While the highlight of the 2010 Altoona Curve was the pitching staff, the highlight of the 2011 team was the offense. That might not have always translated over to the results, but the top prospects at the level were definitely on the position player side. The offense was led by top prospect Starling Marte, who won the Eastern League batting title, hitting for a .332 average, while also posting an .870 OPS. The team also saw top guys like Tony Sanchez, Matt Curry, and Brock Holt. Here is a breakdown of how each player at the level did.
The star of the group is Starling Marte, who had a great season, and was recently named the Eastern League player of the month for the month of August. Marte not only won the Eastern League batting title, but he answered a lot of questions, cutting down on his strikeouts, and hitting for power, with 12 homers, 38 doubles, and eight triples. His future looks bright, considering he did that at the age of 22. He’s a lock to move up to AAA next year based on his 2010 performance.
Tony Sanchez had a disappointing year, with some horrible offensive numbers. As I wrote earlier today, the season wasn’t a total disappointment. Defense is the most important thing for a catcher, and his defense was fine, with some big improvements in his pitch calling this year. He’s going to be a major league catcher, but his offense will really determine whether he’s just a defensive minded player, or whether he’s a two way player.
Brock Holt did a good job at the plate this year, with a good average and good plate patience. However, he lacked power, which will ultimately limit his upside. He looked impressive at shortstop in the second half, not to the point where he’s strong defensively at the position, but to the point where he can play the position. He’s got a lot of speed, which combined with his average and on-base percentage makes him a good top of the order hitter.
Quincy Latimore continued hitting for power, with 15 homers and 32 doubles, but his average was low, and his plate patience was poor, leading to a sub-.300 on-base percentage. The main strength to his game is power, and considering the lack of power prospects in the system, that strength should keep giving him chances going forward.
Andrew Lambo was demoted from AAA early in the season, only to initially struggle in Altoona. He turned things around at the end of the season, hitting for a .314 average and a .906 OPS in August, and going 5-for-17 in September.
Matt Curry was given an aggressive push to AA, skipping over high-A ball early in the season. He started off well, then struggled, went back to hitting well, with a strong .308 average and an .847 OPS in July. He fell off at the end of the year, hitting for a .181/.330/.264 line in August, and putting up similar numbers in 18 at-bats in September. It’s important to keep things in perspective with his jump to AA. If he would have been under the same timeline as Matt Hague, for example, he wouldn’t have arrived at the AA level until 2012. For that reason, I’d expect him to return to the level in 2012, with better results.
Jordy Mercer was returning to the level this year, and put up some strong numbers. The overall line doesn’t reflect that, but it includes a .154/.233/.346 line in April. In the month of May, Mercer hit for a .318/.372/.486 line, and followed that up with a .313/.363/.625 line in June, before his promotion. His home run totals were great, ranking second on the team, despite having 200 fewer at-bats than team leader Quincy Latimore.
The other prospect from this list is Jeremy Farrell. Farrell started off strong, with a .285 average and a .778 OPS prior to the Eastern League All-Star break. He went down with another injury this year, and just wasn’t the same after returning, with a .153 average and a .434 OPS after returning.
Eric Fryer was the standout from this group, hitting for a strong average, mostly as the designated hitter early in the year, and quickly moving up to AAA, and then the majors. Fryer is older, but he’s a strong defensive catcher due to his athleticism. He’s been held back due to being stuck behind top catching prospects in three different organizations, but may have finally caught a break in 2011 with the promotion to Indianapolis, which put him a level ahead of Tony Sanchez.