The Altoona Curve had a solid team of prospects coming into this season. They weren't as deep as Indianapolis and didn't have the top-end talent of Bradenton, but the team had a lot of potential. We saw some breakout players at the level in the past, and that happened again this year with Jordan Luplow, who parlayed a fast start into a Major League spot by the end of July. We also saw a team win an Eastern League title by winning their division, then sweeping both playoff series with excellent pitching and timely hitting. They won those playoffs without the services of three of the top four players on our top ten prospect list.
This list is strong at the top for offense, with two interesting pitchers in the middle, then there is a lot of depth, consisting of many players with a strong chance of making the majors someday. When looking at the list, realize that there isn't a big different between #7 in the top ten and some of the players mentioned in the notable player section. It's basically six solid/strong prospects and a very large group of notables. Here is our end of the year rundown of the best prospects at the level.
TOP 10 ALTOONA CURVE PROSPECTS
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. Those limits kept Mitch Keller from qualifying for the list. We also didn’t include traded players, so Connor Joe wasn't considered for the list. Unlike the lower-level lists, this list factors in actual results a bit more than potential and upside. The latter is still factored in, but this is the level where we want to see players start producing on the field and showing their tools in games.
1. Cole Tucker, SS - Tucker ranked second on our Bradenton top ten, falling only behind Mitch Keller, who wasn't eligible for this list. He got on that list because he showed improvements in his defense at shortstop, he hit for some power for the first time, and was aggressive on the bases, winning games with his speed. It was a great sign to see, but there was more to come in his time with Altoona. Tucker got off to a slow start with his jump to Double-A, though it didn't last long. In his final 26 games, he put up an .897 OPS and went 7-for-8 in steals, finishing the season with a system-leading 47 stolen bases. He also displayed some impressive defense on a day-to-day basis, looking even better than he did in Bradenton.
Tucker just turned 21 during the middle of this season, so he was one of the youngest players in Double-A and showed that he was more than ready for the level. He will return to Altoona to begin next season, but should see time in Indianapolis during the year. That will depend on how things play out in front of him. Tucker has displayed the tools to be a regular shortstop in the majors and hit at the top of the order. The injuries, which includes two thumb injuries (one fractured, one UCL surgery), a broken hand and labrum surgery, have cost him some development time and gives you concerns for the future. That being said, he has still developed well at a young age despite the missed time, so if he can stay healthy, there could be a lot more upside to his game.
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