CURVE, Pa. - As part of their 20th Season Celebration, the Altoona Curve, Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, unveiled the Fans' Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team on Monday.
Fans voted online over the last month from a list of 82 finalists featuring players from the first 19 seasons of Altoona Curve baseball to decide the honorees, with representatives for each position, one starting pitcher, one relief pitcher and one manager.
The winners will be featured on a bobblehead giveaway series throughout the 2018 season as part of the Curve's celebration of 20 years of professional baseball at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The details of the giveaways, including dates and quantities, will be announced at a later date.
The winners, as chosen by fans, are listed below:
Manager: Michael Ryan
Catcher: Elias Díaz
First Baseman: Josh Bell
Second Baseman: Josh Harrison
Third Baseman: Neil Walker
Shortstop: Jack Wilson
Outfielder: Andrew McCutchen
Outfielder: Starling Marte
Outfielder: Adam Hyzdu
Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole
Relief Pitcher: Tony Watson
Michael Ryan | Manager
Record: 74-66 (.529)
A native of Indiana, Pa., Michael Ryan returned to his home region to manage the Curve in 2017. In his first year as the club's manager, Ryan led the Curve to the postseason for the third straight season, the longest streak in the Eastern League, and won the team's second regular-season division title. The Curve swept the Bowie Baysox in the Western Division Series and followed with another sweep of the Trenton Thunder, a 92-win team in the regular season, in the Eastern League Championship Series to bring Altoona its second league title in franchise history.
Elias Diaz | Catcher
Years: 2014, 2016
Stats: .327, 6 HR, 84 RBI (93 games in two seasons)
Diaz was ranked as the Pirates' No. 11 prospect in 2014, and was a bright spot on a Curve team that posted the worst record in franchise history. He led the team with a .328 batting average, the best for a catcher in a season in team history, while adding six homers and 54 RBIs. Noted for his defensive work, he threw out 33 percent of base stealing attempts against him. After the season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 overall prospect in the Eastern League and the circuit's "Best Defensive Catcher." Diaz earned team MVP honors in 2014 and returned for two games on a Major League rehab assignment in 2016.
Josh Bell | First Baseman
Stats: .303, 5 HR, 67 RBI (120 games in two seasons)
Josh Bell came to Altoona late in the 2014 season as the Pirates' No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America and No. 64 prospect in baseball. Then a right fielder, Bell played 24 games to close out the year. Following the season, he was named the Pirates' Minor League Player of the Year. He returned to the Curve in 2015 and moved to first base, playing in 96 games before a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. Bell hit a home run while representing the Curve in the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati in 2015 and suited up for the Western Division in the Eastern League All-Star Game a few days later. For 2015, Bell led the Curve with 60 RBIs and tied for the team lead with six triples. Bell earned his first call-up to the Pirates mid-way through the 2016 season and hit .273 with three homers and 19 RBIs over 45 games. This year he was Pittsburgh's Opening Day first baseman, led the team with 90 RBIs and finished second on the club with 26 homers.
Josh Harrison | Second Baseman
Stats: .300, 4 HR, 75 RBI (135 games in one season)
Part of the Curve's first-ever Eastern League championship run in 2010, Josh Harrison bounced between second and third base for much of the season. He clubbed 156 hits on the year, tied for fourth-most in a season in Curve history. He also set the record for the most doubles in a game with four on June 27, 2010 against Bowie. After knocking four homers in the regular season, Harrison drove three home runs in the playoffs and drove in seven runs over his eight games. He was selected as an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star. Harrison made his MLB debut with the Pirates on May 31, 2011 against the Mets, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. He was selected as a National League All-Star in 2014 and finished ninth in NL MVP voting. He earned his second all-star selection this year. Over his seven years in the big leagues, all with Pittsburgh, Harrison has hit .281.
Neil Walker | Third Baseman
Years: 2006-2007, 2013
Stats: .283, 15 HR, 70 RBI (131 games in three seasons)
In 2006, Neil Walker came to the Curve as the No. 43 overall prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. A catcher at the time, Walker switched to playing third base for the 2007 season. He was selected as an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star in 2007, leading the Curve with 124 hits, 77 runs scored, 30 doubles and 53 walks. He was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis for the final 19 games of the year. Walker returned to the Curve in 2013 on an MLB rehab assignment and batted .417 over four games. Walker played seven seasons with the Pirates before being traded to the Mets in 2016, and was moved to the Brewers in 2017. In his nine major league seasons, Walker has hit .272 with 130 homers and 522 RBIs.
Jack Wilson | Shortstop
Years: 2000, 2008
Stats: .259, 1 HR, 16 RBI (40 games in two seasons)
Jack Wilson was picked up by the Pirates from the Cardinals in a trade during the 2000 season and sent to Altoona, where he played in 33 games to close out the season. He also played seven games with the Curve on a rehab assignment in 2008. His Curve career was brief, but he was the team's most successful alumni from the early years of the franchise. He reached the majors in the beginning of the 2001 season with the Pirates and went on to play nine seasons in Pittsburgh, picking up a National League All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger Award in 2004. He joined the Mariners in 2009 and closed out his career with the Braves in 2012.
Andrew McCutchen | Outfielder
Stats: .265, 13 HR, 60 RBI (138 games in two seasons)
The 11th-overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, Andrew McCutchen played the final 20 games of the 2006 season with the Curve and clubbed three homers with a .308 batting average before being named the Pirates' Minor League Player of the Year. He returned to Altoona in 2007 as the Pirates' top-ranked prospect, but he struggled to open the season and was batting just .240 through his first 86 games. He warmed up after the All-Star Break, batting .306 in 32 games before a late promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. McCutchen reached the big leagues with the Pirates in 2009 and has gone on to one of the most decorated MLB careers of any Altoona alumni. He has been selected as a National League All-Star five times, won four Silver Slugger Awards, a Gold Glove Award and was named the NL Most Valuable Player in 2013 as the Pirates posted their first winning season since 1992. In nine major league seasons, McCutchen has hit .291 with 203 homers and 725 RBIs.
Starling Marte | Outfielder
Stats: .332, 12 HR, 50 RBI (129 games in one season)
Starling Marte joined the Curve for the 2011 season as Baseball America's No. 4 Pirates prospect and had one of the best seasons in team history. He finished the season with 178 hits, surpassing the previous team record set by Nate McLouth. Marte's 2011 season also saw the most singles in a season for a Curve player with 120, second-most extra-base hits in team history with 58, tied for the third-most runs scored with 91 and the third-most doubles in a season with 38. He also led the team with 24 stolen bases. Marte played in the All-Star Futures Game that season in Arizona. He hit .332, becoming the first Curve player to win an Eastern League batting title (Jeff Keppinger won in 2004 but finished the season with Binghamton). Marte collected several awards, including becoming the first Curve player to be named Eastern League Rookie of the Year. He was also selected as an E.L. Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star, a Topps Double-A All-Star and was ranked by Baseball America as the Eastern League's No. 7 prospect. Marte reached the majors with the Pirates the following year and has spent six total seasons patrolling the outfield in Pittsburgh. He was picked as a National League All-Star in 2016 and has picked up two Gold Glove Awards. Marte returned to Altoona in 2013 as the Curve hosted an exhibition game in March with their parent club, clubbing a grand slam for the Pirates in an 8-6 Altoona win.
Adam Hyzdu | Outfielder
Stats: .300, 55 HR, 184 RBI (233 games in two seasons)
The Curve's best player in the franchise's first two seasons, Adam Hyzdu set a long list of offensive marks that still have not been eclipsed to this day. In 1999, Hyzdu led the team with a .316 batting average, 24 homers, 78 RBIs and 39 doubles. He also set a handful of single-season team records that have never been broken, including 96 runs scored and a .612 slugging percentage on his way to being named team MVP. Hyzdu tallied the first seven-RBI game in Curve history on June 25, 1999 at New Britain, a record that stood until Alex Presley surpassed it in 2010. He returned in 2000 and saw even better results. Hyzdu's single-season marks for home runs (31), RBIs (106), walks (94), on-base percentage (.405) and total bases (285) all still stand today. He also played in all 142 regular-season games, a mark that has not been seen again and likely will not be matched with the current Eastern League schedule consisting of 140 games. Today, Hyzdu is tied with Josh Bonifay for the team career record with 55 home runs, ranked second with 184 RBIs and 124 extra-base hits, third with 65 doubles and fourth with 160 runs scored. Hyzdu was named Eastern League MVP for the 2000 season and the Curve retired his number 16 following the year. After playing 11 seasons in the minors, he made his MLB debut with the Pirates on September 8, 2000 and singled in his first at-bat. He went on to play in seven big league seasons with the Pirates, Padres, Red Sox and Rangers before rounding out his 18-year professional career in Japan in 2007.
Gerrit Cole | Starting Pitcher
Stats: 3-6, 2.90 ERA (12 starts in one season)
The top overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Gerrit Cole came to Altoona less than a year into his professional career with a June call-up in 2012. That year, he was ranked as the No. 12 prospect and baseball by Baseball America and the Pirates' No. 1 prospect. He made just 12 starts in a Curve uniform. He was selected to pitch in the All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City. Cole tallied a season-best nine strikeouts at Portland on August 16, 2012 and posted a 1.67 ERA over his final five Altoona starts before a late promotion to Triple-A to close out the year. Cole reached the majors the following season and has pitched with the Pirates for five years. His best season so far was in 2015, when he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA, earning a National League All-Star selection and finishing fourth in Cy Young Award voting. Over 127 MLB starts, Cole has gone 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA.
Tony Watson | Relief Pitcher
Stats: 6-7, 3.34 ERA, two saves (39 games, 14 starts in two seasons)
Tony Watson joined the Curve as their Opening Day starter in the 2009 season and made five starts, going 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA before missing most of the season. He found much more success when he returned in 2010. In nine starts, he went 3-4 with a 3.78 ERA, but went 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in his 25 relief appearances. The left-hander was used as a starting pitcher in the postseason in 2010, combining to go 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his two starts. He picked up a win in Game 4 of the Division Series against Harrisburg to send the Curve to the ELCS. Watson returned to the mound for Game 4 of the Eastern League Championship Series in Trenton and was the winning pitcher as the Curve picked up their first league championship in team history. Watson worked as a relief pitcher in the big leagues for seven seasons with the Pirates, combing to go 31-16 with a 2.68 ERA in 450 games with 30 saves. He was selected as a National League All-Star in 2014, leading the National League with 78 appearances while going 10-2 with a 1.63 ERA. Watson was traded to the Dodgers this year and pitched 24 games with Los Angeles during the regular season.
Season tickets for the Curve's 20th season are currently on sale online at AltoonaCurve.com, by calling 877.99.CURVE or by stopping by the PNG Field offices as the team looks to defend its Eastern League championship.