The short-season, Low-A West Virginia Black Bears opened their 2016 season on the road in Niles, OH versus the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians affiliate) on Friday, and the buzz circulating throughout the New York-Penn League’s defending champions should have Pirates fans excited for what’s to come within the next projected half-decade.
Last year’s Black Bears team saw its fair share of ups and downs, but the NYPL’s Wild Card winner turned opportunity into a championship, after finishing their 2015 campaign with a 42-34 record.
This year’s day-one Black Bears roster sees a cornucopia of talent ranging from first-round draft picks to undrafted free agents, and it even includes some returning Black Bears from 2015. Players returning for their second stint with the Black Bears include pitchers Luis Escobar and Stephan Meyer, catcher Chris Harvey, and first baseman Albert Baur.
Of course, with the 2016 MLB Draft out-of-the-way, some picks made their way to the Bears’ day-one roster, including first rounder (22nd overall) Will Craig. Including Craig, eight of Pittsburgh’s 2016 draft picks have made the Black Bears’ opening day roster:
round – RHP Brandon Bingle
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The Black Bears return home to host the Batavia Muckdogs (Marlins affiliate) on Sunday. This is an interesting team to watch as you will get to see a lot of the draft picks from this year. Many will either perform really well, while other will struggles. This happens a lot due to nerves, either players performing well because they are amped, or struggling because they are having trouble adjusting to professional life. Regardless, take the time to keep an eye on this team. The Pirates have done a good job of drafting over the last few years, especially college players. Most recently JT Brubaker, last years 6th round pick from Akron. Fans will get a good taste of if they have done well again by paying attention to the Black Bears.
Corey Crisan is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Rum Runter on the FanSided family of networks. Follow him on twitter @cdcrisan.