On the brink of clinching a trip to the Championship Series, Double-A Altoona has lost its hottest hitter.
The Curve placed fifth-ranked Pirates prospect Cole Tucker on the seven-day disabled list with a fractured left hand on Saturday.
The 21-year-old shortstop led the Eastern League postseason with a .600 average after going 3-for-5 with two doubles in the first game of the playoffs and being hit by a pitch in his lone plate appearance of the second, but Altoona received a formidable replacement in the person of No. 9 Pittsburgh prospect Kevin Kramer, who's set to return to action after going down with a fractured right hand on June 11.
Tucker exited Game 2 of the best-of-5 semifinals against Bowie after the top of the second inning. The first pitch of the game hit him on the foot, and the injury appeared to have occurred on a slide into third base when he was caught stealing for the second out of the opening frame. He made a play on defense in the bottom half, but did not return to the field for the second.
Bowie third baseman Ryan Mountcastle tagged Tucker out in Game 2. (Terrance Williams/MiLB.com)
The 2014 first-rounder was coming off a solid first full professional season after undergoing thumb surgery four months after he was drafted and shoulder surgery in August 2015. He'd been named to the Glendale Desert Dogs roster for the Arizona Fall League, and in may he tied a Class A Advanced Bradenton Marauders franchise record with seven RBIs in a single game.
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"It's been great," Tucker told MiLB.com's Toolshed in June. "I feel like I'm expanding and excelling in the areas that I set out to at the beginning of the season. My defense has felt good. I'm stealing bases again. Now I have to just keep it rolling."
He finished the regular season with a .275/.358/.408 slash line and 36 extra-base hits over 110 games between the Florida State League and the EL. He was also seventh in all of the Minor Leagues with 47 stolen bases.
Kramer, a 2015 second-rounder, was named an EL All-Star this year. He batted .297/.380/.500 with 17 doubles, six homers and three triples over 53 games in the circuit.