The Arizona Fall League will play ball today as a showcase league of younger prospects, a testing grounds for fringe guys, and a chance to get in some innings for players that missed time during the season. The Pirates will stock the AFL's Scottsdale Scorpions with seven players that fall somewhere in those three categories.
RHP Victor Black, 24, was a 2009 sandwich round pick and is definitely in the prospect category. As the closer for Altoona, he picked up 13 saves with an 1.65 ERA. Black appeared in 51 outings, covering 60 innings with 85 K and a 1.150 WHIP. He's a power guy, with a mid-nineties heater and slider, the Hanny combo. He'll be added to the 40-man roster this year.
IF Gift Ngoepe, 22, has been considered by many fans as kind of a novelty as the first black South African signed to a MLB contract, like the Indian Million Dollar Arms, but is still young and progressed quite nicely through the system. He's shown speed and is a great glove guy, but his bat is weak - he hit .just 232 at Bradenton, although the .330 OBP does indicate a decent eye. Ngoepe is basically a lower-level Pedro Ciriaco. The Bucs are giving him a little longer look; a guy that can run and field could find a spot on someone's roster, and this is the year Pittsburgh has to protect him on the 40-man or expose him to the Rule V draft.
RHP Kyle Kaminska, 23, came from the Marlins as part of the Gaby Sanchez trade. He wasn't having a very good year in the Fish system, but pitched pretty well in Bradenton and Altoona, though with a quite tiny, 28-inning sample size. So the Bucs are just padding the notebook on KK, who has only been in the organization for a few weeks and is a soft tosser. He got through Rule V last year for Florida, and is likely to slip through it again this year.
RHP Brandon Cumpton, 23, started 27 games for Altoona and posted a 12-11/ 3.84 line with some very so-so peripherals - 5.2 K and 2.7 BB per nine innings with a 1.280 WHIP. They don't have to protect him this year, but are still deciding on his future, so he's another guy that the FO just wants to collect more information on. Cumpton is a low K guy, but he does get a lot of groundouts, which makes him a possible back-end starter. He can also hit the mid-nineties in short bursts, which makes him potential bullpen material, so he's in evaluation mode.
RHP Tyler Waldron, 23, really hasn't shown a whole lot in his three years in the organization, although the Pirates must think there's something to tease out of him.. He's 23-24 with a 4.62 ERA in his minor league career, with just 5.6 K per nine and a 1.330 WHIP. Waldron was drafted as a project, and has proven so far to be one.
1B Matt Curry, 24, hit .285/.352 /.480 at Altoona, adding 11 HR, 34 doubles and 76 RBI. He missed about two months with a hammy injury, so he's just getting a little more work in. The lefty will probably push Matt Hague into the Steve Pearce career path next season as he's due to land at Indy for 2013.
OF/DH Adalberto Santos, 25, is a sort of Brock Holt type, but in the outfield. He's got a .322 career BA in the minors, with a line of .340/.425/.433 at Altoona last year, but with little power. Santos missed a couple of months with a knee injury so he'll be getting a few extra swings and the Bucs will get an extra chance to determine if he's a potential bench stick.
So the Bucs are sending two prospects (Black and Ngoepe), three take-a-look guys (Kaminska, Cumpton, Waldron) and a pair of players who had short seasons due to injury (Curry, Santos) to Scottsdale. It's actually kind of a down year for prospects suiting up in the fall.
They had a much more prospect-filled AFL roster last year, with OF Robbie Grossman, IF Brock Holt, 2B Jarek Cunningham, LHP Nathan Baker, RHP Mike Colla, RHP Phillip
Irwin and RHP Gerrit Cole. Holt was in Pittsburgh at the end of the season, Cole and Irwin are both top gun arms, Grossman was used as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal and Cunningham and Baker are still prospects to varying degrees. It'd be nice if this year's AFL class developed as well.