The West Virginia Black Bears, more sensibly known as Morgantown, opened their season tonight. To be blunt, once you get past Will Craig there isn't much to get excited about on this team. The Pirates had a notably uninteresting draft, especially from Morgantown's perspective. Apart from Craig, the only college player among their top five picks was third rounder Stephen Alemais, a glove-first shortstop. The college pitchers are a mixture of finesse guys and longshots. The Pirates' GCL entry last year produced few prospects apart from Ke'Bryan Hayes, who's in low A. The only noteworthy player moving up from that team to Morgantown is RHP Luis Escobar. The best prospects from last year's Bristol team are in full season ball; the ones moving from there to Morgantown have mostly struggled so far in their careers. Below are the players currently on the roster, with some comments. Left-handed hitters and pitchers are denoted by *, switch-hitters by #.
Catcher: Kevin Krause, Arden Pabst, Chris Harvey.
Krause is one of the more interesting players on the team. He had easily the best debut of the numerous college hitters taken by the Pirates in the 2014 draft, but he's missed the last year and a half due to Tommy John surgery. He has legitimate power potential. Pabst was a 12th round selection this year. He's a good defensive catcher who was a very weak hitter in college. Harvey is an organizational player.
Infield: Stephen Alemais, Trae Arbet, Albert Baur*, Will Craig, Kevin Mahala, Stephen (or Hunter) Owen, Erik Forgione, Jordan George#.
The left side of the infield will hold most of the interest in the Black Bears' lineup. The Pirates need Craig to hit well enough to earn a promotion before the end of the season, as Kevin Newman did last year. Alemais looks similar to Kevin Newman, a contact hitter, although not nearly as good a one, with a good glove, in fact probably a better one than Newman. Arbet is likely to start at second. After struggling badly for two years, he hit very well last year at Bristol, albeit with a frightful 9:1 K:BB ratio. Baur and George figure to share first base. Baur is repeating the level after putting up weak numbers last year. George is moving up from Bristol, where he put up very good numbers as a 23-year-old, but got stuck behind Carlos Munoz. Owen's role isn't clear; the Pirates announced him as an outfielder when they selected him in round 25 of this year's draft, but he's listed as an infielder, so maybe they're going to try him at first or third. He didn't become a starter at Indiana State until partway into his junior season, but he put up good numbers after that. Forgione has served as a utility infielder since being drafted two years ago. Mahala, who was taken in round 18 this year, probably profiles in the same role.
Outfield: Ty Moore*, Clark Eagan*, Sandy Santos, Matt Diorio*.
Santos probably has the most potential here, as he showed good power last year at Bristol, with a very high strikeout rate. Moore was demoted after struggling in low A. Diorio had a good sophomore year in college but struggled last year with a hand injury. Eagan was more of a solid hitter than a good one in college and probably doesn't have the speed to play center.
Starting Pitchers: Daniel Beddes, Dylan Prohoroff, Brandon Bingel, Luis Escobar, James Marvel, Stephan Meyer, Matt Frawley, Matt Anderson, Billy Roth, Cam Vieaux*
This is really a list of pitchers who could start for the Black Bears. The only one I know about for certain is Meyer, who started the opener. He's a 2015 JUCO draftee who wasn't able to pitch much last year due to back problems. He pitched very well when he was able. The safest bets to be in the rotation are Escobar and Vieaux. Escobar got some attention last fall when Keith Law listed him as one of the Pirates' ten best prospects. That seemed a little premature for a largely unknown pitcher who's pitched only a few innings above rookie ball. Escobar does, however, have four at least solid pitches and mostly dominated in the GCL, except for a few outings when his command deserted him. Vieaux was the Pirates' sixth round pick this year out of Michigan State. He's a standard finesse lefty who lacks a dominant pitch but who was successful in college.
Of the remaining college pitchers drafted this year, Prohoroff and Anderson -- drafted in the 8th and 10th rounds, respectively -- probably have the most potential. Prohoroff has gotten up to 97 mph, but has had control problems. He might do better as a reliever. Anderson led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings, although he isn't overpowering and relies mainly on deception.
Roth and Marvel are wild cards. Roth pitched at Bristol in 2014-15, and West Virginia earlier this year. He throws in the mid-90s, but has had significant problems with his command. The Pirates drafted Marvel out of Duke last year, where he was in the process of missing the season due to Tommy John surgery. He pitched well in college before the injury, but he's an unknown at this point.
Relievers: Cristian Mota*, Adrian Grullon, Scooter Hightower, Yunior Montero, Julio Vivas.
Grullon is an interesting pitcher. He's a big guy (6'7" -- for some odd reason, he's often listed at 6'0" or 6'4", but I've seen him up close and he's 6'7") whose velocity is erratic but gets into the mid-90s. He's mostly gotten good results when he's been able to pitch, but he's had so many injuries -- including Tommy John surgery last year -- that he's thrown only 58 innings in five years as a pro. Mota is a 5'10" lefty who gets into the mid-90s. Hightower put up great walk and K rates last year at Bristol, but will move up only to Morgantown.