Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) welcome the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates) to TD Bank Ballpark for a six-game series this week. Altoona, 37-29 this season, sit two games behind the Bowie Baysox in the Southwest Division and 4.5 games back of the Portland Sea Dogs
Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) welcome the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates) to TD Bank Ballpark for a six-game series this week. Altoona, 37-29 this season, sit two games behind the Bowie Baysox in the Southwest Division and 4.5 games back of the Portland Sea Dogs for top record in the Double-A Northeast League.
The Curve feature eight of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. While second-ranked prospect Oneil Cruz (infielder) and No. 13 Roansy Contreras (right-handed pitcher) begin the series on the injured list there is plenty of talent across the Curve roster.
Second baseman Ji-Hwan Bae (No. 11) is the first Korean born player and has consistently batted at the top of the Curve order when healthy. Over 32 games, Bae is slashing .286/.341/.397 and while he doesn’t have a home run this season, the lefty bat is tied for third in the league with four triples. Bae missed nearly a month stretch due to a left knee injury that included rehab in the Florida Coast League.
First baseman Mason Martin (No. 21), a 17th round draft pick by the Pirates in 2017, has torn the cover off the ball for Altoona. Martin leads the league in RBI (50), home runs (17) and extra base hits (36) while ranking second in on-base percentage (.402) and slugging (.600).
Outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba was acquired by the Pirates along with Contreras and two other prospects this past offseason in a trade with the Yankees. The left-handed hitter, ranked No. 27 in Pittsburgh’s system, ranks third in the league in on-base percentage (.396), tied for third in stolen bases (12) and fourth in walks (35).
Another prospect, infielder Rodolfo Castro, was transferred back to the Curve after appearing in six games for the big-league Pirates. The switch-hitter made his major league debut on April 21 of this year, going 0-for-3 against the Detroit Tigers in a 5-2 loss. The No. 29 prospect has enjoyed a .315 average, third-best in the league, along with 11 home runs and 41 RBI with the Curve this season.
The Patriots open the series after dropping four of six against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. While Somerset has only one of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects, they’ve had one of the best pitching staffs in all of the minors this season.
Luis Medina and Janson Junk lead Somerset’s arms. Medina, the ninth-ranked Yankees prospect, began his season with High-A Hudson Valley. In five Double-A starts, Medina has struck out 30 in 24.1 innings of work and carries a 4.88 ERA into the series. The righty also represented the Yankees in the All-Star Futures game, pitching a scoreless frame.
Junk has had a breakout season as one of the best pitchers in all of the minors. Junk owns a 1.46 ERA, second-best in all of the minors (full season) behind just Santiago Florez. In 12 appearances this season (10 starts), Junk has held opponents to just a .181 batting average and 0.92 WHIP.
Shortstop Oswald Peraza (No. 91) is the lone Patriot in Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list. Peraza enters the series with a six-game hitting streak and has collected multiple hits in five of those six. In the month of July, Peraza is batting .338 with two homers and five doubles.
Diego Castillo has also enjoyed a strong season with the Patriots. Castillo, the Patriots’ leadoff man, was named the Double-A Northeast League player of the month in June after batting .378 with a .419 OBP. In July though, Castillo has struggled hitting just .188. The infielder’s bat could be the key for Somerset to snap their three-game skid and take the series against the Altoona Curve.
The series begins on Tuesday night with first pitch between Altoona and Somerset set for 7:05 p.m. at TD Bank Ballpark. For tickets visit SomersetPatriots.com or call the box office at (908) 252-0700.