West Virginia Seeing Strong Play From Tucker, Reyes, and Simpson

West Virginia took two out of three on the road from Hagerstown. The series included the completion of a game suspended two weeks ago, along with a rain out of a regularly scheduled game.

Much of the interest with this year’s edition of the Power lies with the hitters rather than the pitchers. The Pirates went heavily for college hitters in last year’s draft and, in contrast to some prior years, none skipped over the low-A level. The West Virginia lineup currently includes (draft round in parens) catcher Taylor Gushue (4), third baseman Jordan Luplow (3), corner infielder Chase Simpson (14), outfielder Michael Suchy (5) and first baseman/outfielder Jerrick Suiter (26). It should also eventually include first baseman/outfielder Connor Joe (1S) and, if he doesn’t need Tommy John surgery, catcher Kevin Krause (9). The rest of the lineup includes last year’s top draft pick, shortstop Cole Tucker, and several Latin American players, notably second baseman Pablo Reyes and outfielder Tito Polo.

Generally speaking, players from four-year college programs aren’t expected to struggle in low-A. So far, though, things haven’t quite worked out that way for the Power. Simpson and Suiter have been the team’s two best hitters, but the higher draft picks – Gushue, Luplow and Suchy – have yet to start producing much. That remained true in Hagerstown, despite the fact that the Power faced weak pitching throughout the series. Instead, Tucker and Reyes, in particular, showed more at the plate than the ostensibly more advanced college draftees. The quintet of Gushue, Luplow, Suchy, Suiter and Simpson went 6-for-29 with 13 strikeouts. The five totaled only one extra-base hit, two fewer than Reyes had by himself.

Reyes was the most impressive West Virginia hitter in the series (at least until you adjust for Tucker’s age), showing surprising power with a home run and two long doubles. Tucker played in only one game and got only one hit, but he worked the count effectively and made hard contact in each at-bat, with the exception of one walk.

The Power are short on high-profile pitching prospects, especially with Stephen Tarpley out. Still, they got excellent results in two of the three games, from starters Miguel Rosario and Dovydas Neverauskas, and relievers Yeudy Garcia and Montana DuRapau. Whether any will develop into a prospect, though, is a question that can’t be answered for a while.

Individual Player Reports

Miguel Rosario: Pitched two innings before game was suspended, then returned to pitch the last five in Hagerstown. Fastball sat at 90-91, reaching 92-93 at times, with good movement. Command was poor the first couple innings. He walked the first two batters, but got out of it with some help when the third hitter bunted foul with two strikes. In his second inning after the game resumed (the game’s 4th inning), he got some fastballs up and got hit hard by the middle of the lineup, but escaped with only one run allowed. After that his command improved quite a bit. Threw a few changeups and a good, low-80s slider that produced both called and swinging strikes.

Alex McRae: Got hit very hard consistently, including the majority of the outs he recorded. Fastball was fringy at best, 88-91 without much movement. His command of it wasn’t bad, but he missed a little low repeatedly, then got pummeled any time he got the ball up into the strike zone. Doesn’t seem to have enough of a fastball to risk throwing it for strikes. His slider and change were better, but he wasn’t able to utilize them effectively without being able to pitch off the fastball. He gave up two long homers plus a long triple that would have been a home run nearly anywhere else.

Jake Burnette: Pitched in relief after McRae. Fastball was 90-91, also threw a slider and change. Command of all pitches was erratic. Got pitches over the middle of the plate and was hit hard.

Dovydas Neverauskas: No longer seems to have the mid-90s velocity he had two years ago. He threw 89-91 in this game. Gets good extension and drives the ball down. Missed few bats but nearly everything was hit on the ground. Almost nothing was hit hard. He allowed two hits in five innings, one on a bad-hop grounder, the other on an error that was incorrectly scored. Occasionally seemed to start overthrowing and got wild high, but corrected the problem. Generally located the fastball well. Slider and change looked like works in progress.

Yeudy Garcia: Followed Neverauskas with three scoreless innings. Velocity was good without being overpowering. He threw 90-93, but got a surprising number of swings and misses with the fastball, possibly because he’s quick to the plate. Threw the occasional slider.

Montana DuRapau: Pitched the last inning of a shutout. Took a line drive off his shin that caromed to first for an out, then fanned the next two hitters. Sat at 90-91, but reached 93.

Cole Tucker: Played in only one of the three games. Showed good strike zone judgment. Walked once and made hard contact three other times, although he got only one hit. Caught stealing due to a combination of not such a great jump and a high outside pitch that made the catcher’s throw easy. Also got caught off first when he broke for second on a pitch that briefly eluded the catcher and couldn’t get back to first in time. Didn’t come in aggressively enough on a weakly hit grounder in the hole, then had to hurry throw and made a bad one.

Pablo Reyes: Had an extra-base hit in each game. Lined an opposite-field home run, a double to deep left-center, and a double over the left fielder’s head. Fooled at times by off-speed stuff, but worked count effectively at times, too. Seems to get a little over-anxious and over-swings at times. Had a nice running catch on a pop-up well down the RF line.

Taylor Gushue: In one game, looked baffled against two non-prospects with low K rates. Fanned twice in three at-bats and didn’t seem to be picking anything up. In the remaining game, didn’t look as bad against another mediocre pitcher, but didn’t hit anything hard. Had a groundball single up the middle. Caught two of three base stealers and made accurate throws each time. Has decent agility behind the plate and does a fair job of blocking pitches.

Jordan Luplow: Like Gushue, he looked severely baffled at the plate in one game. Took a lot of called strikes, then swung through hittable-looking pitches. Fanned all three times up. Disagreed with many of the strike calls, so maybe he got frustrated. The next day he looked much better, hitting two long drives to right that were caught and grounded a single to LF. Had only a few routine plays at third.

Tito Polo: The only Power hitter who didn’t try much to work the count. Fooled frequently by off-speed stuff, but still hit several balls hard. Looked awful striking out on an attempted sacrifice. Alternated with Elvis Escobar between left and center. Solid jumps and routes in the outfield, with an average arm at best. Looks like he’s filled out a little since last year and his speed looks no better than a little above average. Caught stealing on his only attempt despite a weak throw by the catcher.

Chase Simpson: Probably the most patient of all the team’s hitters. He didn’t swing the bat much in the first two games as he got few pitches in the strike zone and didn’t chase pitches outside the zone. In the third game his patience got him into some two-strike counts and he fanned twice, along with a single and a walk. Made a nice play on a grounder wide of first, flipping to the pitcher for the out, but also muffed a routine pick-off throw.

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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Appreciate the details,thanks!

Robert Reznik

Excellent reports thx Wilbur. How come Tucker played so little was he hurt?

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