I had a really nice time watching the West Virginia Power play the Hagerstown Suns tonight. It was my first trip to the ballpark in Charleston, and it's a great place to watch a minor league game. If you're curious about the atmosphere at the park, check this out; I'll stick to the baseball.
The contrast between Power starter Jason Erickson and Suns starter Daniel Rosenbaum was stark. Rosenbaum threw bunches of breaking balls, but the Pirates' focus in the low minors is on establishing fastball command, and so Erickson mostly chucked fastball after fastball, mixing in offspeed stuff only occasionally. Erickson located his pitches well, but his fastball comes in at only about 87-88 MPH, and when the Suns' hitters got hold of it, they tended to make solid contact. Erickson probably won't have much trouble in the low minors, but he doesn't look like much of a prospect going forward despite his strong statistics so far as a pro.
What's most striking about the Power's lineup is how small it is. Evan Chambers, Ramon Cabrera, and Bengie Gonzalez are all really tiny dudes, and Jarek Cunningham, though not in the same category as those first three, isn't big either. Chambers is listed at 5'11", but he's probably more like 5'8". (Strangely, Cabrera is listed at 5'7", while Chambers and Gonzalez are listed at 5'11", but they all appear to be about the same size.) Chambers, Cabrera and Cunningham can all hit a little - all three at extra-base hits tonight - but it was a little startling to see them all right in a row, since there obviously aren't a lot of successful major leaguers who are that small. This doesn't mean these guys can't make it, of course. The only really big guy in the Power's lineup was Aaron Baker.
The player I was most impressed with, in terms of his looking, for three hours, like the sort of guy who might turn into a big leaguer was Jesus Brito, who the Bucs acquired a few months back for Brian Bixler. The ball jumps off his bat already (the double he had tonight was a bit of a Texas Leaguer, but he had some hard-hit foul balls), and his wiry frame suggests he can continue to add power as he fills out. He also appears to have a good arm. He doesn't have a strong defensive reputation overall, however, and he's had a lot of trouble making contact so far this year.
The two pitchers who relieved Erickson were Mike Williams and Mike Baca, and neither looked like a prospect to me. I don't think Williams topped 85 MPH. Baca is a small righty whose stuff is somewhat better than Williams', but he still doesn't throw hard (his fastball comes in at 87-89 MPH). He threw a bunch of sliders, which came in at around 79 MPH.