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Several Pirates off to hot starts in AFL

Not a good start for Peoria, but a few Bucco prospects are doing well.

Peoria Javelinas v. Salt River Rafters Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It hasn’t been a good start overall for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, as the team has started 0-5, with the main culprit being some un-even pitching, as the team holds a collective 6.50 ERA and a 1.782 WHIP. But that hasn’t stopped some Pittsburgh Pirates hitters from getting off to hot starts at the plate.

Both Nick Gonzalez and Ji-Hwan Bae have hit the ball pretty well, with Bae seeing time at second base and batting lead off. He’s currently swatting .333/.421/.600 and has hit a double, a homer, and three RBIs along with stealing a base.

The 22-year-old utility man (he also plays shortstop and outfield) is coming off of a pretty good year in Altoona as well. Bae played in 83 games for the Curve in which he hit .278 with 7 homers and 30 RBIs. He also stole 20 bases, which is something the big league club sorely lacked this season (Pittsburgh’s stolen base leader was Gregory Polanco with 14). He’s currently listed as Pittsburgh’s 22nd-ranked prospect and the lefty batter is someone to check in on moving forward.

Nick Gonzales has also had a nice beginning to the AFL, though he has cooled off a bit recently. He’s dropped down to .278/.316/.444 after hitting over .300 the first week of action, though he has knocked three doubles in just 18 at bats, including this one just yesterday.

The 22-year-old, who was Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2020 (number seven overall) is currently the fourth-ranked prospect in the Pirates’ system and is coming off of a fine inaugural season in the Minor Leagues. He hit .302 with 18 homers and 54 RBIs for Greensboro, and he’s one of the members of Pittsburgh’s young core we’ll be looking toward to help fuel the franchise’s future rejuvenation.

Canaan Smith-Njigba, Pittsburgh’s 26th-ranked prospect, has also seen a little time in the outfield for Peoria. He’s slashing .273/.467/.364 and is third on the team in walks on just 15 plate appearances.

But a nice start to the AFL for these guys. We’ll keep an eye on things and keep you posted how they’re doing.