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Pirates sending eight players to Arizona Fall League

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MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Fall League has announced its 2018 rosters and the Pirates will send eight players to the Surprise Saguaros. This will be in addition to Altoona’s pitching coach, Bryan Hickerson. The eight are:

Dario Agrazal, RHP
Matt Eckelman, RHP
Geoff Hartlieb, RHP
Blake Weiman, LHP
Arden Pabst, C
Will Craig, 1B
Cole Tucker, SS
Bryan Reynolds, OF

The only one of the group who’s on the 40-man roster, Agrazal opened the season in the Altoona rotation, but missed two months with a shoulder strain. He returned to the Curve in early August. On the season he’s gone 5-5, 3.05 with a 1.09 WHIP and very low walk and K rates. Agrazal reaches the mid-90s and throws strikes, but lacks an out pitch.

The other three pitchers are relievers. Eckelman started the season at Bradenton and got a mid-season promotion. He’s also more of a finesse guy, with a low-90s fastball and no big out pitch. He had a 2.28 ERA for Bradenton, with an uncharacteristically high K/9 of 10.3. With the Curve, he has an ERA of 1.66 ERA, but his xFIP is 4.86. His walk (5.4 per nine) and K rates (6.2) haven’t been good in AA.

Hartlieb has been with Altoona all year, serving sometimes as a closer and getting inconsistent results. He didn’t have a lot of experience as a pitcher and the Pirates have promoted him quickly. He gets into the upper-90s and has reached triple digits. He has an ERA of 3.42, WHIP of 1.39 and K/9 of 8.9.

Weiman was drafted in the eighth round last year. He’d probably be a starter, but he’s had stamina issues that limit him to the bullpen. He opened the season at West Virginia, got a mid-season promotion, and was moved up to Altoona just a couple days ago when two Curve pitchers got suspended. As an experienced college pitcher, Weiman had an easy time with the Power, posting a 1.29 ERA and a K rate of 11.3. He got off to a bad start at Bradenton, with an 8.64 ERA in July, but has an 0.64 ERA in August.

Pabst opened the season sharing the catching duties at Bradenton with Jason Delay. He came into the season as a glove-first type, but surprisingly posted an .832 OPS with good power in 46 games for the Marauders. Since a mid-season promotion, he’s gotten into only 16 games with Altoona, as the Curve also have Jin-De Jhang and Christian Kelley. The AFL will be a chance to get him some more playing time.

Craig, as we all know, was the Pirates’ first round pick in the 2016 draft. He seems to have sacrificed contact for power this year. He’s currently batting 245/316/448, and leads the farm system with 20 home runs and the entire organization with 98 RBIs. He was recently named the top defensive first baseman in the Eastern League.

Tucker was scheduled to go to the AFL last year, but a hand injury in the playoffs scuttled that. He got off to a terrible start this year, with a .632 OPS in his first 80 games. In his last 49 his OPS is .766. He also got off to a poor start as a base stealer, getting thrown out on his first five tries. Since then he’s gone 33-for-40.

Reynolds played in just four games to start the year for Altoona before going out for hamate surgery. He came back at the end of May and started off slowly, but he had an .821 OPS in July and .909 in August so far. That’s come with improved power and plate discipline, both of which were issues for him coming into the season.