A lot of the notes I'm going to write here were gleaned from my observations in the link report last month. The purpose of this article is to provide a clearly stated overview of a few of the key players on the West Virginia Power. Let me first say that this team is a lot of fun to watch, even if they aren't overly great. When I got to see them last fall, they were stacked, and therefore awesome, but right now there's a few really great players, and a bunch of guys that probably won't ever get to AAA. That's not a bad thing, and there's quite a lot of time left in the season for a few more guys to turn it on, but at the moment, most of the players aren't really prospects.
Let's start with the Outfielders:
Darren Ford (OF): Ford is as fast as they come. He stole a couple of bases in the first game I saw, and he was safe and standing by the time the ball got there. This speed translates into good defense and an ability to beat out weak grounders in the infield. However, though his speed is an incredible asset, Darren doesn't have much power, nor does he walk. He did hit a HR in the final game I was at, but it was a cheap shot. Overall, I'd say Ford could be like TGJ, in that he could be a 5th outfielder type if he learns to walk some. At the moment however, his .592 OPS doesn't make him much of a prospect
Lorenzo Cain (LF): After destroying the Arizona League last year and winning the MVP award, Lorenzo struggled a bit in Helena. With that in mind, it was a little bit of a surprise to see him with West Virginia and hitting the ball incredibly well. Lorenzo is large and well built. He runs fast and he plays good defense. He hasn't taken many walks this yet this year, but his batting average has been so high that you can hardly fault him. Lorenzo hits the ball very hard and should develop into a 20-25 HR guy at some point. His current ceiling is Major League starter, and he could move to Brevard fairly quickly if he continues to dominate.
Michael Brantley (OF): Brantley, only 18 years old, showed impeccable strike zone judgment last year in AZ and Helena, which likely led to his promotion to West Virginia. Unlike Cain, Brantley has not developed much in the way of a muscular body, as he is still relatively small. He runs ok, not great, probably won't be a base stealer, but his defense is good. He made a really nice grab in Left Field during the second game I attended. While he hasn't started hitting at all yet, he has walked at an ok rate. He's so young that it would be hard to project him, but it would seem like he's got some work to do to rise very far. He could be Steve Moss, or he could be forgotten. Hopefully, when I see the team in the fall, he'll be playing a bit better.
Nate Yoho (RF): Signed as an undrafted free agent last year, Yoho didn't do much in the four games I watched. He's got a pretty strong bat and he drives the ball well, but he's too old for the league and not playing very well. Nate seems to be an organizational soldier, but you can't hold that against him---he's a pro ball player, a dream the rest of us here never reached.
Now for the Infield:
Ned Yost IV (1B/RF): Ned the fourth hit well last year in Helena, but like Yoho is old for single-A. While Ned will probably never play in the majors, he's got a fantastic pedigree, so the world of coaching will open up to him as soon as he stops wanting to play. I spoke with Ned for awhile, and he said that he really enjoys playing, but thinks that he'd like to teach and coach when he retires. He's a nice guy and looks exactly like his dad.
Kenny Holmberg (2B): Kenny absolutely dominated rookie ball and probably should be in High A. However, the Hurricane is still hitting Florida, so Kenny will have to wait his turn. Holmberg murders the ball. Even though he's a small guy, he generates quite a bit of power. His defense was proficient, and he's capable of playing all over the diamond. Sat next to a friend of Kenny's father who told me the Brewers want to eventually get Kenny some reps at catcher in the winter. Kenny most clearly reminded me of Keith Ginter, and I'm sure his career will follow a similar track in that Kenny should make it to the majors as a utility guy.
Ryan Crew (SS/2B): Crew looked overmatched in the first game, but hit well in the second. Of the two doubles he hit, one was absolutely blasted, so he could develop a little more power as he progresses. Like most of the team, he's not lighting it up right now, but he has shown decent discipline at the plate and a pretty good glove, so the Brewers shouldn't be in a hurry to give up on him.
Mat Gamel (3B/1B/DH): Gamel had a lot of positive buzz coming out of the Draft last year, but hasn't displayed much star power yet in single-A. While his stats are decent, he has struck out about 20% of the time. In the few times I saw him at the plate, he looked a bit lost, and he was a bit stiff at the plate and in the field. He's got a good stick, but the sheer number of errors he's made at third make you wonder if he will wind up at first or in the outfield. He's only 20, so he's got plenty of time to turn into an upper echelon prospect for the Brewers, but for now he will have to slowly climb the ladder.
Angel Salome (C/DH): Well, Angel is probably the second best prospect on this team after Will Inman, and he certainly didn't disappoint. I didn't get to see Angel hit any bombs, but I can say that he tries to hit the heck out of every pitch he sees. He doesn't look like a baseball player---perhaps more of a Greco roman wrestler made out of granite. Even though he's made several errors this year, he didn't look out of whack behind the plate. His arm is fantastic, but he definitely rushes his throws, leading to some problems on stolen base attempts. When he throws he's got an extremely fast release, he just kind of snaps the ball. For a catcher he is extremely quick, and a fast runner---for comparison, he runs faster than Brantley. As a hitter, he's got a great guy and he looks for the right pitch to hit. He's not afraid to take a walk, so he waits on the pitch he wants and then drives it. Honestly, I think he'll be able to stick at catcher, and because of that, I think his ceiling is major league starter. He may even turn out to be a star for the Brewers. I don't know how fast the Brewers plan on moving Angel, but I believe his high quality play will dictate how fast he winds up in Brevard County.
Now the Pitchers: I'm only going to profile a few pitchers because I didn't really get to see that much of most of them, and the speed gun was only occasionally on.
Will Inman (SP): Inman is deservedly the top prospect in West Virginia. He easily out-dueled Ryan Tucker, who exerts much more effort than Inman, but doesn't throw any harder. Inman also has a huge curveball, that just floats in on guys...not unlike Ben Sheets (did I say that out loud?) I really like that Will looks solid...the Brewers have had a lot of guys that were rails or big guys...Inman just looks solid, and I think that will benefit him. I think he will continue to own the single-A guys this year. I've been to 6 games this week, and Inman looked a level above them. The only other guy with Inman's control was Volstad, and he was the 16th pick last year---and Inman throws a bit harder. I honestly can't believe Inman made it till the third round. I can see him in Brevard after the all-star break. Again, I think maybe the most impressive thing about Inman was the ease of his delivery. He looks like most people do when they are just playing catch...he didn't look like he was straining at all. I wish I had Colby's ability to scout pitchers, but Inman looked very good. I'm excited. Will topped out at 96 on the gun. If he can stay healthy, and with an easy delivery that seems possible, Inman could be a 1-2 starter for a long time to come.
Robbie Wooley (SP): Robbie throws absolute gas. The gun wasn't on the night I saw him, so I don't know exactly how fast, but noticeably hard. His line from the box score will look good, but when he missed, he missed by a bunch. He threw a couple balls that must have been 7-8 feet off the ground, as Angel didn't have a chance to catch them. I don't know if Wooley can stay a starter, but with a (possibly) mid 90's fastball, it's unlikely that he won't get a jillion chances.
Kevin Roberts (SP): Roberts was utterly hittable. His fastest pitch was at 91, but worked in the 87-89 range for most of the game. He gave up three homers when I saw him and all were very well hit...so no cheapies. He was a high pick, so he's got time to improve, but with hittable stuff and no control thus far, Roberts has got a lot of work to do.
Of course, I saw almost everyone on the roster play, and most of the pitchers throw, but I think these are the players that I got the best read on. Hopefully, when the team returns in the fall it will be loaded up with '06 draft picks, and I won't have anything stopping me from getting reports on the whole team.