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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

8/23/23 : The Complex Leagues - Regular Season Recap

Backfields baseball is the epitome of the grind of minor league development.  There are few spectators other than scouts, coaches, front office player development folks and support staff.  Games are generally mid day or mornings and the routine is of early morning arrivals and workouts before the games.  Many of the players begin the process in early April with what’s referred to as extended spring training, while the games played then before the official Complex League seasons open in June aren’t reported or tallied as league games the efforts, notes and stats are factored in evaluating each player’s development.  Playing on the backfields is a test of focus, determination and will but we’ve seen many a player come thru the grind and become full season contributors afterwards.

Here’s a look at the recently completed Complex League regular seasons for the three Phillies squads.

FCL Phillies : 28-25 - third place in North Division

Florida Complex League play began on June 5th however there were 22 extended spring games before that against the Blue Jays (primarily), Tigers, Braves and Yankees that began in late March.  The Phillies contingent went 12-5-5 (yes ties happen in extended spring training games).  During the extended spring games C/IF Leonardo Rondon was a standout posting a .609 batting average (14 for 23), a .640 OBP and a 1.423 OPS.  SS William Bergolla hit .452 (19 for 42), posted a .521 OBP and a 1.045  OPS.  A promising young outfielder, Raylin Heredia, showed his power potential, he hit 3 doubles, a triple and home run along with 8 RBIs.  Bergolla was promoted to the Clearwater Threshers on June 6th and did not play in an FCL game.  Rondon played the entire season with the FCL Phillies, the nineteen year old ended the year on a high note with a three hit game against the Tigers and posted a solid .286 batting average in 77 AB’s during his first stateside season.  He’s energetic, baseball savvy and has a quick bat from the left side of the plate and spent the summer learning the catching position while also seeing time at third base.

On the pitching side Nathan Karaffa stood out in extended spring, he threw 12 innings and posted 11 K’s with a 1.50 ERA (ERA’s in XST games are skewed a bit as often times innings start with runners on base to simulate situations, having a low one like Nate did is even more telling that he threw well).  Mavis Graves has also threw the ball very well, the 19 year old posted a 1.13 ERA in 8 IP with 7 strikeouts.   Karaffa went on to pitch in eight FCL games and post a 1.88 ERA in 14 1/3 innings pitched and was promoted to the Threshers on July 18th.

Once official league games began in June it became readily evident that outfielder Raylin Heredia was going to be fun to watch.  Raylin hit .326 in 141 AB’s in the FCL with nine doubles, four triples, four home runs and twenty five RBIs. He recorded a. .415 OBP and was promoted to the Low A level Clearwater Threshers on August 14th.   The other offensive standout was first baseman Dakota Kotowski who spent the year transitioning from the outfield to first base.  Learning a new position didn’t hamper his power stroke as he clubbed eight doubles, a triple, fifteen home runs (led the league) and drove in thirty four runs.  He hit .297 in 145 AB’s and posted a .405 OBP, Dakota was promoted to the Clearwater Threshers on August 22nd.

A total of forty five players made plate appearances during the season including rehabbing full season players on assignment and pro debuts for the newly drafted or un-drafted free agent players signed in July.  We got to witness number one pick Aidan Miller’s first professional AB and hit on July 27th, a double against the Tigers.  New draftees Avery Owusu-Asiedu, Devin Saltiban, TJayy Walton and Trent Farquhar impressed, un-drafted free agent Keaton Anthony clubbed two home runs in nine games played.

On the pitching side nineteen year old Mavis Graves continued to develop and gain confidence, in his last start of the season we told him it was the best we saw of him all year, showed poise, confidence and threw the ball well.  The season stat line shows that the young lefty also took his lumps but that’s all part of it, he’s going to do well going forward.  We also were encouraged by outings we saw from Jose Peña Jr, Saul Teran, Luis Gomez, Ezequiel Ventura, Eric Garcia, Enrique Segura, Starlyn Castillo and Daniel Mejia - each had inconsistent years but the flashes of what they could become are intriguing.  A total of thirty two hurlers took the mound for the club during the season, same as the hitters that number included rehabbing full season players on assignment and pro debuts for the newly drafted or un-drafted free agent players signed in July.

DSL Phillies Red : 27-26 - 6th place in South Division

Two regulars posted batting averages close to or above .300, sixteen year old catcher Eduardo Tait (40 for 121 - .331) and eighteen year old infielder Nolan Beltran (33 for 111 -.297).  Tait was selected to appear in the league all-star game and was transferred to the Phillies White club on August 10th where he continued to excel.  He led the Phillies Red team in RBIs with 27 in 35 games played.  Beltran was transferred to Phillies White on August 22nd.   Six players who had 70 plate appearances or more recorded on base percentages of .390 or better - seventeen year old catcher Alirio Ferrebus (.453 in 75 PA’s), seventeen year old outfielder Jaeden Calderon (.414 in 152 PA’s), seventeen year old infielder Renair Manrique (..411 in 151 PA’s), twenty year old catcher Brahian Silva (.397 in 78 PA’s), Tait (.396 OBP in 134 PA’s) and twenty year old infielder Erick Barria (.390 in 82 PA’s).

RHP Luis Gonzalez (18 yrs old) was selected for the league all-star game, he recorded a 4-1 record in 10 appearances (9 starts) with a 2.08 ERA in 47 2/3 IP with 36 K’s and 9 walks for Team Red, Luis was transferred to Phillies White on 8/17/23.  Eighteen year old RH Eduardo Robles (2.84 ERA in 19 IP - 10 games) and nineteen year old LH Juan Amarante (2.86 ERA in 10 games - 9 starts - 28 1/3 IP) had strong seasons statistically as did twenty year old RH Adilson Peralta (3.25 ERA in 11 games - 10 starts - 44 1/3 IP).  Amarante and Peralta were assigned to Phillies White on August 22nd.

Earlier this summer Lower Level Pitching Coordinator Victor Diaz mentioned three other pitchers; sixteen year old right hander Pedro Peralta - “Young arm with fastball up to 97 mph and good breaking ball”  Nineteen year old right hander Joel Heredia - “Tall (6’6”) lean frame that has showcased some good things. Fastball has been as high as 97 mph this season. Continuing to improve” and twenty one year old 6’5” RH Naoel Mejia - “Another power arm, up to 97 mph this season, stays around 92-95. Slider is a good pitch.”  Minor League Pitching Coordinator Travis Hergert said about Peralta that “he’s shown big velo up to 97 mph, sits 94-95 with a developing sweeping slider. There is a lot to be excited about with this young arm!”   The numbers didn’t stand out for those three this summer but evaluations aren’t usually confined to game statistics - should keep an eye out for these hurlers as well in the future.

DSL Phillies White : 42-13 - 1st place in South Division

The team clinched it’s third consecutive division title and now advances to the league’s eight team playoffs where they will face the Angels in the quarterfinal round beginning tomorrow (best of three series).  Four players who had more than 70 plate appearances posted batting averages of .295 or better - twenty one year old outfielder Darium Gutierrez (.323 in 96 AB’s with 11 doubles), seventeen year old infielder Starlyn Caba (.301 in 133 AB’s - suffered season ending injury on 8/3 sliding into a base - is in Clearwater on rehab assignment), twenty year old infielder Fernando Hernandez (.295 in 78 ABs, 32 of his AB’s were with Phillies Red - transferred to Phillies White on 7/19/23), and twenty year old infielder Jarol Martinez (.295 in 78 ABs - hit .272 overall in 92 AB’s - played first six games with Phillies Red - transferred to Phillies White on 6/29/23).

Five players who had more than 70 plate appearances posted an OBP of .400 or better - Hernandez (.471 in 104 PA’s), Gutierrez (.430 in 116 PA’s), Caba (.423 in 164 PA’s), nineteen year old infielder Yemil Rosario (.409 in 186 PA’s - also tied for team lead in RBIs (25) with nineteen year old outfielder Jerffson Peña) and eighteen year old catcher Guillermo Rosario (.402 in 112 PA’s).

Eduardo Tait continued his hot hitting after being transferred from Phillies Red, he posted a .346 batting average and .419 OBP with Phillies White in nine games (31 PA’s) and finished the year with a combined slash line of .333/.400/.517 and OPS of .917 in 44 games - 165 PA’s.  He turns 17 on August 27th.   

I had a chance to chat about Tait and Caba with Latin America Hitting Coordinator Edwar Gonzalez back in July.  He said that “Tait has shown power to all fields, K percentage is well above average yet he also hits for power, a rare combination for a sixteen year old.”  In regards to Caba “he has shown a great toolset, very athletic and agile, great competitor and is a leader on the field.”

Team White’s pitching staff led the entire league in ERA (2.71) and WHIP (1.08) plus were second in Batting Average Against (.208).  Luis Gonzalez was transferred from Team Red on 8/17/23 and made one appearance with his new club, overall he finished ninth in the league (for those who qualified) in ERA with a 1.99 mark in 49 2/3 IP.   Seventeen year old Angel Liranzo was 5-0 in ten appearances (four starts) with a sparkling 0.89 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 30 1/3 IP posting 30 K’s and 8 walks.  In an article I wrote in July 10th Phillies Minor League Pitching Coordinator Travis Hergert said that  “Liranzo has a Ranger Suarez type delivery and build.  Fills up the strike zone with three to four pitches. Change up is solid. Exciting young arm.”

Nine pitchers who appeared in eight games or more posted ERA’s under 3.00 - twenty year old RH Pedro Reyes (1.50 in 18 IP), twenty year old RH Carlos Millan (1.67 ERA in 27 IP), twenty year old LH Kleyderve Andrade (1.76 ERA in 30 2/3 IP), nineteen year old RH Josbel Garcia (1.69 ERA in 32 IP), twenty year old LH John Sosa (1.91 ERA in 28 1/3 IP), twenty year old RH Luis Avila (2.35 ERA in 23 IP), eighteen year old RH Cristian Diaz (2.67 ERA in 27 IP), twenty year old RH Maxwell Hernandez (2.76 ERA in 45 2/3 IP - 10 starts) and nineteen year old RH Wilmer Blanco (2.80 ERA in 45 IP - ten starts).  Twenty year old RH Danyony Pulido posted a 3.21 ERA in eleven appearances (10 starts) in 42 IP, he led the club in strikeouts (51) and had the best WHIP amongst starters (1.05).

Coordinators Hergert and Diaz had this to say about select pitchers in my July review -  Travis said that Pulido “is a physical pitcher that has seen an uptick in velocity, now 91-94 mph. He’s increased strikeouts and lowered the walks.”  Regarding Hernandez he said that Maxwell  “features good velocity and movement on the fastball at 91-93 mph with two good off speed pitches in a slider and change up.”  Coordinator Diaz concurred that Pulido has been “a consistent starter this season and has shown higher velo throughout this season.”  He said Maxwell “competes well and been a reliable arm.”

Hergert said that “Millan has been close to untouchable, 91-93 mph fastball with a solid curve and developing change-up, physical body with a strong arm.  Garcia is a loose arm that’s been up to 95 mph. Andrade features a good fastball up to 94 mph. A similar delivery and build to Reading’s Jordi Martinez.”  Diaz remarked that Millan “has been solid out of the pen. Fastball has shown well and hasbeen consistent in the zone. Is making improvements on the breaking ball.” He said that Andrade is a “go to reliever, has been very effective” and that “Garcia has also been a main reliever. He’s played more of a bulk role and has flashed some higher velo fastballs, slider has been a good pitch for him.”

Diaz also mentioned eighteen year old 6’6” right hander Alexis De La Cruz, “Big frame with some good stuff. Fastball up to 95 mph. He’s a starter who’s impressed.”  De La Cruz made ten appearances, nine starts and recorded 43 strikeouts on 31 1/3 innings pitched posting a 4.31 ERA.

The team pitched two seven inning no hitters during the season, both in July.  On 7/18/23 RH Alexis De La Cruz and LH Kleyderve Andrade combined on a 1-0 no-no victory against the Nationals. De La Cruz went four innings and Andrade the final three.  On 7/8/23 right hand pitchers  Maxwell Hernandez and Cristian Diaz combined for a 6-1 seven inning victory and no hitter against the Giants Black team.  Hernandez went five innings, one unearned run, three walks and three strikeouts. Diaz finished going two innings, one walk, five strikeouts.

Maxwell Hernandez will get the ball in game one of the playoffs with Wilmer Blanco slated to start game two.

Thanks to all for a great regular season of “backfields baseball” - don’t know how much longer I will keep doing this hobby of mine in regards to writing about the young fellas but have truly enjoyed watching yet another season of minor league action at the complex league level.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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