The Pittsburgh Pirates sent seven prospects to this year’s Arizona Fall League, a developmental league where top prospects go to further their game. The seven Pittsburgh prospects combined with prospects from four other MLB teams to form one of six teams in the AFL. The team finished 17-12 with the best run differential in the league, partly due to the success of the seven Pirates.
The offensive attack was led by Pittsburgh’s #4 prospect Nick Gonzales. The second baseman finished third in the AFL with a .380 batting average, second with a .483 on-base percentage, seventh with a 1.032 OPS, and seventh in hits with 27 hits. These stats were simply a continuation of his summer in Greensboro where he slashed .302/.385/.565, hit 18 home runs and drove in 54.
Two other Pirate hitting prospects, Canaan Smith-Njigba and Ji-hwan Bae made waves in the AFL. Smith-Njigba notched a 10th place AFL finish with a .452 OBP along with six doubles and a .298 average. Bae led off most of the time for Peoria, where he notched 23 hits and scored 23 times while leading the team in at bats.
Pittsburgh also sent four pitchers West including its #6 prospect Roansy Contrares. The right-hander made five starts totaling 14 innings. Contrares worked his way to a 2-1 record with 3.21 earned run average and 1.00 WHIP. He allowed 10 hits with an opponent average of .196 while striking out 18 and only walking four.
Pirates #10 prospect Carmen Mlodzinski, #14 prospect Michael Burrows and unranked prospect Bear Bellomy also made the roster. Mlodzinski made seven appearances and notched a save, but he struggled a bit, posting a 4.91 ERA. Burrows made five appearances, including one start, tallying 15.1 innings. Burrows pitched to a solid 3.52 ERA and 1.17 WHIP while notching a K:BB ratio of 16:5. Bellomy saw action eight times this fall posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.
When can one expect to see these prospects at the big-league level? Contrares made his MLB debut in the final week of the 2021 season, but expect him to begin the 2022 season in AAA Indianapolis. Smith-Njigba, Bae, and possibly Mlodzinski should join Contrares in AAA. Gonzales will more than likely start in AA Altona with the chance to move up quickly. Burrows will either start in high-A Greensboro or AA Altona.
For a full breakdown of general manager Ben Cherington’s rebuild take a look at the following article: