Minor league report: Power arms show their value in Single-A
West Virginia Power pitching coach Jeff Johnson is like a kid with the best toys in Charleston's biggest sandbox and, boy, is he having fun.
That's because Johnson, who has been with the team for four of the past six seasons, has some of the Pirates' most valuable pitching prospects at his disposal.
Power arms such as Tyler Glasnow, Luis Heredia and Clay Holmes are under Johnson's watchful eye, and the results are undeniable.
“The team chemistry is good, the makeup of the players is good, and they play hard and work hard every day,” Johnson said. “It's by far the most fun I've had at this level. Arm-wise, (the Power) are probably more talented than we've ever been.”
West Virginia (11-8) has given up more than four runs once in the past 11 games, including four total in its past four contests, all wins heading into Friday night.
Heredia, an 18-year-old right-hander who was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Pirates in 2010, is getting his first taste of full-season Single-A ball after spending the past two seasons in the New York-Penn League and the Gulf Coast League.
He made his debut after the all-star break June 23, and through just four starts, he is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 17 innings.
“His intangibles are awesome,” Johnson aid. “He's got a great feel for what's going on, a great feel for the game, how things are working, who's hitting, who's running — you just don't see that out of 18-year-old kids.”
As for Glasnow, he has taken some of the most impressive statistics in minor league baseball and continued to improve on them.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander has struck out 110 hitters in 76 1⁄3 innings, good enough for second in the South Atlantic League.
But his growth can be measured more in the decline of walks rather than the piling up of strikeouts.
While his 43 walks is a bit high, he has issued just eight walks in his past five starts as opposed to 16 in the previous five, while lowering his pitch count by pitching to contact more.
“One of the big things early in the season was getting across to him that efficiency is where it's at,” Johnson said. “A 20-pitch inning striking out the side is not where we want to be. He's embraced that and he likes it now. He's not afraid to see the ball hit the bat.”
Ryan Pritt is a freelance writer.