Beginning with High Performance Camps in January as the season kickoffs (which in my view is of tremendous value to the players as they are trained, conditioned and prepared for the long grind of a professional season) to the last day of Dominican Fall Instructs this past fall we watched multiple players grow in spirit, maturity, strength and skill set along with team and organizational camaraderie continuing to grow. As a daily observer the changes are often subtle however the cumulative effect is evident. It’s no coincidence that player development and scouting leadership were awarded well deserved promotions this off-season.
Some highlights from the 2023 Phillies Player Development year.
The combination of the seven affiliates went a combined 390-315 which equates to the second best minor league winning percentage (.553) for the thirty major league organizations. Last year the Phillies finished 20th in that regards so a marked improvement, actually it’s the biggest year to year jump from 2022 to 2023 of all. Three teams qualified for their league playoffs (DSL Phillies White, Clearwater Threshers and Jersey Shore BlueClaws).
Baseball America ranked the Phillies organization fourth overall in their Statcast hitting rankings behind only the Dodgers, Yankees and Tigers. In order to calculate an all-encompassing number across a variety of metrics they used weighted on base average (wOBA) as a baseline and built a “Hit Score” based on each metrics correlation to wOBA. The organization was ranked seventeenth in their system Statcast pitching rankings. For pitching team-level metrics such as xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average) were calculated by aggregating the metrics of each pitcher in the organization, weighted by the number of pitches thrown in 2023 by each pitcher.
Four players “graduated” from the minor leagues during the season to make their major league debuts - Weston Wilson, McKinley Moore, Orion Kerkering and Johan Rojas. A third of the Phillies playoff rosters were players who either came up thru the Phillies player development system or spent significant time there after being acquired from other organizations.
Johan Rojas and Orion Kerkering were named the Paul Owens Award winners. Kerkering became the first modern era drafted player in Phillies history to play at every full season level during the same year and also be promoted to the major leagues in that season. That’s never occurred since the official High A designation was made in 1990. Also recognized were four players for their community service as part of the Phillies minor league “Step Up” program. The award winners were : Jim Haley - Lehigh Valley, Josh Hendrickson - Reading, Cam Wynne - Jersey Shore and Jordan Viars - Clearwater. Cam Wynne was also honored as the overall winner for the organization in this regard.
The Clearwater Threshers had a tremendous season, Justin Crawford won the Florida State League MVP award with a standout year in his first full pro season. “Thresherville” became “Pressureville” as the take no prisoners full onslaught style of play not only produced a first half division title and post-season championship series appearance for Clearwater but a second half division title for Jersey Shore in the South Atlantic League as well when many of the opening day Threshers roster advanced to the BlueClaws either just before or during the second half. Jersey Shore’s relief pitching was excellent, from July 21st on the bullpen had the third best ERA in all of Minor League Baseball (Greg Giombarrese). Reading got standout years from Carlos De La Cruz, Matt Kroon (promoted to Lehigh Valley in August) and Oliver Dunn offensively with Mick Abel finishing the season strong on the mound. Weston Wilson set the single season franchise home run record for Lehigh Valley and became the first ever IronPig to hit 30 or more home runs and steal 30 or more bases in a season. Dakota Kotowski was named the Florida Complex League MVP where he hit a league leading 15 home runs. Young players such as Eduardo Tait and Starlyn Caba had big years in the Dominican Summer League as they made the league all-star game along with pitcher Luis Gonzalez. Gabriel Rincones Jr and Oliver Dunn were standouts in the Arizona Fall League.
Emaarion Boyd was one of only seven minor league players to steal 60 bases or more during the year, he stole 56 during the regular season for Clearwater and another 4 in the playoffs. I told coach Gary Catchcart at the end of spring training that Crawford would steal sixty bases - I had the number right - just the wrong fella 🤓. The Phillies system had eighteen players with twenty or more stolen bases, three (Wilson, Johan Rojas and Gabriel Rincones Jr) had thirty or more while Justin Crawford had forty seven and Boyd posted sixty.
Multiple players made strides in their development - I provided reviews of 200 players in my annual Phillies minor league player notes, a 38 part series published in November and December. Here’s a link to the 12/5 article which contains within it links to the prior thirty seven if ya missed them. https://www.philliesbaseballfan.com/post/12-5-23-annual-phillies-minor-league-player-notes-outfielders-part-six
During 2023, as in the past, we provided coverage each and every game day for every affiliate that played along with feature articles, statistics and tidbits. Writing about what I witness in the minor league contests and practices hopefully provides a valued spotlight on the young players as they develop. It’s always my intent to highlight the players and the development process. I’m sometimes chided about my “positive” reflections when I offer opinion but hey I’d rather talk about upside than bemoan criticism, from my perspective development can only happen if strengths can be made stronger and weaknesses improved, positivity has impact. When I retired from Pfizer my staff gave me a Louisville Slugger with the inscription on the bat “Coach, it’s hard to beat the person who never gives up - thanks for believing in us.” That’s just how I look at things, at least for others and definitely in regards to Phillies player development.
We now look forward to another season of Protecting the Standard and supporting the push for a World Series victory. High Performance Camps in both Clearwater and the Dominican are slated to begin next week. 2023 was a good year in player development, here’s hoping that 2024 is even better!
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
Note : I've partnered with Fanatics on Phillies Merchandise - if you would like to help support my website and articles here's a link to order merchandise - I get a small commission on any sales - thanks for the support.