The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Wednesday morning, one week ahead of Opening Day for the league, which will play a 30-game schedule this season. The Pittsburgh Pirates players will be on the Peoria Javelinas this season. Each club sends seven prospects to the league and six of those players made top 16 of our updated top 30 prospect list back in August. The other player was in a group of 5-6 players considered for the final spot of the top 30.
Here’s the list of players going to the AFL, along with their mid-season ranking:
#4 Nick Gonzales, 2B
#7 Roansy Contreras, RHP
#8 Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP
#13 Michael Burrows, RHP
#14 Ji-Hwan Bae, IF/OF
#16 Miguel Yajure, RHP
Canaan Smith-Njigba, OF
There’s a common theme with all of those players. They were all injured and missed time during the already shortened 2021 minor league season. Contreras (pictured above) and Yajure each got in some big league time, with Contreras throwing three innings, in addition to his 58 innings during the minor league season. Yajure threw a little more in the majors this year, but less in the minors. He also had previous brief big league experience with the 2020 New York Yankees, totaling 22 innings over two seasons. He pitched 58.2 innings total.
Both Mlodzinski and Burrows pitched well for Greensboro when healthy this season, with Burrows posting a 2.20 ERA in 49 innings, racking up 66 strikeouts. Mlodzinski had a 3.93 ERA in 50.1 innings, though he was doing much better before getting injured mid-season. He got a late season appearance with Indianapolis as well.
On the hitting side, Nick Gonzales is the top prospect going to the AFL for the Pirates, though you can make a case for Contreras being right there with him. Gonzales hit .302/.385/.565 in 80 games with Greensboro, helping them to the playoffs. Bae and Smith-Njigba were both at Altoona this year. Bae batted .278/.359/.413 in 83 games, with 20 stolen bases. He mostly played second base, but also took turns in center field later in the year. With Gonzales only playing second base, it seems likely that Bae will see time elsewhere. Gonzales won’t play every game (no one does), and he will be able to DH, but you would assume that he sees the bulk of the second base time for Peoria.
Smith-Njigba got a late promotion to Indianapolis, which helped him make up for some of that lost time. He played a total of 73 games, with much better results in Altoona, where he hit .274/.398/.406 in 66 games.
Three of these players came over from the New York Yankees in the Jameson Taillon deal. Mlodzinski, who doesn’t turn 23 years old until February 19th, is the oldest player in the group of seven players.