State College Spikes Season In Review

State College was the least interesting of the Pirates' affiliates in 2011. The team's most intriguing players were Alex Dickerson and Nick Kingham, and Kingham in particular has a chance to be downright exciting. But it would have been nice to see more from Stetson Allie and some of the lesser-known prospects.

Hitters

So many Spikes hit so poorly that the easiest thing to do is to simply point out the ones who played well, regardless of position. 2011 third-round pick Alex Dickerson hit, but no better than one would expect a third-round pick out of college, particularly given that Dickerson has little defensive value and is basically just a bat. Wes Freeman made the transition from complete flop to semi-prospect with a strong campaign that got him promoted to West Virginia. He could continue to perform next year, but his 51 strikeouts compared to nine walks in his breakout campaign are worrisome.

Catcher Samuel Gonzalez skipped over the GCL and hit well at State College this year, at the rather-advanced age of 22, before being shut down with shoulder issues. He'll still need to move quickly to become a prospect, and he'll probably be the main catcher at West Virginia next year. Fellow catcher Matt Skirving also hit pretty well for the Spikes. He's younger than Gonzalez, but was a 30th-round draft pick and was in his second year in the league. I assume he'll be at West Virginia too.

Outfielder Rodarrick Jones was a 37th-round pick in the 2011 draft, but it looks like the Pirates have liked what they've seen from him so far - they moved him up from the GCL after only four games and played him regularly down the stretch at State College, where he hit .245/.375/.340.

After that, yuck. It's one thing when an organizational player doesn't hit, but the Pirates had a bunch of higher picks who didn't do much of anything, like 2011 sixth-rounder Dan Gamache and 10th-rounder Taylor Lewis. It's lucky that the GCL hitters showed more promise; there won't be a huge talent gap if the Pirates don't get much out of the bunch who played at State College this year.

Pitchers

The best performance clearly was that of Nick Kingham, who pitched at least five innings in every start going back to mid-July, while allowing one or zero runs in every single one. Tim loves him - his control is clearly already there, and he still has a big, projectable body. It would be nice to see a few more strikeouts from him, however.

Beyond Kingham, there wasn't much to get excited about. Ryan Hafner had a nice-looking ERA, but he struck out about four batters per nine innings and will probably get crushed at the higher levels if he doesn't improve. He's still projectable, but his velocity isn't great (yet?) and his command leaves something to be desired. Basically, he's just an arm at this point.

Then there was Stetson Allie, who struck out more than a batter an inning, but the whole strikeouts-to-innings ratio tends to break down when you have a WHIP of 1.88 and walk even more batters than you strike out. There are all kinds of potential excuses for his performance (like being a raw high-school draftee from a cold-weather state), and he's obviously still a prospect, but some progress would have been nice to see, particularly given the weak competition.

Beyond that, the State College staff mostly consisted of fringy prospects and non-prospects performing like fringy prospects and non-prospects. Many of the Pirates' top young pitching investments were already in full-season ball (most of the 2009 draftees, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Waldron, Brandon Cumpton), and the really good 2011 draftees mostly signed too late to pitch much. The 2011 Spikes staff was mostly limited to Latin players, stragglers (like Trent Stevenson, who didn't develop), 2011 middle-rounders (Josh Poytress, Jordan Cooper, Michael Jefferson, etc.), and 2010 picks. The 2010 class was thinned out by early-rounders like Jason Hursh, Austin Kubitza, Dace Kime and Zach Weiss not signing. 

... And so it was that State College went 31-44. The Spikes came by that record honorably, relying heavily on young players, but it would have been nice to see more breakouts. The good news is that Dickerson and Kingham should be well worth watching at West Virginia next season, and the 2012 Spikes should be a lot more interesting as well. Also, the reviews should get less depressing from here - West Virginia wasn't exactly a great team, but there were at least a bunch of intriguing pitchers there. And Bradenton was downright good.

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