The 2017 Arizona Fall League season has come to a close, ending the baseball year for six members of this year’s Curve team. Mitch Keller, J.T. Brubaker, Brandon Waddell, Kevin Kramer, Logan Hill and Mitchell Tolman were selected to represent the Pirates and were members of the Glendale Desert Dogs roster, which also featured players from the White Sox, Indians, Dodgers and Phillies.
Having been referred to as “graduate school” for top prospects, the Arizona Fall League takes place every year across about six weeks in October and November and features many of baseball’s next stars.
Fresh off a dominating run through the Eastern League playoffs, Keller made six starts for Glendale and was a starter in the Fall Stars Game. He went 4-0, led the team in innings pitched (23.2) and had the best ERA (1.52) of any starting pitcher in the league. His longest outing came on October 30, when he allowed one hit over five scoreless frames against Scottsdale. Keller’s strikeout rate was far below the 11.7 K/9 IP he posted with the Curve this year, recording just 13 punchouts, but he got a heavy dose of outs on the ground and issued just five walks. Keller is currently ranked by MLB.com as the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect.
After spending his entire season with the Curve, Brubaker also spent the fall in Arizona. He worked in eight games, all in relief, and went 0-1 with a 2.63 ERA. Over his final five games, he posted a 1.04 ERA (1 ER/8.2 IP). Brubaker recorded 16 strikeouts over 13.2 innings pitched, including four in a 2.1-inning outing on November 7 against Surprise.
Waddell missed much of the 2017 regular season with Altoona with a forearm strain, but he posted a 2.82 ERA in his final seven regular-season starts when he got healthy and dazzled with six scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series at Trenton. He made nine appearances (one start) in the Fall League and posted a 1-0 record and a 2.57 ERA. He tossed three scoreless innings in his lone start on November 3 at Peoria.
Like Waddell, Kramer lost much of his season due to an injury. After a hot start with the Curve, his regular-season came to an end when he was hit by a pitch on June 10 and suffered a broken left hand. He returned to Altoona for the postseason and made up for some lost playing time in the Fall League. He hit just .200 over his 16 games, but added a pair of homers and six RBIs. Kramer was selected for the Fall Stars Game.
Hill also missed significant time this season after breaking a bone when he was hit by a pitch on July 26, costing him the rest of the season. He had a productive run through the AFL, finishing second on Glendale’s roster with 14 RBIs in his 18 games while adding two homers, five doubles and a .239 batting average.
Tolman briefly appeared with the Curve at the end of the season and had a memorable walk-off homer in extra inning to beat Harrisburg in the regular-season finale on September 4. He played 17 games in the AFL and hit .197 with a homer and six RBIs.
The Pirates also sent Taylor Hearn to the AFL, who spent this season with Bradenton. He went 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA in eight games (four starts) for Glendale. Hearn is ranked as the Pirates’ No. 11 prospect by MLB.com and could be a member of Altoona’s roster in 2018.
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