We posted the 2018 season recap for the West Virginia Power yesterday, so now it’s time for the team’s top ten prospects. For each of the first four top ten lists (see links below) we used the mid-season prospect guide for the rankings and we continue doing that with this list.
The difference with West Virginia is that those first four lists didn’t consist solely of top 50 prospects, so we had to figure out the players on the back-end of the list. For example, Morgantown had the first six spots decided by the mid-season prospect guide, then the contributors here voted on the final four spots. Bristol had just four players in our top 50, so we voted on the last six spots prior to posting the list. With today’s list, West Virginia had enough top 50 prospects that we just used our rankings from the updated prospect guide. The numbers you see below next to their names are their current rankings in our top 50.
The minimum playing time for making this list is 140 plate appearances for batters and 40 innings pitched or 20 appearances for pitchers. That’s what we use for all of the full-season teams. Those minimums eliminated a few prospects from the top ten. Braeden Ogle made just four starts before being shut down due to shoulder inflammation. He ranks #17 in the system now and would have ranked fourth in the top ten. Travis Swaggerty and Connor Kaiser both rated well in the Morgantown top ten, but they fell well short of reaching 140 plate appearances with the Power.
Before we get into the West Virginia top ten, here are links to the previously released top ten lists:
West Virginia Top Ten Prospects
1. Oneil Cruz, SS – (#4) There were some high expectations for Cruz this season and he reached them with an outstanding season at the plate. As someone who is just shy of his 20th birthday, he was repeating Low-A, where he showed potential in 2017, but had a high strikeout rate and his raw power didn’t translate to stats. Cruz went from a .647 OPS in 2017, to an .831 OPS this year, which ranked him fifth in the South Atlantic League. He showed more power with 25 doubles, seven triples and 14 homers, while cutting down on his strikeouts, going from a strikeout every three plate appearances to one every four times up. He played shortstop this season and improved slightly over the course of the year, but it’s important to remember that he’s still filling out his 6’6″ frame, so it’s unlikely he will remain at the spot. At best he is a third baseman with a very strong arm, but he could end of at first base or a corner outfield spot. The bat is his carrying tool though and if he continues to hit well, they will find a spot for him to play.
2. Calvin Mitchell, OF – (#8) Mitchell had a solid season as a 19-year-old making the jump from the GCL to full-season ball. Drafted in the second round last year, he’s a corner outfielder, who was drafted strictly for his bat. Mitchell was mostly in right field, where the defense was average. He’s not a fast runner, which limits his speed on the bases and his range in the outfield. Luckily for the Pirates, the bat appears to be legit. Mitchell shows easy power from the left side, and that led to 29 doubles, three triples and ten homers in 119 games this season. There should be more to come, although it’s unlikely that we will see it next year in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He has a nice approach at the plate and makes enough solid contact that he should hit for a decent average and medium power as he continues to move up the system.
3. Travis MacGregor, RHP – (#16) MacGregor had a very impressive season from the start of spring, but two injuries limited his mound time. He was showing a lot during Spring Training, starting with cleaner mechanics, which led to some extra velocity and better fastball command. It was a clear difference from what we saw at Bristol last year. The results were also much better, as he piled up strikeouts (43 in 29 IP) before a deltoid spasm caused him to be completely shut down for a short time in mid-May. He missed five weeks total and returned on rehab in the GCL, where he made two starts before rejoining the Power. MacGregor pitched well once he returned, albeit with a much lower strikeout rate. That was until a forearm injury ended his season early. He was in the process of working on a new slider to give him a better out pitch. Unfortunately for McGregor, the injury turned out to be a torn UCL and he had Tommy John surgery last week, so his progress will be on hold.
4. Lolo Sanchez, OF – (#18) Sanchez will be an interesting case to watch at the start of next year. He will still be 19 years old on Opening Day. He’s coming off of a season in which he posted a .243/.322/.328 slash line in 114 games with the Power. You would think that those numbers should lead to him repeating the level at the start of the season, but he had a .709 OPS in his last 60 games during the second half. When you add in his 30 stolen bases and solid outfield defense, that could be enough to push him to the next level. The Pirates also sent him to the Fall Instructional League to get in more game action. Sanchez was our early pick as a breakout prospect this season. That was based on his strong showing in the GCL last year and then again this year in Spring Training. In that sense, it was a disappointing season, but the solid finish, along with the base running and defense, gives you hope for the future. He’s a young player with a nice approach at the plate and a lot of tools. Early in the year he appeared to not be ready for the aggressive push he got, but he adjusted nicely by the middle of the season, so he could be a breakout prospect pick in 2019 as well.
5. Cody Bolton, RHP – (#22) Bolton had a short regular season with the Power, making just nine starts before he was shut down due to a forearm injury. His most impressive work this year actually came before he joined the Power. Bolton looked like an advanced high school pitcher when we saw him in person last year after he was drafted in the sixth round, which led to him being ranked slightly higher than most expected in our 2018 Prospect Guide. He came into Spring Training this year and looked even better from the start. He was noticeably stronger, had better velocity and tighter secondary pitches. His pitching from early March until late May, led to the surprising jump from the GCL to West Virginia. It was a move that was supposed to happen with first round pick Shane Baz, but Bolton jumped over him. He was pitching great with the Power and moved up our rankings, reflecting the progress he made this year. Bolton is currently rehabbing his forearm injury and is expected to start throwing again in December, barring any setbacks.
6. Max Kranick, RHP – (#26) Kranick began the year in Extended Spring Training (EST), but he was with West Virginia long enough to make 16 starts and one relief appearance. Before joining the Power, he was pitching great down in EST, giving up runs in just one of his outings according to reports. He was also throwing harder than what we have heard in the past, and doing it while throwing a ton of strikes. Kranick had his fastball up to 96 MPH in most games this season. He was also throwing an effective slider that he only began using last year in the Fall Instructional League. Those two pitches, along with a solid curveball and a seldom-used changeup, led to him posting a 3.81 ERA in 78 innings, with 77 strikeouts, a 1.15 WHIP and a .242 BAA. The most impressive run of his season came at the end when he had a 53:5 SO/BB ratio in his final 44.2 innings. Kranick is back at instructs this year, where the main goal is working on his changeup. In his last start five days ago, he threw 18 changeups over four innings of work and gave up just two hits, with neither coming off of a changeup. Having a four-pitch mix with that much velocity and control makes him a very interesting prospect.
7. Mason Martin, 1B – (#27) Half of Martin’s season was covered in the Bristol recap, so we will just stick with the West Virginia portion here. The Pirates gave him an aggressive push to this level at 18 years old and it turned out to be too big of a jump. He showed a little power and drew some walks, but a .200 average and 62 strikeouts in 150 at-bats, helped lead to the demotion to Bristol once short-season ball started in June. Martin looks for the perfect pitch to drive and that type of plate patience can get him in trouble. If he got behind early in counts, then he would be trying to hit the pitcher’s pitch for the rest of the at-bat. The power is there, he just needs to be a little more aggressive early in the count. He should repeat this level next year when the club moves to Greensboro.
8. Domingo Robles, LHP – (#33) Robles had a terrific season this year from beginning to end, making his first few starts before his 20th birthday and ending with five starts in Bradenton. He earned that promotion as well, with a 2.97 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 115 innings with the Power. His debut with the Marauders was rough, but he gave up six runs total in 25 innings over those final four outings to finish on a high note. Despite the success at an early age, Robles didn’t really jump up the prospect charts. The problem was his fastball velocity was down slightly from last year, when it was expected that we could see an uptick as he continued to fill out his 6’2″ frame. Robles has excellent control over three pitches, including a curveball that he can use in any count. He’s teetering on edge of being classified as a soft-tossing lefty, as he was down in the upper-80s late in starts this year. Those pitchers can have success until they reach Double-A in some cases, but rarely do they make it above that level. If he can find that extra gear in his velocity, then he becomes much more interesting.
9. Rodolfo Castro, 2B – (#48) Castro was among the group of young position players who got an aggressive push from the GCL to West Virginia this season. He seemed to be the least likely of the group to get that push, but it proved to be a smart decision because he wasn’t over-matched and it gave him some great experience. While Castro put up solid numbers last season in the GCL, he didn’t have the plate approach of Calvin Mitchell or Lolo Sanchez, or the plate patience of Mason Martin. He didn’t put up great stats with a .231/.278/.395 slash line this year, but he had 35 extra-base hits, while his walk rate was down just slightly from last year and his strikeouts stayed the same as his first two seasons. His defense was decent at second base, showing a steady improvement in each of his three seasons. Castro turned 19 in late May, making him one of the youngest players in the entire league. He’s probably not going to Bradenton to start next season, but we should see him there at some point in the year.
10. Deon Stafford, C – (#50) Stafford had a strong start to the season, then had some issues in the middle, before finishing off the year strong. The Pirates decided to send Stafford to West Virginia, while allowing Jason Delay to skip from Bristol to Bradenton. As far as hitting goes, it wasn’t the challenge you like to see for Stafford, but he doesn’t need to be fast-tracked to the majors if they plan on leaving him behind the plate. Stafford made some improvements defensively this year, mostly as someone who runs the game behind the plate. His overall defense would be considered slightly below average. He was drafted in the fifth round last year due to his bat and that’s where he succeeded for most of this season. Stafford finished with a .253/.316/.433 slash line, posting an identical .749 OPS as he had last year. That number included a tough July, where he had a .474 OPS and also suffered a concussion. If he sticks behind the plate, then the hitting is fine, but if he doesn’t continue to develop defensively, then the bat will have to pick up because he would end up at a corner spot where more offense is expected. He should see the majority of the time behind the plate at Bradenton next year.