Arizona Fall League Preview: Pirates Have a Talented Group, Though One Prospect Drops Out

The Arizona Fall League begins later today with seven prospects from the Pittsburgh Pirates taking part in the league. The Pirates will be on the Peoria Javelinas this year, and this group is loaded with top prospects, though there’s a small change from the original announced group. When the rosters were posted on the AFL site on Monday, pitcher Miguel Yajure was off of the list and Greensboro reliever Bear Bellomy has been named as his replacement. Here’s a preview of what to expect from the league.

We will have daily recaps from every game as long as at least one player from the Pirates appears in the game. In all of the years of doing AFL recaps, I can only remember one game that didn’t have at least one Pirates player. This league rarely gets any rain outs. There have been games canceled due to sand storms, but rarely rain. I’ll note that if a game gets canceled, they never make up any games. That being said, it’s a 30-game schedule, and they usually get in all 30 games. There will also be a Fall-Stars game televised on November 13th (it’s an All-Star game, usually picked based on prospect status not results), and a one-game championship game on November 20th, which will also be televised on MLB Network. Our daily recaps will be posted on Pirates Prospects shortly after each game ends. We posted the preview here today because more people check this site, but from now on, head to Pirates Prospects for the recaps and any AFL news.

One important note when looking at the schedule in the AFL is the time. The league starts three hours behind Eastern Time, and ends two hours behind due to daylight savings time and Arizona not being one of the places that participates in that yearly ritual. So the 12:35 PM listed game time will be 3:35 PM/2:35 PM for you fine folks in Pittsburgh (a majority of our audience obviously) and the 6:35 PM night games will start at 9:35 PM/8:35 PM. If you plan to follow along, they have GameDay for the games with pitch-by-pitch updates. I don’t know if they have updated the stadiums there since the 2019 season (there was no AFL last year), but in the past there has only been one stadium that offered pitch data and it’s not Peoria, it’s Salt River. Hopefully that has changed, but if not, the Pirates only play three games there. Good news though, today is one of those games, so hopefully 1-2 Pirates pitchers see action.

The Pirates are sending pitchers Roansy Contreras, Carmen Mlodzinski and Michael Burrows, three of the top pitching prospects in the entire system. You can read more on them in the link above. Bear Bellomy is a 24-year-old, 28th round pick from 2019. He pitched in Greensboro this year, posting a 4.57 ERA in 67 innings, with an 85:17 SO/BB ratio, a .230 BAA and a 1.13 WHIP. He finished the season in Indianapolis when they were short on pitchers, but that amounted to one scoreless inning. We have mentioned home/road splits favoring hitters for Greensboro and Bellomy was a major victim the other way. He had a 6.49 ERA at home and a 2.51 road ERA, with a .172 BAA and an 0.74 WHIP. I should note that I saw Yajure mentioned in an article from his home country (Venezuela) as a possibility to play winter ball, as long as he gets permission from his team. So it’s possible that we still cover him this off-season, just not in the AFL. He was removed from this league due to a minor back issue that they didn’t want to push so soon.

The starters will probably start six games each and usually they are capped at 4 IP/50 pitches, though I don’t know if Burrows, Contreras and Mlodzinski will all be starters in the AFL. They all missed chucks of time during the season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them put in about 20 innings.

The Pirates are sending three batters, Ji-hwan Bae, Nick Gonzales and Canaan Smith-Njigba. Bae and Gonzales are both second basemen, so something has to give there and my guess would be Bae seeing more outfield time. He started playing center field this season, and the AFL would be a great place to get more time. That being said, no one plays all 30 games and there’s a DH, so there will be time available at second base, even if Gonzales is the primary starter.

Every team sends coaches there, and the Pirates will be represented by Kieran Mattison, manager of Greensboro this year. They are also sending Tyler Brooks, an athletic trainer for Altoona this year.

I think that’s everything I wanted to mention, but if I think of something else I’ll add it to the article. The game recap will be on P2 around 6:30ish today.