The Pittsburgh Pirates are sending five players to the Arizona Fall League, led by top infield prospect Alen Hanson. The players are:
Zack Thornton, RHP – Thornton was acquired for Chris Resop, and has spent time with Indianapolis, Altoona, and Bradenton. In his time with Altoona he has a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings, with an 11.3 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9 ratio. Those are some dominant numbers, and he has the chance to be a sleeper middle reliever in the majors one day. He’s 25 years old, so that makes you look at his numbers with a grain of salt.
Tyler Waldron, RHP – The Pirates have liked Waldron as a starting pitcher, but I see him more as a reliever if he ever makes the majors. This is the second time Waldron has gone to the AFL, and he will probably throw in relief again. He’s a sinkerball pitcher who doesn’t post dominant strikeout numbers, and has had some control issues, limiting his upside.
Alen Hanson, SS – He’s the top prospect of this group, and I’m surprised to see him on the list since I didn’t think he would be eligible. Normally players who can play fall ball in another country don’t go to the AFL. It’s possible that Hanson could play in the AFL then go to the Dominican and play. He will definitely be a guy to watch.
Gift Ngoepe, SS – This is the second time Ngoepe has gone to the AFL. He missed a lot of time this year with a family issue. He was also over-matched in Altoona, and has posted too many strikeouts in Bradenton after his return. He’s the best defensive infielder in the system, and has a ton of speed, but he’s going to need to improve his plate patience against upper level pitching to make it any higher than this.
Alex Dickerson, RF – Dickerson started slow this year, but picked up the pace with his hitting in June and July. He has slumped so far in August, which is similar to what happened with him last year (slump the first two months, tear it up in June and July, slump the final month). He’s one of the best long-term first base options for the Pirates, which isn’t saying much because they don’t have a lot of good options there. That doesn’t guarantee Dickerson will be the first baseman of the future, but it definitely helps that he’s going to get more experience against upper level guys.
There will probably be more players added to this list in the coming months, particularly another pitcher or two. Usually teams can send up to seven players, with four pitchers.