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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