Through The Prospect Porthole: Boys Of Fall

11/18/22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Anytime there is ball being played beyond the regular season fans often put extra emphasis on it; especially when there are All-Star and Championship Games incorporated into the schedule. For fans of a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates-who haven’t seen postseason action in their city since Jake Arrieta and the Cubs came to town-the feelings are often magnified.

However, the Arizona Fall League is much different in design and practice. Still, I can see how things can get a little bit misconstrued when top prospects are involved.

Hearing that players like Quinn Priester, Henry Davis and Nick Gonzales would be participating is like a beacon for excitement-or more accurately hope-amongst a starved fanbase. That is until you realize it is more of an extended spring training/instructional environment; utilized by the Pirates New Regime-mostly as a way to get players who were injured a little bit of extra work-then penny doesn’t seem so shiny.

This isn’t about me totally putting down the league, or not enjoying it. It more about tempering expectations concerning any realistic analysis that can be derived from watching film, or studying stats from less than 90 plate appearances for batters and fewer than 20 innings for most pitchers.

Plus remember-once again-that it is an instructional league.

For the 2022 season, the Pirates sent their High-A Hitting Coach Ruben Gotay-the Greensboro Grasshopper’s Hitting Coach to assist as part of the Surprise Saguaros staff. Last year Kieran Mattison-Current Altoona Curve Manager-joined the Pirates Prospects on their journey to Peiora.

Clearly, being involved could mean as much for the coaches as it often does for the players considering Mattison was ultimately promoted to Altoona from the same position in Greensboro following his participation in the Fall League.

Still, I just can’t bring myself to look at the statistics of each Pirates Prospect, and make any great proclamations or predictions.

For instance, in 2021 Nick Gonzales tore up the AZL to the tune of a .380/.483/.549 slash line with 2 homers, 7 total extra base hits and 13 walks to 14 strikeouts in 87 plate appearances. Unfortunately for him this success did not fully transfer over to the start of season in Altoona. Through his first 43 games in Double-A, Gonzales slashed .247/.366/.377 with 4 homers, 12 total extra base hits and a 32.8% K to 13.4% BB rate.

At this point he was sidelined for the next two months with a heel injury; eventually coming back with a vengeance for the final 30 games of the year. Over his last 137 plate appearances, Gonzales batted .295 with an .936 OPS and a 21.9% K to 13.1% BB rate; which is oddly familiar to what took place during his time with Greensboro in 2021.

In his first 43 games for the Grasshoppers he hit .265 with a .786 OPS and a 31.2% K to 8.5% BB rate; while he .344 with a 1.128 OPS and a 23.3% K to 13.3% rate over the final 38.

All in all, there are just too many variables.

Is a pitcher working on a new grip, delivery or simply attempting to find location? Did the batter change his stance or approach? Is a player trying out a new or unfamiliar position? Are all these factors and more shifting from day to day?

So, go ahead and argue about whether or not Henry Davis’ .260 AVG and .875 OPS, or Quinn Priester’s 6.26 ERA and 1.565 WHIP were good enough to have them participate in the Fall Star Game, or that they-along with Gonzales-are going to hit the ground running next year.

This just isn’t how it works.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

6 thoughts on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Boys Of Fall

  1. by your logic those numbers posted in the Arizona fall league are meaningless but teams do use those ZIm sure to decide as some kind of factor if a player who lost part of his season is worth a spot on the 40-man or worth tendering just as teams make choices based on spring training numbers …Yes you get players working on new things but don’t they in spring training as well? the Fall league IS a reason for fans to get excited as well as those who come and play for the teams

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  2. by your logic those numbers posted in the Arizona fall league are meaningless but teams do use those I’m sure to decide as some kind of factor if a player who lost part of his season is worth a spot on the 40-man or worth tendering just as teams make choices based on spring training numbers …Yes you get players working on new things but don’t they in spring training as well? the Fall league IS a reason for fans to get excited as well as those who come and play for the teams

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    1. Most of the decisions made concerning the 40-Man, including Spring Training, are made based on what takes place behind the scenes. Yes there are some tweaks made in Spring Training, however most of the changes take place in the off-season. The team will ask the player to come in ready to display these changes. You can obviously get excited about whatever you want to as a fan; I am just pointing out that this optimism/excitement should be tempered in such a small sample size. This would be the same about disappointment/pessimism.

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      1. I agree but still better to see a player in person even in a small sample size to get your own opinion as well as the ranking and views of others so its just another tool a fan can use esp if they live here in AZ or in Fla during spring training…helpful if you don’t see much written about a player, for example, BlakeSebol or Martin Auer of Miami Marlins it gives limited insight but no reason to go overboard

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      2. Always better to see a player in person, or at least videos of them. Part of this is the simple enjoyment.

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