The 2018 West Virginia Power roster will be filled with potential breakout prospects. That includes players who could become top 100 prospects in the game this season, move up to top ten/twenty prospects in the system, or just establish themselves as legit prospects this year. They will also add more prospects as the calendar moves along, with 2017 first round pick Shane Baz scheduled to join the team during the season.
This group doesn’t have the strength of Indianapolis or Altoona right now, as the system is very top-heavy at this point. What they do have are plenty of players who could rise up the system and make this the top team in the system to watch by the end of the season. The talent is also spread around to each position, so that on many nights, you will see nine legit prospects of interest on the field at the same time.
To prepare for the 2018 West Virginia Power season, here are our top ten prospects at the level, and what you should expect from each player. The rankings come from our 2018 Prospect Guide, which you can get for just $19.99 in eBook form. We also have a very limited amount of paperback books remaining, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Now, here are the rankings:
1. Lolo Sanchez, CF – Despite being the top signing from the Pirates 2015-16 international class and our top DSL prospect after the 2016 season, Sanchez was relatively unknown going into last year. The tools were all there to be a future star, but he put up marginal results in the DSL in 2016. Part of that was being one of the youngest players in the league, another part was that he’s a plus runner who suffered a minor leg injury right before the season started. People got to see what he could do in the GCL in 2017 and now there are huge expectations on him in 2018. It’s important to remember that he turns 19 later this month and he’s skipping two levels, so you might not see huge stats from him right away. If you do though, and it’s quite possible with his tools and plate approach, we are talking about someone who will be a top 100 prospect in the game soon.
2. Braeden Ogle, LHP – Ogle was putting together a solid season at Bristol last year when a minor knee surgery wiped away his final few starts and had him doing rehab in the Fall Instructional League instead of getting more mound time. He came into camp this year in terrific shape and could be primed for a season that puts him among the top ten prospects in the system. The 20-year-old Ogle has terrific velocity for a starter, reaching 98 MPH and he did a solid job of holding his mid-90s velocity through his starts. His slider and changeup showed improvements last year as the season went along. Ogle should stay in the WV rotation all season, though the missed time from last year could lead to the Pirates limiting his innings slightly as the season goes along.
3. Calvin Mitchell, OF – Mitchell just turned 19 last month and has only played in the GCL, so this is an aggressive push for him. His approach at the plate should keep him from being over-matched by the jump over two levels in the system. There is a lot of potential in his bat, including plate patience and some easy power from the left side. As someone who projects to be a corner outfielder with average speed, most of his value will come from that bat. By the end of the season, we should get a decent idea about the type of prospect the Pirates got with their second round pick last year.
4. Oneil Cruz, SS – Cruz is going to be given a shot to stick at shortstop for the time being, though it’s unlikely that he sticks at the position as he continues to fill out his huge 6′ 6″ frame. Regardless of where he ends up in the field, his value is going to come from his bat. As an 18-year-old who was pushed to Low-A ball last year, he put up average stats to the point he wasn’t over-matched at the plate, but there was plenty of room for improvement. He struck out too often and didn’t get the full potential out of his tremendous raw power at the plate. Returning to the same level this season, we should get a better idea of his future. Cruz is one of those players who could end up in the system’s top ten at the end of the season if everything clicks.
5. Mason Martin, 1B – Just like Mitchell and Cruz, Martin has a power bat that could vault him further up the prospect rankings in the system by the end of the season. He’s also a player who received an aggressive push to this level. Martin tore up the GCL last year, putting together one of the best hitting seasons the league has ever witnessed. That being said, he still opens up the season as an 18-year-old who is skipping two levels and will be facing much tougher competition. He may need to become a little more aggressive at the plate because he tends to wait for the perfect pitch to hit. The higher up you go in the minors, the better pitchers will exploit that approach. He has more than enough power that he doesn’t need the perfect pitch to drive it out of the park. Martin is sticking to first base this year and has worked hard this spring to improve his defense there.
6. Domingo Robles, LHP – Robles is a 6′ 2″ lefty with a lot of potential, who took a step forward last year at Bristol. Before last season, he was more projection than current ability. He already threw a lot of strikes during his first two years as a pro, but 2017 saw added velocity, more stamina and improved secondary pitches. He doesn’t turn 20 until the end of this month, so we are talking about a very young pitcher. He has time to fill out his frame more and when could see even more velocity added to his current low-90s fastball. Robles should remain in the West Virginia rotation all season without any late-season limitations.
7. Rodolfo Castro, 2B – Castro is another teenager on this team who could see big things happen this season. He was signed as a shortstop and has played all over the infield, but now he’s slated to be the everyday second baseman this year. At just 18 years old, he’s getting an aggressive push to Low-A ball and it will be interesting to see how the bat responds. He’s more of a free-swinger than Mitchell, Martin, or Sanchez, but he isn’t far behind that group in overall talent. Castro has shown some power from both sides of the plate. He could use some small improvements in both his walks and strikeouts, which is what might keep him from having a big season this year.
8. Deon Stafford, C – The Pirates drafted catchers in the fourth and fifth round last year, sending Jason Delay to Bristol and Stafford to Morgantown. That seemed to be done to have a strong defensive catcher (Delay) with the younger pitching staff in Bristol. Those two flipped spots in the system this year, with Delay skipping to Bradenton and Stafford handling the young staff at West Virginia. Stafford has the better potential bat between the two, but his overall defense needs some work, so it makes sense to keep him lower in the system at this point. He just turned 22 years old last month and he’s easily the oldest player on this top ten list.
9. Ike Schlabach, LHP – Schlabach pitched well as a starter last year for Morgantown as the youngest player on the team. This season he is going to the bullpen, but I would still expect him to see plenty of innings before the season is over. Over the offseason, Schlabach added some weight to his 6’5″ frame and the Pirates made an adjustment to his delivery to get more velocity, so we could see him throwing harder in shorter outings. He added a better slider last year and commanded his pitches better as well, working up in the zone more often with success, which led to more strikeouts.
10. Travis MacGregor, RHP – MacGregor hasn’t looked like a second round pick during his first two years with the Pirates, but we could see that player emerge this season. He’s received some nice praise this spring and has put in a lot of work to fill out his 6′ 3″ frame. MacGregor had an inconsistent Extended Spring Training last year, which led to the Pirates shutting him down for some mechanical adjustments. He went to Bristol and really struggled there, so the fact that they felt confident enough to send him to West Virginia for Opening Day should tell you a lot about the progress he has made since September.
Just Missed (In No Particular Order): Joel Cesar is a bullpen arm to watch due to his fastball that sits 95-97 MPH and a plus slider. Sergio Cubilete and Gavin Wallace will be in the rotation this year. Cubilete has a nice low-to-mid 90s fastball and solid secondary pitches, while Wallace is a strike-thrower who sits low-90s with his fastball and he’s working on a slider to go along with his solid changeup. Dylan Busby was last year’s third round pick and showed a lot of swing-and-miss to his game while with Morgantown. He has great raw power and plays a solid third base, but needs to make a lot more contact at the plate.
Young outfielder Fabricio Macias, who signed out of Mexico just over a month ago, will see plenty of outfield action and is a player who could jump into the system’s top 50 prospects by mid-season. Scooter Hightower and Adam Oller both put up strong results at Morgantown last year as starters. They should see extended relief outings and occasional spot starts. Eighth round pick (2017) Blake Weiman should see plenty of relief innings as well, and could move quickly through the level. The bullpen will also have inconsistent hard-throwers Jacob Taylor, Blake Cederlind and Dylan Prohoroff.
Should Join the Team During the Season: Shane Baz, who was the 2017 first round pick of the Pirates ranks as the fourth best player in the system, is scheduled to join the team around May. There’s no set date right now, but for now he will be putting is his work at Pirate City during Extended Spring Training. Another right-handed starter should also join West Virginia during the season. Max Kranick, who would have made the top ten list, missed some time last year due to a shoulder injury, but he has been healthy since late in the 2017 season and has shown some signs of progress this spring. He’s working on adding a slider and improving his stuff overall while waiting for a spot to open.