CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Power roster features seven – soon to be eight – of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top 30 prospects, but manager Mike Ryan said it will be important to see production on the field.
“That’s what Baseball America picks as the top prospects,” Ryan said on the even of the Power’s Thursday opener. “They’re all great players as far as the non-Baseball America prospects or whoever is here. It’s a good team on paper, but I’ve seen plenty of good teams on paper not amount to much. If we can instill to them what team baseball is and how to do the little things, it’s going to be just fine.”
Those who watch minor league systems closely say the Pirates have one of the best in baseball, and more than a handful of those players will be on display in Charleston this season.
The current Power roster includes three of the publication’s top 10 prospects – catcher Reese McGuire, outfielder Harold Ramirez and pitcher Luis Heredia. Austin Meadows, ranked fourth overall, is expected to arrive before the end of the month.
Other highly regarded players include outfielder Barrett Barnes, shortstop JaCoby Jones, third baseman Wyatt Mathisen and pitcher Cody Dickson.
“I think our scouting department has done an unbelievable job finding the talent, and player development takes over from there and turns them into the players that the scouts thought they could become,” said Ryan, in his second year with the Power. “It all works together. The organization is in a great place.”
The Power opens its season at Lexington Thursday, then opens its home schedule April 10, also against Lexington.
McGuire, a first-round pick in 2013, said he’s glad to be playing with so many talented teammates.
“It’s exciting, definitely,” he said. “I went up to Pittsburgh for two or three days during the summer and got to watch one of the games. It’s an exciting time for the city and the fans and everyone, so I’m stoked to be a part of it.
“We’re always pushing each other to be better, competing on the field. I think off the field we hold each other accountable for our actions. It’s a good mix to have that.”
Mathisen started 2013 in Charleston but was injured and missed the second half. He’s also moving from catcher to third base, a nod to his flexibility and the depth of the position in the Pirates’ organization.
His experience in the city has come in handy, though.
“I helped some of these guys out who haven’t been around the city,” he said. “How the fields are, where we’re going to go, what the fields are like.”
He said Appalachian Power Park, in its 10th season, is among the better places to play in the South Atlantic League.
“It’s really nice, especially for being 10 years old already,” he said. “The backdrop is nice. I like Charleston in general. Everyone knows who the Power are, we’re the only minor league professional team that’s here.”
Barnes also is back for another stint in Charleston after battling injury for most of 2013.
“That was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through,” he said. “My head was just full of negative things. I missed one game in college with a minor concussion. I played 156 games straight there.
“Every time I had a meeting with any coach or coordinator it was just stay healthy. The No. 1 thing is just stay healthy. I just have to learn my body.”
He also enjoys being around so many other talented players.
“It’s fantastic,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of good ballplayers out there. There are a lot of guys who may not be on a prospect list (for the Pirates) but they would be somewhere else. There’s a ton of good baseball players in our organization. To be honest it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to go out there.”