Prospect Notebook: Recapping Week One in Altoona

I should start by acknowledging that I’m taking some liberties by saying “week one” since I’m actually looking back over the first 11 games of the season. This review highlights the Curve players who have grabbed my attention at this very early stage of the season.

Before diving in, it is PIVOTAL to remember that we are dealing with some super-small sample sizes at this point, and I am in no way suggesting that what we’ve seen so far is what we’ll see all season long. Now that that’s out of the way . . .

The Impressive

Adalberto Santos, 3B: .417/.533/.625 in 30 plate appearances.

These early season numbers put Santos near the top of the Eastern League in all three of the slash line categories, and quite honestly none of us should be surprised. He hit .340 in Altoona in 2012 with a .425 OBP (even with the .401 BABIP, that’s impressive), is old for the level, and went out to Arizona this fall putting up a solid .299/.413/.455 in 21 games. There is no doubt Santos should be in AAA at this point, but the Pirates have created a logjam of aging players there. Adding some power is key, and a homer in the first week is a good sign. Santos was recently placed on the disabled list with a hip strain.

Stolmy Pimentel, SP: 0.00/0.89/8.0 (ERA/WHIP/K per 9) in 12.1 innings

Pimentel’s first two starts have made the Pirates front office look very smart for acquiring him as an add-on in the Joel Hanrahan trade with Boston. The obvious grain of salt here is that this is Pimentel’s 3rd tour through AA, but I’m still impressed. The key, as noted in spring training, is that his stuff looks good, which was clearly not the case in 2011 and 2012. His slider has been very good so and he’s commanded his mid-90s fastball, both pivotal to the early success.

Jameson Taillon got off to a good start with Altoona.

Jameson Taillon got off to a good start with Altoona.

Jameson Taillon, SP: 1.64/1.18/11.5 in 11 innings

I waffled on which category to place Taillon, an indication of just how high expectations are for the system’s #2 prospect—his numbers certainly scream impressive, so why the hesitation? After watching his 10 K performance from last week, I still saw some issues with leaving the ball up in the zone, losing his command, and flattening out the fastball that the tall Texan will need to improve upon to be a number one starter in the MLB. I’m confident he can improve in each of these areas, and seeing him strike guys out at this rate should be exciting for any Pirate fan. As his time in Altoona continues, I’ll be watching for improvement on his change-up, a pitch that is still relatively new for Taillon.

The Good

Casey Sadler, SP: 3.27/1.27/4.1 in 11 innings

Sadler doesn’t have the ceiling of a Taillon or Pimentel, but he has an outside chance to make the back-end of a MLB rotation down the road. He’s off to a good start, and I loved his ability to keep the ball down when I saw him in his second start. He’s never going to get a ton of strikeouts, but his sinking fastball induces scads of groundballs (5.75 GO/AO), and he pairs it with a slider he can throw in any count. He could end up in the bullpen based on these two pitches as he advances, but with continued progress of the change he might make it in the rotation.

Andrew Lambo, RF/1B: .325/.426/.575 in 47 plate appearances.

I can’t believe Lambo is only 24—it feels like he’s been around forever. With an injury-plagued career, his prospect status has sunk since being a top prospect for the Dodgers back in 2009. I expect a mighty regression to the average (current BABIP is .476) and he strikes out a lot, but he looks healthy and has some raw power that has served him well so far this season.

The Not-So-Good

Brandon Cumpton, SP: 7.45/1.66/6.5 in 9.2 innings

Cumpton has been bumped up to Indianapolis, but not based on merit, struggling mightily in his two AA starts. As a repeater of the level and coming off a decent 2012, there was some hope Cumpton would impress in Altoona, but his command has failed him and he’s been knocked around a good bit.

Gift Ngoepe, SS: .167/.250/.300 in 36 plate appearances

The South African shortstop has clearly struggled with contact, striking out in 36% of his plate appearances, while only walking 3 times, the same problem that has plagued him since signing in 2010. Because his defense is so advanced, Ngoepe will probably get a longer leash than less skilled infielders, but at some point he’ll need to improve his plate patience to have a chance at a higher level.

Worth Watching

Carlos Paulino, C: .185/.313/.222 in 33 plate appearances

Despite the poor start at the plate, Paulino is still worth watching based on his defensive prowess. Across the organization, limiting the opposition’s running game was a focus in spring workouts, but having a catcher with Paulino’s arm sure doesn’t hurt. He’s thrown out 4 of 5 base-stealers so far and picked off 2 other baserunners. His blocking skills are also noteworthy, and my hope is that he’ll adjust at the plate once he sees more pitches at this level, since his hitting in Bradenton was at least serviceable.

Follow me on twitter @John_Eshleman

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John Eshleman

John Eshleman joined Pirates Prospects in 2012, providing live coverage of the State College Spikes and the Altoona Curve. He will return for the 2013 season to provide coverage of the Jamestown Jammers while they are in State College. He will also be providing coverage of the Altoona Curve throughout the year. John is currently earning a Ph.D in Rural Sociology from Penn State University, and he lives in State College with his fiance Allison. Also, he hates the designated hitter rule.

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