Following a strong start to their Arizona Fall League seasons a pair of Pittsburgh Pirates prospects have been named AFL All-Stars
Thus far, the 2021 Arizona Fall League season has been a successful one for the Pittsburgh Pirates prospects playing in the league. Roansy Contreras turned heads with a perfect start, Canaan Smith-Njigba has been collecting doubles and drawing walks, and Mike Burrows has flashed why he is a pitcher who is quickly climbing Pirate prospect boards.
There are two Pirate prospects who have stood out above the rest, however. Standing out above the rest has led to these two being named AFL All-Stars. These two prospects are utility man Ji-Hwan Bae and second baseman Nick Gonzales.
While Bae started to come up through the farm system as a shortstop prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bae began his transition to a utility role in 2021. In addition to shortstop, Bae played third base, second base and the outfield for Double-A Altoona. In the AFL he has played shortstop, second base and the outfield.
Bae entered the day on Wednesday hitting for a .269/.370/.388 slash line to go with 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 7 stolen bases and 9 RBI for the Peoria Javelinas. Bae has a very strong 14.8% walk rate in his 81 plate appearances to go with a strikeout rate of just 17.3%.
Although he has gotten reps at shortstop, second base and center field in the AFL, Gonzales remains the second baseman of the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 7th overall pick in the 2020 draft has shown why in the AFL.
Gonzales has a 15.4% walk rate and a 17.9% strikeout rate in 78 PAs with the Javelinas. The right-handed hitter is hitting for a .381/.487/.571 slash line. He has hit 2 home runs, collected 4 doubles and has a triple.
Both Bae and Gonzales could make their MLB debut during the 2022 season. For Bae it should be a question of when not if, while Gonzales could work his way to the Majors by the late summer. Even if that does not happen, by early 2023 both Bae and Gonzales should be key pieces for the Pirates.