2012 Altoona Curve Season Recap and Top 10 Prospects

It has been awhile since I did a recap of the minor league teams. The last one I did was Bradenton. After that I got all the data together for the Altoona and Indianapolis recaps, then experienced something every blogger has experienced at some point in time. My computer was wiped, I lost the data and the articles, and had no desire to immediately do all the work again. I kept putting off the recaps until I got to the point where I needed them for the 2013 Prospect Guide. So here we resume the series with the 2012 Altoona recap. Indianapolis will come tomorrow, and the Dominican Leagues will finish things off over the weekend.

The Hitters

Altoona had several interesting hitting prospects throughout the year, but not many players who rank as top prospects in the system. Robbie Grossman was the top hitting prospect at the level to start the year, but was eventually traded to Houston in the Wandy Rodriguez deal.

Tony Sanchez returned to Altoona at the start of the season, and was promoted to Indianapolis after hitting for a .277/.370/.390 line in 141 at-bats. His offensive numbers were better than last year, although his power wasn’t there, and didn’t show up until his final month in Indianapolis. Considering this was his second appearance in Double-A, the results here weren’t very encouraging.

Matt Curry also returned to the level after being promoted at an aggressive pace last year. This time around Curry fared better, with a .285/.352/.480 line. He was a bit inconsistent, struggling in the second half after a monster month of June. Curry had a 1.276 OPS in June, and an .868 OPS in July, mostly from the first half of the month. He slowed down with a .719 OPS in August before being promoted to Indianapolis.

Two of the big standout players from this level were Brock Holt and Adalberto Santos. Holt returned to the level at the start of the year, and was promoted to Indianapolis and eventually the majors, hitting well at every step of the way. Santos missed some time this year with an injury, and only had 238 at-bats. He put up a .340 average and a .425 OBP in that time, showing great hitting and on-base skills. Holt and Santos both profile more as utility players due to their lack of power and poor defense. However, their hitting and on-base skills make them interesting prospects, with the chance to be top of the order hitters if they could keep a high average and OBP in the majors.

Ramon Cabrera had a breakout season in the Florida State League last year, winning the batting title. He started slow in Altoona. In his first three months he never topped .273 with his average and didn’t go over a .700 OPS. In the second half he did much better. In July he hit for a .301 average and a .786 OPS. In August he hit for a .340 average and an .870 OPS. His second half hitting was encouraging due to the lack of catching depth in the minors. Cabrera has been a great hitter throughout his time in the minors, and showed improvements this year behind the plate with his game calling. He profiles more as a backup or a guy who can split the starting job, and most of his value is based on his hitting ability.

The Pitchers

The talent on the pitching side was much better in Altoona this year. Top prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon both arrived by the end of the year, and both showed why they were top prospects. Cole got off to a slow start in his first few outings, then dominated the rest of the way. He ran in to some control issues in his final few starts, but was promoted to Indianapolis in time for the playoffs. Taillon was promoted to Altoona at the end of the year for three starts, and had three of his best starts of the year. In 17 innings, Taillon posted an 18:1 K/BB ratio and gave up just three runs on 11 hits.

Kyle McPherson returned to the level after suffering a shoulder injury during Spring Training. McPherson made nine starts, struggling at first due to the injury. He eventually was promoted to Indianapolis for a few starts before moving up to the majors.

Vic Black was one of the highlights this year, emerging as a potential late inning reliever. The big story was that Black was finally healthy, pitching a full season in Altoona’s bullpen. His numbers were dominant, with an 85:29 K/BB ratio in 60 innings. Black struggled with his control at times, but was hard to hit, with just 40 hits allowed.

Phil Irwin also had a breakout year. The right-hander doesn’t throw hard, but has displayed solid control, with an 83:17 K/BB ratio in 104.1 innings. He moved up to Indianapolis at the end of the year where he continued to see low walks and high strikeouts.

Tim Alderson was a big story in Spring Training for his added velocity, getting the ball up to 93 MPH. He eventually moved to the rotation, but the results weren’t overly strong. Alderson made 26 appearances this year and only 11 starts, with a 4.25 ERA and a 62:26 K/BB ratio in 84.2 innings.

Kyle Kaminska made a few appearances and one start. He was acquired in the Gaby Sanchez trade and converted to a starter where he has emerged as an interesting prospect.

The level also included several guys who profile as interesting bullpen options down the line: Ryan Beckman, Brandon Cumpton, Jason Townsend, Tyler Waldron, Jeff Inman, Nathan Baker, Mike Colla, and Duke Welker. Out of that group, Cumpton has the best chance to remain as a starter, although he profiles as a back of the rotation type.

Top 10 Prospects

The cutoff for prospects was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. The two notables who didn’t make the cut were Jameson Taillon and Kyle Kaminska. Robbie Grossman wasn’t included as he is no longer in the organization.

1. Gerrit Cole

2. Kyle McPherson

3. Tony Sanchez

4. Matt Curry

5. Vic Black

6. Ramon Cabrera

7. Phil Irwin

8. Brock Holt

9. Adalberto Santos

10. Brandon Cumpton

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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  • wkkortas

    It’s interesting that you rate Curry above Black. Black would seem to have a clear-cut role as a back-of-the-pen option at the major league level, and could show up in Pittsburgh as early as next year. Curry’s tool is his bat, and at this stage–especially given his unexceptional power numbers–it doesn’t appear that it’s enough to give him a clear path to the big leagues. I understand that, all things being equal, an everday player has more value than an 8th-inning guy, but Curry seems to be a classic Quad-A type to me.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      There’s really not much of a difference between those two in overall value. There’s not a big gap between most of the guys in the middle of that list.

      That said, Black’s numbers looked great this year, but I’d hesitate to say that he’s going to have a smooth ride from Altoona to the majors next year. He does have control issues, which could be exposed more as he moves up, and especially in the majors. I’m not looking at his Altoona success and assuming no issues at the next two levels. So that’s part of why he fell behind Curry.

      There are two positions I usually grade lower than most people: first basemen and relievers. Curry and Black are about the same value wise for their respective positions. Curry doesn’t have consistent power, and Black struggles with control. All things equal, I’d take the first baseman over the reliever, which is a big reason why I went Curry over Black. But as I said, there’s very little difference. It’s splitting hairs.

      • http://users.rcn.com/wtmiller/pirateprofiles.htm WTM

        Personally, I doubt Curry will reach the majors for more than a cup of coffee or two. His ceiling is AAAA semi-slugger. Black’s ceiling is good late-inning reliever, with at least a moderate-length ML career. I’d put Curry after Holt. If Duke Welker is eligible for this list, I’d put him ahead of Curry.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          WTM…I’m with you on both Black and Welker over Curry. i’m not high on Matt myself.

          Foo

          .

  • http://twitter.com/WNCRoadBowling WNCRoadBowling

    I look at that list and think that four or five of those guys could spend a decent amount of time in the majors next year. Heck, I could see three of them as starters by the end of the year depending on progress and off-season signings. I don’t think that’s too bad. Honestly a little better than I was expecting to see.

    • http://users.rcn.com/wtmiller/pirateprofiles.htm WTM

      It’s way easier to go ten deep with Altoona, or any other team in the system, than with Bradenton. The Curve are gonna be pretty weak next year, prospect-wise. Pretty much Taillon and pray for rain.

      • http://twitter.com/WNCRoadBowling WNCRoadBowling

        Which is probably why I expected less when I originally clicked the link. I was thinking more of how Altoona ended than how it began and progressed through the year.

        A big hole in the system at the moment.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

        Yeah, and hopefully he doesn’t need to spend much time there, lol. Fingers crossed that this group of guys here will be enough to make up for the relative lack of impact that appeared in both Indy and Bradenton this year.

  • emjayinTN

    You guys may be right about Curry, but he has been overlooked since being drafted in the 16th Round. I like him because he signed fast and showed up at State College almost immediately where he hit .299 in 197 AB’s. Then in Lo A in 2011 after 2 months he was up in the Top 3 hitters in Lo A with First round picks Bryce Harper and Bryce Brentz. Because of a logjam at 1B in Hi A he was promoted to Altoona from Lo A. He struggled (.242), but did fairly well at AA in 2012 which would have been his normal time for getting to that level. He led the team in doubles (34), was 2nd in HR (11), led in RBI (76), and led in Walks (44) in 396 AB’s. An Extra Base Hit every 7.9 AB’s and a glove that was .997 at Lo A, .994 at AA Altoona in 2011, and was around .995 this year at AA. The kid has no quit in him, and I would be surprised if he does not make it to PNC sometime in 2013. A RH fielder and LH hitter, he has enough pop to be 20-25 HR/yr. Hitting 11 at Altoona in less than 400 AB’s is an excellent accomplishment. The Q hit 15 in only 413 AB’s.