Altoona Curve 2011 Season Recap: Top Prospects

Marte is the consensus top prospect at the AA level.

Our top 10 overall prospects for the Altoona Curve factors in all of the individual rankings.  Along with the individual rankings, we also include the best pitcher, hitter, biggest surprise, and biggest disappointments of the year.  The rankings factor in all of the players at the level throughout the year, regardless of whether they’ve been promoted to the majors, and regardless of whether they’ve lost their prospect status.  As long as they had prospect eligibility entering the year, they qualify for the lists.  Playing time is also considered.  A player needs 120 at-bats, 40+ innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. This prevented Eric Fryer from consideration, as he was called up with 113 at-bats at the AA level.

2011 Altoona Curve: Hitters
2011 Altoona Curve: Pitchers
2011 Altoona Curve: Top 10 Prospects

Overall Top 10 Prospects

1. Starling Marte, OF
2. Tony Sanchez, C
3. Kyle McPherson, RHP
4. Jeff Locke, LHP
5. Bryan Morris, RHP
6. Jordy Mercer, SS
7. Matt Curry, 1B
8. Andrew Lambo, RF
9. Brock Holt, IF
10. Phillip Irwin, RHP

Tim Williams

1. Starling Marte
2. Tony Sanchez
3. Kyle McPherson
4. Bryan Morris
5. Jeff Locke
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Andrew Lambo
8. Matt Curry
9. Phillip Irwin
10. Brock Holt

Best Hitter: Without question, this award goes to Starling Marte, and for obvious reasons.  He won the Eastern League batting title, and had the best overall year for Altoona.

Best Pitcher: He wasn’t at the level all year, but when he was there, Kyle McPherson was the best on the team.  Bryan Morris put up some great numbers out of the bullpen, and would easily be the best reliever on the team.

Biggest Surprise: Michael Colla having the success he had in the rotation, after previously never starting a game in the minors, would have to be the biggest surprise for me.  I’m not sure if he has a future as a starter in the majors, but he definitely moved himself up the prospect ranks.

Biggest Disappointment: The lack of power and the overall poor offense by Tony Sanchez makes him the biggest disappointment.  His defense took a step forward, and wasn’t an issue, but his offense will ultimately determine what kind of major league catcher he will eventually become.  Bryan Morris would have taken this if he wasn’t so dominant out of the bullpen.

Matt Bandi

1. Starling Marte
2. Tony Sanchez
3. Bryan Morris
4. Jeff Locke
5. Kyle McPherson
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Matt Curry
8. Andrew Lambo
9. Brock Holt
10. Quincy Latimore

Best Hitter - Starling Marte’s big year has him looking like a clear top 100 overall prospect.

Best Pitcher - Kyle McPherson was not quite as dominant with the Curve as he was in Bradenton, but it was fairly close. He led all Altoona starters in both strikeout rate and ERA.

Biggest Surprise - Many questioned the Pirates’ decision to add McPherson to the 40-man roster last offseason, but he made the front office look smart with a surprisingly dominant season. He had a solid 2010, but I don’t think many expected him to take off the way he did this year.

Biggest Disappointment - It was disappointing to see Bryan Morris move to the bullpen so early in the year, but nothing was more discouraging than Tony Sanchez’s awful season.

Kevin Creagh

1. Starling Marte
2. Kyle McPherson
3. Tony Sanchez
4. Jeff Locke
5. Matt Curry
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Bryan Morris
8. Aaron Pribanic
9. Jared Hughes
10. Michael Colla

Best Hitter — I don’t really think there is any other choice than Starling Marte. We ranked Marte as the #2 overall prospect coming into the season, but it was more on his potential. That was converted into production this year, as Marte has now put himself on the map for ALL prospect guides thanks to a .332/.370/.500 (870 OPS) line with 24 SB’s. His plus range and plus-plus arm were still on display this year, but he showed he has some power potential (12 HR’s) as well. The walks are still an issue with only 22 in 536 AB’s, but he offset that by cutting way down on his strikeouts with an 18.7% rate this year.

Best Pitcher– Even though Jeff Locke pitched well for a longer timeframe, I’m going to go with Kyle McPherson. Over 16 starts and 89 innings, McPherson gave up 75 hits and only 21 walks, while striking out 82. This resulted in a 3.02 ERA and a WHIP of 1.07, all while displaying his 91-94 mph fastball and perhaps the system’s best changeup. Due to his presence already on the 40-man roster, it will be interesting to see if he gets promoted to AAA in 2012 at the outset.

Biggest Surprise — Mike Colla was a middle reliever that took the place of Bryan Morris when he went on the DL. After 23 starts and 133 total innings, Colla showed he can at least be considered a potential back-end starter. In his 133 innings, Colla gave up 117 hits, and struck out 109. e is homer prone as he gave up 20 this year, but his stock did improve somewhat.

Biggest Disappointment — Hard to pick anyone other than Tony Sanchez, right? Sanchez just never got on track this year and finished with a dismal .241/.340/.318 and displayed no power whatsoever, with only 20 extra-base hits in 402 at-bats. His K/BB rates were still OK, which hopefully shows that his fundamentals are still fine and he just needs a regrouping year in 2012.

John Dreker

1. Starling Marte
2. Jeff Locke
3. Tony Sanchez
4. Bryan Morris
5. Kyle McPherson
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Andrew Lambo
8. Brock Holt
9. Phillip Irwin
10. Matt Curry

Best Hitter - Starling Marte is the obvious choice. Leading the league in batting and setting a team record in single season hits, he exceeded my high expectations for him. He led the team in runs, doubles, stolen bases and he was one spot behind the leader in both homers and triples. A great combination of average, extra base power and speed.

Best Pitcher - The team had 5 starting pitchers with some sort of success this season and you could make a good case for Locke, Colla and McPherson but I went with Aaron Pribanic due to the fact he pitched the most, had the most wins while posting a respectable 3.88 ERA and he showed excellent control and a nice groundball rate all year.

Biggest Surprise - Michael Colla was a reliever his whole career last time I checked and while he allowed a lot of home runs and had a poor record due to run support, he had a much better season than I would’ve ever expected from a first time starter in AA. He remained strong the whole season despite adding just over 50 innings to last year’s total.

Biggest Disappointment - Plenty of choices here with Morris moving to relief early in the year, Diego Moreno ending up back in Bradenton again, Matt Curry turning from a low-A monster to a below average AA player, Jeremy Farrell getting hurt again when he was doing good but there was a much better choice here. Some people were hoping for Tony Sanchez to be the Pirates catcher in 2012 but he’s going to have to remember how to hit first, maybe show a tiny bit of power while doing it and not lead the team in errors as a catcher…yes that really happened. What a nightmare season for him that just never had any glimmer of hope that he was starting to play good attached to it.

Wilbur Miller

1. Starling Marte
2. Tony Sanchez
3. Jeff Locke
4. Kyle McPherson
5. Bryan Morris
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Brock Holt
8. Andrew Lambo
9. Matt Curry
10. Michael Colla

Best Hitter - Starling Marte was the system’s top position player this year and is the top position prospect.

Best Pitcher - There were a lot of disappointing seasons among the upper level pitching prospects. None of the pitchers who started the season in the Altoona rotation had the kind of season the team no doubt hoped for. Once Kyle McPherson joined the team, though, he was easily the best pitcher.

Biggest Surprise - Mike Colla started the season as seemingly just another bullpen guy, but he was outstanding from the moment he joined the rotation. Only a mid-summer slump kept him from getting the nod from me for best pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of assignment he gets next year.

Biggest Disappointment - Tony Sanchez. Yikes.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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