2018 SSS Top Prospects rank: 29
SSS rank among all shortstops in the system: 2
Curbelo began his high school career at the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, and after performing well on the summer showcase circuit, he moved to Cocoa (Fla.) High as a senior to increase his exposure. At the time of the 2016 draft, Curbelo was the 33rd-ranked prep prospect in the country, according to PerfectGame. As a result, when he fell to the sixth round, the White Sox pounced and paid him an over-slot bonus of $700,000.
In his first two years of professional ball, with the AZL White Sox and Great Falls, Curbelo slashed just .242/.322/.354 with a combined three homers, 16 RBIs, four stolen bases, 16 walks (7.92%) and 46 strikeouts (22.77%) over 178 at-bats. Unfortunately, he missed plenty of development time in 2017 when he tore his meniscus after just three games with Great Falls.
When winning a promotion to Kannapolis this year expectations were tempered, as Curbelo was coming back from such a serious injury. For 2018, he managed to slash .237/.282/.338 with 19 doubles, three homers, 31 RBIs, 18 walks (5.25%) and 87 strikeouts (25.36 K%) over 317 at-bats. Curbelo’s hitting, especially his high number of strikeouts, is certainly disconcerting. Considering he was 1.3 years younger than league average, and he had relatively little professional exposure previously, the struggles were not entirely surprising. Perhaps of more concern may be on defense where Curbelo committed 14 errors in 57 games at short, while also erring 10 times in 20 games at the hot corner.
Curbelo still has the build to hit for more power as he learns to adapt in the minors. Defensively, he needs to keep his focus and keep in front of the ball while trying not to rush things. Offensively, he’ll need to maintain better plate discipline, which often comes with experience.
Curbelo returned to Kannapolis to begin 2019, and he has begun it nightmarishly. Now primarily a third baseman, Curbelo had 12 errors in his first 56 chances for a .786 fielding percentage. In his first 40 games at the plate, Curbelo is slashing .193/.245/.333 with just nine walks against 65 strikeouts. Now just a half-year younger than the average age at Single-A, the latter two-thirds of the season give Curbelo time to make his move forward in the organization.
Take a look!
Thanks to 2080 Baseball for the footage.
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