10/22/23 : Phillies in Australia
The Phillies have an exclusive agreement with the Adelaide Giants of the Australian Baseball League to supply players to the club for their season which runs from November 17th thru January 21st with the league post season beginning on January 26th and concluding on the February 2nd thru 4th weekend. Each of the league’s six teams will play forty regular season games.
Last season the Adelaide Giants won the Clayton Shield (emblematic of being league champions) with multiple Phillies minor leaguers on the roster (pitchers Jordan Fowler, Mitch Neunborn, Starlyn Castillo, infielders Nick Ward and Rixon Wingrove, catchers Arturo DeFreitas and Anthony Quirion and outfielder Jared Carr).
Ward, Neunborn and Wingrove will return for the 2023-2024 season as they signed contract extensions with Adelaide last season. Neunborn pitched for the Jersey Shore BlueClaws this summer and is now pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Both Ward and Wingrove finished their Phillies summer league work as members of the Reading Fightins AA level squad. Joining them for the upcoming ABL season will be pitchers Braeden Fausnaught, Cam Wynne, Adam Leverett and Josh Bortka, catchers Anthony Quirion and Andrik Nava, infielder Kendall Simmons and outfielder Cade Fergus. Infielder Nikau Pouaka-Grego is also on the Adelaide roster but missed the entire 2023 season due to rehabbing from knee surgery. In addition former Phillies RHP Austin Ross will be returning to the Giants for the coming season.
Following is a synopsis of each Phillies player who are expected to play baseball down under this winter.
Kendall Simmons - 23 year old Infielder - 2018 sixth round draft selection - Tattnall Square High School , Macon, GA - He’s battled inconsistencies in his six year pro career to date along with injury bugs but the athleticism and baseball skill set we’ve seen are intriguing as to what he can become - particularly as a hitter. The overall numbers don’t reflect the potential breakout that can occur that’s evident if you’ve seen him play in person. This will be Simmon’s second tour with Adelaide, he played with them during the Covid impacted 2020-2021 season. I’d expect that he sees playing time at both second and third base. This summer he posted a .267/.362/.494 slash line in 213 plate appearances at Jersey Shore with nine doubles, four triples and eight home runs. He spent two long stints on the injured list, one at the beginning of the season and the second from May 30th till July 21st. There were thirty rehab AB’s over nine games with the FCL Phillies and Clearwater Threshers in which he recorded four more doubles and a home run. The young man has great strength and a powerful swing along with quick hands (particularly on inside deliveries) which enables him to drive the baseball into the distant sky. There’s swing and miss in his game as well but that’s aligned with the power bat approach, if he can stay healthy thru an entire season he is a player with thirty home run potential. Garnering perhaps another 150 or more PA’s in Australia will bode well coming into 2024 spring camp with an eye towards a AA level assignment.
Andrick Nava - 21 years old Catcher - will be 22 in early October - signed as an international free agent 7/2/18 - Cabimas, Venezuela - Andrik can swing the bat - very sound offensive skills which we first saw in 2019 GCL play - defensively is not as advanced as others but had a good summer of work on his defensive prowess in particular with BlueClaws coach Chris “Tank” Adamson who also happens to be a former catcher and is the manager of the Adelaide Giants. Andrick had a strong month of August where he posted a .317 batting average and .356 OBP in 41 AB’s hitting two home runs. He will get to catch at least a couple games a week in Australia to continue to refine his game.
Cade Fergus - 23 year old Outfielder - 2022 13th round draft selection - George Washington University - Speed is one his assets, one of the top five in the organization in that regard. He has some pop in the bat as well as evidenced by his twelve home runs and forty seven RBIs while with Clearwater this summer where he also recorded fourteen doubles in 261 plate appearances. Was promoted to Jersey Shore on 8/6/23 and didn’t find the same footing in limited action. He’s a very good defensive outfielder as well, excelled in college in center field. He played all three outfield positions this past summer and will likely do the same for Adelaide although with a focus on center field. Gives him the opportunity to add another hundred-fifty or more plate appearances so as to come into 2024 spring camp ready to go for his second full season of professional play.
Anthony Quirion - 25 years old - C/1B - signed as an un-drafted free agent 7/20/21 - Lamar University - Anthony returns to Australia for his second consecutive season. Quick hands as a hitter, ability to drive the ball. He’s a great competitor with leadership qualities - other players migrating to him. Last season with Adelaide he hit .339 in 150 plate appearances with five home runs and twenty four RBIs. Will likely see time both behind the plate and at first base.
Nick Ward - 28 year old Infielder - signed as a free agent on 12/19/22 - played collegiate baseball at West Chester University - drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 34th round of the 2018 draft - Nick played independent professional league baseball from 2020 to 2022 in the Washington and Frontier Leagues where he excelled during the 2022 season and earned a contract with Adelaide for the 2022 winter season. He was an outstanding performer for the Giants posting a .344/.418/.643 slash line with ten doubles, eleven home runs and twenty three RBIs in 177 plate appearances and finished second in league MVP voting. He also played for Team Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. This summer he recorded a .270/.392/.371 slash line at Jersey Shore with eight home runs, fifty RBIs and twenty two stolen bases in 392 plate appearances and was promoted to Reading on 8/7/23 where he finished the year. Nick will see time at second, shortstop and third base for the Giants again this year. He’s a very patient hitter who will hit to all fields and has pull side power as a left handed hitter.
Rixon Wingrove - 23 years old - 1B - signed as a minor league free agent 4/20/18 - Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia - Defensively played well again this season, he’s worked hard to become a dependable first baseman. Offensively his swing can get long and overextended on the pull side as a left handed hitter but he has both strength and home run power to all fields when he stays within himself. Very outgoing personality, plays hard, competes to win. This summer at Jersey Shore he hit twenty doubles and fifteen home runs driving in sixty three runs in 101 games (363 AB’s). He was promoted to Reading on 8/21/23 and hit his first home run there on September 13th. He also played in the World Baseball Classic for Team Australia. This will be Rixon’s fourth season with Adelaide after playing two seasons prior with Sydney. He will be the regular at first base and should come into 2024 spring with an eye on claiming the same spot for AA Reading.
Nikau Pouaka-Grego - 19 years old - INF - signed as an international free agent 1/17/22 - Australia - He can flat out swing the bat - a left hand hitter who has shown the ability to drive the ball out of the yard. For such a young player he’s got the look of a polished hitter already, perhaps due to his extensive play in previous international competitions for Australia. The eye-hand coordination and bat to ball skills stood out as we watched this summer. Has quick hands and good baseball instincts. Power will seemingly develop even further as he grows into his body. Missed the 2023 season recovering from knee surgery.
LH Braeden Fausnaught - 24 years old - signed as an un-drafted free agent 8/1/22 - West Chester University - features a fastball - sinker & four seamer (sits in a range of 89 to 92 mph - max 94), cutter (85 to 87 mph), change up (84 to 87 mph) and curve (78 to 80 mph) - changeup is an out maker. Braeden made 24 appearances (seven starts) for the Clearwater Threshers in 2023 accumulating 63 innings and posting a 4.57 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 39 walks. He will likely be a starter for the Giants filling the role that Jordan Fowler played last season.
RH Cam Wynne - 24 years old - 2021 20th round draft selection - University of Nebraska - had a very strong 2023 season with the Jersey Shore BlueClaws appearing in 34 games and recording a 2.55 ERA in 42 1/3 innings pitched. He struck out 39 batters and walked 14, posted a 1.02 WHIP. Had an outstanding second half of the season - a 0.73 ERA in 8 August games (12 1/3 IP) and a 0.52 ERA from 7/19 to 8/31 covering a 13 game span (17 1/3 IP). Fastball sits generally in the 93-95 mph range touching 97 - slider and change up are primary secondary pitches - ball comes out hot and quick to the plate with decent spin rates - power pitcher. Tremendous physique. Will likely be a back end reliever for Adelaide.
RH Adam Leverett - 25 years old - drafted in 15th round of the 2019 draft from Gordon State JC, Georgia - made 35 appearances (eight starts) for AA level Reading amassing 64 innings and posting a 3.94 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 27 walks. He averaged 16.59 pitches per inning pitched and had a 63 % strike ratio. He pitched two or more innings in 17 of the games he pitched in serving as both a bulk reliever and spot starter. This was his third consecutive year pitching for Reading. Adam is a very likable young man, he’s pitched in multiple roles since being in the organization. Last season (2022) converted to a bulk reliever and has filled the position for two years running with Reading. Will throw a fastball (90 to 94 mph), changeup, slider and curve. He’s a command and control pitcher, knows how to pitch and attacks hitters. Change up is an out pitch - deceptive with downward plane movement and tilt.
RHP Josh Bortka - 24 years old - drafted in sixteenth round of the 2022 draft from Central Missouri University - 1-0 record in 20 appearances (29 1/3 IP) with the Low A Clearwater Threshers - 43 strikeouts, 19 walks, .125 BAA, 1.06 WHIP, 60 % strike percentage, 18.10 average pitches per inning pitched. Also appeared in 8 FCL games - eight innings pitched - was on opening day roster for Threshers - sent to FCL on 4/30/23 with an injury, returned to action on 6/6/23 in FCL and back with Threshers on 7/5/23. Became the closer - pitched in two playoff games - 3 1/3 IP, no runs, one hit, three strikeouts. Throws a Fastball ( sits in a range of 92 to 94 mph - max 96 ) curve and slider. Uses his slider as his primary pitch, will throw it over eighty percent of the time - it’s a plus pitch with well above average spin rates (2,700 to 3,000 rpm’s) that is a swing and miss delivery. Issues have been command and control. Josh had UCL repair and bridge surgery in 2019 - returned to action in 2022. Will chow down on a fast food chicken samitch, my kind of guy 🤓.
RH Mitch Neunborn - 26 years old - signed as an international free agent 6/5/23 - Australia - made 16 appearances (10 starts) for High A Jersey Shore amassing 42 2/3 IP and posting a 3.38 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 14 walks. Had a 0.94 WHIP and a .172 BAA - averaged 14.95 pitches per inning pitched with a 62 % strike ratio. Also pitched 3 1/3 innings in a 9/14/23 playoff game. Was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this fall and has thrown 6 innings in 3 appearances to date. He features three pitches, a fastball (92 to 95 mph), slider and split finger change up. Throws his splitter with a Vulcan grip between his ring and index finger, creates good deception, reduction in velocity and downward movement, will throw it often and for strikes. Has been a standout for the Giants in the ABL the past couple of seasons putting up stellar numbers out of the bullpen last year for the champions. He’s a strike thrower as evidenced by an immaculate inning he threw on August 17th for the BlueClaws, pitched well for Jersey Shore both in the regular season and playoffs. He was deployed in the organization as a starter this year as his repertoire of pitches and command position him for success.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
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