Davis, Gonzales, Priester among Bucs set for AFL

September 16th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Pirates will send nine players, including three top-100 prospects, to the Arizona Fall League, Major League Baseball announced on Friday.

The group will be headlined by catcher Henry Davis, the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft and MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect, as well as RHP Quinn Priester and INF Nick Gonzales, MLB Pipeline’s No. 47 and No. 97 prospects, respectively.

Along with Davis, Priester and Gonzales, OF Matt Gorski (Pittsburgh’s No. 22 prospect), RHP Tahnaj Thomas (No. 29), C/OF Blake Sabol, LHP Omar Cruz, INF Jacob Gonzalez and RHP Colin Selby will attend as well.

These Pirates will play for the Surprise Saguaros, which will be managed by the Astros’ Mickey Storey and also feature players from the Astros, Royals, Phillies and Rangers.

The inclusion of Davis, Gonzales and Priester does not come as a surprise because all three players missed significant time this season. In late July, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington discussed the possibility of some of the team’s top prospects participating in the Arizona Fall League due to their respective injuries that forced them to miss extended time in-season.

“A couple guys have had interruptions this year,” Cherington said in July. “It doesn’t have to mean that that slows them down. We just have to compensate or make up for it somehow.”

Davis has been limited to 56 games across four Minor League levels this season due to a left wrist ailment. The backstop missed three and a half weeks after being hit in the left wrist by a pitch in mid-May, then missed several more weeks beginning in early July when he was bothered by that same wrist. Davis is still finding his footing since returning to Double-A Altoona on Aug. 30; across his last 48 plate appearances, Davis is slashing .233/.313/.349 with three extra-base hits.

Gonzales has seen his stock take a hit due to injuries and struggles. The middle infielder slashed .247/.366/.377 in April and May before missing all of June and July due to a heel injury. Despite the rough first half, Gonzales’ fortunes have turned a bit in recent weeks. Since returning to Altoona from injury on Aug. 12, Gonzales is slashing .277/.410/.468 with 12 doubles and a 145 wRC+.

“You try to find the positives in everything, and that’s kind of what I did,” Gonzales said in early September. “I took it as a good learning moment. I was able to take a step back and see some of the mistakes I was making and some of the adjustments I needed to make. So, once I was ready to play and once I was healthy, I was able to go smoothly in and start competing again.”

While Davis and Gonzales’ respective injuries occurred in the middle of the season, Priester missed the first two months of the season due to an oblique injury. He hasn’t missed a step since rejoining Altoona’s rotation in mid-June, recording a 2.87 ERA and a 3.23 FIP with 75 strikeouts across 75 1/3 innings for the Curve.

Gorski, who is enjoying a breakout season in the Minors, missed a significant chunk of time as well. The outfielder was initially placed on the 7-day injured list with a quad injury on June 30, then was transferred to the 60-day injured list on July 6. In 78 total games this season with Bradenton, Greensboro and Altoona (only five games were with Bradenton), Gorski has hit 24 home runs and stolen 20 bases with a .958 OPS.