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Pirates’ minor league recap: Altoona Part 1

MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to do Altoona and Indianapolis each in two parts, hitters and pitchers. Both teams were loaded with players who have at least a passable chance of reaching the majors, so there are a lot of players to address.

The Curve’s hitters got off to a miserable start, with one exception. Mostly they got things turned around, though.


Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B: I’m guessing everybody’s familiar with this guy. The question mark was always power and that started showing up. According to Baseball America, when they interviewed league managers for their top 20, they were told that people shifted Hayes toward right early in the year and later had to move around and play him to pull. He had much better power numbers away from Altoona, which is a bad place for right-handed hitters. BA also characterized Hayes as a shortstop playing third. And even in the low minors, he didn’t commit many errors, which you don’t see much from third basemen. And scouts, who said he had subpar speed when he was drafted, now grade him as a plus runner. And he’s only 21. Colin Moran should be hearing footsteps by now.

Bryan Reynolds, OF: Reynolds looked like he might be headed for a semi-lost season when he hurt his wrist on a swing in the season’s fourth game. He had to have hamate surgery, which often saps a hitter’s power for a year or more. Power and plate discipline were both areas where Reynolds needed to improve and, despite the injury, he did (if you take into account the fact that he was playing in the hitting-happy California League last year). He batted 302/381/438, increased his walk rate by over 50%, and cut his K rate a little. I’m skeptical whether he can be a center fielder in the majors on more than a fourth-outfielder basis, but he might not have to be.


Cole Tucker, SS: Tucker had a very rough time for the first two-thirds of the season. He began a 2-for-40 slide in late April and took a long time to recover from it. He even got thrown out in his first five steal attempts. He did rebound to bat 281/370/407 the rest of the way and also stole 35 bases. On the plus side, he played very well at short.

Logan Hill, OF: Hill got off to a dismal start, with a .407 OPS in April. He rebounded to finish with a sort-of passable 228/311/404 line with 17 home runs. He struck out in a third of his at-bats, though, and he played most of the season at 25.


Jason Martin, OF: Martin was the big story in the system and, for a while, provided almost all of Altoona’s offense. He batted 325/392/522 before a mid-season promotion to Indianapolis. In AAA, though, he slumped to 211/270/319. Some of the difference was BABIP-driven: .396 at Altoona and .261 at Indy.

Will Craig, 1B: After a year and a half of hitting for very little power, Craig adjusted his approach and led the farm system in longballs, with 20. He also had a 100-RBI season (102 to be exact), which you don’t see a lot in the minors. His overall line of 248/321/448 wasn’t that impressive, though, especially for a first baseman, and his walk and K rates both suffered. Unlike Hayes, Craig didn’t have better numbers on the road. He was voted the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League.

Stephen Alemais, SS: There weren’t any surprises with Alemais. With Tucker at short, he moved to second and, like Hayes and Craig, was voted the league’s best defensive player at his position. He hit for a decent average at the plate, but not much else, putting up a 279/346/346 line. His glove is probably good enough to get him to the majors as a backup at short, although it’s hard to see when he’ll get to play there in the minors.

Christian Kelley, C: Kelley is the catcher version of Alemais. He’s strong defensively, but the bat isn’t there so far. For the second year in a row, he hit well early — in May this time — but struggled after that, finishing with a .675 OPS. As Jacob Stallings and Elias Diaz have shown, though, catchers’ bats sometimes show improvement later.