Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects Off to Hot Start in the AFL

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 22: Ji-hwan Bae #72 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 22: Ji-hwan Bae #72 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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A trio of Pittsburgh Pirates prospects are off to a hot start with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League

Thus far the Arizona Fall League has not been kind to the Peoria Javelinas. Following a 5-0 loss on Monday the Javelinas are now 0-5 early on in AFL play. Despite the poor start for the team a trio of Pittsburgh Pirates prospects are off to strong starts.

One of these prospects is infielder/utility man Ji-Hwan Bae. Playing center field on Monday the left-handed hitting South Korea native was 2-for-5 at the plate with a run scored. This was Bae’s second start in center field with Peoria to go with starts at second base as well.

So far in AFL play Bae is 5-for-15 with with 3 walks. He has struck out just once to go with a home run, a double, 3 RBI and 5 runs scored. The athletic speedster continues to make strides as he progresses toward making both his Triple-A and MLB debut during the 2022 season.

Joining Bae with getting a base hit in Monday’s loss was 2020 first-round pick Nick Gonzales. Gonzales was 1-for-5 at the plate with a double, which was already his 3rd double of the very young AFL season.

Gonzales is hitting for a .278/.316/.444 slash line through his first 19 plate appearances of AFL play. Gonzales is one of the best pure hitters in all of minor league baseball, not just the Pirate farm system, so seeing his early success in the AFL does not come as a surprise. Do not be surprised if Gonzales is the starting second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates by the end of the 2022 season.

Then there is outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba who also got into the hit column on Monday. Smith-Njigba was 1-for-4 with a walk on Monday, raising his OPS through the first 5 games of the AFL season to .830.

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Through 15 PAs Smith-Njigba is now hitting for a .273/.467/.364 slash line. The left-handed hitting Smith-Njigba continues to look like a hitter who could develop into being a hitter with above average on-base skills and potentially plus power.

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