Fans’ Choice All-Time Curve Team: First Baseman finalists

fans choice 1B 16x9

By Trey Wilson

As we prepare for our 20th Season Celebration in 2018, we are turning to the fans to decide the Fans’ Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team. Fans will vote for one manager and a player at each position to pick the 11 representatives on the Fans’ Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team. The voting will also go toward a yet-to-be-announced promotion for the upcoming season.

Fans can cast their votes by clicking here.

We broke down the candidates for the All-Time Team Manager and Catcher already. Those posts can be found here. Now we will take a look at the finalists for the Fans’ Choice All-Time Team First Baseman.

The Curve have seen some of their top offensive seasons from their first basemen during their first 19 seasons, with several of them setting historic marks in a short time frame.

Carlos Rivera

Years: 2001-2002
Stats: .272, 32 HR, 134 RBI (239 games in two seasons)
Carlos Rivera played two seasons with the Curve. After struggling in 2001, he had a breakout season in 2002. He was one of three players on the team to hit over .300, batting .302 in 128 games. He added 22 home runs and drove in 84 runs on the year, both of which were the fifth-most in a season in team history. Rivera is ranked fifth in Curve history with 56 career doubles. He was picked as an Eastern League Post-Season All-Star in 2002.

Rivera made his MLB debut with the Pirates in 2003 and played in 85 total games with Pittsburgh in two seasons. He played with Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Josh Bonifay
Years: 2003-2005
Stats: .281, 55 HR, 209 RBI (313 games in three seasons)
Josh Bonifay has a case for being the best Curve player who never reached the big leagues. In fact, he never reached Triple-A. However, his named is scattered all across the Altoona record books. He is tied with Adam Hyzdu for the most career home runs in team history with 55, holds the record for most RBIs with 209, most extra-base hits with 126, second in hits with 311, second in doubles with 68 and fifth in games played with 313. In 2005, Bonifay hit 25 homers, the second-most in a single season in team history, posted the club’s third-best slugging percentage ever at .556 and was picked as an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star. He also led the 2004 Southern Division-champion Curve with 76 RBIs.

Following his three seasons with Altoona, Bonifay closed out his playing career with the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi team in 2006. He went on to become a coach in Houston’s minor league system through the 2016 season. Bonifay is now the Major League Field Coordinator for the Texas Rangers, joining a coaching staff that includes his former Altoona manager, Tony Beasley.

Brad Eldred

Years: 2004-2005
Stats: .299, 30 HR, 87 RBI (60 games in two seasons)
In August 2004, Brad Eldred went on a tear unlike any in team history. For the month, he clubbed 14 homers and drove in 50 RBIs, both records for the most in a single month ever for the Curve. Eldred was picked that year as the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year, just the second Curve player to ever pick up the honor. He returned to the Curve in 2005 and carried over the success, homering in six consecutive games from April 26-May 2, another team record.

Eldred joined the Curve in late-July 2004 and was promoted to Triple-A by early-May in 2005. Overall, he played just 60 games for the Altoona. He went on to play 74 games for the Pirates in 2005 and 2007 and had brief runs with the Rockies and Tigers before shifting to playing overseas in 2012. He has played for the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League since then. In total, Eldred has hit 403 home runs across all levels in his professional baseball career.

Steve Pearce
Years: 2007
Stats: .334, 14 HR, 72 RBI (81 games in one season)
Although it was a brief run with the Curve, Steve Pearce put his mark on the Curve history books during his 81 games in Altoona. He joined the Curve in 2007 at the beginning of May from A-Adv. Lynchburg. In a span of about three months, Pearce hit .334 and posted a .586 slugging percentage, both good for second-best in a season in Curve history. He also led the team for the year with 72 RBI, despite playing just over half of the season. Pearce collected several awards that season, including being named as the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year, an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star, the Topps Minor League Player of the Year and more. He participated in the All-Star Futures Game in San Francisco in 2007 and finished the year as the Pirates’ No. 3 prospect according to Baseball America and the No. 89 prospect in baseball.

Pearce made his way to the majors before the end of that year, making his debut with the Pirates on September 1, 2007. He went on to spend five total seasons with the Pirates, then bounced between Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York (AL) and Houston. This year, he is with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Matt Hague

Year: 2010
Stats: .295, 15 HR, 86 RBI (135 games in one season)
As the starting first baseman during the Curve’s first Eastern League championship run, Matt Hague set the mark for the fourth-most RBIs in a single season in team history with 86 in 2010. He also scored 90 runs, fifth-most in a season in Curve history, and led the club with 61 walks on his was to being named Altoona’s “Iron Man of the Year.” Hague was selected as an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star that year and was ranked by Baseball America as the Pirates’ No. 29 prospect.

Hague made the Pirates’ season-opening roster in 2012 and went on to play 33 games for Pittsburgh across two seasons. He also played with Toronto in the big leagues in 2015. After playing in the Japan Central League in 2016, Hague signed with the Minnesota Twins and spent 2017 with their Triple-A team in Rochester.

Josh Bell

Years: 2014-2015
Stats: .303, 5 HR, 67 RBI
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, is tied for the team lead with 87 RBIs and second with 25 homers.

Jose Osuna

Years: 2015-2016
Stats: .280, 14 HR, 90 RBI (155 games in two seasons)
Joining the Curve in late-May of 2015, Osuna played a key role in helping the Curve reach the postseason for the first time since 2010. Over 85 games, he clubbed eight homers and hit .288, helping himself move onto the prospect radar. In an 18-7, seven-inning win over Erie that saw the Curve set many offensive records on July 21, Osuna set the mark for the most runs scored in a game in team history with five. He returned to the Curve in 2016 for 70 games before a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis and went on to lead the Pirates’ minor league system with 69 totals RBIs for the season.

Osuna was named as an Pirates Organizational All-Star for 2015 and 2016. He was promoted to the Pirates for the first time in April of this season and has played 102 games for Pittsburgh, clubbing seven homers with 30 RBIs.

Edwin Espinal 

Years: 2016-2017
Stats: .286, 22 HR, 128 RBI (206 games in two seasons)
Coming to Altoona as an unheralded prospect in 2016, Edwin Espinal hit .289 and added seven homers and was picked as an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star. He returned to Altoona for 2016 and went on to be named the team’s MVP and an Eastern League Post-Season All-Star. Espinal was also selected as an E.L. Mid-Season All-Star, becoming just the fourth Curve player to earn the honor multiple times. He set the team record for the best fielding percentage by a first baseman with a perfect 1.000 mark, becoming the first infielder in team history to set a perfect fielding percentage at one position, on his way to winning the MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award as the top defensive first baseman in the minors.

Espinal led the Curve with 72 RBIs in 2017 and was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis in late-July.

There is your look at the eight finalists for the Fans’ Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team First Baseman. Be sure to cast your votes here.

Season tickets for the Curve’s 20th season are currently on sale as the team looks to defend its Eastern League championship.

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