The Arizona Fall League is a great opportunity for prospects to refine their skills and get noticed by their big league clubs. As we reported last week, the Pirates have seven prospects playing in the AFL. Here's an update on how they are doing so far.
Oniel Cruz is the top Pirate prospect playing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. I have him as the number two prospect in the system (assuming Keller is a major leaguer now). However, he has not looked the part through eight games in Arizona.
I wrote last week that Cruz had gotten off to a slow start, and had hoped he would turn it around. He's only played one game since then and went 2-2 with a run scored, but is still only batting .179.
Jared Oliva, on the other hand, has been fantastic. We reported last week that he was playing like one of the best players in the AFL, and all he's done since then is go 6-10 with 3 XBHs. He also walked four times. Oliva is proving to be one of the toughest outs in Arizona - which is a bit surprising. Oliva batted .277 in Altoona this year and had issues with strikeouts.
Nick Mears, a relief pitcher in AA Altoona, has been another bright spot. He's pitched 4.2 innings in relief and has allowed only 1 hit, 2 walks, 0 runs, and has struck out 5. Mears, who turns 23 today, has quietly been having a year that is positioning him as a promising reliever in the Pirates system. If he can continue a strong fall, we might be able to start looking at him as part of the solution to the Pirates struggling bullpen.
Blake Cederlind is another Pirate reliever in Arizona. He was called up to AAA Indianapolis at the end of the season after looking strong in Altoona for much of the year. Cederlind has had some issues with control in his career and those issues have shown up in Arizona. He's pitched 4 innings and has walked 5. His lone run given up came on a solo home-run in his first appearance. He hasn't walked anyone in his last two appearances, so that's a big plus. His control is something I will be watching as the fall continues.
Beau Sulser has been disappointing so far in Arizona. He had a really good year in Altoona - posting a 2.72 ERA. Like Cederlind, walks were an issue with Sulser in Altoona, but they're the least of his worries (but still one) in Arizona. Sulser has allowed 10 hits, 7 walks, and 5 runs in 7 innings for the Javelinas. He's going to need a rebound as he is yet to have a clean outting in the fall league.
Jason Delay has only 2 hits in 21 at bats for the Javelinas. We shouldn't expect too much from Delay's bat as it hasn't really shown up throughout his minor league career, but his performance so far in Arizona has been below his standards.
Cody Ponce has looked stronger so far in Arizona than he did in his four starts in Indianapolis. Ponce started twice so far in the AFL. He's allowed 11 baserunners (8 hits, 3 walks), 2 earned runs, and struck out 9 in 9 innings of work. It's good to see Ponce playing in Arizona. We haven't seen much from Ponce as he recently joined the Pirates via a trade with the Brewers. Jordan Lyles was sent to Milwaukee in exchange for Ponce. He's an intriguing prospect, but his stuff hasn't really come together yet for him. Hopefully his time in Arizona can help get the 25 year old on the right track to the big leagues.
All-in-all, I'm pleasantly surprised with the output of the Pirate contingency - particularly Jared Oliva. Oliva, Mears, and Ponce. Cruz has obviously started slow, but I expect him to turn this around before the league ends in November.
We will continue to update you on how these seven Pirate prospects progress throughout the fall.
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