7/20/22 : Coming back from The Break
With the draft now concluded and at least seven additional un-drafted free agents being offered contracts as well it sets a new wheel of activity in motion as the annual draftee/amateur free agent mini camp will commence at the complex on Monday with players coming in for physicals as soon as today and to eventually formally sign deals. It’s usually a week or so introduction of coordinators led instruction for the new fellas. It’s also a time when scouts who’ve pushed to sign the players are also at the complex for a knowledge transfer to the player development folks. We will try to be there most days to introduce ourselves and watch the new signees from our own perspective.
New draftees/amateur signings don’t count against the 180 player stateside limit until they are activated on a roster, with mini camp being so late this year due to the draft now being held in July there aren’t many league games on the schedule left - the FCL ends on August 23rd and single A level play wraps up on September 11th. Fall Instructs generally occur in mid to late September into October - that’s when the new fellas will get more focused instruction on each of their paths forward.
So there’s that to look forward to along with the conclusion of the affiliates minor league seasons - here’s where we stand with the state side season minor league squads as they move forward from the break.
AAA - Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs - 49-41 ( 1st place - International League - East Division )
It’s got to be a challenging job for a Triple A manager attempting to maintain some semblance of consistency when you’re the primary club the big team draws from during the season. Skipper Anthony Contreras has done a great job thus far balancing the beam. With generally over 20 pitchers on staff to incorporate and a juggling act to keep select players “at the ready” of big league needs his team has remained relatively consistent in their play.
Eight different Phillies have made their major league debuts this season, six of which have played or are playing for the 2022 Irons Pigs. The team is one of the older squads in the league with position players having an average age of 27.5 ( league average 26.5 ) and pitchers average age at 27.2 ( right on league average ). They are second in the loop in On Base Percentage ( .350 ) and fourth in runs scored ( 472 ) while team WHIP ( pitching ) ranks third from the bottom ( 1.482 ).
Piecing together starting pitching has been challenging and often times an opener has been used with multiple relievers in play. When they have pitched at the AAA level Bailey Falter & Christopher Sanchez ( both left handers ) have excelled. Fellow lefties Michael Plassmeyer, Ricardo Sanchez & Kent Emmanuel round out the current rotation however since Falter and C. Sanchez have had multiple call ups to the show each week’s starting log gets a bit skewed.
The bullpen has had some standout moments - at present Nick Duron, Jakob Hernandez, Jace Fry & Braedon Ogle have been on good runs and James Marvel has thrown well in bulk relief. Mark Appel was recently optioned back and should get multiple innings of work.
Offensively Donny Sands has been outstanding when he’s played, he missed a little over a month on the injured list but has proven he can rake. Defensively Donnie is still a bit of a work in progress as a catcher. Dalton Guthrie, Will Toffey & Jorge Bonifacio have been solid players and Nick Maton & Rafael Marchan have both had strong July’s in limited play.
There are eleven more series to play with the regular season concluding on September 28th.
AA- Reading Fightin Phils - 40-47 overall - 11-7 second half ( 2nd place - second half - Eastern League - North East Division )
The recent promotions of RHP Griff McGarry and OF Johan Rojas coupled with the return of OF Simon Muzziotti made Reading a more intriguing club to watch. The team struggled in the first half of the season playing sub .500 baseball but has played well in the second half and with nine series left in the regular season before it concludes on September 18th there’s plenty of baseball left to turn frowns upside down 🤓 for Fightin’s fans.
Jhailyn Ortiz has been on a tear as of late and that bodes well. Logan O’Hoppe had a extended absence due to a hard battle with the flu but he looks to be back ready to go and Vito Friscia will be back from his week of play in the Netherlands for Team Italy. Coupled with veterans such as Jack Conley, Wendell Rijo, Kevin Vicuna and Aldrem Corredor the offense should be in good shape. However, it appears that Johan Rojas may be out for a bit as he has been placed on the temporarily inactive list.
Ethan Lindow, Noah Skirrow & Colton Eastman have stabilized the starting rotation, with McGarry joining the mix and perhaps Ben Brown in the not too distant future joining them as well. The bullpen has pitched a lot but has performed relatively well for most of the season - even more so as of late, Erik Miller, Braden Zarbnisky, McKinley Moore, Billy Sullivan, Tyler McKay, Mike Adams, Bubby Rossman and Francisco Morales are all power arms and Brian Marconi ( 12 saves in 14 chances ) has closed games admirably behind them. Add in Trevor Bettencourt who’s back from the IL and perhaps Taylor Lehman soon and potentially the Fightin’s bullpen can be a force to reckon with.
Hopefully the club goes on a good run to close the season.
High A - Jersey Shore Blue Claws - 31-55 overall - 6-14 second half ( 6th place - second half - South Atlantic League - North Division )
The offense has struggled all year and is at the bottom of the league in most categories including posting a collective team batting average of .215 and OBP of .295. The pitching staff is third in the loop in strikeouts and at or around the middle of the pack in both team ERA and WHIP.
Starting pitching has been relatively strong but middle and late inning relief has wavered with quite a few leads being relinquished and potential wins turning into losses. Coupled with the lack of run production by the offense it’s not hard to determine why W’s have been difficult to come by.
The starting pitching trio of Ben Brown, Mick Abel & Andrew Painter are as good as any in the league with Dominic Pipkin, Rafael Marcano and Matt Russell presently rounding out the rotation. There’s high octane in the pen with Andrew Baker, Andrew Schultz, Erubiel Armenta and Carlos Francisco all capable of mid to upper nineties velocity - consistency of command and control is the developmental goal with each. Albertus Barber is recently back from the 60 day IL ( TJ ) and provides energy plus a new found repertoire of pitches, Aidan Anderson & Jonathan Hughes provision the ability to command the zone and Cristian Hernandez has seemingly moved to a bulk reliever’s role along with Kyle Glogoski.
Position players Ethan Wilson, Luis Garcia ( recently returned from the IL), Casey Martin, Jared Carr, DJ Stewart, Baron Radcliff, Freylin Minyety, Uziel Viloria & Rixon Wingrove have all shown flashes of their potential. Carlos De La Cruz has had a solid season thus far - from my view he has earned consistent playing time over the final eight series before the season ends on September 11th.
It’s likely that a few new faces arrive over the course of the next few weeks whether that be from Clearwater or newly drafted /signed players. There will also be returnees from the IL such as Brett Schulze, Victor Vargas, Nick Matera, McCarthy Tatum, Anthony Quirion & Victor Vargas who will help. The team beat up on Aberdeen 9-0 in their last game before the break - let’s hope that’s s harbinger of things to come!
Low A - Clearwater Threshers - 42-44 overall - 7-14 second half ( 6th place - second half - Florida State League - West Division )
Early in the season ( April & May ) the Threshers offense was in the league’s upper half in batting average, on base percentage, slugging and OPS but a wrath of injuries severely impacted run production and now the team finds itself at the break at or near the bottom in each of those categories.
Hao Yu Lee, Jadiel Sanchez, Alexeis Azuaje & Yhoswar Garcia have all been on extended IL stints with Lee being the only one to recently return. Lee ( 19 yrs old ) won the organization player of the month award for May before being sidelined by a pitch that hit his hand causing a fracture. He’s a exciting hitter to watch, a “professional hitter” type - this past week he played in a few FCL games and seemingly picked up where he left off - played on Sunday with the Threshers as well.
Sanchez ( 21 yrs old ) and Azuaje ( 20 yrs old ) are hopefully not to far behind in their return to action, Garcia ( 20 yrs old ) could be a bit longer ( severely sprained ankle ) as he just recently returned to the complex after spending time back home in Venezuela. While they have been absent Marcus Lee Sang, Leandro Pineda & Wilfredo Flores have played well and will continue to be in the mix going forward till the season ends on September 11th. Andrik Nava ( 20 yrs old ) has continued to show offensive prowess, he needs to reign in an equal commitment to his defense as a catcher to reach full potential. Arturo De Freitas has been steady both behind the dish and at the plate.
Erick Brito ( 20 yrs old ) was pushed into action at shortstop with the injuries, he’s shown flashes of both defensive and offensive prowess - I believe the original plan was for him to play in the FCL in this his first year stateside. Jamari Baylor & Kendall Simmons both hit the ball hard albeit inconsistencies in contact have kept their numbers and production down. Albert Jerez has perhaps the best arm I’ve seen in the organization as an infielder but hasn’t hit, might be a pitching project this fall 🤔.
The pitching staff is second in the league in team ERA and in the top five in WHIP and K’s - generally they’ve kept the club in ball games as indicated by the team’s near .500 record. Gabriel Cotto, Jordi Martinez, Eiberson Castellano & Jean Cabrera have become cogs in the rotation with Jordan Fowler & Starlyn Castillo ( back from the 60 day IL - TJ ) presently filling out the six man group.
Tommy McCollum was having an outstanding season in the bullpen before suffering an ankle injury that seemingly will sideline him for an extended period. Rodolfo Sanchez has also been excellent and has posted a 1.67 ERA in 27 games ( 37 2/3 IP ) to date. Gabriel Yanez seemingly always gets outs, no matter the role, the lefty has a 1.47 ERA in 23 games ( 36 2/3 IP ). Alex Garbrick has been really good ( 2.68 ERA in 25 games - 37 IP ).
Konnor Ash, Carlos Betancourt, Tristan Garnett & Jared Wetherbee have all shown capabilities as relievers as well. Matt Osterberg will now pitch out of the pen. Sam Jacobsak & Brett Schulze have been recent adds to the roster on rehab assignments and I’m thinking that Nicoly Pina & Cam Bedrosian might join them as soon as this coming weekend. Cam Wynne, Keylan Kilgore, Samuel Aldegheri & Buddy Hayward are hopefully other bullpen hurlers we will see return to action from the IL.
After mini camp concludes for the newly signed draftees and free agents the Threshers are a very likely destination for quite a few of those fellas - if the offense can get back on track and the pitching remains sound it should be a fun final eight series to watch.
Florida Complex League - FCL Phillies - 11-17 ( 3rd place - North Division )
Back field contests can turn into marathons as heat, humidity and the harsh sun take their toll. Along with the Arizona Summer League the FCL is the most difficult minor league stateside setting to play in as related to conditions as games are held at noon daily. In addition the schedule becomes redundant as the Phillies are lumped together with the Tigers, Yankees and Blue Jays and the four squads have played exclusively against each other since extended spring training games began in April. Minor league baseball is a grind in general but the experiences of backfield baseball certainly tests the desire and resilience of it’s participants even more.
The Phillies squad has done relatively well offensively as the rank in the upper half of the overall FCL 16 team league in most categories. Pitching has been where the struggles have usually been and league statistics reflect that for the club.
There’s plenty of upcoming position players talent to watch - Jordan Viars, Nikau Pouaka-Grego, Yemal Flores, Diego Gonzalez, Rickardo Perez, Lou Helmig, Randy Vasquez, Albert Rodriquez & Jehisbert Sevilla are all teenagers who’ve shown flashes of their future capabilities.
Jose Pena Jr & Jaydenn Estanista are the two hurlers who’ve stood out early in regards to electric stuff. I’ve also been impressed with Estibenzon Jimenez & Guissepe Velasquez when I’ve seen them. Rehab pitchers have often taken turns on the hill and that will continue as well till the season concludes on August 23rd.
The FCL is the most likely game venue for pro debuts of new draftee and free agent signees so there’s that to look forward to also.
Play resumes this afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️