Power-ful prospects make debut at home

By By Mike Whiteford
For the Gazette

Unpredictability is more prevalent in baseball than in any other team sport, especially down in the Class A confines of the South Atlantic League.

Players are new to the pro game, their youthful emotions often dictate their day-to-day performances and they may not yet have embraced the commitment necessary to be a pro. And who knows which ones will reach or exceed expectations — which are highly subjective to begin with — and which ones will fall short?

It would be easy to predict a favorable season for the Power, which plays its home opener against the Lexington Legends at 7:05 tonight at Appalachian Power Park.

The Power begins the season with an uncommon number of high draft picks in a farm system that Baseball America has analyzed and declared the best of the 30 major-league organizations.

Last year, despite losing six of its first seven games and 15 of its first 24, the Power finished at 82-58, the best record in the SAL’s Northern Division and the second-best in the 14-team league. But Class A rosters change dramatically from year to year.

Second-year Power manager Michael Ryan can’t concern himself with who was drafted where and what the pundits say.

“It doesn’t matter,’’ he said. “That’s what Baseball America picks as the top prospects. It’s a good team on paper, but I’ve seen good teams on paper not amount to much. If we can instill in them what team baseball is and how to do little things, we’re going to be just fine.’’

The opening-day roster consisted of two first-round picks, catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Barrett Barnes; a second-rounder, third baseman Wyatt Mathisen; a third-rounder, shortstop JaCoby Jones; a fourth-rounder, pitcher Cody Dickson and a seventh-rounder, pitcher Buddy Borden.

In addition, outfielder Austin Meadows, the 14th player taken in the 2013 draft and signed to a $3 million bonus, is nursing a hamstring injury in Bradenton, Fla., and is expected to join the Power in “another week to two weeks,’’ said Ryan.

The Power opened the season last week on the road and took a 3-3 record into Wednesday night’s final game of the road trip in Asheville. The team scored just 20 runs and batted .222 in those six games.

“One night we’ll swing the bats good, the next night we’ll just pitch it good,’’ said Ryan. “We’re just trying to put it all together. The guys are playing hard.’’

Borden, a former Nevada-Las Vegas pitcher, will start tonight’s home opener and will be limited to about 85 pitches. At Lexington last week, he went four innings, allowed three hits and three runs in a 6-4 Power victory.

“He did a good job of locating his fastball, mixing in his off-speed pitches, threw inside very well, kept their hitters off-balance,’’ said Ryan. “We played good defense behind him. It was a good outing.’’

The roster offers a wide range of former college players — pitchers Cody Dickson (Sam Houston State), Shane Carle (Long Beach State), Justin Topa (Long Island), Jerry Mulderig (Rider), Henry Hirsch (New Haven), Will Kendall (Auburn) and Borden (UNLV), first baseman-outfielder Danny Collins (Troy), second baseman Michael Fransoso (Maine), third baseman Erich Weiss (Texas), shortstops Chris Diaz (N.C. State) and Jones (LSU) and outfielders Justin Maffei (San Francisco) and Barnes (Texas Tech).

POWER POINTS: The Power is beginning its sixth season as a Pittsburgh Pirates farm club. This is the city’s 28th as a member of the South Atlantic League. Barnes, who was limited to 46 games with the Power last year because of a hamstring injury, reinjured the leg on the road trip and likely will miss three to four weeks, said Ryan. Another outfielder, Harold Ramirez, also has a hamstring pull and is expected to miss two to three weeks. Jones is the team’s top hitter at .381 (8 for 21), and first baseman Edwin Espinal has five RBIs in 18 at-bats. After tonight’s game, the Power will face the Legends at 7:05 p.m. Friday and at 2:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Asheville will visit Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 7:05.

Reach Mike Whiteford at mikewhiteford@wvgazette.com.

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