Q&A: Pirates prospect discusses Fall League, Skenes and the ABS system

October 26th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When the Pirates first acquired from the Mariners in July 2021 as part of the return package for left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson, the backstop reported to Double-A Altoona.

That level is where Bins wound up spending most of his in-game action in 2023 after a meniscus injury limited him to just 31 contests. The injury, combined with the potential the Bucs see in the former Fresno State catcher, made him an ideal candidate for packing up his gear and heading to Arizona for the Fall League, where he joined fellow organization mates as part of the Salt River Rafters.

Bins caught 2023 No. 1 overall pick Paul Skenes (MLB Pipeline's No. 3 overall prospect) in August, then swatted one of the most beneficial homers of his career earlier this month with Salt River, all while he navigates the automated ball-strike (ABS) system.

We caught up with Bins to discuss all of this and more.

(The below questions and answers have been edited for clarity.)

[Salt River manager] Javier [Colina] was saying how the first guy to go deep, he's getting a steak dinner, right? How did this start? Where did it all come from?

I think it just started because we went the first week without a homer. He said in the group chat after he posted the lineup, he said, "First guy to hit a homer [tonight], he gets a steak dinner."

And you were the first guy to homer. Did you get your steak dinner?

I haven't got it yet. My fiancé was in town the first couple of weeks, so I couldn't just leave her for a steak dinner. But I'll find the right time to get it.

The young talent that’s been coming up through the Pirates system and going up to the big leagues this year has been considerable. How exciting is that just to be working with a lot of those guys on a daily basis?

It's cool. I mean, it just shows that the Pirates are on the right track and they've really changed the development side of things and it's showing.

One of the guys you got to catch toward the end of the year a couple of times was Paul Skenes. What was that experience like? What's his stuff look like from behind the plate?

He's got big league stuff and I'm sure everybody knew that going into the Draft, that's why he was the first overall pick. His demeanor on the mound and his knowledge of the game being what it is is really impressive.

Something that's receiving further testing in the Fall League is the ABS system. As a catcher, how do you personally think that helps the game?

I think it kind of helps the game, for sure, because there's plenty of times where I feel like I've caught a ball really well and it's been a strike and the umpire just doesn't call it. … But I think it's really good for the game. And still, if a team loses all their challenges, and you still have to almost trick the strategy to it.

How do you feel about the element that it’s only you, the batter or the pitcher who can initiate a challenge?

I do like that element of it. Would you rather [have players] turn to the dugout? No, if that was the case, then everybody would get every challenge, right? So I think that's the part that is really good – in the battle, we have to figure out right then and there if we want to challenge.

I've heard from catchers before how they'd rather throw somebody out to end the game than hit a walk-off home run themselves. Where do you fall on that? Which would you rather accomplish?

I think they're both cool, of course, but I mean, to throw a guy out to end the game in a big situation – to me, I take more pride in catching and so I think that's cooler to do than hitting a home run. Obviously in a one-run ball game, that's the tying run and I throw that guy out? That's the same feeling as hitting a homer, I think.

What's been the quirkiest experience that you've had so far in the Fall League?

We had karaoke on the bus coming home from the tripleheader in Goodyear after our win. That was a pretty fun bonding moment.

Fresno State recently announced that they're going to retire Aaron Judge’s number. How big of an impact has Fresno had on your baseball journey up to this point?

I can't say enough about my head coach, Mike Batesole, they're retiring his number as well. He kind of molded me into the player I am today, and looking back at all the things that he taught me, it's still relevant in my career now. So I can't thank that program and the coaching staff enough for where I am today.