In the Arizona Fall League on Thursday afternoon, it was a quiet game for Pittsburgh Pirates players. Thomas Harlan started the game, but all three position players were on the bench. Scottsdale lost 7-3 to Surprise to drop to 5-4 on the season.
Harlan had some issues behind him in the field, getting two ground balls to shortstop that resulted in the first two batters reaching base. He got a ground out from the third batter as well, which resulted in an out at second and runners on the corners. Harlan threw a wild pitch on the first pitch to the next hitter, which brought home the first run. The runner from first moved to second on the play, then stole third base and came home after the throw to third got away, the third error of the inning. With the score 2-0, Harlan got his fourth ground ball, this one right back to him for the second out. On his 23rd pitch of the inning, Harlan got his fifth ground out to end the frame.
The second was a nice easy inning for Harlan, despite giving up a lead-off single. That runner was quickly erased on a double play and then next batter grounded out to third base for the final out. Harlan used just nine pitches in the inning. The third inning was quick too, setting down the side in order on eight pitches. He struck out the final hitter on a foul tip held on to by the catcher. That was the end of his outing. He gave up just one hit, no walks and both runs were unearned, though his own wild pitch contributed to the damage. He threw a total of 40 pitches, going almost exclusively with fastballs.
Harlan pitched well on Thursday and put up some good performances in AA this year, but having PITCHf/x available for this game gives you a better understanding of why he isn’t a top prospect. His fastball sat 86-87 MPH, topping out at 88, but there were also some 84-85 MPH pitches mixed in. That is in line with what we have seen in person each of the last two seasons. While he has good control most of the time, to succeed at the upper levels with those speeds, you need pinpoint control all game and some above average secondary stuff. In the lower levels, left-handed pitchers can get away with lower speeds and we have seen many examples of that in the past. They almost always top out at AA, but they looked great in the lower levels.
If you missed it from yesterday, Angel Sanchez was just added to the Scottsdale roster and went out and struck out three batters in his only inning of work. The 24-year-old righty was picked up off waivers in late July and had a 4.32 ERA in 33.1 innings for Altoona.
Scottsdale will be home for a night game Friday against Glendale.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.