Promotions haven't derailed Power
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite two-fifths of its starting rotation (Joely Rodriguez and Orlando Castro) and its slugger in the middle of the lineup (Stetson Allie) being promoted, the West Virginia Power has avoided the slow start that cost the team a South Atlantic League Northern Division crown in the first half of the season.
Consider that the club rallied to finish 37-33 and in third place in the first half, just 21/2 games behind division champion Hagerstown, all after limping out to a 1-6 start.
Now at 6-2 and tied for the early second-half lead with Hickory, the Power has continued to ride the momentum it generated midway through the first half due to solid contributions across the board.
One player who has really produced in the first eight games is first baseman/designated hitter Jordan Steranka, the man called up to fill the big shoes voided by Allie.
Steranka was put into extended spring training after camp broke and battled with mononucleosis throughout much of the spring, but is thriving early in his Class A career.
"He can hit," Power manager Mike Ryan said. "He's got a very good approach. He's got an idea of what he's doing up there and just has a knack of putting the barrel on the ball. I'm excited to watch him hit right now and he looks really good."
The statistics support that sentiment. The Penn State product is hitting .368 with seven RBIs, putting together five multi-hit efforts in his first eight games with the club.
Barnes' bat heats up
After finally getting healthy, leadoff hitter Barrett Barnes has turned a corner.
BaseballAmerica.com ranked the center fielder as one of the Pirates' top 10 prospects in January after being drafted in the first round (45th overall) in 2012 out of Texas Tech.
While he has bounced in and out of that list since, Barnes has really begun to showcase his talents as of late.
Barnes has at least one hit in all eight of the Power's second-half games, has hit his first three home runs of the season (including a two-home run, six-RBI effort in a win over Lakewood on June 21) and has driven in 13 runs.
After breaking an ankle last year, suffering an oblique strain in spring training this year and pulling a hamstring upon his return, the 21-year-old is enjoying his longest string of consistent play in quite some time. He said it's a relief just to be playing every day.
"I feel like I'm on time, everything is back to normal, and I'm just playing baseball like I've always played it," Barnes said. "Every time I've started to get back, I had another injury. I've never gotten to get back and stay there, and God's blessed me with health so far and I'm just trying to stay there and keep playing."
Glasnow getting his K's
While players have moved in and out of the lineup and on and off the roster, starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow has continued to provide "ooh" and "aah" moments from the mound all season - and lately he's only getting better.
Other than Glasnow's youth - he's just 19 and on a 75-pitch/five-inning limit per start - there really seems to be nothing keeping him from ascending quickly through the Pirates organization.
The young flamethrower has a league-leading 98 strikeouts in just 661/3 innings while compiling a 4-1 record and a 2.44 ERA. He's also allowed just 34 hits, the lowest total in the league among pitchers who have thrown more than 55 innings.
Consider that before this season, no Power pitcher had struck out double-digit hitters in a game since Kyle McPherson struck out 10 Delmarva Shorebirds on May 19, 2010. Glasnow has done it three times in his past 10 starts.
In the team's 8-2 win over Lakewood on June 22, Glasnow recorded one of his 10 strikeouts by throwing a 96-mph fastball and a 78-mph diving curveball on back-to-back pitches.
That was the second in a current stretch of three starts in which Glasnow has only walked four hitters while striking out 18.
Control has been an issue for the righty as he's walked 39 hitters on the season, but he said he is just now starting to learn how to pitch, a scary thought for the rest of baseball.
"I've focused on that for the past few starts," Glasnow said of pitching to contact. "[Pitching coach Jeff Johnson] has helped me out so much, especially with getting a consistent thing I can fall back on [mechanically] - if something goes wrong I'm not up there just throwing as hard as I can, I have something to go to.
"The hits may go up but it's less pitches and I can control a lot more stuff."
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt .