One Player Shines For Sloppy Altoona Curve


Mel Rojas, Jr is off to a fast start for Altoona Curve

We had some ideas on who we really wanted to watch when we went to check on the Altoona Curve for a couple games.   But then Mel Rojas, Jr. made those thoughts go away.  We have watched Rojas quite a few times and typically early in the season it hasn’t been pretty.  The Curve are a sloppy team, they lead the Eastern League in errors and even Rojas, Jr. had his first error of the season in the game today.

But it was his performance at the plate today, the one that got him a shaving creme pie to the face,  that was impressive.  He’s off to his best start since being the Bucs third round pick.

On this day, the 6’3″ 215 pounder, Rojas, Jr carried the Curve.  In the fifth inning, Rojas put the Curve in the lead with a two-run bomb, his second of the year.  He flashed the power that most thought would eventually be coming.  The fact that he hit it off the end of the bat was even more impressive.

The fleet footed outfielder who is batting .405 in his last ten games, then provided the sunshine the Curve, PA crowd needed on this rainy day with a walk off single.

Rojas might be having that breakout year.  He was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft by the Bucs this year, and might realize that his time is running out to impress. Heh, it worked for Andrew Lambo?

The switch hitter has a .310 average and an .806 OPS while playing in every game for the Curve.  Rojas is hitting both lefties and righties this year which is also new.  The first thing we thought when we saw him this month was that physically, he now looks like the most athletic player on the roster.

Some more observations after 31 games for Altoona.

Joely Rodriguez was the starter for the Altoona Curve today.

Joely Rodriguez threw 84 pitches with fifty going for strikes against Bowie.  The lefty really makes it look easy, but his mechanics are a bit off at times (picture above shows some of it.) We watched in the bullpen before the game and he worked methodically, but as expected, it seems to speed up on him at times during the games. Don’t even talk about the Rubber Ducks.

Joely Rodriguez pitching in the bullpen before his start against Bowie.

After a leadoff walk to start the game, Rodriguez settled in and mixed speeds well today.  (It was something that the other Rodriguez, Wandy couldn’t do against Bowie during his rehab start)  Joely was around the same velocity, but Bowie couldn’t match the production they had against Wandy.

The only run Joely allowed was when he slipped in the wet grass in front of the mound with his mud filled spikes.  We saw his velocity at 88 most of the day.  He touched 90 a few times on the Curve stadium gun.  Scouts guns that we were stitting by, showed his velocity at 91 at least once.

The Altoona pitchers are throwing the ball rather well, in spots.  The team is near the top of the EL in a few pitching categories, but it seems this season the roster has a few more upper level pitchers and then a second tier of relievers.  The pitching results actually surprise me a bit given the philosophy.

Some of our favs:  A.J. Morris has looked good.  Nick Kingham has adjusted well.  We haven’t been able to catch Adrian Sampson as of yet.  He gets the start against the Rubber Ducks today.

When we looked at the staff after 30 games, Rodriguez was who we wanted to see.  (Joely of course)  We were really curious about his slow start, but it was nice to see him challenge the middle of that tough Bowie lineup.

Keon Broxton throws before the Altoona Curve game.

Keon Broxton was acquired at the start of the season.  Another upside type player that is hitting .382 in his past ten games.  After a slow start, he has hits in his last seven games including three doubles, a triple and homer.  He was moved up in the lineup to the five spot and responded big time.  We saw him rope a leadoff triple in the sixth inning in the game today that short hopped the fence.   We saw the speedy outfielder put up five hits in the series against Bowie.  Keep an eye on him.

Willy Garcia has battled with strikeouts this year.

Willy Garcia. 37 strikeouts thus far.   Just looks lost lately as he is hitting .129 in his past ten games with 12 strikeouts.

Stetson Allie playing first base for the Altoona Curve

Stetson Allie.  Oh, the breaking ball will kill a man.  37 strikeouts in 101 at bats.  We, and you might not believe this, but it’s true…. we were impressed with his glove work at times….actually a bit surprised how well he is playing defensively.  The offense needs so much work though.  Today’s game was just ugly to watch Allie at the plate.  So many poor swings.  He has struckout 17 times in his last ten.

Despite some nice offensive production, the Curve have only won two series and sit at 13 wins and 18 losses.  Catcher Elias Diaz has been one of the best hitters thus far and Alen Hanson while still booting baseballs at a significant pace, has been hitting well.  Hanson is hitting .308 in past ten games, but still needs to improve against right handed pitching.

We think the team is going to continue to pitch well, but it’s difficult to see the hitting improving enough in the Eastern  League.  Their defense is bad and that is the key for the team to win.  It will still be a very fun team to watch this season especially some of the young arms that are learning lessons every day.  But don’t be surprised if Mel Rojas, Jr continues to lead the way for the Curve’s offense.

Mel Rojas, Jr throws before the game begins.