By Steve Samek
Tonight, the West Virginia Black Bears begin season number three. The Black Bears had a .500 campaign in 2016 with a 38-38 record. This was after taking the championship in 2015, their first year in the league as the Black Bears.
Taking a look at tonight’s opening roster. The team looks rather pedestrian. One of the top 30 Pirates prospects have been assigned to the roster. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit.
Mitch Keller is listed, but it is as a rehab assignment. He belongs with Bradenton. Michael Suchy is also on a rehab assignment.
The rest seem to be call ups from the Gulf Coast league and Bristol.http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t5020. No one stands out to even have done anything really worth noting. The closest thing to doing something is Jonathan Schwind. Schwind has seen time at the Double and triple a level. He just hasn’t done much with the bat and isn’t really considered a prospect. This just has to be lineup filler. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=milb&player_id=605462#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL
Sandy Santos returns to the black and gold after spending last season with them. Santos was with the West Virginia Power, but struggles this season have led to a demotion back to Morgantown. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t5020&player_id=642353#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL. Santos tied for second on the team with 34 rbi, while hitting .281, also second best on the team. http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t5020.
A fast start with the Bears and it won’t surprise me if he gets returned to Charleston. Last season he showed a bit of dominance, but nothing not 30 worthy, yet. https://www.milb.com/milb/news/santos-flashes-potential-for-black-bears/c-185063200/t-185364810.
Though aside from the yawn fest of a line up, the Black Bears have an interesting addition to the coaching staff. Joel Hanrahan is an assistant pitching coach for the team. Hanrahan was a former all-star closer in Pittsburgh with 100 career saves. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hanrajo01.shtml. This gives that big league feel and experience to the young pitchers and should serve them well.
I will say though even with a lack of pedigree in the lineup I can see moves being made to improve this roster. Shane Baz, the first-round pick that recently signed with the Bucs could perhaps make an appreance here. Though the most likely spot for him would be the GCL. Recent draftees from the college ranks maybe sent here as well after signing. http://bit.ly/2s1uhUo.
Though it won’t surprise me either if top 30 ranked pitchers in Braeden Ogle, Travis MacGregor and Max Kranick see time in West Virginia after short, or successful stints in the GCL. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit.
Plus, with no expectations comes the high possibility of a sleeper prospect emerging. First pitch for the season is at 7:05 p.m. against Mahoning Valley.