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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

5/22/21 : The Young Guns

Power arms are the rule of the day in most if not every organization, the ability to produce strikeouts seems to be the prevailing pitching goal. Thus far in minor league action each of the eleven leagues have averaged between 19 and 21 combined strikeouts per game between the two teams playing. Of course it’s not always a power arsenal that produces punch outs or successful pitching, well located pitches of any speed and a decent secondary mix can be just as effective.

During the first three weeks of play the Phillies hurlers at the Low A level in Clearwater and the High A level in Jersey Shore have been very good and often dominant.

Both teams are employing a piggy back method for starters. They each utilize 10 pitchers in a five slot rotation with the hurlers generally taking turns as to whom starts or relieves in each rotation slot. Relievers are used to fill the gaps and/or close out games. It’s a planned pitching methodology that some may bemoan as it places limitations on both pitch count and innings pitched. However in a year where injuries are happening at an increased and somewhat alarming pace throughout baseball it’s not only prudent to monitor workload but likely necessary ... especially given the fact that the entire 2020 season was missed due to the shutdown.

To date the Jersey Shore staff is fifth in the High A Eastern League in strikeouts with 180 in 142.2 IP ... an average of 11 per game. The Clearwater Threshers staff is second in the Low A Southeast League with 193 K’s in 145 IP ... averaging 12 per game. However, they are doing so with somewhat different pitching arsenals and approaches.

The Phillies development approach to minor league pitching is of an individualized nature, the intent is to develop each pitchers functional strength and how that plays into their delivery. In game mode the focus is on making sure pitch sequences are on point and that each pitcher works to maximize their repertoire. At the advanced levels of play scouting reports on opponents may become more inclusive but generally the philosophy is to reinforce what a pitcher does well and improve upon their weaknesses.

The Clearwater staff has multiple hard throwers, “big arms” as we often say. Rotation members include 19 year old RH Mick Abel ( clocked in the 94-99 mph range ) , 20 year old RH Cristian Hernandez ( FB 92-96 range ), 19 year old RH Starlyn Castillo ( FB 91-96 range ), 20 year old RH Eduar Segovia ( FB 92-95 range ), 21 year old LH Rafael Marcano ( FB 91-96 range ), 20 year old LH Jordi Martinez ( FB 91-96 range ), 21 year old RH Rodolfo Sanchez ( FB 92-96 range ) and 23 year old reliever RH Tyler Burch ( FB 92-96 range ). Twenty year old RH Gunner Mayer also fits the description of big arm capability, he’s currently on the IL but we hope he’s back in action soon. The key for each is to utilize their velocity at the higher levels of the strike zone yet also push lower in the zone when appropriate and pitch off of that with their secondary pitches. Add 20 year old RH Victor Vargas ( FB 90-93 range ) who’s more advanced in his ability to attack the zone with various pitches. Twenty-one year old RH Fernando Lozano is another who uses his pitching acumen and range of pitches to produce outs, It’s easy to see why this staff should remain amongst the top tier in the Low A league.

Jersey Shore has more of a “pitch-ability” mix to their staff albeit velocity is also evident ... just not as prevalent in the piggyback group as in Clearwater. The rotation mix of 23 year old LH Josh Stephenson, 22 year old RH Adam Leverett, 24 year old RH Jonathan Hughes, 22 year old RH Noah Skirrow and 23 year old RH Jack Perkins are generally pitchers who sit in the 90-93 range with the heater but have good command and secondary offerings that also produce swing and misses. Twenty one year old RH Ben Brown, 23 year old RH Tyler McKay, 21 year old RH Dominic Pipkin, 23 year old RH Kevin Gowdy and 23 year old LH Jhordany Mezquita are rotation members than can reach the near to mid nineties ranges and in Pipkin’s case the mid to upper range of the nineties velocity stratosphere. Relievers 22 year old RH Blake Brown, 23 year old RH Mark Potter, 26 year old RH Mike Adams and 24 year old RH Aneurys Zabala are all capable of mid to upper nineties velocity. Recently promoted to AA Reading 22 year old RH Billy Sullivan also fits into that description. Twenty year old RH Victor Santos is akin to previously mentioned Victor Vargas in approach and pitch repertoire, he’s been pitching out of the bullpen thus far in different scenarios. It’s a good staff and should keep Jersey Shore in the upper tier of the High A league’s pitching statistics.

Developing pitching internally is a key to sustained success ... let’s hope quite a few of these “young guns” continue to progress and find their way up the ladder ... eventually to the show. In the mean time we will watch their development, encourage each young man when they fail and cheer them when they prevail as they climb the minor league rungs with an eye towards seeing them ultimately succeed at the highest level. It’s all part of it.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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