With the first half of the minor league season only a couple weeks from conclusion and each league now structured to have first and second half qualifiers for the playoffs I thought it might be a good time to do a quick review of where each club stands and which players have positioned themselves for potential promotions in the near future or second half of the season.
AAA : Lehigh Valley IronPigs - International League
The first half of the season ends on June 25th, the IronPigs are 29-27 at present with 18 first half games to play, they are in third place in the Eastern Division but would need a torrid finish to gain a first half title as they trail first place Norfolk (Orioles affiliate) by ten and one half games.
According to Baseball Reference the league average age for position players is 26.6, the IronPigs have the oldest group with an average age of 28.1. The league average age for pitchers is 27.3, the IronPigs are the 9th youngest in the 21 team league with an average of 27.1.
Obviously at the AAA level if a player is promoted then they would be going to the show, most AAA level teams are stocked with players who can fill “short term” needs at the next level over the grind of a long season. The insurance of having players at the ready is an essential element to sustaining success at the big league level. The current Lehigh Valley roster has two position players on the 40 man roster plus three others on rehab assignments and eight pitchers albeit five of those hurlers are on injured lists.
Outfielders Jake Cave and Simon Muzziotti are both having outstanding seasons at the AAA level and are at the ready. Catcher Rafael Marchan, first baseman Darick Hall and outfielder Cristian Pache recently joined Lehigh Valley on rehab assignments with decisions looming in a couple weeks as to their ongoing roster status (maximum rehab assignment is 20 days). Weston Wilson has been solid as a multi position player as has Scotty Kingery. Jhailyn Ortiz was taken off the 40 man roster in early April and after a brief stint at Carpenter Complex working with coach Edwar Gonzalez has returned to post good numbers.
On the pitching side Christopher Sanchez may have found a niche as a bulk reliever, Bailey Falter has been decent as a starter since being optioned back from the Phillies while relievers Jeremy Walker, Ben Bowden and Trey Cobb have been on good runs. Veteran Jacob Barnes was recently added and has pitched well thus far.
AA : Reading Fightin Phils - Eastern League
The first half of the season ends on June 25th, Reading is 20-31 at present with 17 first half games to play, they are in 6th place in the Eastern Division trailing first place Portland (Red Sox affiliate) by twelve and one half games.
According to Baseball Reference the league average age for position players is 23.9, the Fightin Phils have the oldest group with an average age of 25.1. The league average age for pitchers is 24.6, the Fightin Phils are ranked 8th (youngest to oldest) in the 12 team league with an average of 24.8.
Outfielder Johan Rojas is on the 40 man roster, the 22 year old has had a very good season to date both offensively and defensively, since moving to the three hole spot in the batting order he’s taken off and has hit consistently well, I’ve long touted his abilities. I know that other teams have noticed and he’s certainly on their radar, with a crowded outfield already at LHV the decision may be to leave Rojas at the AA level for a bit. 1B/OF Carlos De La Cruz (23 years old) has also had a very solid season to date while playing primarily first base, a new position for him since last fall. Carlos is another player who garners scouts interest, it seems likely he also remains at the AA level for awhile longer. Matt Kroon (26 years old) returned this season after missing 2022 due to a knee injury, he’s hit and played well primarily as a third baseman along with some outfield. Matt could eventually move to LHV in a similar role.
The pitching staff has struggled to find consistency, starters Mick Abel, Griff McGarry and Tyler Phillips have shown flashes of dominance but also have had their humbling moments. I think all three have big league skill sets but they each will seemingly need to put a few good outings together in a row to move up the chain. The bullpen has struggled, even more than the starters, there’s talent there though and both Tyler McKay and Cristian Hernandez have quietly put up good numbers, McKay has taken over the closer role. Andrew Schultz, Brett Schulze and Andrew Baker have pitched well as of late and could be turning the corner towards more of what we believe they are capable of.
High A : Jersey Shore BlueClaws - South Atlantic League
The first half of the season ends on June 22nd, Jersey Shore is 27-24 at present with 14 first half games to play, they are in 3rd place in the North Division trailing first place Hudson Valley (Yankees affiliate) by two and one half games.
According to Baseball Reference the league average age for position players is 22.3, the BlueClaws have the oldest group with an average age of 23.0. The league average age for pitchers is 23.2, the BlueClaws are the 2nd oldest in the 12 team league with an average of 23.7.
Shortstop Casey Martin has to date had the best success of his brief three year career and is likely in line for a promotion to the AA level at some point relatively soon. Outfielder Marcus Lee Sang has been very good both offensively and defensively, the 22 year old is playing his way into promotion consideration for sure and has caught the eye of many scouts. Infielder Nick Ward has been an on base machine at the top of the order and first baseman Rixon Wingrove has put up good power numbers and driven in runs at a near top of the system pace, only one player currently has more RBIs. Both Kendall Simmons and Hao Yu Lee are back in Clearwater on injury rehab assignments, they were both on good rolls before incurring injury.
Multiple relievers are likely being considered for promotions, none more so do than Orion Kerkering who has continued his dominance since being promoted from Clearwater on May 9th. Rodolfo Sanchez, Chase Antle and Tommy McCollum have also thrown well however harnessing control and command are still works in progress for each. Jordan Fowler has been the most consistent starting pitcher in the organization and likely is being considered for a bump up a notch.
Low A : Clearwater Threshers - Florida State League
The first half of the season ends on June 22nd, the Threshers are 37-14 at present with 14 first half games to play, they are in 1st place in the West Division leading by nine and one half games.
According to Baseball Reference the league average age for position players is 21.2, the Threshers are right on the average age of 21.2. The league average age for pitchers is 22.3, the Threshers are tied for the 4th youngest in the 10 team league with three other clubs at the league average of 22.3.
The collective group has truly played as a team, they champion each other and project a spirit emblematic of the “Protect the Standard” mantra of the Player Development Department. The team consists primarily of the players selected in the 2022 draft or signed as amateur free agents last summer, their camaraderie has enabled them to play in an opportunistic fashion as they pounce on their opponents mistakes and take advantage often, they win as a unit and have fun doing so.
That being said there are very young players on the roster such as outfielders Justin Crawford and Emaarion Boyd who while they are excelling are both in their first full pro seasons and will likely stay at Clearwater for a bit to gain experience. Patience is more than a virtue in player development, it makes sense to allow players to continue to refine their games. Infielder Bryan Rincon is another young player who fits that mold as are pitchers Alex McFarlane (in process of learning nuances as a starting pitcher) and Wen Hui Pan. Players who have had more experience (played longer terms in collegiate baseball or further along in their pro careers) who are more likely to advance in the nearer term include infielder Erick Brito, outfielders Cade Fergus and Gabriel Rincones Jr and pitchers Wesley Moore, Andrew Walling, Jack Dallas, Sam Aldegheri and Jonh Henriquez.
The Threshers can clinch the first half title this week, perhaps shortly thereafter some promotions will take place. One interesting note is that yesterday 18 year old infielder William Bergolla was added to the roster, he’s yet another electric player now in the mix.
Other Notes :
Beginning mid week next week I’ll be taking a mini hiatus from minor league coverage, while it won’t be a full stop I will be scaling back for about three weeks as I won’t be able to watch multiple games and practices daily/nightly during that time. I intend to still post some form of coverage however just sayin it won’t be my usual “15 minutes after the last game played of the night” effort. Nothing to worry about, just letting ya all know in advance is all, maybe ya won’t even notice 🤓.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
Photo by Michelle Potter
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