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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

1/15/22 : Spring Competition - Reading Fightins

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Continuing with the theme of anticipation for the 2023 season ( see )  I’ve embarked on a five part series of articles looking forward to some spring competitions we might expect to see in the next couple of months for roster placements on opening day.

I began with the major league club  and now follow up with articles on Lehigh Valley, Reading, Jersey Shore and Clearwater.  This series won’t be detailed profiles of players - we’ve done that for the minor leaguers already ( see )  but rather a limited discussion on what each roster may look like.  There are maybe still player signings to be announced so at this point we may not yet know all the names competing for the jobs but we will do our best with what we know at present.

So here goes - the Reading Fightins - there are 28 active roster spots allowed for the AA level however teams generally carry a few more than that - they are just inactive on game days.

AA - Reading Fightin Phils  :

Often times the AA level of play is where highly regarded minor leaguers spend the brunt of their upper level time as opposed to the AAA level which is more aligned to being a reserve pool of players when needs arise in the major leagues.  The quality of play is generally higher at the AAA level as many of the participants have previous major league experience however standout performers are often found at the AA level that are on the “verge” of becoming major leaguers but still need a few refinements on their skills.  It’s an insulation of sorts to allow further development time for a player at the AA level as opposed to a “stay ready” environment at the AAA category.

There’s also less of an urgency to promote directly from the AA level to the AAA level as in essence they serve different purposes however that’s not to say it doesn’t happen nor is unwarranted to gage readiness to perform at the highest level.  The old baseball adage that states if you can play at the AA level you can play in the major leagues is generally true with AAA baseball being the intermediate level between the two.

Pitchers :  with 28 roster spots usually 15 or 16 are pitchers are rostered with a few more kept in reserve

Starters :

Both Andrew Painter ( 19 yrs old ) and Mick Abel ( 21 yrs old ) have major league skill sets and finished their 2022 seasons with Reading making 5 starts apiece with the Fightins.  They will each be in major league spring training camp and word is that one of them could break camp with the big club but if that doesn’t happen I believe starting the 2023 season where they left off is prudent for the reasons I outlined above.  If that comes to fruition the two young right handers will lead the Reading rotation - at least to begin the season.  Tyler Phillips ( RH ) spent the entire 2022 season in Clearwater at the complex rehabbing from TJ surgery but he’s now ready to go - with a strong spring I’d project him as a probable candidate for Reading’s opening day rotation.  Right handers Cristian Hernandez, Dominic Pipkin & Matt Russell all seem ready to move up from Jersey Shore - all have spent time both as starters and bulk relievers.  Depending on whom is selected for the Lehigh Valley rotation a couple of the pitchers not chosen could return to Reading and open in the rotation there - Noah Skirrow ( RH ), Ethan Lindow ( LH ), Hans Crouse ( RH) Colton Eastman ( RH ) & Josh Hendrickson ( LH ) might fall into that category.

Bullpen :

RH Carlos Francisco is coming off a strong winter league season in Puerto Rico and is an under the radar reliever who spent the last two seasons at Jersey Shore - he’s got a three pitch mix with mid nineties heat capabilities.  LH Erubiel Armenta also had a very good winter ball year, his in Mexico which is his homeland - we’ve always liked the 22 year old’s projection - it’s time for him to be at the AA level.  RH Sam Jacobsak has big time spin rates on his deliveries and is back to form after coming back from shoulder surgery - I see him as part of the Reading pen. Albertus Barber ( RH ) has worked hard to make his way back to pre TJ velocity and has learned different pitches and how to produce different ball movements in the interim - don’t ever count out the effervescent hurler - he finished 2022 with Reading and likely returns.  Both Aidan Anderson & Tyler McKay had successful 2022 seasons which landed them in Reading during the year, I’d expect returns from each right-hander.   Tristan Garnett ( LH ), Jonathan Hughes ( RH ) & Keylan Kilgore ( LH )  have big spin rates and movement on their pitches - I think each is ready for the AA level challenge.  Right handers Tommy McCollum, Alex Garbrick, Rodolfo Sanchez & Cam Wynne are all high velocity pitchers - with good spring camps they could bump up to Reading - at the least Jersey Shore to begin with and a promotional eye towards the AA level.  LH Matt Osterberg made a one game fill in appearance for Reading last summer and is coming off a solid season with Clearwater as a starter/bulk reliever - while it seems the logical next step would be Jersey Shore in our opinion he’s capable of pitching at the AA level now.

Position Players :

Catchers :

Herbert Iser ended the year with Reading posting a .375 OBP in 40 plate appearances - he likely returns to pick up where he left off.  Anthony Quirion is having a great winter ball season in Australia and should compete in spring camp for a Reading roster spot.  Nick Matera had an injury hampered 2022 season but is healthy now and will be in the mix after spending last season with Jersey Shore.  Cody Roberts comes over from the Orioles system via the minor league rule 5 draft - he could slot at Reading after spending 2022 at AA Bowie with the Orioles. Jack Conley & Vito Friscia could be back at Reading if they don’t break spring camp with AAA level Lehigh Valley.

Infielders :

Corners :

McCarthy Tatum finished the 2022 season at Reading holding down third base - he likely returns - can also play 1B and corner outfield.  Although I expect Hao Yu Lee to begin the season with Jersey Shore the 19 year old ( turns 20 in early February ) might just push his way to Reading as a third baseman with a strong spring camp - at the least I think he gets there at some point in the season.  Rixon Wingrove had a nice year with Jersey Shore and will compete for the Reading first base job.  Carlos De La Cruz will see time at first base and I expect him to begin the ‘23 season with Reading in a 1B/OF role as a lineup regular.  Wendell Rijo might return to Reading as a hot corner as well as middle infield option if not with Lehigh Valley.

Middle :

Nick Ward was signed as a minor league free agent and is having a stellar season in the Australian Winter League - he can play either shortstop or second base.  Cameron Cannon & Oliver Dunn were obtained via the minor league Rule 5 draft and could slot at either Reading or Lehigh Valley out of spring camp.  Sal Gozzo might get regular playing time with Reading this coming year after being primarily a reserve in years past - Freylin Minyety filled in nicely at Reading during a short stint last season and could return to a similar role in 2023, Casey Martin is fully capable defensively to play shortstop at the AA level.

Outfielders :

Johan Rojas should be slated as the regular center fielder after a very positive 2022 season finishing strong with Reading and in the Arizona Fall League.  The mercurial 22 year old is now on the 40 man roster, is an outstanding defender and a supreme base stealing weapon - should occupy the leadoff spot in the Fightin’s order once again.  Carlos De La Cruz will see time in the outfield as well as first base and will be a middle of the order lineup regular.  Baron Radcliff is ready to move up from Jersey Shore where he hit 17 home runs and posted a .350 OBP in 408 plate appearances - he plays either left or right field.  Ethan Wilson will return to Reading - he finished the 2022 season with the Fightin’s appearing in 18 games.  Jared Carr will compete in spring camp for a Reading roster spot - he’s played well this winter in the Australian Baseball League.  Matt Kroon is working his way back from knee surgery and when ready might begin in Reading.

Next article we will take a stab at Jersey Shore’s opening day roster.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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Photo by George Youngs Jr

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