The following is from reader Dave Morris, who saw the Altoona Curve vs Erie Seawolves series this past weekend, and submitted his thoughts to the site. Thanks to Dave for taking the time to provide us with a great write up.
Altoona Curve Player Reports
*NOTE* I am not a scout, and do not pretend to be. These are just my impressions from four games, this past Thursday through Sunday in Erie, PA. As always, they are to be taken with a grain of salt because of the small sample size. The only active players that did not get a look in the series were Jeff Locke, Quincy Latimore and Jose Hernandez. There were at least a dozen scouts at Friday’s game, which pitted Detroit prospect Jacob Turner against Pirate prospect Kyle McPherson. There were multiple scouts from teams at each of the games in the series. The radar gun in Erie was 3mph slow (according to the scouts), so the numbers you see are with that added in.
Tim Alderson rhp – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO, 0 HR
As has been well documented, Tim Alderson has one of the wackiest deliveries you’ll ever see. Unfortunately, the results since the Pirates acquired the young right hander (just 22 years old now) have moved his prospect status from one of the most promising in baseball to a longshot. Alderson’s fastball now struggles to reach 90 mph, sitting 85-88 mph. Alderson’s best pitch is his 71-75 mph curveball. He seems to spot it at will, and with his arm action it is a very deceptive pitch. It’s not hard to believe that this alone should get him to the majors at some point as a long reliever. Unless Alderson can find more velocity in his right arm, that is probably his ceiling at this point.
Anthony Claggett rhp- 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 HR
Claggett is an organizational right hander who possesses borderline stuff and borderline control. At 27 years old, it’s tough to see Claggett reaching the majors again (he was up for a short time in 2009 with the Yankees and the Pirates). Claggett was throwing 88-91 mph with an 80-82 mph changeup.
Michael Colla rhp – 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1 HR
Colla has been a fascinating story this year, moving from the bullpen and an afterthought to the Curve starting rotation with pretty decent results. Colla features an 88-92 mph fastball, a developing changeup (80-82 mph) and a curveball (72-76 mph) that would grade out a bit below average. Colla did not have his best stuff on Thursday when I saw him, and looked very hittable. It’s possible he’s wearing down due to the unfamiliar workload.
Michael Dubee rhp – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0 HR
Dubee is now 25 years old and despite great results, doesn’t seem to be in the Pirates future plans. This may be due to Dubee’s underwhelming stuff. His fastball is in the 86-89 mph range, touching 90 occasionally. He also has a hard slider that doesn’t have much separation in velocity, typically at 82-84 mph. He always looks good when I see him, so hopefully he gets a shot as a middle reliever soon.
Phillip Irwin rhp- 4 1/3 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 HR
I was really looking forward to seeing Irwin. Just called up after a pretty good start to the year at Bradenton (high-A ball), Irwin isn’t known to have great stuff but has gotten great results so far in his career. Irwin was throwing 88-91 mph with a changeup at 79-83 mph and a curveball slightly slower, 73-77 mph. He was awful, there’s no getting around it. The silver lining was the swings and misses, but it’s hard to get excited with a performance like he had on Sunday. Hopefully this will just be a blip on the radar to someday becoming a 4th or 5th starter.
Noah Krol rhp- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 HR
Krol is the Curve’s closer and elder statesman at 27 years old. He’s not a prospect, but has an interesting sidearm delivery that gives AA hitters fits, even though he sits at only 84-87 mph. He’s the type of player that you see in the major leagues once a year when a team has a ton of injuries and needs a twelfth pitcher. For what it’s worth, there were several scouts with radar guns keeping track of Krol (these same scouts were not watching others as closely, Aaron Thompson and Michael Dubee for example). I couldn’t believe there would be much interest, but I suppose you never know.
Kyle McPherson rhp- 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 0 HR
The matchup of the weekend featured McPherson and his mound opponent, 20 year old Jacob Turner, former first round pick of the Tigers. While Turner’s stuff is more polished, at least on this day McPherson compared favorably. Throwing 90-94 mph with a nasty curveball ranging 69-74 mph that was unhittable for the first two innings and an average changeup (77-83 mph), McPherson struck out 5 of the first 6 hitters. When he got in trouble, it was because McPherson lost the release point on his curve, leaving it up and throwing it too much. The Erie hitters started sitting on it and hit some very hard balls to the outfield, some of which were caught. McPherson only got one groundball out, which is a problem. One hit charged to him was very clearly an error by Brock Holt, and the hitter eventually scored the only earned run charged to McPherson. I’d say his upside is a #3 starter, and as long as he maintains his command it’s not hard to see him reaching that potential fairly quickly.
(Editor’s Note: This sounds like every report I’ve ever received on McPherson, including what I’ve seen, and what Terry Mathews saw earlier in the year. Great fastball command with decent velocity, but an inconsistent curveball gets him in trouble at times. Seems like a pitcher in need of a third pitch, or a changeup he can rely on.)
Matt McSwain rhp- 3 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0 HR
McSwain was called out of the bullpen to bail Phil Irwin out, and he did the job nicely. Soon to be 26, McSwain is just an organizational guy. He throws 87-91 mph with the standard curve and changeup. Nothing stands out about him, but he fills the role of long-reliever just fine.
Bryan Morris rhp- 1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 HR
Much has been made about Bryan Morris’ move to the bullpen, with Neal Huntington recently stating one of his scouts believes Morris could be the best bullpen acquisition the major league team could make. Morris didn’t look like it in his outing Friday night, but the results since the move sure have been encouraging. He got hit hard in this outing, though he got out of a jam with an amazing throw by Starling Marte to get a runner at home plate ending an inning. Morris was at 91-94 mph, though he hit 96 mph once. He was throwing a changeup 77-82 mph and has a curveball that is a plus pitch.
Aaron Pribanic rhp- 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 HR
Pribanic has long been a polarizing figure amongst prospect fans because of his excellent ERA and low strikeout numbers. This year, Pribanic has a 4.38 ERA and 44 K’s in 98 2/3 IP. It looks like this could be the wall his detractors have thought was coming in AA. I have long been one of those, as I believe highly in strikeout numbers in the minor leagues being a predictor of major league success. Pribanic has a major league fastball (88-91 mph) but offers little in the way of deception or quality secondary pitches. His curveball is well-below average and is trying to develop a changeup. Based on what I saw Saturday from him, I’ll be surprised to see Pribanic in a major league starting rotation.
Aaron Thompson lhp- 2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO, 1 HR
The only left handed pitcher the Curve threw the whole series (Jeff Locke is the only other, but he did not start a game), Thompson was an offseason pickup that scouts love because of his 90-93 mph fastball and big, sweeping curveball (71-76 mph). The results have never matched the talent though, and Thompson looked too hittable again on Saturday. His command within the strikezone is what hurts him, leaving too many balls in the middle of the plate. Thompson looks like he may be a lost cause at this point, though at 24 he is young enough to turn it around.
Tony Sanchez c- 13 AB, 3 R, 2 H, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 2 SO
Offensively, Sanchez looks different at the plate. He doesn’t step with his left leg, instead twisting his knee inward to the plate as the pitch is thrown. I believe this is a timing issue that should be corrected. He seems off balance on most swings, with his upper half not working together with the lower half. As a result, he grounds many pitches weakly to the left side of the infield. When he did connect, he hit a homerun just over the left field wall, about a 330 foot shot. His batting eye looks as good as ever, and that alone should be enough to make him an average offensive catcher. Defensively, Sanchez looked to have regressed. He is still excellent at blocking pitches in the dirt, and held onto a very big throw from Starling Marte just to get crushed at home plate in the first game of the series. My concern is with his throwing arm. Strength does not appear to be an issue, but accuracy sure is. I don’t think I saw more than one on-target throw all weekend from Sanchez, and that includes the throw down to third after a hitter strikes out with no one on base. Hopefully this isn’t something serious, but it sure made me wonder.
Travis Scott c- 4 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 2 SO
Scott is a backup catcher with the Curve who got a start at DH on Sunday. He struck out in two of his four at-bats, and isn’t anything more than a backup.
Kris Watts c- 12 AB, 0 R, 4 H, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SO
Watts is the Curve’s everyday designated hitter, and is a large man at 6’1” and 209 lbs. I’d say he may be bigger than those numbers would indicate. Watts is old, slow and not particularly good defensively (he is a catcher by trade). Well, that’s what a DH is. Watts is fine for this role and will probably keep it until the Pirates end up with a couple of prospects playing the same position.
Matt Curry 1b- 13 AB, 3 R, 5 H, 1 D, 1 T, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO
Curry was probably the player I was most looking forward to seeing. He had an eye-popping 1.148 OPS with 9 HR in low-A West Virginia before being promoted to AA (skipping over high-A) in June. The aggressive promotion signals the Pirates think Curry is for-real, and I won’t argue with them after seeing him live. He has a sweet left handed stroke typical of a slugging first baseman, and his eye at the plate is at least average for his experience. He’s had a struggle since coming to AA, but his approach leads me to believe he’s not a player that will have prolonged cold spells. Three of his four strikeouts for the weekend came on Sunday against a junk-balling right hander, and interestingly he did some of his best work against a tough Erie lefty. Defensively, he was also very impressive. Reports have had him at average, but he made several excellent plays at first this weekend, and saved a few runs for sure. I’d say Curry has all the ability in the world to be an above-average major league first baseman offensively and defensively from what I saw.
Brock Holt 2b- 14 AB, 4 R, 5 H, 1 D, 0 RBI, 4 BB, 2 SO
Holt is an interesting player. He reminds me of Mark Lemke. He’s short, pesky and just an overall pain in the neck for the opposing team. He hits just about everything the other way, fouls off a bunch of pitches and takes his fair share of walks. His biggest problems are his size (5’10” 165 lbs) and the lack of an arm that will keep him at second base. For that reason, I don’t believe he’s got a real good shot at being a major leaguer for any amount of time.
Greg Picart ss- 13 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 3 SO
Picart is a guy that has floated around the Pirates system for a while because he is above-average defensively at short, second and third. With Josh Rodriguez promoted to AAA and Jeremy Farrell on the DL, Picart is an everyday player for the moment. He has below average hitting ability, which has caused his career to stall out at AA. He does make some nice plays on defense, and can run pretty well making him an ideal number nine hitter for the Curve.
Yunesky Sanchez 3b- 8 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 1 SO
When Sanchez came to the plate for his first Curve at-bat, I was stuck searching through my roster trying to find him. Then he hit a monster shot off the civic center in left field. Turns out, the Pirates had signed him and released Jose Hernandez earlier in the day. Looks like a good move. The guy can play, from the two games I saw. He’s 27, so I’m sure he’s not a prospect, but he did not look over-matched at the plate and held his own defensively at third base. He’ll move into a backup corner infield role when Jeremy Farrell is activated from the DL.
Brad Chalk lf- 15 AB, 0 R, 4 H, 1 D, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SO
Chalk played left field all weekend, presumably because everyday left fielder and semi-prospect Quincy Latimore has a minor injury. I saw Latimore on the field at different times throughout the weekend and he’s not on the disabled list, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what the story is. Either way, Chalk isn’t a bad replacement, but he’s not anything special either. He puts the ball in play, has a little bit of pop and has some speed.
Andrew Lambo rf- 11 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SO
Lambo started off the weekend with a laser shot out of the park to right field that hit off the side of a building across the street that runs outside of Uht Park. This was off a tough left handed starter that Lambo hung in well against all night Friday, even hitting another tape-measure shot foul his next AB. If that isn’t reason enough to be optimistic about him, he hustled all weekend and played solid defense in right. He’s still just 22, and even after the demotion seems like a future big leaguer. In what capacity is anybody’s guess, but it is certainly not out of the question that he is our future right fielder in Pittsburgh.
Starling Marte cf- 18 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 5 SO
In April I got my first look at Marte, and was impressed. I’m usually not a fan of players that hit for average in the lower minors without a good approach at the plate. I’m leaning back now to my prior intuition that Marte is nowhere close to a sure-thing. He seemed impatient, didn’t take good swings and looked to be guessing on a few fastballs throughout the weekend. He got two of his hits on bunts, using his above-average speed to his advantage. He did not seem to have the plus-plus speed I noted earlier in the year, but that could just be me. Defensively he looked fantastic. He showed off his arm a few times, gunning down one runner at home on Friday that would make any edition of SportsCenter in the major leagues. He has superb range and gets a solid jump on the ball. Does that make him Gorkys Hernandez or Andrew McCutchen? Time will tell, but I’m definitely on the fence about his future, and starting to wonder if the bat is going to be good enough.