Projecting talent in any profession is difficult and inexact. Baseball is no exception to that general premise. In the world of quick expectations folks surmise that players are “failures” if they’re not in the big leagues within a couple of years. In the real world that’s the exception rather than the rule. It’s especially true if the investment is made in a high school player whereas minor league baseball not only becomes the young man’s baseball development platform but also their venue to grow up and mature into a young adult. It’s not just the on field aspects of the game where learnings occur ... the experiences of life as a public figure ( to an extent ) and being part of an organization are equally as important. Learning a sharpened focus and honing skills to meet deliverables and expectations is perhaps even more difficult than the athletic side of the equation.
Luke Williams is on the verge of getting to the big leagues, drafted in the third round in 2015 as an 18 year old shortstop from Dana Hill High School in Dana Hills, CA he’s had his share of struggles to get to this point. He began his pro career in the Gulf Coast League exclusively playing third base and while the offensive side of things went well there was a bigger learning curve defensively. The following season he worked at his trade in extended spring training on the backfields of the Complex and was assigned to the Williamsport roster in June for short season play where he continued to be exclusively a third baseman. The numbers weren’t as robust at the plate that summer as in his first season and the doubters began to wonder out loud 🤪.
2017 was Luke’s first full season assignment at Low A Lakewood. He again played 3B exclusively and committed 16 errors in 308 chances ( .948 fielding percentage ) while continuing to struggle offensively and posting a .216 batting average. In his third Fall Instructs Camp that September an organizational decision was made to introduce Luke to becoming a multiple position defender rather than just focus on third base.
That off season he experienced playing winter league baseball for the first time as he participated in the Colombian Winter League on the same squad as then Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro. It was also his first professional experience at playing multiple defensive positions as he saw game action in the outfield.
2018 was an assignment to High A Clearwater and continuing the new approach, he saw game action in all of the outfield positions along with 2B, SS and 3B ... handling each assignment very well ... at the dish he posted solid numbers, had a torrid month of June in which he hit .333 in 90 AB’s ... the baseline was indeed established and set for the future. That fall he was selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League ... we saw him in Instructs once again but with a different mission in mind ... preparing for the elite Fall exposure.
The 2019 season brought an assignment to AA Reading where he continued to expand on his defensive versatility appearing at every infield and outfield position. He also had his best offensive season posting 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 504 plate appearances and stealing 30 bases. The second half of the 2018 season and the year in Reading is when we truly began to realize there was a viable big league future for the young man.
He was invited to 2020 big league spring training camp and continued to serve notice by posting a .391 batting average in 14 games ( 23 AB’s ). Of course the pandemic arrived and cut things short but Luke was selected to participate in the Alternate Camp in Allentown. He also played in the Australian Baseball League during the offseason for the Adelaide Giants in 22 games posting a .292 batting average in 72 AB’s.
Participating in 2021 big league spring training as part of the mini camp group Luke hit 2 home runs and drove in 8 in 38 ABs after which he went to Alternate Camp in Allentown to prepare for the upcoming minor league season. That led to a terrific start, an invite to participate on Team USA in the Olympic qualifiers where he earned a starting role as the team’s leadoff hitter and left fielder and now ... hopefully on the verge of his first major league call up. A true development ... over the course of 6 completed and now his 7th pro season. Sometimes the process takes time ... patience to watch it develop isn’t often our virtue 🤓.
There are other fellas from the 2015 Phillies draft class and international signing group still working to climb the ladder and this year’s early results have been favorable indeed for a few ...
2015 Draft :
OF Cornelius Randolph - an 18 year old 1st round high school selection - now on IL with an elbow strain but was having his best season prior to the injury ... hitting .311 with 4 HR and 14 RBIs in 74 AB’s
UTL Scott Kingery - 2nd round college selection - the effects of Covid I believe have done more to set him back than anything else ... now playing at Lehigh Valley - had a positive week last week. He can now focus on playing full time in Lehigh Valley and pushing his way back to the show.
LHP Bailey Falter - also an 18 year old signee ... 5th round choice ... high school selection - named the Phillies minor league pitcher of the month for May ... has had a very solid 2021 beginning posting a 1.91 ERA in 28 1/3 IP with 41 K’s and 7 BB
C Edgar Cabral - 11th round selection who’s now sharing the catching duties at AAA Lehigh Valley ... drafted from Junior college
RHP Tyler Gilbert - college selection now with the AZ Diamondbacks pitching at the AAA level
2015 International Signings :
OF Jhailyn Ortiz - signed as a 16 year old - he’s now at High A Jersey Shore coming off a very solid week going 8 for 23 ( .348 ) with a double, 3 home runs and 5 RBIs. Six game hitting streak has raised his season average 20 points to .259 ... 5 HR and 19 RBIs in 108 AB’s
C Rafael Marchan - also signed as a 16 year old - he’s shown his abilities already at the big league level ... a defensive standout who’s now the primary catcher for AAA Lehigh Valley.
LHP Manuel Silva - another 16 year old signee who is now on the High A Jersey Shore roster after a delayed start to his season. Big arm.
INF Jonathan Guzman - also a 16 year old signee ... he’s a regular at either 2B or SS for Jersey Shore at the High A level ... outstanding defender ... slow start to the season offensively but it’s coming.
Nine players still active in the Phillies organization from the 2015 draft and international signings ... three have already appeared in the show with a fourth possibly on the verge. All still in play to eventually get there for long term impacts ... just saying 🧐
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️