Though the West Virginia Power lineup seemed to lack talent when the 2017 season opened, a few top picks from the 2016 draft found their way onto the Low-A roster. The 7-10 picks have been mainstays on the team since Brent Gibbs was called up to the club from Extended Spring Training on May 14. Gibbs joined Dylan Prohoroff, Clark Eagan, and Matt Anderson as the other top picks in West Virginia. Here is a look at how each player has performed so far this season.
Brent Gibbs – 7th Round
Gibbs spent an extra month in Extended Spring Training to rehab a knee injury. He made a timely addition to West Virginia when catcher Arden Pabst had to sit out due to a suspension resulting from a bench-clearing brawl and Chris Harvey left the team to attend graduation at Vanderbilt University.
Gibbs has had a strong offensive presence on a team that has looked lackluster at times. Unlike most of the Power, he has hit far better at home than he has on the road. Gibbs has been particularly effective against left-handed pitchers, recording a .353/.421/.471 line in 38 plate appearances.
He has not shown a tremendous amount of plate patience, with 35 strikeouts against three walks. For such a high strikeout rate, Gibbs has shown very little power so far. He has only nine extra-base hits and almost exclusively pulls pitches.
Gibbs’ biggest weakness is his receiving and blocking behind the plate. He has looked, at best, mediocre, and he struggles with sinkerball pitchers and pitchers with looping curveballs — which make up most of the Power rotation.
“He hasn’t had a lot of experience catching,” Power manager Wyatt Toregas noted. “He was stuck behind [Kyle] Schwarber [in college], and then he got injured last year and missed some playing time.”
Gibbs complements Arden Pabst well. Pabst has been as good defensively as Gibbs has been offensively. Toregas commented, “If you put the two together, you’d have a great prospect.”
Gibbs went on the disabled list on July 13. As of now, his ailment is unknown, but with his history of injury, this could be bad news for the young catcher.
Dylan Prohoroff – 8th Round
Prohoroff has shored up the Power bullpen, putting up consistently strong relief appearances. He has only given up more than two runs in just two appearances this season: a five-run collapse on April 13 and three runs against Kannapolis on June 16. Over his first six appearances in May, he gave up just two hits in 7.1 scoreless innings.
The biggest improvement for Prohoroff has been his control. Since he righted the ship in May, he has only allowed five walks in 28 innings.
Much of this control stems from his work on his fastball and slider during fall instructs. His fastball is back up to 92-94 after a dip in velocity during instructs and early in the season.
“This was the first time I’ve taken three months off without even picking up a baseball so building up my arm strength again and getting my mechanics on point helped with the velocity,” said Prohoroff.
Prohoroff’s mechanics have caused some buzz due to the violent whiplash he has at the end of his motion. When he releases the ball, all you can see is the brim of his hat as his head tucks toward his shoulder. Prohoroff has tried to back off this movement, but ultimately, he says he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it until he sees photos or video of himself.
Instead of changing anything above the shoulders, he’s focused on his lower half. “For the most part, it’s about staying closed and making sure I’m more directional to the plate,” said Prohoroff.
“He’s focused on throwing [his off-speed] with full arm speed,” said pitching coach Drew Benes. “When he does that, he throws with intent and conviction, and he’s got nice little slider and a fastball with some life to it. It’s fun to watch him throw.”
Pitch-wise, Prohoroff has been working his changeup. He throws the pitch in his bullpens and flat-ground sessions, and he says that it will soon join his arsenal alongside his improved fastball and slider.
Clark Eagan – 9th Round
Eagan has struggled to make the transition to pro ball. As the primary right fielder for the Power, he has shown some great instincts and reads the ball well off the bat, but his offense still hasn’t come around.
He has sacrificed some of his contact ability in favor of more power. He has clubbed the first four professional home runs of his career this year, but with this power comes a bit of a drop in his strikeout numbers. He has struck out in 13.6% of his plate appearances in 2017, compared to 8.1% last season.
The numbers are due to a particularly bad month of June. He finished the month with twelve strikeouts and a .169/.233/.221 line. In the first two months of the season, he hit .283/.337/.421, and he seems to be returning to that form in July. In his first eight games of the month, he has a .276/.344/.379 line, and three of his eight hits have been doubles.
An odd thing to note is the drop-off in production against lefties in 2017. Last year Eagan had a .803 OPS against southpaws, but this year, his OPS has dropped to .637. This mostly comes from a drop in walks; he has only drawn five walks against lefties as opposed to 14 walks against right-handers.
Matt Anderson – 10th Round
Anderson started the year in the West Virginia rotation and pitched well until June. He hit a few rocky starts, beginning with a two-inning drubbing against the Hagerstown Suns on May 28. By June 13, he had moved to the bullpen.
His biggest challenge right now is his inability to hit the strike zone. Fewer than 60% of his pitches have been strikes, and his 66:28 K/BB ratio is far from awe-inspiring. Anderson has developed a habit of leaving pitches up in the zone, leading to a 0.61 GO:AO rate.
Anderson pans out better as a reliever and has had greater success coming out of the bullpen. In his eight relief appearances, opponents have hit .167/.267/.348 against him. When Anderson starts, opponents have hit .253/.333/.393.