Pittsburgh Pirates: Arizona Fall League Update


The Arizona Fall League just had their All-Star game this past weekend. The Pittsburgh Pirates had two players on the team, with a former top draft pick as a starter.

The Arizona Fall League is a pool of some of the top prospect talent in baseball. Prospects across the sport make up six teams with the 30 clubs being split among them. The Pirates prospects this Fall League are playing for the Peoria Javelinas. The prospects there are former 2020 first round picks Nick Gonzales and Carmen Mlodzinski, international signing Ji-Hwan Bae, two players from the Jameson Taillon deal in Canaan Smith-Njigba and Roansy Contreras, right-handed pitcher Michael Burrows and reliever Bear Bellomy.

Nick Gonzales and Ji-Hwan Bae were both All-Stars this season. Gonzales is hitting the cover off the ball, slashing .382/.482/.559 with 12 walks and 14 strikeouts. He was known for his hitting in college and got off to a hot start before an injury this past season. It’s good to see him healthy and hitting the ball well. Bae is a speed guy with limited power. In the AFL he’s hitting .250/.349/.361, though he’s already stolen seven bases in eight tries. He’s a name to watch given he’s playing some center field while getting work at second base. Smith-Njigba is showing off his on-base skills, hitting .313/.459/.438. While he doesn’t have any home runs, he’s still hitting for extra base hits, having six doubles in 15 games.

Contreras is one of the Pirates most exciting prospects, as he really was an up and comer this season. After tearing up Double-A, Contreras made a brief Major League debut. He’s continued to show some strikeout stuff, with 10 strike outs in 10 innings. However, he’s been hurt by the home run as he’s allowed three. Contreras has a 4.50 ERA. Burrows is an intriguing high-spin guy and like Contreras has 10 strikeouts, though Burrows has pitched 12.1 innings. The righty has a 4.38 ERA.

Mlodzinski was often hurt at Auburn and after having a high draft ceiling entering 2020 he was able to slide to the Pirates second pick. He’s struggled in Arizona with an ERA of 6.00 in his nine innings with three walks and a hit by pitch. He’s considered to be more of a groundball pitcher than a strikeout pitcher. Bellomy is a relief pitcher drafted in the 28th round in 2019. He’s performed the best among Pirates pitchers in the AFL with a 3.38 ERA in 10.2 innings.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are well represented in the Arizona Fall League with Nick Gonzales and Ji-Hwan Bae being named All-Stars. Smith-Njigba has shown excellent ability to get on base with Contreras still striking batters out, despite allowing home runs. Overall the Fall League has seen some Pirates do well and some struggle, but it’s a good place for these prospects to develop.