Pittsburgh Pirates Arizona Fall League Recap

The Mesa Solar Sox finished their Arizona Fall League season yesterday.

Robbie Grossman: .375/.472/.625, 7 HR, 104 at-bats

Following his breakout season in the Florida State League in 2011, Grossman was impressive in the AFL.  He hit seven homers in 104 at-bats, after hitting 13 in 490 during the 2011 regular season.  Grossman broke his hamate bone at the end of the season, but still finished near the top of the leader boards in almost every offensive category.

Grossman finished third in hits (39), second in home runs (7), fourth in total bases (65), tied for first in walks (20), eighth in stolen bases (6), fourth in batting average (.375), third in ob-base percentage (.472), seventh in slugging (.625), and fourth in OPS (1.097).  That’s pretty impressive considering he missed the final two weeks of the season.  The AFL is a hitters league, but Grossman’s numbers seemed to extend beyond a product of the league’s environment.

Jarek Cunningham: .222/.298/.389, 3 HR, 90 at-bats

Cunningham’s numbers weren’t impressive, down from his numbers in the Florida State League in 2011.  He did display some power, with a .167 ISO, although that was down from his .258 ISO during the regular season.  Cunningham did show some strides in his plate patience.  He posted a 10.8% walk rate, which was a huge jump from his 4.9% walk rate in 2011, and also higher than his career 5.7% walk rate.  His strikeout rate was also down.  He posted a 15.6% rate in the AFL this year, after striking out in 26.5% of his at-bats during the 2011 season.  Those are both good signs, although it’s still a small sample size compared to his career trends.  He’s going to need those trends to continue in his jump to AA next year.

Brock Holt: .240/.406/.240, 0 HR, 25 at-bats

Holt missed the first few weeks of the AFL season with a hamstring injury.  Once he arrived in Arizona he was competing with teammate Jarek Cunningham for playing time at second base, playing one or two games a week.  Holt drew a lot of walks in that time span, driving his on-base percentage over the .400 mark.  Holt had relatively good numbers at the AA level this year, so his AFL numbers aren’t as important as someone like Cunningham, who only played as high as high-A.  Eventually he needs to start hitting for a bit of power in order to emerge as a starting option.

Cole made a nice debut in the AFL.

Gerrit Cole: 15.0 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 5 ER 4 BB, 16 K, 1 HR

The most important thing for Cole during the AFL season was the experience and the innings.  He pitched a few innings during the Florida Instructional Leagues, but prior to that his last work came in early June at the end of UCLA’s season.  The added innings will hopefully make the transition to the pros easier next season, and will remove any rust.  As for his performance, the game that stood out was his poor outing in the AFL Rising Stars game, which was televised.  Cole gave up five runs, working less than an inning.

His regular season work was a different story.  Cole finished 10th in ERA (3.00), fourth in WHIP (0.93), and put up good K/BB ratios.  He was constantly working in the upper 90s with his fastball, hitting triple digits almost every start.  He also displayed some good secondary pitches, including a nice slider, a cut fastball, and a good changeup.  His longest outing was 3.2 innings, as he was on a strict pitch count.  Cole is a guy who inexplicably sees a boost to his stuff as the game goes on, although we didn’t get to see much of that due to his pitch count.  That will be something to look forward to next year.

Michael Colla: 15.0 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 10 BB, 10 K, 2 HR

Colla’s season was a bit of a surprise, considering his results at the AA level during the 2011 season.  He threw 133.2 innings in Altoona this year, with a 3.70 ERA and a 109:39 K/BB ratio.  In his time as a reliever in the AFL he saw some control issues, walking ten in 15 innings.  He didn’t issue a walk in four of his last five appearances, though the remaining appearance saw him allow three walks.  He’s never really had control issues throughout his career.  I think the .189 BAA and the ten strikeouts in 15 innings show that he was a bit unlucky.  I’d weight his 2011 season heavier than his AFL season.

Nathan Baker: 15.1 IP, 24 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 12 BB, 16 K, 1 HR

Baker had similar results as Colla, with a high walk rate and some struggles after a pretty successful season as a starter in high-A during the 2011 regular season.  However, Baker also experienced control issues in high-A, and his .358 BAA in the AFL this season suggested he might have a bit to work on.  A lot of his control issues came with the fastball, and he had more success with his slider, which he didn’t use nearly as much as his fastball.  This was a good taste of upper level hitting, but he’s going to have to work on that fastball command if he wants to avoid similar results in 2012.

Phil Irwin: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 HR

Irwin only made one appearance before leaving Arizona with a forearm injury.  He was replaced on the roster by Jeff Inman.

Jeff Inman: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR

Inman displayed some nice stuff in the AFL, working in the 94-96 MPH range with his fastball, and getting a ton of ground ball outs, with a 2.33 GO/AO ratio.  His overall numbers were poor, although that’s mostly due to two bad outings, including one outing which featured a walk off three run homer given up to Bryce Harper.  Inman has missed a lot of time with injuries the last three years, so any extra work is good.  It’s also a good sign that his velocity was up, and that’s not new to the AFL.  I received a report that he touched 98 MPH in the instructional leagues this off-season.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Nice summaries. Looks like Cole and Grossman and not much else.

Just wondering how super punk Bryce Harper fared. There’s a guy it’s not hard to root against! Shame he’s with the Nats and not the Cubs.


Just read something yesterday where Davey Johnson said he’s a big fan of Harper’s “swagger” and the author noted that Johnson has always had a saint and sinner player on each of his teams.  He wants there to be trouble and dislike for his teams.

It was also said that Harper is a 50-50 shot to break camp with WAS if he has a strong spring training. 

All that said….he’s going to get hit in the majors if he continues to punk out.

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