Last year the Pirates sent two of their top prospects to the Arizona Fall League. Gerrit Cole was the best prospect in the system, and Robbie Grossman was one of the top ten prospects in the system, and the third best hitting prospect at the time. The combination gave something to look forward to with every AFL game recap. It’s not that the 2012 group doesn’t have interesting prospects, but the group doesn’t have anyone in the Cole/Grossman class.
One of the more exciting players to follow has been Vic Black. The reliever posted a 1.65 ERA in 60 innings in Altoona this year, with an 85:29 K/BB ratio. Black was taken in the compensation round of the 2009 draft and has dealt with injuries the last few years, but finally had a healthy season in 2012 and started to emerge as the potential late inning reliever that he was projected to become when drafted.
He’s starting to get some attention too. Tyler Emerick of MLB.com has a story on Black’s brief time so far in the AFL. In the story, Emerick notes that Black is working on adding a two-seam fastball to his arsenal. The right-hander already throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the upper 90s, and can touch 99. He pairs that with a slider that has become his main strikeout pitch. Black noted in the article that the two-seam fastball will help him when he’s behind in the count. That’s a good thing, since his main issue has been a lack of control at times, putting him behind in the count a little more than you’d like to see from a late inning reliever.
Black has the makeup and the stuff to be a late inning reliever. He’s Rule 5 eligible this off-season, so expect to see him added to the 40-man roster next month. The added time against upper level prospects, and pitching in a league full of top prospects on every team, will help prepare him for the higher levels. I wouldn’t expect him to crack the majors out of Spring Training, just because of those control issues. However, he could arrive at some point in 2013, after spending some time in Triple-A working on his control against a higher talent level.
**Black pitched twice this week. In his first outing he gave up two runs on a hit and three walks, striking out two batters for his only two outs. The next outing was much better. The right-hander gave up one hit in a shutout inning to get his first save in the AFL.
**Kyle Kaminska had a good start this week. The right-hander, who was acquired in the Gaby Sanchez trade, pitched five shutout innings, allowing three hits, no walks, and striking out three. In two starts so far he has given up three earned runs on nine hits in nine innings, with six strikeouts and no walks.
**Brandon Cumpton pitched once, giving up two runs on three hits in 1.2 innings. In the article linked above there is a video by Jonathan Mayo, which notes that Cumpton could start for the Pirates in the majors. I see him more as a back of the rotation starter who could find it hard to crack the rotation with guys like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon starting to arrive in the next few years. I agree that he has what it takes to eventually start in the majors, but with the Pirates I think he’ll likely end up in the bullpen.
**Tyler Waldron pitched twice last week, giving up three runs, one earned, on two hits and three walks. Pitch F/X data was available for one of his appearances.
**Matt Curry went 4-for-18 with a walk and a double last week. He’s dealt with strikeout issues, striking out 11 times in 31 at-bats so far, including seven in the 18 at-bats last week.
**Gift Ngoepe went 2-for-10 with a triple and a walk last week. He started off rough in the strikeout department, striking out three times in three at-bats in his first start. Last week he struck out twice in the ten at-bats.
**Adalberto Santos also went 2-for-10 with a walk. He also stole a base, giving him two on the young season. Santos is hitting for a .211 average, but has a .375 OBP, thanks to five walks. His 5:4 BB/K ratio continues his impressive plate patience, after putting up a 32:39 BB/K ratio in 238 at-bats in Double-A this year.