Three Weeks In, Phillies Minor League Teams Shaping Up

We are three weeks into the minor league season and the Phillies’ Pharm teams are shaping up. In some respects, it’s what one would expect, in others, a bit of a surprise.

The most pleasant surprise is the Reading Fightins. Reading is 10-7 and are in second place, only a game and a half behind the New Britain Rock Cats. The biggest disappointment has been the Lehigh Valley IronPigs who have the worst record in ALL of of the International League at 5-14. In-between, are the Clearwater Threshers who are a game and half out of first in the Florida State League Northern Division, trailing the Daytona Tortugas. Their 10-9 record is a great improvement over last year at this time where they were 3-16! The Lakewood BlueClaws are 8-10, two games under .500 in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.

Reading Fightins

As expected they have been lead by outstanding starting pitching. Lead by newcomer Zach Eflin, who has yet to give up an earned run in his first three starts. He is 2-0, in his first three starts. Also, going 2-0 is prospect Jesse Biddle. Biddle, who is coming off of a very challenging 2014 season, has an impressive 2.76 ERA and averages a strike out an inning. Ben Lively is equally impressive with a 1.42 ERA and 1-0 in his first three starts. Aaron Nola, last years’ number one draft pick from LSU, has gone 1-2 with a 3.06 ERA.

Hitting-wise Reading is lead by 1B Brock Stassi, with a .357 batting average, 3 home runs and 19 RBIs. Phenom Roman Quinn, is off to a strong start, hitting .348, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs. He is currently 3rd in steals with 8 steals and leads the league with runs scored with 18.

The one disappointing event was the injury to former Golden Glove winner, 2B Carlos Alonso, who was injured by a Harrisburg Senator’s “take out slide” and is currently sidelined with a knee injury. He is currently on the 7-day disabled list.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Packed with veteran free agents that were released by other organizations, Lehigh Valley is off to a difficult start. The highpoint of the offense is the play of Maikel Franco, who is hitting .338 and leads the International league in doubles with 10 so far this season, while playing outstanding defense at third base.Conversely, rehabbing MLBer, Domonic Brown continuing to struggle, hitting only .139 in nine games for the IronPigs.

On the mound, the highlight is Severino Gonzalez, with a .357 ERA which earned him his first MLB start with the Phillies. The biggest surprise on the mound, however, is Phillippe Aumont. Aumont, who was dropped from the 40-man roster this spring, is 1-0 with 1.06 ERA in 17 innings. Even more surprising, he was moved from the bullpen to starter and is proving to be much more successful as a starter.

Clearwater Threshers

The Threshers are the team that never seems to say die. Last year, was one of the most difficult years I have ever witnessed in professional sport. It seemed like they always found a way to LOSE. Even if they managed to push a game into extra innings, they always seemed to come up short. This year, is very different. Four of their ten wins have been in extra innings, including an impressive win at home in SEVENTEEN innings.

Threshers Celebrate Their 17 Inning Win
Threshers Celebrate Their 17 Inning Win

Offensively, Dylan Cozens (RF) has driven in 13 runs to lead the team in RBIs. The fans in Clearwater have taken to calling him “Clutch” Cozens because he has gone 4-6 with 3 RBIs in extra innings. Leading the team in doubles are Willians Astudillo (3-6 with a walk off in extra innings) and Andrew Pullin with 5 each.

Threshers’ pitching is another great surprise with strong starting and relief pitchers. The tops starters are Brandon Leibrant (1-1, 1.80 ERA in 4 starts) and David Whitehead (1-2, 3.04 ERA in 4 starts). The bullpen has been exceptionally strong, led by Ulises Joaquin 1-0 with three saves, Edubray Ramos 1-1 with 1 save and Mark Leiter, Jr. who is 1-0 with one save and struck out TWENTY in 15 innings out of the pen. The top left handed reliever is Cody Forsythe, 1-0 and has struck out 13 in nine innings of work.

Lakewood BlueClaws

While the BlueClaws have been hanging around .500, there have been early flashes of brilliance. After completing what looks to be a successful weight training program in the off season, Carlos Tocci is hitting .338 and leads the team with 11 RBIs. Malquin Canelo is second hitting .333. First basemen Rhys Hoskins has supplied the power with 3 home runs, hitting .290.

Regarding pitchers, they are led by Tyler Viza, 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his first three starts, all of last season, Viza went 3-17. Ricardo Pinto, 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA, leads the team in strike outs with 18 in 19 innings of pitching. The bullpen is good as well, Matt Hockenberry has picked up three saves and has yet to give up a run in nine innings of work. Left handed reliever Austin Davis has yet to give up a run in ten innings of relief as the “set-up” man.




Rainy Days Always get me Down

It was a stormy day, thunder storm warnings and tornado warnings. Needless to say, Ross and I decided to stay home.

It gave me a chance to organize the autographs I’ve collected this spring:

I can’t even begin to decipher all the names but I can tell you that the following players are on there, somewhere: Bobby Abreu, Domonic brown, Phillipe Aumont, Justin DeFratus, Cody Asche, Tony Gwynn Jr, Ruben Amaro Jr, Darin Ruf, Wil Nieves, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Maikel Franco, Kevin Frandsen, Kenny Giles,
Kelly Dugan, Aaron Altherr, Marlon Byrd, Ben Revere…I think.

I also got quite a few balls signed:










I was also fortunate enough to be given a bat, my FIRST bat! It was Freddy Galvis’!

I think this was my best season for autographs!

Rain couldn’t dampen our fun

We were lucky when we got out tickets for the game, prime autograph seats.

My program is nearly full.

Talked to new catcher Wil Nieves, he’s a really great guy. He took time to talk to fans and signed a lot.

The best thing to happen was that as it began to sprinkle, Bobby Abreu and Domonic Brown were signing near us. Abreu signed and brown was right behind him. Just as he got to me it started to pour, those huge drops, I pulled the plastic cover back on my program and Brown signed it and pulled the plastic back up before turning and running for cover.

The game was fun as well even if we didn’t win.

Here’s a few shots I took.





And the best mascot in baseball was there!



I wish I felt like commenting about today’s game, but I can’t, I really can’t.

They are so erratic. One day you think they might be working out the problems, the next, it seems worse than before.

There’s so many things going wrong at the moment and while I have never been a big “Cholly” fan, I think the fact that he keeps juggling the line up like a jester at a renaissance faire isn’t helping either.

I look at the team and most of the guys are over 30 and like all high-caliber athletes of this age, injuries become an issue, a part of their daily life. It’s expected. HOWEVER, the answer to this is NOT to go out and get MORE older players.

They have some really good players in the Pharm system. While yes, there would be a learning curve by bringing any of these younger guys up…but would you rather lose some games due to a guy getting used to the Show or because he forgot his BenGay that morning?

Freddy Galvis is a prime example. No one talked about him, or even gave him a second thought until Chase Utley got hurt. Then it was a mad scramble to find someone to fill his place. Guess what? You took a guy you’d been developing and plugged him in and guess what…IT WORKED! Sure there’s been a few oops! moments…but Freddy has stepped up and grown into the position. He’s doing the job.

Look at the hole in the outfield, this is the one position that really gets me steamed….Raul Ibanez is gone, so do they get a young guy? No they get Juan Pierre. Pierre is a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s shown that his wheels just aren’t as fast as they used to be or frankly, as fast as they need to be to be successful. They’ve given hardly given John Mayberry Jr a shot, but what about all the other outfielders in the system? Domonic Brown, Derrick Mitchell, Tyson Gillies, Jiwan James and may be Steve Susdorf as well. Granted, none of these guys has yet to see regular season action in the Bigs, but instead of just “shuffling the line-up” or just suffering with what is already there, why not give one of these guys a shot? It can’t hurt. Give some of these young guys a chance, there may be some “learning curve” but look at Freddy, he’s doing better than most.

Additionally, with Ryan Howard out, Nix, Wiggington, Thome and Mayberry have been platooning first base. How is anyone going to get into a rhythm throwing to first when any one of FOUR different guys could be standing there? Frankly, Nix and Wiggington aren’t doing so hot there and they’re not hitting. I love Thome, but he slid into 2nd yesterday and pulled his back. He spent the spring sitting on a step stool to take ground balls because his back wouldn’t let him bend over repeatedly to field them. Mayberry might grow into it but how can he when he is never left to play there long enough to really get the feel?

I look at it this way, we are having problems, there’s no offense, may be if you give a younger guy who’s hungry, who wants to show what he can do, a chance, he may surprise you. At least give them a game or two to try. May be they can at least hold their own in the field and may be give a little pop to the bats or in Mayberry’s case, let him play every day for a while and see if he develops.

If what Cholly’s doing now isn’t working so well, what could it hurt to give some of the other, younger guys a shot? They might find someone like Galvis, who can come in and shake things up.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Isn’t that what Cholly’s doing? Every day he shakes up the line up with the same set of old players and nothing really changes. STOP THE INSANITY! Try something else!

I feel for the pitching rotation. They’ve put up a solid fight, but no matter how good the pitching is, you can’t win without runs and with the line up we have right now…we just don’t have the runs.

May be it’s the fatigue talking, may be it’s my repeated disappointment in the losses, but I look at the Phillies and the Pharm system and keep thinking they have got to be able to do better…don’t they?