Due to the game from Thursday night being postponed in the 5th inning, I’m going to do a two game wrap-up in one, minus the report on Taillon which I wrote up yesterday and can be found here. I will add that Taillon’s off-speed pitches were all curveballs last night so he only threw two pitches all night, the fastball which sat 93-94 touching 95 and the curveball which was 79-84. According to the WV radar guns all of those numbers are 1 mph lower than what they got so keep that in mind when I quote speeds from the stadium gun.
Finishing off the first game for WV was Brooks Pounders who ended up going 3 innings. He looked real good the first two innings, but ran into trouble in the 3rd. He was using all four of his pitches and getting a decent amount of swing and misses. His fastball was between 88-92 on the WV gun and he was attacking the inside of the plate. In the process he hit two batters but that didn’t deter him from coming inside hard and getting swing and misses on soft stuff outside. A real good pitching performance through two innings. His 3rd inning was a little shaky as he gave up a long flyball followed by a hard double but he struck out the final batter he faced to end the inning.
Victor Black finished the game, and the quick scouting report I got was that he was peppering the strike zone and getting out of innings in 10 pitches or less constantly. The scouting report was dead on as both innings he threw under 10 pitches, despite giving up a hit in each of them and striking out 2 hitters. Except for the speed on his pitches he was very impressive, everything down in the zone, but last year when I saw him he was hitting 93 as a starter and today he was 88-90 on the WV gun, reaching 91 in previous games.
The starting pitcher for game two was Brandon Cumpton who attacked the strike zone all night, but threw a lot of pitches through 5 innings due mainly to Lakewood taking a ton of called strikes. He threw 5 scoreless innings, giving up 5 hits, one walk and one hit batter while striking out five. He threw 78 total pitches with 58 of them strikes. He was topping out at 93 which he hit four times on the Lakewood gun. I’ll note that near the end the gun went out for a couple innings but most of the pitches I got were 91-92 and except for the second batter of the game where he threw two pitches 86 mph his low speed was 88. He threw 14 breaking balls by my count with a good difference in speed from his fastball as they were mostly 73-75, and he got some nice swing and misses on them. He had a total of 11 swing and misses in the game. It was a pretty impressive showing and more importantly the 4th impressive outing I’ve seen from a Pirates starting pitcher in the last 10 days with Aaron Pribanic, Jeff Locke and Taillon being the others.
Casey Sadler followed him and threw a lot of strikes with the exception of a 4 pitch walk to start his 2nd inning. He got through 3 innings giving up just one hit and even that one was a broken bat bloop between SS and LF. He was throwing 86-88 according to the Lakewood gun with almost all of his pitches being fastballs. Both of his strikeouts were recorded off Jim Murphy, the big 1B who already has 19 doubles and 13 homers, and both times he went down swinging.
As for the prospects in the lineup:
Andrew Maggi showed great plate patience in both games. He had long AB’s with five of his nine plate appearances going to a 3-2 count. He got robbed in his first AB on a soft liner to RF. He had an RBI groundout his 2nd time. The 3rd time he hit a nice liner to left which started the 5th inning rally. He walked his next AB and in his 5th time up in game one he hit a line drive to left center that was bobbled and Maggi hustled into 2B on the play. First time up in game two he got called out on a high 3-2 pitch, which looked out of the strike zone. He grounded to 2B, hit a deep fly to CF and struck out swinging his final time up. He looked strong on defense and made a tough play on a grounder up the middle to get the runner at 1B. He showed good speed and plenty of hustle.
Eric Avila in his first two AB’s before the rain didn’t see a pitch to hit so it was tough to get any read on him. He got hit on the first pitch thrown to him of the series and his 2nd AB he walked on four pitches. In the field I watched him during the warm-ups between innings and it looked like he was too mechanical with his fielding, everything was thought out which worked well when everything is slowed down but once the game sped up that doesn’t work. On the only hit Taillon gave up it looked like an easy play he made hard, he threw off the wrong foot and didn’t get much behind the throw and looking awkward in the process.
Once the games resumed he didn’t look any better in the field but he got some pitches to swing at and three times he hit the ball hard without getting a hit. His 3rd AB of game one he popped up to 1B but that was followed by a liner to CF that he got robbed on from a nice diving catch. His next time up he hit a hard grounder up the middle that resulted in an E4 and a run scored. In the second game his first time up he hit a bullet right to the SS for three nice AB’s in a row despite an 0-3 showing from them. He struck out looking in his 7th overall AB and laid down a nice sacrifice bunt in his last plate appearance.
Mel Rojas Jr. looked pretty bad his first AB. He weakly swung at the second pitch, an eye high fastball after starting the count 1-0. After a called strike he again chased a pitch well up in the zone to go down swinging. His next AB looked much better as he worked the count to 3-2 before lining out to CF. In his 3rd AB, the first at-bat of the day for WV once they resumed play, he worked the count full before grounding out to 2B which actually resulted in an E4 and run scoring. Just to note, Lakewood had 7 total errors between the two games. Rojas had a nice hit and run single his 4th AB but made a bad baserunning decision rounding the bag too far and getting thrown out. His 5th AB he hit a solid line drive up the middle for his 2nd hit.
In game two he had the most impressive AB of the day, hitting a line drive off the right field wall and turning it into a triple with his speed. Very impressive on both sides, the bat and the speed. His next time up he hit a soft grounder to 1B and he was intentionally walked his 3rd AB. His final time up he worked a 3-2 walk. He didn’t have any tough plays on defense but he showed good speed and got good jumps.
Justin Howard saw just 4 pitches his first three AB’s and his impatience didn’t pay off. His 1st AB he grounded into an easy DP on the first pitch he saw. In his 2nd AB he again grounded out to SS for an easy out. He actually saw two pitches his 3rd AB which resulted in a “single”. The ball was a bouncer hit right to the 1B who decided to back up on it and the pitcher was very late covering so while it looks good in the boxscore, it was just a weak grounder misplayed by two defenders. His 4th and 5th AB’s both finished with strikeouts, one looking and one on a check swing.
Game two for Howard was more impressive as he hit the ball hard three times and walked his last AB. He twice flew out to LF deep showing nice opposite field power. His 3rd AB was unfortunate in that he came up with runners on 2nd and 3rd and he hit a hard grounder right to the second baseman who was playing in on the play. Again like Avila there was a string of 3 good AB’s in a row that looks like nothing in the boxscore. He also had some heads up base running after going to 2B on a walk to Rojas he noticed the 3B was back and the pitcher wasn’t looking so he kept running to 3B without stopping and got in standing up. It paid off as he scored on an infield single from the next batter.
Kawika Emsley-Pai played the first game and drew a 4 pitch walk his first time up. He lined out the next time up before the rain stopped the game. When the game resumed he had two non-descript AB’s grounding out to SS and hitting a popup to short RF. He only made one throw and while it didn’t get the runner it looked like a decent throw. Nothing else on defense so there isn’t much to report on him for now.
Elias Diaz in his first AB walked on a 3-2 pitch. I wrote down that he looked bad on a breaking ball during that AB but his next time up with a 1-2 count he stayed back on the same pitch and popped out to short RF. His 3rd AB he came up in a scoreless game with the bases loaded but struck out swinging on a 2-2 fastball. He came up for a 4th time, this time with 2 outs in the 8th and men on 1B and 3B and hit a ball right down the line that the third baseman made a diving stop on but Diaz beat out the play. He doesn’t have great speed but it was a slow developing play and a slightly wild throw. On defense Diaz showed a strong arm but his one throw to 2B on a steal he took too long to get rid of the ball. During another play a ball hit off his glove on a 3rd strike with a man on 3B and Diaz pounced on the ball quick about 15 feet behind him and made a quick accurate throw to get the runner trying to score. A very impressive play on defense.
Rogelios Noris looked pretty good his 1st AB lining out on a 2-2 pitch to CF. His next time up with a man on and 2 outs he reached for the first pitch which resulted in a weak groundout to 2B to end the inning. He left the game after that play. Noris played game two and hit a double off the 400 foot sign in CF which scored 2 insurance runs in the 8th inning. Prior to that he struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt his first time up which is one of his big problems. The kid has legit power, above average defense/arm and decent speed but he needs more plate patience to succeed at a higher level. His other two AB’s were a very high pop up to SS. Noris was actually 2 steps away from second base when the ball was caught and a nice hard hit groundball single between 3B and SS. He had an impressive throw that almost nailed a runner at 2B on a play that shouldn’t have been that close.
Daniel Grovatt reminded me a lot of David Rubinstein who I saw play seven games last year in Lakewood. He’s basically a role player who is just there, doesn’t look good or bad, just blends in. That was until I saw him make a throw from the outfield and he has a cannon for an arm, very impressive on two throws. Between Grovatt, Rojas and Noris, West Virginia actually has an impressive trio of OF arms. Grovatt didn’t have any outstanding AB’s but three times in 9 plate appearances he went to 3-2 and all three times he walked. No hits but he did hit a hard liner his last time up right at the centerfielder.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.