The Short-Season, Low-A West Virginia Black Bears won the New York-Penn League in 2015, but 2016 has been a different story through the middle of July.
The West Virginia Black Bears entered Wednesday’s play with a 15-17 record through 32 games and sit six games back of first-place State College (Cardinals affiliate) in the NYPL’s Pinckney Division. The club houses talent ranging from first-round draft picks such as Will Craig, to undrafted free agents such as Sandy Santos that definitely have early potential to make it to The Show one day. However, the team has yet to put it together to find success as we approach the midpoint of the league’s shortened season.
The Pirates’ 2016 first round pick Will Craig has gotten off to a rocky start to his professional career with the West Virginia Black Bears. He enters Wednesday with a .198/.371/.309 slash line while turning in six doubles, a home run, eight RBIs, and a stolen base. An interesting note about Craig in 2016 is he has drawn more walks (18) than he has base hits (16) and strikeouts (17).
Production from the West Virginia Black Bears lineup has come through a middle-round draft selection in Kevin Mahala and a player who is no stranger to the system in Sandy Santos. Mahala was drafted in the 18th round out of George Washington and profiles as a versatile infielder who can play multiple positions. Mahala is the team’s active leader in batting average (.304).
Sandy Santos has been in Pittsburgh’s system since 2013. He spent 2013 and 2014 in the Dominican Summer League and spent 2015 in Bristol before appearing in West Virginia to start 2016. Santos has been the club’s daily leadoff hitter and is showing improvements in his batting average as it is up to .269 through 24 games. His previous career high in that category was back in 2014 in the DSL when he posted a .262 average.
The West Virginia Black Bears pitching staff has seen early struggles and bright spots as the team looks to defend its New York-Penn League championship crown. There is a comeback story that should be followed within this team from James Marvel. Marvel was drafted in the 36th round by the Pirates in 2015 from Duke. He did not pitch in 2015 due to Tommy John Surgery and had not pitched since 2014 before being named the ‘Bears Opening Day starter back in mid-June. Marvel currently sits at 3-3 with a 3.78 ERA in 33.1 IP on the season.
The staff holds a 3.93 ERA overall which ranks them eleventh out of 14 teams in the NYPL. The staff sits in the middle of the pack in terms of walks (114 allowed) and strikeouts (240) in its 32 games played.
Corey Crisan is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Rum Bunter on the FanSided family of networks. Follow him on twitter @cdcrisan.