Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Old Charlies Turn On the Power

Hey, you Bucco fans that date back to the seventies should remember the ol' Charleston Charlies, Pittsburgh's AAA club from 1971-76; they took the International League title in 1973. Pirates that passed through the Charlies include Dave Parker, Richie Zisk, John Candelaria, Kent Tekulve, Gene Garber, and Willie Randolph.

The old roots are being restored through the newest addition to the Pirate system, the Class A West Virginia Power, located in Charleston and playing in the Sally League. With a field that's only five years old (Appalachian Power Park) and probably a little wink from Wheeling-based Bucco owner Bob Nutting, the Power took over the Class A reins from Hickory.

In fact, the Power came up with a new secondary logo. "Chuck" is a baseball wearing a jaunty derby hat, red bandanna underneath, and Bucco eye patch, reflecting the former Charleston Charlies and the renewed affiliation with the Pirates.

They brought most of the old Hickory staff south with them. Gary Green, formerly of Allderdice, was a cup-of-coffee utility guy in the majors. It will be his third year at the helm of the Class A Buccos.

Pitching coach Jeff Johnson rejoins him in his second year, and hitting instructor Edgar Varela is in his second year, too, coming from the rookie ball Bradenton Pirates of the GCL.

West Virginia Opening Day Roster

Pitchers - RH Ramon Aguero, RH Gabriel Alvarado, RH Gary Amato, RH Maurice Bankston, LH Tyler Cox, RH Chris Cullen, RH Brian Leach, RH Yoffri Martinez, RH Wilson Ortiz, RH Eddie Pena, LH Rudy Owens, RH Duke Welker.

The Watch List: Cox, Leach, Martinez, Owens. Tyler Cox was lights out in the GCL, but as a 23-year old, he has to keep on a fast track. Brian Leach throws at 92-93 MPH with OK control; we'll see if escaping State College improves his performance, which wasn't that bad there last year (1-3, 3.98 ERA).

Yoffri Martinez faces a make-or-break year at 23-years old; he has to find the plate. Rudy Owens is a young lefty (21) with good control, but has been erratic in his time with Pittsburgh.

Duke Welker was a second round pick in 2007, but hasn't lived up to the billing yet.

Not very much of a staff. The Pirates are going to have to start stocking up on young arms if they want the system to be capable of replenishing itself.

Catchers - Danny Bomback, Josue Peley, Andrew Walker.

The Watch List: Walker. Considered solid rather than toolsy, Andrew Walker does a lot of little things OK. If he can stay in one piece, he should be moving on to Lynchburg fairly quickly in a catcher starved Pirate system. He was noticeably hobbled last year, playing through a bum ankle.

The Bucs are so depleted in the lower-levels at catcher that both Danny Bomback and Josue Peley were converted from other positions just to have enough bodies available.

Infielders - 1B Calvin Anderson, 2B Adenson Chourio, SS Chase d'Arnaud, 2B Greg Picard, 3B Bobby Spain.

The Watch List: Anderson, Chourio, d'Arnaud, Spain. Calvin Anderson is a Southern U product, and has some upside, but is raw. It didn't help that he missed the last six weeks of 2008 with an ankle injury. Adenson Chourio is an ideal leadoff hitter, with a good average, eye, and speed, but the 22-year old has been a little long in the tooth at every level he's played at.

Chase d'Arnaud is a good glove guy with gap power, and plays third also. He may see some time at second, too. Bobby Spain is a poor man's version of Jim Negrych, but may be squeezed by the 2008 draft class, which was heavy on 3B; Matt Hague leapfrogged him to Lynchburg.

Outfielders - Andrew Biela, Edward Garcia, Robbie Grossman, Erik Huber, Quincy Latimore.

The Watch List: Biela, Grossman, Latimore. 20-year old Andrew Biela was drafted as a high-school pick in 2007, and has to add some power to be considered in the mix for a corner OF spot. 19-year old Robbie Grossman was the sixth pick out of high school last year, and some see him as another potential Nate McLouth.

Quincy Latimore, 20, is a 2007 high school pick. He's athletic, but needs to work on plate discipline. Austin McCune should join the roster after he returns from a bout of mono. He's a 21-year old drafted out of high school in 2006, with good speed, a good glove, and a project at the plate.

The Pirates aren't very deep in outfielders, but they have a stash of former high school picks, all age appropriate, at West Virginia. That's a good sign.

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