The Altoona Curve announced their 25-man roster to begin the 2018 season, which was set by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday. The roster includes 13 pitchers, 12 position players and nine of MLB.com’s Top 30 Pirates prospects.
Mitch Keller (No. 1), Ke’Bryan Hayes (No. 4), Cole Tucker (No. 5), Bryan Reynolds (No. 6), Taylor Hearn (No. 11), Will Craig (No. 18), Stephen Alemais (No. 20), Brandon Waddell (No. 28) and Dario Agrazal (No. 30) are all ranked in MLB.com’s Top 30 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects list. Baseball America also has Keller (No. 1), Hayes (No. 4), Tucker (No. 6), Hearn (No. 9), Waddell (No. 19), Craig (No. 24), Yeudy Garcia (No. 26), Alemais (No. 28) and Agrazal (No. 30) in its Top 30 Pirates prospects list.
The Opening Day roster includes starting pitchers Keller, Waddell, Hearn, Agrazal and J.T. Brubaker, with relief pitchers Garica, Jake Brentz, Geoff Hartlieb, Bret Helton, Sean Keselica, Tate Scioneaux, Logan Sendelbach and Sam Street.
The position players for this year’s Curve team include catchers Christian Kelley and Jackson Williams, infielders Alemais, Craig, Hayes, Tucker, Wyatt Mathisen and Pablo Reyes, as well as outfielders Reynolds, Elvis Escobar, Logan Hill and Kevin Krause.
Brubaker, a right-hander, returns after making 24 starts and two relief appearances for the Curve last season, when he ranked sixth in the Pirates organization with 109 strikeouts while going 7-6 with a 4.44 ERA. He is scheduled to be the Curve’s Opening Day starting pitcher on Thursday in Altoona. A sixth-round draft pick in 2015 out of the University of Akron, Brubaker went 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA over his last ten regular-season starts last season and was the winning pitcher in Game 2 of the Eastern League Championship Series after holding the Trenton Thunder to one earned run over eight innings.
Keller enters the season ranked by MLB.com as the No. 15 overall prospect in baseball and by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in the game. The right-hander was a Florida State League All-Star with the A-Adv. Bradenton Marauders last season before earning an August promotion to Altoona, where he went 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA in six regular-season starts. In the playoffs, he threw a complete-game shutout against the Bowie Baysox in Game 1 of the Western Division Series and was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the ELCS against Trenton as the Curve topped the Thunder. A second-round pick in 2014 from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Keller’s playoff performances earned him the 2017 Eastern League Postseason Most Valuable Player Award. Keller is scheduled to make his first start of the season on Sunday against Akron.
Waddell is back for his third season overall with the Curve. The left-hander made 15 starts with Altoona last season, going 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA. He missed part of the year while on the disabled list with a left forearm strain. After returning from the DL, the 2015 fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Virginia went 3-1 with a 2.82 ERA in his final seven regular-season starts and worked six scoreless innings in Game 1 of the ECLS at Trenton. Waddell is scheduled to make his first start of the year on Saturday against Akron.
Agrazal returns to Altoona after making one start with the Curve last year. After a Florida State League All-Star selection with Bradenton, he was promoted to Altoona to make his Double-A debut on June 21 against Trenton, working four innings and allowing two earned runs. He was placed on the disabled list on June 24 with a right pectoral strain and missed the remainder of the season. Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Panama, Agrazal is scheduled to start for the Curve on Friday against Akron.
Hearn is the lone new face in the Altoona rotation this season. The left-hander was acquired by the Pirates along with Felipe Rivero from the Washington Nationals for Mark Melancon in 2016. Hearn spent most of 2017 with Bradenton, going 4-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 17 starts and one relief appearance. Hearn is scheduled to make his Double-A debut on Monday against Harrisburg.
Garcia is back in the Curve bullpen after posting a 2.96 ERA in 15 games once he moved into a full-time relief role last season. Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Garcia was named the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2015.
The 2017 Curve Fireman of the Year, Scioneaux is back for a second season at Double-A. A 39th-round draft pick out of Southeastern Louisiana University in 2015, he finished last year with 14 saves, tied for the team lead, and closed out the Curve’s championship clincher in Game 3 of the ELCS with three strikeouts in the ninth inning.
Keselica spent all of last year with Altoona, going 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA working out of the Curve bullpen prior to the All-Star Break. A 33rd-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech in 2015, Keselica finished the year tied for third in the Pirates organization with 42 games pitched.
Brentz earned a Florida State League All-Star selection before being promoted to Altoona last June. He posted a 1.04 ERA in his final seven appearances of the season. He was acquired by the Pirates in a trade with the Mariners for Arquimedes Caminero in 2016.
Hartlieb picked up nine saves between the Single-A West Virginia Power and Bradenton last season, tied for fifth-most in the Pirates system. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 29th round in 2016 out of Lindenwood University.
Helton spent all of 2017 with Bradenton and led the Florida State league with a .727 winning percentage. He was selected in the ninth round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Utah.
Sendelbach spent last season split between the rotation and bullpen with Bradenton, combining to post a 3.58 ERA over 31 total outings. He was drafted in the tenth round in 2015 out of Tiffin University.
Street had the third-lowest BB/9 IP ratio (1.96) out of the relievers in the Florida State League last season while making 31 appearances for the Marauders. A native of Melbourne, Australia, Street was drafted by the Pirates in the 16th round in 2014 out of the University of Texas-Pan American.
Williams played 25 games with Altoona and 30 games with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians last season. He has also spent time in the majors with the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies. He was signed by the Pirates as a minor league free agent in 2017.
Kelley earned a Florida State League All-Star nod last season with Bradenton and enters this season ranked by Baseball America as the Pirates’ “Best Defensive Catcher.” Kelley was drafted by the Pirates in the 11thround in 2015 out of Cal Poly Pomona.
The starting third baseman in last season’s Eastern League All-Star Game, Mathisen returns for a second season with the Curve. Last year, he hit .272 with five homers in 114 games. Mathisen was a second-round draft pick by the Pirates in 2012 out of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Reyes was named by MiLB.com as a Pittsburgh Organization All-Star after hitting .274 and clubbing 10 homers for the Curve in 115 games last season. He signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.
Tucker was a Florida State League All-Star selection before picking up a promotion to Altoona in July. He played 42 games with the Curve and led the Pittsburgh minor league system with 47 total stolen bases. Tucker was a first-round draft pick by the Pirates in 2014 out of Phoenix, Ariz.
Alemais played 67 games last year between Bradenton, West Virginia and the GCL Pirates, and he closed out the season with a .310 batting average in his final 30 games with the Marauders. He was selected by the Pirates in the third round in 2016 out of Tulane.
Craig was an All-Star in the Florida State League last season while playing 123 games for Bradenton. He was selected by the Pirates in the first round of the 2016 draft out of Wake Forest.
Hayes, a first-round Pirates draft pick in 2015 out of Tomball, Texas, was a Florida State League All-Star in 2017 and won the Rawlings MiLB Gold Glove Award as the top defensive third baseman in the minors after the season.
Escobar returns for his third season with the Curve after hitting .277 with three homers last year. He was signed by the Pirates in 2011 out of Venezuela as an international free agent.
Hill ranked second in the Pirates’ system with 18 total home runs last season, including two with the Curve in 22 games. Also a Florida State League All-Star pick, Hill was drafted in the 25th round in 2015 out of Troy University.
Krause was a New York-Penn League All-Star in 2016 with the West Virginia Black Bears and spent all of last year with the Marauders. Originally drafted as a catcher, he has spent more time in the outfield in recent seasons.
Reynolds is in his first year with the Pirates organization after being traded from the Giants along with Kyle Crick for Andrew McCutchen in January. He was a California League All-Star pick with A-Adv. San Jose last season and represented the Giants in the All-Star Futures Game in Miami in July.