Pittsburgh Pirates: Double-A Altoona Curve Preview

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates minor league affiliates start their regular season this Thursday.  How do the Double-A Altoona Curve stack up this year?

The Pittsburgh Pirates Double-A affiliate is the Altoona Curve.  The Curve play at Peoples Natural Gas Field, formerly known as Blair County Ball Park.  The Altoona Curve are a part of the Eastern League and will take on the Akron RubberDucks of the Cleveland Indians organization.  The Curve were very good last year and won their division with a record of 78-60.

This year will likely be a tougher go for the Altoona Curve.  The team lost a lot of elite prospect talent last season and unfortunately will not make up for a lot of the talent they are losing.  Still, there are obviously some intriguing prospects that will be on the team.

The team will start the year with two top 30 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects on their roster.  Jared Oliva, an outfielder, ranks at number 19 on our Top 30 Prospect list and infielder, and likely starting shortstop, Stephen Alemais ranks as the Pittsburgh Pirates number 25 overall prospect.

The team also has several other former Top 30 prospects in Yeudy Garcia, Dario Agrazal, and Gage Hinsz, all of them pitchers.  Hinsz will be the most interesting of the bunch.  He missed last season after undergoing emergency open heart surgery.  Hopefully, Hinsz can get back to normal everyday life and continue his path toward the major leagues.

Team MVP: Jared Oliva

Jared Oliva is the top prospect at the Double-A level and could be one of the team’s breakout prospects this season.  Since being drafted in the seventh round out of the University of Arizona back in 2017, Oliva has shown off his well-rounded game.  He played mainly in center field last year in High-A, but he also spent time in left and right field during the 2017 season at Low-A.

So far in his minor league career he has hit .272/.344/.406 in 164 total games.  This builds a good picture being that he has essentially played a full major league season thus far.  In those games, he has hit nine home runs, 34 doubles, and 11 triples.  He has struck out 148 times, which is not terribly high, but definitely something to pay attention to.  With that being said, Oliva is the team’s best all-around player and should make the biggest impact on the Curve this season.

Pitcher of the Year: Eduardo Vera

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Eduardo Vera out of Mexico in 2012 as a 17-year-old.  He has slowly climbed up the Pittsburgh Pirates organization latter since.  Vera owns a career 3.28 ERA in 424.2 innings pitched, but he has never been a big strikeout pitcher, only striking out 304 batters in those innings.

However, he does a good job of producing weak contact both in the air and on the ground.  This is something that should play to his advantage in the spacious ballpark in Altoona.  Vera had a strong last year to build on, pitching to a sub 3.00 ERA in High-A.   Then this Spring he went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.  Vera seems to be developing into a better pitcher each year and his style should fit really well into the Curve this year.

Next. Triple-A Preview. dark

The Altoona Curve are not as talented as they were during the 2018 season.  This just happened to be with a lot of the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects being at Triple-A and Single-A.  However, top 10 prospects like Cal Mitchell and Oneil Cruz could eventually make Double-A this year.