The State College Spikes begin their season tonight. Below is a look at the position players who will start the year on the 2011 Spikes’ roster. Also, be sure to check out our preview of the pitchers.
The Spikes have three catchers on their opening day roster: Derek Trent, Matthew Skirving, and Samuel Gonzalez. There’s no obvious starter, although I’d expect Trent and Gonzalez to get the bulk of the playing time. Trent, who was drafted in the 31st round this year, was a college senior out of East Tennessee State University, and despite being an easy to sign college senior, is an actual prospect due to his hitting skills. He’s a little old for the level, at 22, but he should get a chance to show what he can do, and if he’s successful, will likely move up to West Virginia next year, maybe even earlier.
Gonzalez is an interesting prospect. The 22 year old catcher was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, and spent the last two years in the DSL. Last year he hit for a .349/.414/.502 line in 235 at-bats, with just a 19:14 K/BB ratio at the plate. He’s making the jump to the US this year, and is likely skipping over the GCL due to his age. After his numbers last year, it will be interesting to see how he responds to the jump in 2011.
Skirving was with State College in 2010, drafted as a 30th round pick out of college. Considering he remained at the level this year, I will be surprised if he gets a lot of playing time over the new additions. There’s also a chance that Trent could get some time in the outfield, which would free up some playing time for Skirving. I think a very likely scenario could be that one of Trent or Gonzalez gets playing time as the DH, with Skirving serving as the backup behind the plate.
Michaelangel Trinidad is the only first baseman on the roster, and is an interesting prospect. Trinidad came from the VSL in 2009, making the jump to the Gulf Coast League in 2010. In 2009 he hit 14 homers in 192 at-bats in the VSL, along with a .318/.412/.604 line. In 2010 he didn’t have the same success in the US, with a .244/.283/.500 line, although he did hit four homers in 86 at-bats.
Trinidad is short and has a very thick frame, at 5′ 11″, 232 pounds. He’s a left handed hitter, and a left handed thrower, which is ideal for first base. Trinidad turns 23 this August, so he’s a little old for the league, although considering his lack of experience, it’s not like he will be playing lesser competition. If he doesn’t get off to a hot start, I would be surprised to see him as the first baseman the entire season. In fact, I could see Jared LaKind getting the bump up to State College if he gets off to a good start in the GCL and Trinidad struggles.
The Pirates have a lot of middle infielders listed, which means that we could see a lot of rotation at second base and shortstop. Of the guys on the roster, 2011 24th round pick Brian Sharp seems likely to get a lot of time at second. He’s got good hitting skills, although he profiles more as a second baseman than as a shortstop, which is the position the Pirates drafted him as.
Jorge Bishop is listed as a second baseman, although he should also get some time at shortstop. In 2010, Bishop played 25 games at second, and 23 games at short. He’s one of the most interesting infielders on the roster. He spent one year in the VSL, hitting for a .308/.367/.470 line in 253 at-bats, along with nine homers and 24 stolen bases. In 2010 he made the jump to the US, where he hit for a .257/.305/.421 line in 183 at-bats in the GCL, along with four homers and 12 steals. He’s our top prospect as far as State College infielders go, and should get a lot of playing time between the two middle infield spots.
Sharp and Bishop should get some time here, although 29th round pick Kirk Singer will also enter in to the mix. Singer is a shortstop out of Long Beach State University, and profiles well at the position due to a strong glove and arm. The strong glove should give him some time at shortstop, although it’s also possible that he could get some time at second base. Of the three players, the priority should be given to Bishop, with Sharp and Singer taking up the rest of the playing time between the two positions.
Walker Gourley returns to State College this year, after having a disappointing year in 2010. He hit for a .168/.221/.224 line in 232 at-bats last year. The 2009 13th round pick has played third base throughout his career, although his defense has struggled every time I’ve seen him. He’s more of a raw player, and the Pirates will be giving him another shot to see if he can put things together as a pro.
Jesus Brito has been moved down a level, and is listed as an infielder, although he was converted to a pitcher in the off-season. It’s unclear whether those plans have been aborted, or if Brito will be a two way player, serving off the bench as an infielder and a reliever. He doesn’t have much future as a position player, so the pitching route might be the way to go.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see either 2011 6th round pick Dan Gamache, or current West Virginia third baseman Eric Avila at the level. Avila has struggled this year in West Virginia, after jumping straight from the GCL. Gamache could eventually take his place, moving Avila to State College, or Gamache could go to State College himself.
The outfield has the top position player prospect at the level, Exicardo Cayonez. He was signed for $400,000 by the Pirates out of Venezuela in 2008, which was a record for the organization at the time. He made his jump to the US in 2010, hitting for a .263/.369/.362 line in 152 at-bats at the GCL level. Cayonez has a good feel for hitting, and hits line drives to all parts of the park. He’s got the speed for center field, and is capable of being a plus defender.
2011 10th round pick Taylor Lewis will also be at the level. Lewis is a line drive hitter who hits to the gaps, and his good speed allows him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. His arm strength might limit him to left field duties, even though he was drafted as a center fielder. He’s got power potential, and will join Cayonez as one of the two regulars in the outfield for State College.
The other two outfielders are very toolsy players. Wes Freeman, taken in the 16th round of the 2008 draft, and signed for $150,000, has a lot of power potential. The problem is that he’s been horrible at the plate, with 79 strikeouts and 12 walks in 159 at-bats in 2010. He needs to drastically cut down on his strikeouts going forward. He does have a strong arm, so I’d project him to get playing time in right field.
Justin Bencsko might be one of the fastest players on the team, with plus-plus speed. He was in State College in 2010 for a brief time, but struggled in his 69 at-bats with a .188/.291/.275 line. I’d project him more as a bench player, due to his speed being his primary tool right now.
Opening Day Projection
The estimated regular starters, with bench players in parenthesis.
C – Derek Trent (Matt Skirving)
1B – Michaelangel Trinidad
2B – Brian Sharp
SS – Jorge Bishop (Kirk Singer)
3B – Walker Gourley (Jesus Brito)
DH – Samuel Gonzalez
LF – Taylor Lewis
CF – Exicardo Cayonez (Justin Bencsko)
RF – Wes Freeman
Strong chance at a late season arrival: Dan Gamache/Eric Avila, Jared LaKind
2011 Un-Signed Draft Picks Who Could Appear on the Roster if Signed: Alex Fuselier (CF, 21st round), Chris Lashmet (3B, 33rd round), Rodarrick Jones (OF, 37th round), D.J. Crumlich (SS, 38th round)