AFL time beneficial to some Bucs
Tabata, Veal among stars; tired Moskos struggles
PITTSBURGH -- The Arizona Fall League wrapped up its five-week season last week, and with that, the season ended for six Pirates prospects.
All six players the organization sent out west played for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who were managed by Jeff Banister, a member of the Pirates' Minor League staff. The Scorpions finished the AFL season 3 1/2 games out of first in the AFL East.
Outfielder Jose Tabata finished third among all AFL players with a .392 average in 28 games. Tabata started off strong and hardly slowed down on his way to accruing 10 extra-base hits and driving in 21.
"The biggest thing with Jose is continued maturation as an individual," Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark said. "He's extremely gifted and competitive. It's getting him to compete on every pitch, and he's doing a better job of that."
Stark also noted that off the field, the 21-year-old Tabata assumed a leadership role in the Scorpions' clubhouse, which is a further sign of maturation.
On the pitching side, both Donnie Veal and Tony Watson finished with impressive numbers, though each arrived in Arizona with different goals.
After not getting much of a chance to pitch in Pittsburgh during the regular season, Veal headed to the AFL with the goal of implementing a number of adjustments Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan had introduced near the end of the season. Using a new delivery motion and taking the mound with the mentality of being more of a power pitcher, Veal thrived.
YEAR OF THE LOW-HITTER
The lefty allowed five earned runs and 17 hits in 21 innings, and opponents hit just .221 against him. And after allowing 20 walks in 16 1/3 innings during the regular season, Veal walked just seven in Arizona. He finished with 22 strikeouts.
"He threw the ball over the plate more," Stark said. "The stuff is electric. He doesn't need to paint the corners, and he went out and didn't do that. He was really good early and still finished pretty strong."
Watson, who missed most of 2009 with injuries, was able to log 12 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. He finished with a 2.13 ERA and limited opponents to a .152 batting average.
"He was more aggressive with the fastball," Stark said. "While [it was] not a significant number of innings, it gave himself a chance to finish the season with some innings under his belt."
The results weren't as strong for Daniel Moskos, the Pirates' first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Moskos left for the AFL having already pitched more innings (149) in one season than he had before, and the innings count seemed to catch up with him immediately.
Moskos tossed 15 1/3 innings and allowed 22 hits, nine runs and eight walks as opponents batted .349 against him. The hope was that Moskos would be more aggressive pitching out of the bullpen, but the lefty really never found a groove.
"He was just gassed," Stark said. "It was the first time pitching out of the bullpen all year and he had to balance the physical demands and the mental demands. I think he started out struggling and then pressed."
Chase D'Arnaud and Brian Friday were among the five shortstops that Banister had on the Scottsdale club. The overabundance of middle infielders coupled with Friday's early struggles kept him from earning significant playing time in Arizona.
Friday appeared in just 13 games and finished with a .245 average and seven RBIs. He struck out 13 times in 49 at-bats.
"No. 1, physically he was tired," Stark said. "No. 2, Brian is a guy who presses. When he tried to make an impression right off the bat and didn't, he really started pressing."
D'Arnaud, on the other hand, fared quite well. He led the AFL with 13 stolen bases and was caught just twice. That came after the 2008 fourth-round Draft pick swiped 31 bases in 116 games during the season.
"Chase is an athletic player," Stark said. "We've challenged Chase to use that athleticism while gaining consistency in his execution of other skills. I think he's a guy that's made significant strides."
D'Arnaud was sent to the AFL in order to face a higher level of competition than he had at the Class A level in '09. He finished with a .296 average in 20 games, scored 12 runs, had six extra-base hits and drove in six.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.