The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Tuesday afternoon and the Pittsburgh Pirates are sending seven players to the league this season. I’ll note that these rosters are tentative at this point. Last year, the Pirates ended up making three changes after the rosters were announced. For the most part though, the players announced on the first day are the ones who end up going to the AFL.
The players listed for the Pirates are pitchers Mitch Keller, Taylor Hearn, Brandon Waddell and JT Brubaker. On the player side, you have shortstop Cole Tucker, second baseman Kevin Kramer and outfielder Logan Hill. More on these players shortly.
The Pirates will play on the Glendale Desert Dogs this season after being affiliated with the Surprise Saguaros last year and Glendale for one season before that. Teams send one person from their field staff, which is usually a coach, but this year the Pirates are sending Bristol trainer Lee Slagle. The AFL season starts on October 10th and runs until November 16th, playing a total of 30 games, with the championship game played two days later. The Fall-Stars game is November 4th and will be televised on MLB Network.
We will have daily coverage throughout the AFL season, as well as live coverage in November.
UPDATE: Just wanted to get the names out there early for everyone, so here’s the rundown on the players going. I mentioned a little while back that sending a trainer as the coach was an interesting choice. If you look at the seven players going this year, all seven spent time on the disabled list and three of them are still currently on the list. The Pirates have sent hitting coach Kevin Riggs recently and then pitching coach Justin Meccage, and the players sent those years matched up well with the coach sent. So sending a trainer along with this group of players makes a lot of sense.
Both Hill and Kramer missed significant time with a broken hand by a pitch. Both of them are currently down at Pirate City rehabbing and neither is expected to return, even if Altoona makes a run into the playoffs. Hearn was shutdown just over a month ago with an oblique injury and at the time, wasn’t expected to make it back to action, although there was a chance. The thinking was that there was no reason to bring him back for a short time, when innings came be made up in the instructional league and the AFL. The league has a rule about injured players (must be healthy for 45 days before the end of the season) but MLB runs the AFL and obviously has no issues bending the rules.
Keller and Tucker are obviously the big names going, but this is a packed group of players. From top to bottom, it’s probably the best group they have sent because every player is a clear top 50 prospect in the system, plus you have the big names at the top. Should make for some very interesting AFL coverage.