Rough patch: Though still young, Curbelo’s demotion in 2019 should be a wake-up call. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)
Born in Puerto Rico, Luis Curbelo moved to Florida for his senior year of high school. Before moving, however, he played for the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, whose most famous alumnus is Carlos Correa. At the time of the 2016 draft, Baseball America said Curbelo “is a physical infielder with promising power potential. He has plenty of strength and produces good bat speed, enabling him to drive the ball out of the park. He has a balanced swing and does a good job of getting to his power. Curbelo is a below-average runner, limiting his range up the middle. He has good hands and a strong arm, giving him a good chance to settle at third base as a professional.”
The Sox drafted him in the sixth round that year, prying him from his verbal commitment with the University of Miami with a $700,000 bonus — $413,000 more than his slot value. As an 18-year-old, Curbelo struggled in his first taste of professional ball with the AZL squad in 2016 when he slashed just .226/.303/.323 with two homers in 45 games.
After a terrific three-game start in 2017 with Great Falls, Curbelo tore his meniscus and missed a year of development time. He struggled a bit with Kannapolis the following year, which wasn’t a huge surprise as he was about 16 months younger on average than his competitors. For the year in 83 games spanning 317 at-bats, Curbelo slashed .237/.282/.338 with 19 doubles, two triples, three homers, 31 RBIs, 18 walks (5.2%) and 87 strikeouts (25.4%).
The 2019 season marked Curbelo’s return to Kannapolis, and he hit rock bottom by slashing just .169/.216/.287 in 64 games with 11 doubles, five homers, 30 RBIs, 13 walks (5.1%) and 105 strikeouts (41.0%). Curbelo was demoted to Great Falls, where he bounced back in his 56 games to slash .262/.294/.266 with nine doubles, six triples, eight homers, 24 RBIs, 11 walks (4.7%) and 76 strikeouts (32.3%). He will obviously have to cut down on his strikeouts to better tap into his impressive power.
Expect Curbelo to begin 2020 with Kannapolis, with a chance for promotion to Winston-Salem by the end of the year if he can indeed make more contact.