Minor League look: Double-A Curve
Altoona was home to promising prospects in 2009
Here is part two in a seven-part series that will take an in-depth look at how each of the Pirates' Minor League affiliates fared during the 2009 season. First, we looked at Triple-A Indianapolis. Up now is the Double-A Altoona Curve:
Record: 62-80, sixth place in Eastern League South
What went right?
Curve fans had the pleasure of getting a glimpse at some of the organization's top prospects. Outfielder Jose Tabata and starter Brad Lincoln were there early in the year before moving up to Triple-A. Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and right-hander Tim Alderson were acquired in midseason deals and went straight to Altoona. And Pedro Alvarez had an unbelievable final month for the Curve.
Though his record was hurt because of minimal run support, Lincoln pitched superbly for Altoona before being promoted. In 13 starts, Lincoln posted a 2.28 ERA. He had one complete game and 65 strikeouts to just 18 walks in 75 innings.
Alvarez joined the team on June 23 and hit two home runs in his first three games. He scuffled a little bit in his first few weeks with the team but had a great showing before leaving to play in the World Cup. Alvarez hit .368 with nine doubles, seven homers, 21 runs scored and 20 RBIs in 28 games in August.
After coming back from a hamstring injury, Tabata hit .354 in July, which was his final month with the Curve. He had a 13-game hitting streak during the month.
After struggling in 2008, Daniel Moskos went 11-10 with a 3.74 ERA while pitching as a starter for the Curve all season. Moskos finished the season strong, too, something he hadn't done a year earlier. Moskos is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
The Curve went 18-12 in August, the team's best month since May 2006. After an awful start, the team did finish on a high note with a 35-31 record after June 30.
What went wrong?
The Curve finished last in the Eastern League with a .969 fielding percentage and committed a league-high 161 errors. Shortstop Brian Friday committed 25 errors in 110 games and Alvarez had 12 in 60 games.
The Pirates lost second baseman Jim Negrych, the organization's 2008 Minor League Player of the Year, for the season after he underwent surgery for a hematoma in late July. Negrych fared OK while he was healthy, hitting .272 with 30 RBIs in 93 games, but nothing near the .359 average and 72 RBIs he had last year in 129 games. Negrych committed 16 errors this year.
Altoona got off to an 0-8 start and had a record of 15-34 through May. Though the team fared much better in the second half, it still finished 18 games under .500 and 27 games out of first place.
First baseman Jamie Romak, whom Baseball America ranked as the organization's No. 11 prospect heading into the season, hit .175 in the first 64 games. He was then sent down to Class A, where he hardly fared better. He hit .213 with 14 RBIs in 42 games there.
Three pitchers -- Lincoln Holdzkom, Jared Hughes and Tony Watson -- all suffered early-season injuries that caused them to miss the majority of the season.
After participating in Major League camp for the first time, right-hander Jeff Sues did not put up overwhelming numbers in his second season (first full one) with the Curve. In 40 relief appearances, Sues went 2-6 with a 4.46 ERA.
On the rise
There were a lot of questions about Moskos' ability to be a starter, but the first-round pick proved he could handle the role and not wear down by season's end. That's not to say he will always be a starter, but after this year, the Pirates are optimistic about the potential.
Alvarez didn't necessarily exceed expectations this year because fans had already set those expectations extremely high. But for a player in his first full season, Alvarez handled adversity well. He struggled a bit at the beginning of the season when he wasn't getting pitches to hit, but the third baseman kept his approach much better in the second half and thrived. He also shored up his defense and conditioning.
After showing some immaturity and attitude issues early on, Hernandez, by all accounts, improved in those areas as the season went on. Defensively, he is already quite polished, and he ended the season with a .287 batting average in August. Now the Pirates would like to see Hernandez try to draw more walks and use his speed on the basepaths more.
Batting average: Alvarez, .333
Doubles: Jason Delaney, 25
Triples: Delaney, 25
Home runs: Jonel Pacheco, 14
RBIs: Delaney, 25
Stolen bases: Pacheco, 15
Wins: Moskos and Yoslan Herrera, 11
ERA (starter, minimum 75 IP): Lincoln, 2.28
ERA (reliever, minimum 30 IP): Jean Machi, 2.08
Saves: Scott Nestor, 10
Strikeouts: Michael Crotta, 97
End-of-season awards: Alvarez, Most Valuable Player; Herrera, Pitcher of the Year; Miguel Perez, "Unsung Hero"
The Curve should be in better position to get off to a strong start than they were this season as Alderson and Hernandez will likely start the season in Double-A. Both, though, are expected to move up to Triple-A at some point midseason. Moskos could very well follow that same path as well. Catcher Tony Sanchez, the No. 4 overall pick in the '09 First-Year Player Draft, has an outside chance at starting the season in Altoona, though a start with high-A Lynchburg is probably the safest bet. Regardless, the Curve will get Sanchez's services at some point next year, as he is expected to be a second half highlight for the club.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.