Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 5/1/13
Andy Vasquez has been a surprising bright spot in the Altoona offense. The Curve lost their best hitter when Adalberto Santos went down with a hip injury April 15, and the offense has struggled for noticeable spells in the early season.  Santos returned Tuesday night, so there is some optimism he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to his injury. Andy Vasquez has been the team’s best hitter over the past ten games putting up a .417/.432/.556 line, followed by Matt Curry’s .316/.381/.500.  Vasquez is a bit old at 25 and has never been all that highly regarded as a prospect, signing out of the Dominican Republic at age 20.  His major problem has been plate discipline, so even at points when he’s hit well, his low walk rate and high strikeout rate have made it difficult to project him as anything other than an organizational player. In a small sample size in 2013, Vasquez has a 6.8% walk-rate about double what it was 2010-2012, and he’s already striking out less so far.  There’s not a lot of power, but he has played almost every position on the field in his career, and if he keeps hitting consistently, he could be considered a super-sleeper utility player prospect.  With Santos back in the fold at third base, expect Vasquez to play a mix of positions moving forward. Matt Curry will reach 900 plate appearances in AA this week, and he did enough to deserve a promotion to AAA coming into 2013 (along with Santos and Andrew Lambo for that matter).  He’s up to .270 on the season, which is about where I’d expect him to be, and he has three homers in the early going.  As a first baseman, he’ll need the pop to continue moving up, and he’ll need to show he can hit lefties (3-for-25 in 2013).  His plate patience is not as good this year as previous seasons, possibly a sign he’s taking bigger cuts and starting his swing earlier to increase his power.  Or maybe that’s just the small sample size. My opinion on Curry will probably remain the same until he gets called up to AAA for a new test. Andrew Lambo didn’t have a great week, only hitting .237/.286/.342, but he’s been one of the few bright spots in the line-up through the first month of the season.  Similar to Curry, I worry about platoon splits (3-for-25 against lefties), but Lambo has looked good at the plate when I’ve seen him, and he has always had a good swing.  Like Curry, he’s another player who has logged lots of at bats in AA (almost 1,400), and now is the time to see what he can do in AAA. Injuries have slowed Lambo’s development, but this year he looks 100 percent. “It’s great to feel healthy.  When something’s wrong you have to overcompensate and bad things start happening,” said Lambo. Bottom of the line-up continues to struggle The jump to AA is the hardest one to make for hitters, as AA pitchers are much more able to command a repertoire of pitches consistently.  Especially in the early going, it’s not uncommon to see players start slowly, and, as Cory Giger reminded me recently, Andrew McCutchen was only hitting .158 in Altoona in mid-May 2007. Disclaimers aside, several Curve hitters have really struggled to open the season (through Monday): Alex Dickerson: .192/.250/.359 Carlos Paulino: .193/.292/.246 Gift Ngoepe: .145/.238/.232 The sliver of good news here is that Dickerson hit his second homer (first to clear the wall) on Monday, and his swing looked better on Tuesday against Akron than when I saw it previously.  He started slow last season, and hopefully he can make adjustments to put in more productive at bats moving forward. It’s also worth noting that while Paulino and Ngoepe have struggled at the plate, they are outstanding defenders, probably the best at their positions in the system.  Unfortunately, to have an impact, they will need to make serious advances at the plate.  Ngoepe especially looks befuddled at the plate, striking out in over 40% of his plate appearances after Tuesday’s game. “They’re going to get better.  They can’t get much worse than that,” said manager Carlos Garcia. You can follow me on twitter @John_Eshleman.
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