Seven Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects Head to the Desert for the Arizona Fall League

By Jeff Moore
Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Arizona Fall League, known as major league baseball’s “finishing school,” begins in the desert today, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, like each organization, have a number of prospects in action.

The Pirates have seven prospects appearing this season on the roster of the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Four of the prospects are pitchers, which tend to have a difficult time in the Arizona Fall League. The warm weather combined with friendly hitting environments and tired arms tend to greatly favor the hitters historically in this league. Organizations have leaned away from sending their top pitchers to the desert in order to shield them from the risk of getting hit around too hard and that trend continued even more so this year than ever before.

Despite this, however, the Pirates quartet of pitchers offer some intriguing prospects for the future.

Victor Black is one of the hardest throwers in the Pirates organization. Working as a reliever his entire professional career, the former supplemental first round pick (2009) had his best season in 2012, posting a 1.65 ERA with 13 saves for Double-A Altoona. More importantly, he struck out 85 batters in 60 innings. If there’s any pitcher who can survive pitching in the AFL, it’s a pitcher who misses bats the way Black does.

Brandon Cumpton is the kind of pitcher who could struggle in the AFL, because he’s a control pitcher who doesn’t overpower hitters or strike out many batters. The right-hander went 12-11 with a 3.84 ERA in Double-A this season, but he gets by without great stuff.

Kyle Kaminska came over to the Pirates organization in the team’s mid-season trade that also brought Gaby Sanchez to Pittsburgh. After struggling as a starter early in his career, he’s attempting to make it as a reliever.  The Miami Marlins gave up on him after his struggles this season, but he pitched better after joining the Pirates organization.

The selecton of Tyler Waldron for one of the organization’s limited spots in a strange one, as he offers little in the way of projection or on-field production. Coming off his second straight year with an ERA in the high-4’s, he too offers little in his arsenal on the mound and doesn’t strike out a ton of batters. The Pirates must see something in him they want to see more of in order for them to have selected him for this spot.

At the plate, the Pirates offer a little more for the AFL, but not much.

Matt Curry is a good hitter, but he’s been old for every level at which he’s played and he’s a bad athlete who is relegated to only first base in the field. His numbers continue to be good, and he hit .285/.352/.480 at Double-A this season, but his lack of pedigree and flexibility means he’ll have to continue to prove himself at the plate.

Gift Ngoepe is a true major league shortstop defensively. That’s a rare talent, so he’s going to continue to get opportunities that others won’t, simply because of the scarcity of what he can do. Unfortunately, he can’t hit.  He’s a career .233 hitter in the minor leagues and doesn’t use his plus speed well offensively. The Pirates will continue to give him chances because of his glove, but he looks like a back-up in the majors, if he gets there at all.

Lastly, Adalberto Santos is an advanced college hitter who has feasted on younger, more inexperienced pitching throughout his career, posting a .322 career batting average. He’s had trouble staying on the field, however, leading to the Pirates desire to get him extra at-bats this fall. He offers little in the way of power, so he’ll have to be a .300 hitter to be effective, and despite good speed, he can’t play center field.

Unlike many of the prospects sent to the AFL, the Pirates have sent more of their low to mid-level prospects, all of whom offer something worth watching, but all of whom are flawed in some way.  Still, spots in the AFL are scarce, so each of these players was selected by the Pirates for a reason, and offer something they can build upon towards the future of the Pirates.

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