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Sandy Santos shines, Will Craig gets HBPs in WV Black Bears' home opener

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The West Virginia Black Bears smacked 16 hits to Batavia's three and trounced the Muckdogs, 12-2, in the short-season-A Black Bears' home opener on Sunday evening in Morgantown.

Will Craig, the Pirates' 2016 first-round pick, was the clear rock star on the roster, but, through three games, it's been Sandy Santos generating the most buzz. The toolsy center fielder went 4-for-4 with a walk and a sacrifice fly on Sunday, improving to 8-for-11 (.727) through three games.

Craig, meanwhile, didn't get the chance to hit much, getting hit by pitches three times in Sunday's game. The first two appeared to barely graze him, and the third hit him squarely on the left elbow pad.

On a tight pitch count, 2016 sixth-rounder Cam Vieaux went 2 2-3 innings (52 pitches), allowing two runs on three hits (we'll get to that later), with a strikeout and two walks.

Santos shines

A July 2012 signing out of the Dominican Republic, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Santos is a prospect with some helium at age 22, but also some questions of consistency. He played to the full range of his expectations on Sunday, smacking four solid singles and advancing on the many wild pitches native to the New York-Penn League, taking a bad route and missing a ball over his head that resulted in a run and, later, ranging far into left-center field to nab another sharply-hit ball.

"He can do just about anything you need him to do in this game," West Virginia manager Wyatt Toregas said. "He's a young player and he needs to get a little bit better mentally and get experience, but the tools are there every day. He's got power, he can hit, he can run, he can throw. He has all of that.

"He's a very physical guy. Right now we like him in the leadoff spot because he can get more at-bats there. ... He's got some power, too, which we haven't seen in three games yet, but he can drive a ball out of the ballpark as well. Down the road he can be a middle-of-the-order guy that's a big-time bat."

Tightening up his approach from what it was in Bristol and the Dominican Summer League has helped Santos.

"My first couple years I was thinking home runs," Santos said through his interpreter, 2016 third-round pick Stephen Alemais. "Now I'm focused on hitting the ball back up the middle and recognizing pitches a lot better."

Craig takes his bases

Will Craig hit in his first professional season? Everyone sure thinks so.

Craig fell to 1-for-7 on the season on Sunday, but didn't get many chances to improve upon that mark, taking three plunkings. In the field, he made a good stop on a hot shot to third and showed off his strong arm, but threw too high for Albert Baur at first, pulling him off the bag.

"The bat will play," Toregas said. "We've seen it in (batting practice). The scouts have seen it. There's a reason why we took him first. He had a little layoff from college to here, about two weeks. His BP's been very, very solid, and it will translate over to the game once the timing gets there. The timing's just a little bit off, and that's a two-week (layoff) thing, but the more we get him out there, the more he's going to get back to the guy we all know."

"The game speed is up," Craig said. "It's a little bit quicker. Most bullpen guys (in the NYPL) come in and throw strikes and have a lot of velocity and pretty good stuff. That's probably one of the biggest changes. Once you get in the bullpen in college, it's usually a big dropoff from the starters, but here you don't see that very often."

Alemais flashes the leather

Alemais showed why the Pirates think he can stick at shortstop, handling Morgantown's turf field just fine (Tulane also has turf) and showing off his range, athleticism and hands. He ranged well into the hole and towards second base to make stops and quickly fired throws to first on high choppers. He also made an incredible play running home in the sixth, twisting around upright to avoid a tag at that was awaiting him well before he got there, and reversing course to tag home.

"The hands are really nice," Toregas said. "They're really soft. He's athletic. He has the ability to get caught in between and make very quick, instinctual adjustments, and there's arm strength with it as well. He has a lot of skill with the glove. A lot of it is stuff you can't teach."

Vieaux takes it slow

As is customary for new draftees, especially from college, the Pirates are slowly building Vieaux's workload up after a down period between the college and pro seasons and to balance his innings. Vieaux set up on the first-base side of the pitching rubber and sat 90 to 91 miles per hour with his fastball. He hit as high as 93, but only on pitches that missed the zone.

"I haven't thrown since Memorial Day weekend," Vieaux said. "It was quite the little break. I think it was kind of needed, though. I threw a ton of innings this year at school. I came back feeling fresh today. As you could see, things weren't as tight as they normally are, but I'm looking forward to my next outing."

"We had him at 50 (pitches)," Toregas said. "At some point we'll get him up to five (innings) and 85 (pitches) and go from there. At this level we like to work about five innings for the starters to limit their innings, because a lot of times in college they've been overworked."

Vieaux didn't get as much of an opportunity to use his slider in a shorter outing. He did get a few changeups in.

"I kind of had trouble controlling the fastball and was falling behind in counts, so I wasn't really able to use the offspeed, but I had good success with the changeup. I think i threw four of them for strikes today, 4-for-4 on that, so that's something to build off of. It wasn't really a pitch I used much in college. That's something that's going to be a little project of mine this summer."

Marvel gets his chance

James Marvel, a 2015 draft pick, made his Tommy John-delayed pro debut on Saturday, with two hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

"When I was throwing in the bullpen I really started to feel it, that adrenaline I've been missing the last two-plus years, that feeling you can't replicate, getting ready to go into a game and compete with guys behind you, knowing that something's on the line," the former Duke Blue Devil said.

"I feel good with (all the pitches). Two different kinds of fastballs, four-seam and two seam, a changeup and a breaking ball. Everything felt really good. (Arden) Pabst was great behind the plate. I felt like I could throw anything. ... He was (calling) them down. I felt good executing stuff. Hopefully I can take that into my bullpen (on Monday) and that bullpen into the game at Staten Island this week."