For the first time in 20 years, Pittsburgh Pirates fans are enjoying playoff baseball in October. The organization is also sending some players to the Arizona Fall League this month who could end up helping them return to the postseason in 2014.
The Pirates team up with prospects from the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and New York Yankees to form the Scottsdale Scorpions. The AFL rosters are still preliminary, so it’s possible things could get shaken up a bit before play opens Oct. 8. Here’s a snapshot of the Pirates prospects headed to the desert this fall.
Jameson Taillon – One of the top pitching prospects in the game, Taillon’s repertoire is much more impressive than his numbers would indicate. It’s not that he’s struggled, it’s just that he hasn’t been as dominant as you’d like to see from a top prospect. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 draft, Taillon had a 3.73 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He already logged 153 1/3 innings this season (including the playoffs).
Alen Hanson – The 20-year-old worked his way up to Double-A this season. As could be expected, his numbers dropped after the promotion, but it’s not like he was totally helpless. His .255/.299/.380 batting line over 35 games isn’t too shabby, considering his age. The Dominican shortstop has been a .292 hitter over four minor league seasons.
Alex Dickerson – He moved from first base to right field this season, but with the Pirates’ outfield looking crowded it wouldn’t be a shock to see him play both positions in the AFL. The 6-foot-3, 235 pound left-hander spent the entire regular season in Double-A, hitting .288/.337/.494 with 17 home runs. That promotion earned him a spot on the Triple-A Indianapolis playoff roster. He’ll likely start there in 2014.
Gift Ngoepe – The first South African to sign a professional baseball contract, this will be Ngoepe’s second time around in the AFL. He opened the 2013 season in Double-A, but was sent down after hitting just .177 over 72 games.
Zack Thornton – A right-handed reliever, Thornton averaged 10.8 K/9 and just 1.4 BB/9 over 75 ⅓ innings this season. Over his four minor league seasons, the former 23rd round pick has a 4.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 25-year-old has always been old for his league, so the AFL should be a real test.
Matt Benedict – The 24-year-old former 30th round pick has yet to reach Double-A. He moved from the rotation to the bullpen during this season, and will be working on that transition in the AFL.
Tyler Waldron – A fifth rounder in 2010, Waldron is looking to log some more innings after missing most of the season. He had a 5.57 ERA over 13 games, three of them starts.