ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates will send four of their top prospects, including former first-round picks Cole Tucker and Will Craig, to the Arizona Fall League this offseason.The Arizona Fall League released its preliminary rosters on Thursday, and the Pirates are well represented on a star-studded Surprise Saguaros squad that
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates will send four of their top prospects, including former first-round picks Cole Tucker and Will Craig, to the Arizona Fall League this offseason.
The Arizona Fall League released its preliminary rosters on Thursday, and the Pirates are well represented on a star-studded Surprise Saguaros squad that includes Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the No. 1 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
Pittsburgh is sending Tucker, Craig, outfielder Bryan Reynolds, catcher Arden Pabst, left-hander Blake Weiman and right-handers Dario Agrazal, Geoff Hartlieb and Matt Eckelman. Tucker (No. 5), Reynolds (No. 8), Craig (No. 16) and Agrazal (No. 26) are all on MLB Pipeline's list of the Pirates' top prospects. All eight AFL-bound prospects are currently playing for Double-A Altoona.
Tucker, a switch-hitting shortstop, is hitting .256/.332/.350 with five homers, six triples and 33 steals this season. The 24th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Tucker was invited to big league Spring Training this year and should return next season before advancing to Triple-A.
The Fall League, a destination for top prospects looking to take the next step and face high-level competition, will also be a homecoming for Tucker. The 22-year-old is a native of Phoenix who graduated high school from Mountain Pointe High School, which is about an hour away from Surprise Stadium.
The Pirates selected Craig 22nd overall out of Wake Forest University in the 2016 Draft. During his first two professional seasons, Craig hit for average and got on base, but lacked power. He's changed the narrative this year in Double-A, batting .245/.316/.448 with 20 home runs, 28 doubles and 98 RBIs in 128 games. Craig, 23, has spent the past two years at first base after being drafted as a third baseman.
Pittsburgh picked up Reynolds, a switch-hitting outfielder, along with Kyle Crick in the trade that sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco. The 23-year-old, a second-round pick in 2016, has made a smooth transition into the Pirates' system, as he entered Thursday batting .303/.382/.442 with seven homers, 40 walks and only 68 strikeouts in 83 games.
Reynolds and Agrazal will get a chance to make up for lost time in the Fall League. Reynolds missed more than a month due to a fractured hamate, while Agrazal was sidelined for two months with a strained right shoulder. Agrazal, who was in big league camp this year after being added to the Bucs' 40-man roster last offseason, has gone 5-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts.
Pabst, 23, has hit .271/.303/.484 with 10 homers in 63 games this season. The 2016 12th-round pick bounced from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis and back before arriving in Altoona last month.
Hartlieb, a 29th-round pick in 2016, owns a 3.42 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings over 44 relief appearances for Altoona. Eckelman, a 21st-rounder in 2016, put together a 1.99 ERA in 38 appearances for Bradenton and Altoona. Weiman was an eighth-round Draft pick just last year, but he has jumped from Class A West Virginia to Double-A this season while posting a 2.57 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 73 strikeouts and only eight walks in 63 innings.
Around the horn
• Left fielder Corey Dickerson was not in the starting lineup for Thursday's series finale at Busch Stadium. After an outstanding July, Dickerson has hit just .212/.225/.235 in 23 games since returning from a strained hamstring.
• Adam Frazier took Dickerson's place in left field on Thursday, and Kevin Newman made his fourth start at second base. Josh Harrison has started only one of Pittsburgh's last nine games.
• Gregory Polanco has driven in 72 runs as a right fielder this season, the most by a Pirate at that position since Jose Guillen had 83 RBIs in 1998.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.