The 2014 season marks ten years of West Virginia Power baseball at Appalachian Power Park. With some returning talent and new faces, this year's ball club will bring plenty of excitement to Charleston.
The Power are coming off an impressive campaign in 2013, a year that saw West Virginia hold the best record in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League with an 82-58 record.
Power manager Michael Ryan returns for his second season at the helm. Ryan played in 1,345 games in the minor leagues and 149 in the Majors with the Twins, Braves, Pirates, Marlins and Angels. Back for 2014 is pitching coach Jeff Johnson, who is in his seventh year in the Pirates organization. Newcomers to the coaching staff include hitting coach Keoni de Renne, who served last year as a player/coach with the Pirates' Dominican Summer League Team, and player/coach Miguel Perez, who has played in over 600 games in his career after being drafted by Cincinnati in 200.
The Power feature seven of Pittsburgh's top prospects according to Baseball America in an organization that was named tops in the minor league ranks. Let's take a look at the Power positional breakdown for 2014:
Catcher: Reese McGuire - McGuire was the 1st round pick of the Pirates and 14th overall in the 2013 draft and is ranked as the 8th best prospect in the organization and the best defensive catcher in the system. The 19-year old native of Washington, hit .330 with 11 doubles and 21 RBI in 46 games with the GCL Pirates before finishing the season with the Jamestown Jammers, hitting .250 with four hits in four games.
First Base: Edward Espinal - The 20-year old from the Domincan Republic will make his Power debut in 2014. Espinal spent 2011 and 2012 in the Dominican and Gulf Coast Leagues before hitting .288 with 41 RBI last season with the Jamestown Jammers. Espinal was ranked as the "Best Infield Arm" in the system before the season.
Second Base: Erich Weiss - The 11th round draft pick in the 2013 draft for the Pirates will also make his Power debut in 2014. The 6'3 Weiss hit .273 with seven doubles and 10 RBI last season in 41 games for the Jamestown Jammers.
Shortstop: JaCoby Jones - The 6'3 shortstop will join Weiss to create one of the tallest middle infields in the SAL. Jones was the third round pick of the Pirates in 2013 from LSU and played in just 15 games with Jamestown before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. Jones was productive in 15 games, hitting .311 with two doubles, two triples, a homer and 10 RBI with three stolen bases.
Third Base: Wyatt Mathisen - 2014 will feature Mathisen's second stint in Charleston as well as a position change from catcher to the hot corner. The second round pick in 2012's draft had a short stay in West Virginia last year, dealing with injuries after 32 games and a .185 batting average. Mathisen finished 2013 with the GCL Pirates and Jamestown. Mathisen is currently ranked 13th in the organization.
Outfield: Barrett Barnes - Barnes, one of the top prospects in the Pirates' system, will also return as a Power veteran, having hit .268 with nine doubles, five home runs and 29 RBI in 46 games in Charleston.
Candon Myles - Myles advances to class-A after splitting time in 2013 with the GCL Pirates and Jamestown Jammers. Myles hit .330 with 21 RBI in 46 games for the GCL Pirates and posted a .255 batting average in 15 games with the Jammers.
Harold Ramirez - The 9th ranked prospect in the Pittsburgh minor league system was signed in 2011 as a non-drafted free agent from Columbia. Ramirez spent 2012 with the GCL Pirates and 2013 with the Jamestown Jammers. In his 2013 campaign, Ramirez posted a .285 batting average with 11 doubles, four triples, five homers and 40 RBI with 23 stolen bases en route to a NYPL All-Star appearance.
Catcher Francisco Diaz, infidielders Danny Collins, Chris Diaz, and Michael Fransoso will also see playing time for the club early on this season.
Pitchers: Shane Carle - Carle will toe the rubber as the Opening Day start for the Power in Lexington on Thursday after hurling for the Jammers in 2013. Carle was a 10th round pick in 2013 and posted a 1-0 record with a 2.15 ERA in 14 games and 50.1 innings pitched with one save. Carle struck out 43 while walking six.
Buddy Borden - Borden was a 7th round pick in last year's draft for the Pirates and appeared in just six games with three starts in Jamestown in 2013. Borden compiled a 0-0 record with a 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched with 23 strikeouts and five walks.
Cody Dickson - Dickson was 4th round selection by Pittsburgh in last year's draft and was impressive in 14 starts with Jamestown a season ago, tallying a 2-0 record with a 2.37 ERA in 57 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Luis Heredia - Heredia will make his return to the Power in 2014. The Mexican hurler is the 10th best prospect in the organization and posted a 7-3 record in 14 games last season in Charleston with a 3.05 ERA in 65 innings of work. Heredia struck out 55 batters and walked 37 while limiting opposing hitters to a .224 average.
Dovydas Neverauskas - The native of Vilnius, Lithuania joins the Power after spending 2013 with the Jammers. The 21-year old was 4-4 in Jamestown with a 3.01 ERA in 15 starts an 60.2 innings pitched. Neverauskas struck out 39 and walked 22.
West Virginia starts with eight arms in the bullpen, including right-handed pitchers Yhonathan Barrios, Felipe Gonzalez, Henry Hirsch, Jerry Mulderig, Clario Perez and Justin Topa as well as south paws Isaac Sanchez and Will Kendall.
The initial West Virginia roster includes 15 players who have been selected within the last two drafts by Pittsburgh and six players with South Atlantic League experience. The Pirates have, once again, assigned top notch talent to the Power, making the tenth anniversary season one to watch for all of professional baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.