Plenty of progress was made by Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects in West Virginia in 2017.
The West Virginia Black Bears had a pretty successful year. They went 40-35 and finished tied for second in the Pinckney division with the State College Spikes. The Black Bears finished five games behind division winner Mahoning Valley. West Virginia finished three and a half games out of the wild card spot won by Hudson Valley.
First Baseman Lucas Tancas was the best hitter by average. Tancas had a .276 average with four home runs and 19 RBI in 51 games for the Black Bears.
Bligh Madris made his name known offensively as well. Madris hit .270 with five home runs and 31 RBI. The RBI and home run totals along with batting average where all the second-best marks on the team. He scored 36 runs, which led the team as well.
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Tristan Gray hit .269 with seven home runs and 37 RBI. Gray’s RBI and homer totals lead the team.
The Black Bears had two runners steal 15 bases and tie for the team lead in that category. Jared Olivia stole 15 of 19 bases, while Raul Siri swiped 15 in 28 tries.
Ike Schlabach lead the team in wins. He went 6-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 14 starts.
Scooter Hightower pitched well this season. Hightower went 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA in 16 appearances with 15 of those being starts. In 88 innings pitched he struck out 80 hitters, while only allowing nine walks. This was Hightower’s second season with the Black Bears and should be promoted to start next season in South Atlantic League West Virginia. After leading the Black Bears in ERA and strikeouts this season.
Yoandy Fernandez pitched well this season. The right-hander went 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 18 games and struck out 53 hitters. He converted two of the three save opportunities given to him. At age 29 he is a bit older to be considered a serious prospect, but it is good to see him succeed.
Gavin Wallace showed some good progress this season. Wallace had a 3-2 record with a 2.65 ERA in 15 games pitched, making 13 starts. Wallace retired 41 hitters on strikes, while only surrendering five free passes and not allowing a home run. A 15th round selection in 2017, he may be a prospect to start watching. He also had a better season statics wise than his brother Mike Wallace, a pitcher for the West Virginia Power. I could see the two having a reunion in Charleston next year.
Joel Cesar topped the club in saves this season. Cesar converted seven of the eight chances allotted to him. He pitched in 22 games with a 3.67 ERA.
None of the Pittsburgh Pirates top 30 prospects made their way to Morgantown this year. This should change next year as a wave of 2017 draft picks make their way up from the Gulf Coast League. Number three ranked Shane Baz and number ten ranked Steven Jennings could be notable pitchers to watch for the Black Bears next season. Number 13th ranked Calvin Mitchell and 14th ranked Connor Uselton could be the hitters to watch out for next season in Morgantown.