These Curve alumni could make their MLB debut in 2020

By Garett Mansfield

It is nearly impossible to compile a list of Curve alumni that could play their first Major League games each year. One unexpected result of the 60-man player pools for the 2020 MLB season, an official “watch list” can be built.

Players within the Pirates organization are fairly easy to keep track of as they rise up the developmental ladder. However, there could be up to a dozen or more active players that have signed with a different MLB club. That is not the case this year with a number of players opting to play independent baseball in 2020 or sit out completely due to a lack of offers or health reasons.

As for those looking to break through into the big leagues for the first time, four Curve alumni have already made the climb: JT Brubaker (2017-18), Cody Ponce (2019), Nick Mears (2019) and Brandon Waddell (2016-19).

After analyzing each MLB player pool, a total of 15 Curve alumni could make their MLB debuts this year to push the franchise total to 185 by the end of the season. How does that total compare to a normal season? Here’s a snapshot of debuts per season across the team’s history:

As you can see, 15 would be a new single-season record. Will it happen? We’ll see.

Here’s the remaining MLB debut watch list for 2020:

Jared Oliva is on the Bucs’ three-man traveling “taxi squad” in Cincinnati this weekend and would be a roster addition in an emergency situation. Whether his first big league action is sooner or later, he is another potential debut this season.

Ke’Bryan Hayes has everyone’s attention: fans, media, front office, etc. The highly-anticipated MLB debut of the slick-fielding third baseman is a major one to keep an eye on as summer pushes on.

Jared Oliva went from walk-on to Top 30 prospect (Photo: Rob Lynn)
Will Craig, the 2018 Altoona Curve team MVP (Photo: Rob Lynn)
Ke’Bryan Hayes, a three-time MiLB Gold Glove third baseman (Photo: Rob Lynn)
Cederlind was drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2016 draft (Photo: Rob Lynn)

Blake Cederlind and Will Craig are a pair of former Curve players on the Alternate Site roster that can also be called up for the first time this year. Given the need for pitching depth in the bullpen help’s Cederlind’s chances and the universal DH allows the Pirates to move some pieces around to make room for Craig at some point.

Altoona Curve catcher Christian Kelley (Photo: Rob Lynn)

Catcher Christian Kelley, right-handed pitcher Cody Bolton and infielder/athlete Oneil Cruz are the remaining players on the Pirates’ Alternate Site roster that have suited up for the Curve.

Altoona Curve shortstop Oneil Cruz (Photo: Rob Lynn)
Altoona Curve pitcher Cody Bolton (Photo: Rob Lynn)

Looking outside the Pirates organization, only a handful of possibilities remain.

Drew Maggi (Photo: Kevin Pataky/

Drew Maggi played for the Curve in 2012-14 (and was a 2014 Eastern League All-Star when the Curve hosted the All-Star Game) and has played in the Angels, Dodgers, Indians and now Twins minor league systems since his departure. He is on the Twins’ Alternate Site roster.

Jake Brentz (Photo: Lianna Holub/

Jake Brentz pitched in Altoona in parts of three seasons from 2017-19. The Royals signed Brentz last August and currently have him at their Alternate Training Site.

Tyler Eppler (Photo: Carl Kline/

Tyler Eppler is back in the U.S. as a professional after he spend 2019 in Japan. He had a strong season at Triple-A Indianapolis in 2018 after he went 13-6 with a 3.59 ERA. He pitched in Altoona in 2015-16 and is currently in the player pool of the Washington Nationals.

Wyatt Mathisen (Photo: Rob Lynn)

Unlike Maggi, Brentz and Eppler, Wyatt Mathisen is a member of the 40-man roster for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That increased his chances of getting a crack at the big leagues this year because no 40-man roster moves need to be made to clear space for him. The D-backs signed him as a free agent and he went on to smack 23 homers at Triple-A Reno last season. He is currently on the Alternate Site roster at Arizona’s spring training complex.

While there is a definitive list of possible MLB debuts for 2020, the roster situations for MLB organizations to be fluid with players commonly being added to the pool.

Stay tuned to the Curve Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for alerts when every former player makes their MLB debut.

This contribution to the Around the Curve Blog is presented by Microtel. Plan your stay at one of Altoona’s three Lion Country Lodging locations. Click here to make a reservation today.

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