Previewing the State College Spikes

The State College Spikes, New York-Penn League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, finished last season in third place in the Pinckney Division with a 38-38 record.  They will play a three game series against the Connecticut Tigers July 14-16 at Dodd Stadium.

Pirates prospect expert Wilbur Miller joined Connecticut Tiger Den to help preview the 2010 Spikes.  His work can be found at this link.

Stephen Hamel: Do you expect Zach Von Rosenberg to be the ace of State College’s pitching staff? Can you give a brief scouting report on him?

Wilbur Miller: I think the plan with von Rosenberg was to have him stay in EST for a while and then go to West Virginia. That’s what they did last year with Quinton Miller, although he made a couple of starts for State College first. The Pirates’ view now seems to be that high school players should get acclimatized in EST and/or the GCL and then go to full season ball if they’re ready.

When he was drafted, von Rosenberg supposedly threw 88-91, with good command of a curve and change. When I saw him in training camp in March, though, he was throwing 83-88, which was a bit concerning. Hopefully, he’s built up his velocity since then.

SH: Jeff Inman struggled his junior year at Stanford. Is that why he was not assigned to a full-season team? What kind of stuff does he have? Do you expect his stay in State College to be a short one if he gets off to a hot start with the Spikes?

WM: Inman was shut down with shoulder soreness at Stanford. The Pirates held off having him pitch in 2009 except for a couple brief appearances toward the end of the year. This year, he was throwing as high as 96 in camp and was on the West Virginia roster to start the season, but never appeared. I have no idea what the problem is. I think he’d be with the Power if he was healthy, so he may not be available to pitch at State College. If he is and shows he’s healthy, I doubt he’ll be there long.

SH: The Pirates have several high school arms from their ’09 draft class in extended spring training. Among the quartet of Colton Cain, Brooks Pounders, Trent Stevenson and Zack Dodson, who is likely to be assigned to State College? Who has the most upside?

WM: I expect the Pirates’ plan with these four was about the same as with Von Rosenberg—whichever ones look the best in EST will probably get a chance to go directly to West Virginia, or maybe make just a brief stop at State College. Stevenson and Dodson may be the most likely to spend a lot of time at State College. Pounders is probably the most advanced of the four and should be able to make it to full season ball. Cain had back surgery in the off-season and has only recently been cleared to pitch. If he’s able to pitch in games, he may be in the GCL.

Cain and Stevenson probably have the most upside. They’ve shown the most potential velocity if they can develop their mechanics and if Stevenson, who’s extremely thin, fills out. Pounders is a finesse guy. Dodson throws in the low 90s with a very good curve.

SH: Wes Freeman struggled this season with the West Virginia Power and was demoted to extended spring training. Do you expect him to be assigned to State College when the New York-Penn League season begins? What are the strengths and weaknesses of his game?

WM: I’m sure Freeman will go to State College. He’s a big, athletic guy with good speed and a strong arm. His defensive play, especially the arm, made a big impression on people who saw him play for the Power. He has a lot of raw power but massive problems making contact. That last is the issue he has to overcome.

SH: Gift Ngoepe is certainly an interesting story as he attempts to become the first African-born player to reach the Major Leagues. Can you give a brief scouting report on him? Is there a chance he moves up to State College this season?

WM: Ngoepe is very athletic, with good speed and very good range in the field. He’s a good defensive player already, but not advanced with the bat. He didn’t see much quality pitching until he became a pro. The Pirates have said he’ll open back in the GCL, but if he shows improvement with the bat they may move him up. They do consider him a real prospect and not a stunt or anything.

SH: Is there anyone else in extended spring training who could make an impact with State College this season?

WM: The Pirates have some good prospects coming up from Latin America and they don’t hesitate to push guys who perform well. One guy I’d look for is OF Exicardo Cayones. If he does well in EST or gets off to a strong start in the GCL, they might move him up. Among the pitchers, one guy who might be in the opening rotation for State College is LHP Jhonathan Ramos, who made a strong showing last year in the GCL. He’s on the Power roster now, but that may only be a temporary assignment due to some injuries.

I’d like to thank Wilbur Miller for helping me preview the 2010 State College Spikes.

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