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Prospect Notebook: Recapping Week Two in Altoona

The Curve played seven games in the past seven days, going 4-3, to move to 8-10 on the season.  As with last week’s prospect notebook, this review highlights the Curve players who have grabbed my attention this past week for one reason or another.

And as with last week’s recap, the same small sample size disclaimer is necessary.  It’s a long season, and I am only offering a glimpse of one week.  Now that that’s out of the way . . .

Stat lines only include the seven games from April 16-22nd.

The Impressive

Casey Sadler had an impressive week last week.

Casey Sadler had an impressive week last week.

Casey Sadler, SP: 1.29/0.86/7.71 (ERA/WHIP/K per 9) in 14 IP

Starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Stolmy Pimentel may have higher ceilings, but Casey Sadler is pitching like a prospect in his own right.  As I’ve written before, Sadler has great sleeper potential as a back-of-the-rotation starter.   He was an out-machine this past week, as his WHIP and ERA suggest, only giving up 2 earned runs in his two starts combined.  So far, he’s been able to keep his low-90s sinking fastball down in the zone to induce ground ball outs, which is important for Sadler since he doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff and does not profile as a high strikeout threat.  Some regression is probably coming for Sadler, who is stranding runners at a very high rate (86.8%).

Stolmy Pimentel, SP: 0.79/1.32/8.74 in 11.1 IP

Pimentel didn’t pitch as late into games as Sadler, and he was laboring in the 5th inning in his second start of the week against Harrisburg.  That said, Pimentel has looked quite impressive so far, only giving up one earned run in 17.1 innings pitched.  His fastball has been sitting 93-94 mph with some good life (touching 96 mph) and he is showing confidence in his slider, which is much improved since last season before he joined the organization.  His high 2013 walk rate (4.15 per 9) is something to keep an eye on as the season moves along.  Like Sadler, I expect some regression soon, as Pimentel’s strand rate is a whopping 94.4% on the season. It’s great to get outs when men are on, but that number is not sustainable, even for the best pitchers in baseball.

The Good

Andrew Lambo, 1B/OF: 10-for-30 (.300), 3 2B, 1 R, 9 RBIs, 0 BB, 9 K, 2 SB

Lambo was on “the good” list last week, and he returns by getting a hit in every game this week, to go along with a 19 game streak of getting on base.  My only gripe with Lambo has been his high strikeout rate and low walk totals, which seem like less of a downside when the first baseman-outfielder is hitting .300 and is one of the few Curve run producers so far this season.  Manager Carlos Garcia informed me that a key for Lambo is his approach, being selective in the strike zone to get into better hitter’s counts, which seems to be one key to his success at the plate. His high strikeout rate (30% on the season) and .467 BABIP suggest a regression on the way, but after seeing his stock drop for the past two seasons, it’s good to see Lambo having some success.

Matt Curry, 1B/OF: 6-for-17 (.352), 2B, 2 HR, 4 R, 6 RBIs, 0 BB, 5 Ks

The big first basemen hit the ball well this week, including home runs in back-to-back games against Harrisburg over the weekend.  There are actually a lot of similarities between Curry and Lambo—both left-handed hitters who are limited to corner positions and trying to work their way out of AA after a few seasons.  A key difference is that Curry has more raw power, and this week he started to put it together.  Like Lambo, Curry strikes out a lot (26.4%), and he’s only registered two walks in 72 plate appearances so far in 2013.

Jeff Inman, RP: 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K in 3.2 innings

Inman gave up a run in each of his first two appearances earlier this season, but has now gone his last 6.1 innings scoreless.  I saw Inman throwing 95-96 last week against Harrisburg, locating well.  He was able to get ahead in counts with his fastball to set-up his curveball, which also looked good.  It will be mid-season by the time I’ve seen enough out of relievers to draw any conclusions, but so far so good for Inman, who has the makings of a good middle relief option moving forward.

The Not-so-good

Alex Dickerson, 1B/OF: 2-for-22 (.091), 2B, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 R, 0 RBI

Dickerson is really struggling with the jump to AA pitching, particularly with his plate patience, only taking one walk so far this season and finding himself frequently behind in the count.  He might just be a slow-starter, as he had a rough April and May in Bradenton last year before tearing it up in the summer.  Lacking substantial defensive value, the expectations are for Dickerson to be a run producer from a corner spot.

Nate Baker, RP: 5 ER, 4 BB, 1 K in 2 innings.

Small sample size sure, but it’s not a good sign when your walk total is higher than your innings pitched.  He just can’t find the strike zone.

Worth watching:

Mel Rojas, Jr., CF: 7-23 (.304), 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 R, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K

I expected Rojas, Jr. to come to Altoona and struggle to start the season, as he wasn’t particularly stellar in Bradenton last season and the jump to AA is most challenging for young hitters.  Rojas, Jr. is holding his own, and he was thrust into the lead-off spot to start the year, which is not the ideal fit for him, since he’s not an OBP guy.  It’s still early, but his strikeout rate is better so far in 2013 than in previous seasons.  He’s a good defensive center fielder with some (but not great) speed on the bases, so he can contribute in different facets of the game.

Mandatory Taillon Category:

Jameson Taillon, SP, .346 ERA/1.08 WHIP/6.23 K per 9

I almost posted this article without discussing Taillon’s week, since it didn’t really fit any of my categories.  But since  he’s by far the best prospect in Altoona, he probably deserves his own spot in this recap.  Taillon has not had great command in 2013, despite some impressive results, including some high strikeout performances.  When he’s locked in, as he was in the last four innings of his first start of the week, he’s almost un-hittable.  But when he leaves the fastball up in the zone, good hitters, even at the AA level, can make him pay.  His second start of the week, allowing 5 ER in 6 innings, is no reason to be alarmed since we can’t expect anyone to be dominant every time out, and it serves as a good reality check to all those pushing for a Taillon promotion—he still has things to work on in AA and that’s OK.

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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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  • kevin21

    I’m guessing you need to float the ERA for Taillon over a tenth?

  • John Eshleman

    oops. good catch.

  • leadoff

    Philly did not have a problem bringing up a pitcher that just gave up 8 runs in a game to start against the Pirates and I think he is about 22 years old.
    I don’t really look at Taillon giving up 5 runs as a reality check, every pitcher that ever pitched has given up 5 runs. I would be more interested in the type of hits that he gave up, were they solid contact or were a few of them dinks and dunks?

    • John Eshleman

      Richmond isn’t part of MiLB.tv, so I couldn’t watch it. He definitely gave up some line drives according to the radio broadcast including two doubles . In general, he’s given up some hard hit balls when he’s left his fastball up in the zone. Like I said above, no reason for alarm; part of the normal growth cycle for a young pitcher.

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

    Lambo – 10 for 30 is .333, isn’t it!

    Otherwise, nice writeup!

    • John Eshleman

      apparently I wrote this late at night.

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