The Pittsburgh Pirates sent seven players to the Arizona Fall League this year — three position players and four pitchers. Kyle Kaminska emerged as the star of the group among pitchers, while Adalberto Santos was the best among the hitters. There were no top prospects among the group this year, after the Pirates sent Gerrit Cole and Robbie Grossman to the AFL last year. Among the group that was selected to play last year, both Phil Irwin and Brock Holt had strong seasons this year. For Holt, it led to his first shot at the majors, while Phil Irwin was one of the top three choices for the Pirates Prospects Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Adalberto Santos - Santos finished just shy of the .300 mark, with a .299/.413/.455 line in 77 at-bats. His OPS ranked him 18th in the league. He stole nine bases in ten attempts, just two behind the league leader in steals. Santos showed good patience, drawing 14 walks and he struck out 14 times. Those 14 walks were three behind the league leader, while 46 players struck out more times than he did. While the AFL is usually more of a hitter friendly league, it also comes with huge strikeout totals. Scottsdale is also one of the lower offensive ballparks, which led to huge home/road splits for Santos — a .994 OPS on the road, and a .747 at home.
Matt Curry - Just like with Santos, Curry struggled at home in the AFL. His OPS difference wasn’t that big due to a high walk total at home, but he hit just .212 with no homers in Scottsdale, while batting .283 with a .710 OPS on the road. His final stats looked better due to a strong finish(.324/.477/.441 in his last ten games) but overall they were disappointing for a first baseman that batted fourth in the lineup. Curry also struggled against lefties, going 4-for-23 with four singles and nine strikeouts.
Gift Ngoepe - Ngoepe finished strong just like Curry, getting his numbers to a respectable level, especially for a guy who hit .232 with a .668 OPS in High-A ball this year. Ngoepe didn’t see a huge amount of playing time — just 16 games — and batted at the bottom of the order, receiving only 46 at-bats. His .261/.370/.413 line in those at-bats was impressive when you consider that he started the season 2-for-15 in the first two weeks. He went 10-for-23 in his last six games and his home/road numbers had a huge split — .497 OPS vs 1.048. Gift had some issues with his strikeouts, going down nearly every three at-bats (15 times).
Kyle Kaminska - He was the only pitcher that started among the group of four Pirates and Kaminska made a name for himself. Although his numbers were helped by ten shutout innings at home, he made four of his six starts on the road and still posted a strong 2.50 ERA away from Scottsdale in 18 innings of work. Kaminska had a terrific 1.91 GO/AO ratio, to go with a 0.93 WHIP and a .247 BAA. His overall 1.61 ERA was best in the league among pitchers with more than 16 innings pitched. He also issued just four walks, while recording 21 strikeouts.
Vic Black – Coming off a strong season at AA this year, Black looked to continue his success in the AFL, but the results weren’t there. He got hit hard in his 12 appearances and showed control issues. In 10.2 innings, he allowed 17 hits and walked 11 batters. His ERA finished at 11.81, the worst ERA in the league among the 119 pitchers in the AFL that made more than three appearances. Black had equal amounts of trouble both at home and on the road, and against lefties and righties. He was working on a new two-seam fastball while in the AFL, which could have contributed to some of his issues, although control has been a problem for Black even before the new pitch was added.
Tyler Waldron - Waldron was a starter during the regular season, but pitched strictly out of the bullpen in the AFL. That seemed to be a difficult adjustment for Nate Baker last year, when he had control issues in the AFL that seemed to carry over into the start of the 2012 season. Waldron however, showed improvements over his regular season, one in which he allowed more hits than any other Pirates minor league pitcher. In ten outings in the AFL, he threw 14.1 innings, giving up just eight hits, for a .167 BAA. Waldron, who posted a 3.14 ERA, walked six, struck out 11 and had a 1.07 GO/AO ratio, a slight dip from his 1.40 mark he posted during the season.
Brandon Cumpton - Just like Waldron, Cumpton went from a starter all season, into a relief role in the AFL. He made 11 appearances, throwing a total of 14 innings. Cumpton bucked the trend of the Scottsdale ballpark by not allowing a single run on the road. His 6:7 K/BB ratio definitely wasn’t a highlight of his AFL time, but he continued to be a strong groundball pitcher, posting a 2.88 GO/AO ratio, after a 2.04 mark during the regular season. Cumpton allowed just one run in his last eight appearances, spanning 11 IP.
Pitch F/X data was available in two parks, and all four pitchers threw at one point in the season in one of those parks. Here are the numbers for each player.
Fastball – 87-91, 89.35 average.
Changeup – 83-85, 83.89 average.
Slider – 81-84, 82.71 average.
Curveball – 80 (1 pitch recorded).
Fastball – 92-98, 95.97 average. Black’s two-seam was generally in the 92-95 range, while his four seam was in the 95-98 range.
Slider – 82-85, 83.57 average.
Fastball – 90-93, 91.77 average.
Slider – 83-86, 84.29 average.
Changeup – 82-85, 83.67 average.
Fastball – 87-90, 88.82 average.
Changeup – 82-84, 83 average.
Curveball – 76-78, 77 average.