Altoona Series Recap and Thoughts

After seeing Altoona play a three game series in Trenton this week, I’ll summarize my impressions of the top prospects that I saw, many of them for the first time in person. To make things easier I’ll concentrate only on the players that could rank among the top 30 prospects in the system. Unfortunately I was not able to see either Bryan Morris or Tim Alderson make an appearance so I have nothing new on them, although both are pitching well at this time. I’ve also included links to all three wrap-ups so you can read the game by game reports:

Game One

Game Two

Game Three

I’ll start with the player I have rated highest on my list. Starling Marte only lasted four innings of the first game, so there wasn’t much to go on, but I did get a good look at his strong arm as he threw a player out at home plate trying to score from 2B on a line drive up the middle. In his only two AB’s he made good contact hitting hard grounders right back up the middle and he showed good speed running from home to 1B. He definitely has all the tools to be a future major league regular, which I knew coming into the series, but it was good seeing a small glimpse of that in person. He is currently listed day-to-day with a groin injury which possibly happened on his throw home because he left one play after that.

Marte showed impressive tools during his only game

Next highest prospect would be Tony Sanchez and he showed a good approach at the plate in most of his AB’s, but never really made great contact, and the power numbers have been missing from his game this year. He caught two of the games and didn’t have much work behind the plate. Nothing got by him and the only throw he had to make was a strong accurate one. He also made a great tag on the Marte throw home. Probably has more to do with the starting pitchers and relievers but he caught the two well pitched games and the team lost the other game with Watts behind the plate.

Jeff Locke started game three and was dominating when he was on. His problem could just be not letting bad calls get to him because he clearly lost it after a couple close calls and it was visible from the press box. He threw pitches on an 0-2 and 1-2 count, and both pitches looked good, but were called balls. He then walked the batter which led to a run scoring. He also had just hit a batter on an 0-2 count prior and both he and Sanchez were claiming it hit the bat not the batter. When he was getting calls he worked quicker and had all of his pitches working. They made good contact off him twice all game, 23 batters, and both were well placed groundballs. The 12 swing and misses he got were a very good sign especially since that’s about how many I saw the first two games combined from Curve pitchers. With a pitching coach or catcher with a better eye for bad signs with him, he looks to have quality major league stuff. His problem was and has been the ability to go deep into games. With that stuff he showed he shouldn’t be struggling with pitch counts.

Aaron Pribanic is the definition of pitch to contact, I said to one of the other writers after he was taken out that he must’ve read his own scouting report because he pitched to it, to a tee. He pitches like he doesn’t try to strikeout batters which is a good way to limit your pitch counts and get the most innings out of yourself. He throws low 90’s mostly down in the zone. When he is on he will get a ton of groundballs and when his defense is strong behind him he will have a good day. With Jeremy Farrell and Matt Curry at the corners he may have some tough days ahead in the boxscore, but the starts will look better in person. He pitched 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs when I was there and actually pitched better than those numbers would indicate giving up just two legit hits. I liked what I saw, and strikeouts are great in the minors. However Locke, dominating hitters, went 5 1/3 giving up one run while Pribanic, pitching down in the zone to contact, went 7 with no runs.

Pribanic pitched seven shutout innings.

Brock Holt looks like a baseball player. He plays the game right, looks good at the plate, in the field and on the bases. He probably moved up a few spots on my list due to seeing him play in person. His triple yesterday wasn’t anything special on the hitting side, just a ball right down the line into the corner, but he showed better speed than I heard he had. His defense all series was impressive with a couple above average plays. He also showed a bit of power making some solid contact and wasn’t overanxious at the plate. On this team he is the perfect leadoff hitter.

Jeremy Farrell also left the series early with an unknown injury, nothing was evident in person. I have seen him play before and he looks to be the same player, which can be considered good since he isn’t falling behind the higher he gets in the system. He still needs work at 3B and unfortunately for the Pirates there isn’t a DH in the National League because he would be a good one. I doubt he has the speed to cover enough ground in the outfield so his best position honestly might be 1B and I’m not sure the bat is there for that. He does have some power but doesn’t always make good contact and from a guy who has injury problems in the past it wasn’t a good sign to see him miss the last 13 innings of this series.

Matt Curry changed my initial thoughts on him in the third game when he hit three hard balls off of lefties. He had trouble in the first two games with them. He looks to have nice power, hitting one home run and two off the wall, and he makes good contact, with very few bad swings, especially against righties. So far in his short time at the level he is handling the big jump from low-A to AA. His bat won’t be the thing that holds him back but his glovework may. His fielding in the series was bad all three games. He missed a line drive right at him, had trouble with a grounder right to him, couldn’t make a couple scoops, didn’t range for anything hit near him including a couple pop-ups he looked lost on. I personally don’t think we will see him too soon because his game needs work and he can definitely use all the time he can get at 1B before he gets to the majors. He’s also hitting well now but it should be watched how better pitching adjusts to him when word gets around about how good he is hitting.

Diego Moreno faced just six batters in the series but that was enough to see he has a great fastball and good enough off-speed stuff to keep hitters from sitting on the fastball. He was a little wild with some pitches but the stuff is there for him to develop into a back of the bullpen guy, possibly a closer at some point. He had four strikeouts and looked impressive doing it. He needs to be able to stay on the field, as he’s had a couple setbacks (two injury, one disciplinary), and if he can he should make it to the majors fairly quick.

Jordy Mercer didn’t have a good series at the plate but he was very solid in the field and looked the be the infield captain, repeatedly calling people off pop-ups that were not in his general area. Probably a wise idea with Farrell to his right but he also caught one particularly high one right where Curry was stationed, again, probably a good idea if he can get there. Mercer looks like a solid athletic player he just doesn’t string together solid AB’s. He hit the furthest homer of the series and that is the second time I’ve seen him do that in person so the power potential is there. He might be coming along slow but I still think he is better than the .250 hitter with slight power we’ve seen in the past. A solid fielding SS with some speed and power who always stays in the lineup should be useful someday to the major league team.

Last but not least is Quincy Latimore who is loved by some of the prospect watchers and overrated according to the others. He has power, that was evident by his one handed swing on a ball he was out in front of, that went for a long home run in game three. He showed very good speed both in the outfield and on the bases. I didn’t see any throws from him but he looked better on defense than when I saw him last. He also showed a little more patience at the plate, something he admitted to me in the off-season that he knew he needed to work on. So basically you have a toolsy outfielder who is still just 22, which you have to remember with his struggles during his first year in AA. He looks better than when I saw him play in 2009 and hasn’t repeated a level so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet, he still needs work making contact because the higher he gets the harder it will be to improve that area without being held back at some point.

The overall impression of the three game series is other than Sanchez not showing any power, and he only has 8 extra base hits this year, there wasn’t anyone I was looking forward to that disappointed and both Holt and Curry were better than I expected going into the series.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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I loved reading the game recaps and player reviews.  Great work.  It’s a huge benefit to read about the defensive capabilities or, in some cases, deficiences with these prospects.  Disappointed to hear of Curry’s defensive struggles; obviously not disappointed with the bat.  I’ve followed him all year through the box scores and was intrigued with the promotion skipping high A.  I hope Curry continues to do well.  Also a huge fan of all of Marte’s tools, I just wish he would develop the “willing to draw a walk” tool.

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