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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

5/16/24 : Organization Depth in the Minors

Every successful major league team requires having ready reserves at arms length in the likelihood of injuries and/or performance needs at the major league level.  Depth is different than development in that the Triple A level of play is usually short of upcoming prospects but loaded with players who can fill temporary voids at the highest level.  Double A baseball and below is primarily where you will find players who are developing skills that potentially make them major leaguers and/or organizational depth.  That’s not to say you won’t find a “prospect” playing at the AAA level - indeed you will but if they are there it’s because their developmental stage is to a point where they are considered as viable depth pieces while continuing to hone their skills.  While it’s relatively rare for a player to be promoted to the major leagues from a level lower than AAA it’s certainly considered when a specific need (like significantly upgrading defense) is seen and the player is viewed as viably ready to fill such a specific void and able to handle the highest level of play adequately in other areas while continuing to develop in the show - witness center fielder Johan Rojas.

So here’s my look at the minor league “depth” by position for the Phillies as defined above.

First Base :

Darick Hall (Lehigh Valley) : a very capable LH power bat who could be a lineup contributor now at the big league level for many other organizations.  He’s a run producer who’s limited to a 1B/DH role defensively due to foot speed but is athletic enough to play a corner outfield role in a short term pinch.  He’s had a solid season thus far and I believe there’s been interest from other clubs in his regard.

Jordan Luplow (Lehigh Valley) :  is primarily an outfielder but can fill in at 1B as well, played there in spring training and has a couple games under his belt this season with the IronPigs.  Is a RH hitter who’s putting up excellent numbers so far this year.  As discussed below he would be near the top of the list for corner outfield depth as well.  Has played in 362 major league games.  Signed late in spring camp after being released by Atlanta, would seem likely to have included an opt out clause in that deal.

Carson Taylor (Reading) : he’s having a terrific season thus far at the AA level after converting to 1B full time (previously was also a catcher).  I believe he could hold his own right now at the big league level as a short term fill - more likely would ascend to the AAA level if a move is made there.

Middle Infield :

Weston Wilson (Lehigh Valley) : the numbers haven’t been there yet this season, offensively has struggled but the skillset that earned him a big league promotion last season is still present.  Can play all four infield spots reliably - isn’t going to wow ya defensively but gets the job done.  He showed last year what he’s capable of doing with the bat, am confident the tide will turn in his favor this year as well.

Scott Kingery (Lehigh Valley) : he’s been solid at both 2B and SS - bat speed has returned and has popped seven home runs to date.  With Edmundo Sosa providing viable reserve support in the show along with Kody Clemens (albeit Kody lacks comparable defensive prowess) Scottie is likely behind Weston Wilson as well in the middle infield depth pecking order however he’s shown legitimate defensive capabilities and from my perspective could fill a reserve role for many big league clubs right now.

Rodolfo Castro (Lehigh Valley) impressed me with his defensive skills at shortstop this spring in camp, unfortunately he was injured in the second game of the LHV season and then again later in a rehab game with Jersey Shore.  He’s now in Clearwater working with the rehab team towards returning but is a ways off.

Third Base :

Weston Wilson (Lehigh Valley) : versatility is key in filling a reserve role - in my opinion third base is Weston’s best defensive position.

Matt Kroon (Lehigh Valley) :  a very athletic young man who can also play first, second and all three outfield spots.  Third base isn’t his best position but he’s capable of filling in there at the next level  - offensively has speed and the ability to drive the baseball.  In my opinion he’s a spark plug type player akin to the role Nick Maton provided a few years back, not the same personality but similar skills - a version of Matt Vierling as well.  He’s just a good all-around ball player - another who if he were in a less talented organization might already have had opportunities in the show.

Catcher :

Rafael Marchan (Lehigh Valley) :  he’s currently on rehab assignment with the Threshers and is just one game into that after missing mostly all of spring training with a back issue.  He’s been training at the complex with the rehab team and has taken part in BP, live BP and bullpen sessions - if needed at the big league level could likely pop back into action quickly.  Had a very productive season in the ‘23 Venezuelan Winter League and is coming off a strong 2023 campaign (albeit shortened) with LHV.  I see him as either a capable backup or semi regular in the show when healthy - is just 25 years young - made his big league debut in 2020.  Is a switch hitter at the plate.

Aramis Garcia (Lehigh Valley) : after a very solid big league spring camp where he was one of the hottest hitters (11 for 28 - .393 - 5 doubles) it’s been a struggle offensively thus far in LHV regular season play for the veteran receiver.  He’s dealt with some nagging injuries (as most catchers do) as well.  Solid defender, well respected teammate and leadership skills make him a viable fill-in if needed.  Has caught 116 games in the major leagues, a defense first type player who can run a big league game.

Cody Roberts (Lehigh Valley) and Jose Godoy (Lehigh Valley) :  both are solid defenders with offensive challenges.  Godoy has played in 26 major league games while Roberts has yet to appear in the show - he was in big league spring camp the past two seasons.

Caleb Ricketts (Reading) : he’s been slowed by injuries and just returned from the IL but if there were an extended need in the show he might just be next in line behind Marchan.  Caleb is 24 and just in his 2nd full season of pro ball - has solid offensive skills as a LH hitter, good size and won’t scare, is a leader who can handle a staff.  Defensively he’s not as strong as the others however he’s very athletic and receives the ball well, decent arm.  Offensively could hold his own right now - just sayin if there were a longer term need (say a couple months) he just might be the guy behind Marchan on the pecking order.

Outfield :

If it’s a defensive need then Cal Stevenson (Lehigh Valley) is the most accomplished defensive depth - particularly in center field - the LH hitter has been solid with the bat as well so far this year as he was last season.  He’s capable of playing all three outfield spots and would do a professional job - has played in 29 major league games to date.  Simon Muzziotti (Lehigh Valley) would be just behind him (in my opinion) in defensive regard however Simon has the better arm - he too can play all three outfield positions - is a similar type offensive player as well albeit his numbers lag behind this season.  Both would be capable fourth outfielders in the show.

Offensively we’ve touched on Jordan Luplow when discussing first base, he’s a corner outfielder defensively in my mind, can fill in at center but isn’t as strong there.  A right handed hitter who’s having a great season to date, has always produced at the plate in the minors but has struggled in the show as a reserve.  David Dahl (Lehigh Valley) hit for the cycle last night in just four at bats against Norfolk.  He’s been outstanding in the 27 games he’s played to date with the IronPigs.  Dahl is a left handed hitter who can play all three outfield spots but from my observations is more suited to the left corner.  He’s had success in the show - made the NL All-Star team with the Rockies one year and had two seasons where he posted a better than .300 average.  He’s had his share of injuries over the years including having his spleen removed after rupturing it in an on-field collision.  Looks like he would be a very capable call up reserve if the need arises.  We discussed Matt Kroon as a third baseman but he’s also capable of playing all three outfield positions, isn’t a defensive stalwart but is major league capable at each.

Pitching :

Starters :

In my opinion the pecking order for a starter if needed would be Michael Mercado, David Buchanan, Tyler Phillips and Mick Abel in that order, all are at AAA Lehigh Valley.  Mercado began the season as a bulk reliever before being added to the rotation - he’s stretched out to the mid 70’s in pitch count now and went five frames in each of his last two starts allowing just one unearned run in the ten innings.  He’s a power arm that when he’s commanding the zone has big league skills.  Buchanan is fully stretched out and has gone six innings or more in four of his six starts, he’s a pitch to contact type who’s made 35 previous major league starts - an innings eater who is capable of filling in.  Phillips is also stretched out - he’s been over 100 pitches multiple times and has went six innings or more in six of his eight starts - finding consistency has been the challenge as he’s been both really good and has struggled (two of his eight starts have accounted for 16 of the 27 runs against him).  The good version is big league capable.  Abel is continuing his recovery from a spring illness that set him back and is working to regain both stamina and strength while also competing.  The 22 year old has major league quality stuff and is on the verge but he’s an example of what I spoke about earlier - his developmental stage is to a point where he’s considered as viable depth while continuing to hone his skill.  Thus far Mick’s season has been inconsistent - I was encouraged by his last outing - it’s a learning process for the very likable young man - he will eventually get there in my humble opinion.

Max Lazar might be the most ready bullpen option if a need arises, the right hander was signed this off-season as a minor league free agent from the Brewers system - began the year at Reading as the closer and didn’t yield an earned run in 8 appearances - was promoted to LHV and has two saves in the same number of chances - he’s got a 94-96 mph four seamer, a good curve and a cutter - gets a lot of swings and misses - hides the ball really well.  Right handers Nick Nelson and Ricardo Pinto are viable fill in’s although Pinto is likely to return to the rotation for LHV - both have shown they can pitch in multiple roles.  Griff McGarry is continuing to build his new approach - he’s got a five appearance (6.1 IP) scoreless streak going but has not been used in high impact spots - not ready yet.  Ryan Burr could be a consideration- he’s had some recent success, power arm.

Major league IL pitchers Dylan Covey and Michael Rucker are here in Clearwater working with the rehab team, I don’t believe either is close to a return to action.

There are multiple relievers I like at AA level Reading and at the A levels - each has what I consider and have been told is a major league quality out pitch but there is still development work on their overall game.  From my per perspective they wouldn’t be considered just yet as depth pieces.  I believe some are getting very close though.

Just sayin.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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