.

Third baseman and 2017 third round pick Dylan Busby is off to a slow start and he has been out of the lineup the last four games, though not on the disabled list. Catcher Deon Stafford is off to a strong start at the plate and improving behind it. Outfielder Chris Sharpe, a late round over-slot signing last year, has looked well at the plate. He wasn’t scheduled to begin the season with West Virginia, but when Fabricio Macias was put on the restricted list while MLB reviewed his contract, Sharpe took his spot. Macias is at Pirate City now playing Extended Spring Training games.

On the pitching side, Braeden Ogle, Domingo Robles and Travis MacGregor, make up a young trio in the starting rotation. They have had some bumps so far, but all three have looked strong. Both MacGregor and Robles had one inning starts where the defense behind them was absolutely brutal. Ogle left his last start early, though it appears to be a minor issue. When they have been on their game this season, they have each put together some very impressive outings.

Ike Schlabach started the season in the bullpen, but with injuries to starters Gavin Wallace and Sergio Cubilete, he has moved into the rotation and put together two solid starts. Schlabach needs to continue taking advantage of this opportunity because Shane Baz and possibly Max Kranick, could be in the Power rotation soon. Both have pitched well at Pirate City according to reports.

West Virginia has received strong pitching from last year’s eight round pick Blake Weiman, along with underdog Evan Piechota. Weiman isn’t a surprise, since he came from a major college and pitched well last year for Morgantown. Piechota’s combination of an 0.82 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning, wasn’t expected. Making it even more impressive is how he did it, by moving between the bullpen and rotation. A 24-year-old non-drafted free agent in Low-A has a huge uphill climb, but he is making the absolute most of his chances this season.

** The DSL coverage for the upcoming season just took a big loss. The Pirates voided the contract of 17-year-old Dominican pitcher Fernando Fernando on Monday. No reason was given and I didn’t look into it, but there’s obviously no satisfactory excuse for it anyway. The international signing tracker has unfortunately been updated.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 3-2 to the Washington Nationals on Monday night. The Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound tonight. He allowed three runs over six innings in his last start and one run over six frames in is previous outing. The Nationals will counter with right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer, who has a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings over six starts, with 57 strikeouts and an 0.82 WHIP. He has picked up at least seven strikeouts in each of his starts this season.

The minor league schedule includes the first rehab start from Joe Musgrove, who is scheduled to go three innings for Bradenton. Clay Holmes makes his third start for Indianapolis. He has thrown nine shutout innings between his two starts. He is still getting stretched out, so it’s unlikely that he goes more than 75 pitches tonight. Dario Agrazal starts for Altoona. He has thrown shutout ball in two of his starts this season and allowed two runs in both of his other two starts. Travis MacGregor gets the start for West Virginia. He has 28 strikeouts this season in just 17.1 innings.

MLB: Pittsburgh (17-12) @ Washington (13-16) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (4.55 ERA, 25:8 SO/BB, 27.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (11-10) @ Toledo (15-7) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (2.45 ERA, 10:5 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (11-10) @ Richmond (14-9) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (1.46 ERA, 11:5 SO/BB, 24.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (13-11) vs Dunedin (9-14) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (13-11) vs Augusta (17-6) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Travis MacGregor (2.08 ERA, 28:5 SO/BB, 17.1 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Sunday in Pittsburgh, Nick Kingham’s stellar MLB debut.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/29: Pirates recall Nick Kingham. Enny Romero placed on disabled list.

4/29: Brett McKinney added to Indianapolis roster.

4/27: Bo Schultz promoted to Indianapolis. Adam Oller promoted to Bradenton.

4/27: Gavin Wallace placed on disabled list. Beau Sulser and Drew Fischer added to West Virginia.

4/26: Todd Cunningham traded to Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later.

4/25: Rafelin Lorenzo placed on West Virginia disabled list. Raul Hernandez added to roster

4/25: Released Julio Gonzalez from DSL Pirates

4/25: Jose Osuna recalled for Wednesday’s doubleheader.

4/21: Sergio Cubilete placed on disabled list. Hunter Stratton added to West Virginia roster.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. The most recognizable player born on this date is second baseman Jose Lind, who was a member of the three NL East championship teams from 1990-92. He played 779 games over six seasons and won a Gold Glove in 1992. Lind hit homers during the 1990 and 1992 NLCS series, driving in a total of ten runs over the three years of playoffs.

One interesting set of players born on this date are Bill White and Tom Forster. They shared a birthday and a position during their only year with the team. Both played shortstop for Pittsburgh in 1884 when they were called the Alleghenys and they were still in the American Association, a rival Major League to the National League. Forster was born one year earlier.

Others born on this date include: Second baseman Johnny Berardino (1950,52), pitcher Heinie Meine (1929-34), catcher Billy Kelly (1911-13) and pitcher George McQuillan (1913-15). More on all of them in the link above.

On this date in 1957, the Pirates traded first baseman Dale Long and outfielder Lee Walls to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for first baseman Dee Fondy and infielder Gene Baker. By the end of the year, Fondy would be dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for slugging first baseman Ted Kluszewski. Baker was a backup during the 1960 season, when the Pirates won their third World Series title.

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