08/25/09 6:25 PM ET
Tabata among Bucs prospects in AFL
Organization excited about players headed to fall league
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The Pirates will send seven prospects, including pitchers Daniel Moskos, Donnie Veal and Tony Watson and infielders Brian Friday and Chase D'Arnaud to the 18th annual AFL. The season begins on Oct. 13 and runs through Nov. 19, with the Rising Stars game on Nov. 7 and the championship game set for Nov. 21. Every game can be followed live on Gameday on MLB.com and MLBFallBall.com.
The Pirates will also send another pitcher, though they have not yet finalized who that will be.
"We are definitely excited about the guys we are sending out," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "We definitely feel like we had more options this year than last year."
The decision to send Tabata, one of five outfielders on the Scottsdale Scorpions squad, to Arizona rather than back to his native Venezuela to play winter ball was two-fold. First, the Pirates can keep a closer eye on the outfielder and his development this offseason by having him in Arizona. Second, Tabata is guaranteed to get more regular playing time with the Scorpions than he would in Venezuela.
"At the end of the day, all he wants to do is play baseball," Stark said of Tabata, whose personal trials this season have been well-documented. "That has allowed him to go out and play baseball and not worry about the other stuff. There are still times where he is human and where he struggles with some other things, but his simple focus has allowed him to get through those things."
The Pirates plan on having Tabata, whom the club acquired from the Yankees last summer, remain in the U.S. at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., even after the fall league ends so that staff members can continue to oversee his development.
Moskos and Watson will both pitch out of the bullpen in Arizona, though Stark stressed that those roles were not necessarily an indication that both pitchers are on course to be relievers.
In his first season at Double-A Altoona, Moskos has gone 10-9 with a 3.78 ERA in 23 starts. He's already logged 131 innings after pitching just 110 1/3 in 2008. Moskos, the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2007, will pitch in a relief role in the AFL solely to keep from escalating his inning count too high.
Watson, the club's ninth-round selection in '07, has missed almost the entire season with an elbow/forearm injury and has not made an appearance with Altoona since May 2.
He has returned to throwing, however, and is expected to face hitters in instructional league before heading to the fall league.
Veal, whom the Pirates have hid in the bullpen this season because of his status as a Rule 5 Draft pick, will head to the AFL for the second straight year. Because the Pirates want him to return to a starting role next season, Veal is in need of an opportunity to pitch more innings before shutting down for the winter.
Both Friday and D'Arnaud will serve as middle infielders for the Scorpions. Friday, a 2007 third-round pick, and D'Arnaud, last season's fourth-round selection, are still seen as shortstop prospects in the organization, though they might be limited in how many at-bats there are at short in the AFL. For that reason, both are expected to see some time at second, too.
"Again, don't read too much into that we're moving those guys," Stark said. "It's more just giving those guys a chance to play against that level of competition, get some more at-bats, and it just adds some versatility to both of those guys."
Through 96 games with Altoona, Friday has hit .292 with 18 doubles, seven homers and 38 RBIs. After starting the year in low Class A, D'Arnaud was promoted to high Class A Lynchburg this summer. Combined, he has hit .287 and driven in 54 in 103 games.
The Pirates will also be represented by Minor League field coordinator, Jeff Banister, who will be managing the Scorpions club, which will include prospects from the Pirates, Phillies, Giants, D-backs and Rockies.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.