The following is a special feature to Pirates Prospects by Scott Sypien. Scott is the creator and author of the website chasingmlbdreams.com, where he follows the minor leagues and prospects as they chase there way to the major leagues.
Growing up in Scott Twp, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Scott now makes his home in Bethel Park. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Communications Science Disorders and has always has a passion for writing. With the start of chasingmlbdreams.com he started chasing his own dream to become a professional baseball writer in the wonderful game of baseball.
The West Virginia Power defeated The Greenville Drive today 9 – 6, behind a strong performance by pitcher Nick Kingham and the bats of shortstop Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco, who both hit home runs to propel the Power to victory.
After two consecutive rough outings on the mound to open the season for Kingham, it looked like he was going to have a third rough outing. In the first inning, Kingham was hit hard including a lead off home run by Drive center fielder Cody Koback. It looked like Kingham was nearing his pitch limit as the Power bullpen was activated, but Kingham settled down and got a ground ball out to get the third out of the inning. After the rough first inning Kingham settled in a began throwing strikes and getting ahead of Drive batters. Kingham totaled three strike outs for the game, which included a third inning strikeout of Garin Cecchini one of the Red Sox Top Ten prospects.
“He stayed within himself, made pitches, not velocity and threw the ball where he wanted to. (Kingham) was aggressive with it down in the zone,” Manager Rick Sofield said in regards to Kingham’s performance. “He got out of the first, we all were holding our breath. There is an organizational pitch total and he was getting close.”
Kingham left the game with a 2-1 lead thanks to the bat of shortstop Alen Hanson, who continued his torrid start on Sunday afternoon. Following a Kirk Singer single to lead off the inning, Hanson came to the plate with one out and launched a laser out of the park to left field. Trent Stevenson took over in the 5th inning and, like Kingham, struggled in his first inning of work. The Drive squared up on Stevenson early and often in the 5th. Once the inning was over the Drive had put five runs across including a two run home run by third baseman David Renfroe.
The Power came right back in the bottom of the 5th inning with the big hit coming from Gregory Polanco. With two runs already on the board, Polanco came to the plate with Jodaneli Carvajal and Josh Bell on base. Polanco scorched a Mickey Pena change-up to right field which cleared the fences and put the Power ahead. Polanco’s blast proved to be the game winning hit.
“I worked very hard in the off-season to become a good hitter and now that I’m here I give one hundred percent everyday to improve” Polanco said after the game when talking about his great start to the season.
Manager Rick Sofield after the game compared Polanco to Sully of the movie Avatar. “He is Avatar written all over him, what a special blessed guy he is. He is more confident, trusting his work more and paying attention to detail more.”
Trent Stevenson settled down and worked the following two innings and shut down the Drive 1-2-3. The Power tacked on two more runs and turned it over to Emmanuel De Leon to close it out. He worked the final two innings and struck out three and went on to earn the save.
The overall thing that stands out with the Power team is they can hit. Even when one guy is having a bad day like Jose Osuna did today (0-4, 4 K’s) plenty of other guys picked up the slack. At the top of the order the 1-2 punch of Alen Hanson and Jodaneli Carvajal are fun to watch. They really can set the table for the big middle of the line up guys and also wreak havoc on the base paths. Both guys are fast and aggressive once they get on base. Hanson not only hit a home run to left field early in the game he followed that up in his next at bat but dropping a perfectly placed bunt and reached second on a rushed throw to first base. In the field these two both looked very smooth and it looked as though they had been at it for a number of years at the professional level. Overall these two really impressed me.
Gregory Polanco, Willy Garcia and Josh Bell are all impressive to see in person. They all have the size and bodies to develop into big time players when their time comes to reach the major leagues. Polanco was the most impressive today hitting a three-run home run and hitting the ball hard in his other at-bats. Josh Bell had a hard hit single to left field today and in other at bats kept himself alive fouling numerous pitches off at the plate. His timing just seemed a little bit behind from what I saw and once he gets used to the pitchers at this level I think he will really adjust and take off. Willy Garcia looked very similar to Bell today. He scorched a double down the right field line today and was able to work the count, but his timing seemed to be a little off. Once these two start squaring up on balls on a regular basis, look out.
Catcher Elias Diaz went 0-4 at the plate but made a really strong, accurate throw down to second base to nail Keury de la Cruz who was the only Drive player to attempt a steal on Diaz.
On the mound I was really impressed with the way Kingham pitched. He threw a difficult first inning and then kept the Drive batters off-balance during his remaining three innings. Kingham sat about 89-90 on his fastball from the readings I saw but got it up as high as 93 and 94 on two different occasions. He also was really attacking the strike zone getting first pitch strikes after the first inning. After his first two starts this is a huge stepping stone as the season really is getting into full swing.
Trent Stevenson has yet to add a whole lot of power to his fastball and I’m not sure the tall lanky right hander, whom the fans call Shaggy, will. What Stevenson has, however, is a not so prototypical delivery that adds some deception to his pitches. He really pitched well following his disastrous fifth inning.
Emmanuel De Leon worked the final two innings and his fastball ranged from 88 to 92 on the park’s radar gun. After a quick 1-2-3 8th inning he put two guys on in the ninth before getting the final two batters to strike out. He showed good poise on the mound and I came away impressed with his outing.
Jose Osuna, who was the DH today for the Power, was really the only negative on the day. As mentioned above, he struck out 4 times on the day and swung at a lot of pitches up in the zone as well as outside the zone. I was hoping to get a look at him in the field at first base but Chris Lashmet got the start instead and went 1 for 4 on the day with an RBI.