Pirates Minor League Preview, Part 3: West Virginia

For the second year in a row, the Power will feature a number of young players, both hitters and pitchers, with breakout potential

One day, there will be an Indianapolis roster, but that day is not today!

The 2013 Power will be very similar to the 2012 edition, as the Pirates again are pushing up a number of young players with limited experience but decent or better ceilings. It's not realistic to expect Hanson- or Polanco-level breakouts, but we can always hope. The Power also eventually should have one player, Barrett Barnes, who's much more advanced and who hopefully will get off to a fast start. One difference between the two teams, though, will be the pitching staff. Unlike the 2012 team, the 2013 Power will eventually have several starters with very high ceilings. This doesn't mean they'll pitch well; Nick Kingham, for instance, struggled for a while last year. Patience is called for.

(Bold indicates players I think will be starters. An * indicates a left-handed hitter or pitcher. A # indicates a switch hitter.)

Catcher: Wyatt Mathisen, Francisco Diaz#, Jonathan Schwind

Mathisen is one of the more aggressive placements at this level, as he has only limited experience behind the plate. He's had a good spring and is definitely a breakout candidate, but catcher is a tough position and patience is especially appropriate with him. Diaz is an organizational catcher who's good defensively. Schwind will probably be more of a utility player, as he's seen a little time at third and in left.

Infield: Stetson Allie (1B), Dilson Herrera (2B), Max Moroff# (SS), Eric Wood (3B), D.J. Crumlich (UT), Ashley Ponce (UT), Walker Gourley (UT)

Herrera and Moroff are both jumping to full season ball after strong seasons in the GCL. Herrera is getting tagged as a potential Hanson-like breakout, which is a heavy burden to place on a young player. He has, however, shown a strong bat with solid power, as well as good speed. He's limited to second. Moroff is a gap-to-gap hitter who showed good plate discipline last year. He also showed good range at short in camp.

The infield corners will be the sort of high-risk, high-reward affair that makes the low minors fun. Allie's hitting skills mirror his pitching skills: major raw power, close to the best in the system, combined with serious swing and miss tendencies. He seemed to be trying to tone down his swing in camp and was making some progress in hitting off-speed stuff. Wood wasn't well known when the Pirates drafted him out of junior college, but he's hit for good power so far.

Crumlich had a good debut last year at State College and should see a lot of playing time, probably at different positions as various players share the DH spot. Ponce is an organizational player with a good glove. He helped solidify a very shaky West Virginia defense partway into the 2012 season, which no doubt helped the young pitching staff improve in the season's second half. That's worth remembering when some fan is screaming about the team signing players who clearly aren't going to be prospects. Gourley also has become an organizational player at the low levels, playing every position but pitcher.

Outfield: Josh Bell#, Raul Fortunato, Junior Sosa*

Bell will be the most highly rated prospect on the team at the start of the season. His knee is healthy, but he struggled some at the plate in camp. Like last year, he seems to be swinging late consistently, rarely pulling the ball. It'll be interesting to see how well he adjusts. The center fielder should eventually be Barrett Barnes, but he's not on the initial roster. He was held back in camp with unspecified stiffness that wasn't considered serious. As a draftee from a major college program, he shouldn't have trouble with low A pitching. Fortunato had a breakout season in his third season in the Dominican Summer League in 2011, moved up to State College last year, then missed all but four games due to injury. He's already 22 and it’s hard to know what to expect from him. Sosa is a South Atlantic League version of Juan Pierre. He may play center until Barnes joins the team.

Rotation: Tyler Glasnow, Clay Holmes, Joely Rodriguez*, John Kuchno, Orlando Castro*

Luis Heredia only started throwing from a mound a little over a week ago, as the Pirates are limiting his workload. He should join the Power about a month into the season, which would leave him with about 20-22 starts and should get him a little over 100 innings. That still leaves two starters with significant ceilings to open the season. The 6'7" Glasnow drew attention when his velocity increased to the mid-90s last year. He may have the most potential of any player on the initial roster, hitter or pitcher. Holmes is another big right-hander with power stuff. He allowed just 5.3 H/9 last year at State College, although his BB and K rates weren't as good. Rodriguez is a lefty with good stuff, but it hasn't translated into many swings and misses yet. He's thrown as hard as 95, but does better at lower velocities. Kuchno was a sleeper with power stuff, taken in the 18th round of last year's draft. He was able to throw only five innings after signing. The fact that the Pirates are slating him to start in full season ball probably shows they think he has significant potential. Castro is a finesse lefty who's been a swing man so far. He may move out of the rotation when Heredia joins the team.

Bullpen: Jason Creasy, Ryan Hafner, Bryton Trepagnier, David Jagoditsh, Pat Ludwig, Kyle Haynes, Josh Smith*

Creasy and Hafner are expected to pitch in long relief and could eventually join the rotation. Hafner suffered a control meltdown last year. He was pitching better in camp, with the help of a newly added slider that showed signficant potential. Creasy struggled last year at State College, but throws in the low-90s and will open the season at age 20. Trepagnier and the 6'7" Jagoditsh have had trouble staying healthy. Both throw in the low-90s and have shown breaking pitches with some potential. Trepagnier pitched well in relief last year in the GCL. Jagoditsh didn't, but pitched well in camp. Ludwig, Haynes and Smith were college draftees last year. Ludwig had a 7:1 K:BB ratio at State College. Haynes wasn't as effective, but features a good change and fanned 10.8 per nine innings. Smith will be the lone lefty in the bullpen. He's a groundball pitcher and had an extremely large platoon split in his pro debut.

Possible Reinforcements: Hopefully, Heredia and Barnes will join the team sooner than later. Beyond that, the Pirates will generally move players, especially pitchers, back and forth frequently between West Virginia and extended spring training. Almost any of the players who stay in camp could join the Power eventually.

Top Prospects: Heredia, Barnes, Bell, Glasnow, Mathisen, Herrera and Holmes

Breakout Candidate: Apart from the top prospects, Wood

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