The Altoona Curve: A Guess At The Roster

Here's what the Altoona Curve could look like this year. Thanks, as always, to WTM and his depth chart.

CATCHER

Altoona's 2011 catcher will almost certainly be Tony Sanchez, although Eric Fryer should play some too. Fryer will play 2011 at 25, but he shouldn't be completely dismissed as a prospect - he had a strong year both offensively and defensively in 2010, so hopefully the Pirates can find some time for him between catcher and the outfield.

FIRST BASE

This will probably be Calvin Anderson. I don't see why the Pirates would send Matt Hague back to Altoona, and if their first baseman isn't Anderson or Hague, I don't know who it would be, although I suppose Miles Durham is a possibility.

MIDDLE INFIELD

This is tricky, because the Bucs have about a thousand middle infielders and third basemen who could play at Indianapolis. Hopefully Brock Holt, who hit brilliantly at Bradenton last year but missed about half the season due to injury, will take the shortstop job. (He sounds like he's healthy now.) As for the second base job, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Pirates send Jim Negrych back - Negrych isn't really a prospect, or at any rate, he's less of one than five or six other middle infielders at Indianapolis. The Bucs could also decide to send Chase D'Arnaud back to play the middle infield. While the Pirates' usual approach is to promote prospects fairly aggressively, D'Arnaud's numbers at Altoona were mediocre last year, and sending him back could help ease headaches over who's going to play at Indianapolis. Shelby Ford could stick as a utility player at Altoona if he plays at all this year.

THIRD BASE

The Pirates evidently like Jeremy Farrell, but Farrell will play 2011 at age 24, so this presents a good opportunity for the Bucs to make him the starter at Altoona to see what they've got.

OUTFIELD

Quincy Latimore should take one spot, and Starling Marte will probably take another. The third could be occupied by Robbie Grossman, but it's also possible the Pirates could send him back to Bradenton, since he's very young and can afford to take some time to make sure strikeouts won't eat him alive at Class AA. If Grossman is in Class A+, it would be nice to see Fryer get a fair amount of playing time in the outfield. It's also possible the Pirates could send Gorkys Hernandez or Andrew Lambo back to Class AA, but they've really had enough time there, so I imagine they'll go to Indianapolis. The backup outfielders could be Anthony Norman, Miles Durham, and/or Brad Chalk.

STARTING PITCHING

Starting pitching shouldn't be one of the Curve's strong suits. Brian Leach and Aaron Pribanic, two marginal prospects, are good bets to be in the rotation. The Pirates could send new acquisition Aaron Thompson to Indianapolis, but with a huge number of legitimate starting pitching prospects there, the Bucs could just send him to Altoona, which would be fine - he hasn't really mastered Class AA anyway.

The next two rotation candidates could be Nate Baker and Tim Alderson. We talked about Baker a fair amount in the comments section to yesterday's thread, where some people thought he'd be at Bradenton. That could be, but my rationale for thinking he'd be in Altoona is that the Pirates tend to be more aggressive with early-round picks and college draftees, and Baker is both. Also, the rotation is pretty thin at Altoona. It's true that Baker has worse stuff than Justin Wilson, so the Pirates' aggressive promotions of Wilson may not be exactly what they do with Baker, but that's the closest comparison we've got.

As for Alderson, well, your guess is as good as mine. Anywhere from Altoona to extended spring training wouldn't surprise me. Well, actually, Altoona would be a pleasant surprise, since it would suggest the Pirates have faith that he's getting back on track.

Given the uncertainty at the back of the Curve's rotation, and given that Jeff Locke only had ten starts at Class AA, it wouldn't be a shock if the Pirates sent him back there. Given his stellar performance in those AA starts, though, I don't think another promotion would be too aggressive. Locke, for his part, sounds like he thinks he's going to Indianapolis, for whatever that's worth:

(By the way, the Marauders' YouTube channel, from which this interview is taken, is really cool.)

It also wouldn't be a shock to see Jared Hughes back in the Curve's rotation, even though his future, if he has one, is in the bullpen.

UPDATE: I forgot about Nathan Adcock. Adcock was selected by the Royals in the Rule 5 draft, but I think the chances of him sticking with them are pretty remote. If he doesn't, he'll probably be in Altoona's rotation.

RELIEF

The makeup of the bullpen is hard to determine right now, as much probably depends on how the logjam of NRIs and marginal prospects at Indianapolis shakes out. Michael Colla, Tyler Cox, Ramon Aguero and Tom Boleska all look like good bets. Diego Moreno and Casey Erickson will probably be there as well. Michael Dubee is an organizational player, or close to it, so while he could probably handle Class AAA, he looks likely to head back to Altoona. Noah Krol is also a possibility, although he could wind up back at Bradenton. Depending on how the situation at Indianapolis goes, we could see Jared Hughes or Anthony Claggett in relief roles as well.

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