8/26/22 : FCL ( Florida Complex League ) Phillies season review - Part One
Playing on the backfields during the summer in Florida is definitely one of the most arduous and challenging task assigned to any minor league player. Midday or morning games in the heat require early starts to each day to get pre-game work in. They are also playing to small audiences ( folks like my wife and I, scouts and family members who are in town ). Many of the players played exclusively this year on the complex fields from spring pre camp in February thru extended spring ( March to early June ) and the FCL game schedule ( June to August ). While it’s a great opportunity for us to get to know them and their family members who visit it’s a grind for the young men. As one of the few regular attendees for the “backfield” games here’s my observances.
I’ll break it into separate articles - first the catchers and infielders
FCL Phillies Record : 26 wins - 29 losses
The FCL Phillies won 8 of their last 9 games to finish the season.
Team Batting Average : 244 - tied for fourth in 16 team league
Team On Base Percentage : .343 - 7th in 16 team league
Team Slugging Percentage : .354 - tied for 7th in 16 team league
Team OPS : .697- fifth in 16 team league
Team Runs per game : 4.85 - 8th in 16 team league
Position Players :
Thirty- nine different position players took the field for the team including thirteen on rehab assignments ( Alexeis Azuaje, Luis Garcia, Yhoswar Garcia, Hao Yu Lee, Nick Matera, Simon Muzziotti, Anthony Quirion, Wendell Rijo, Daniel Robertson, Jadiel Sanchez, Madison Stokes, McCarthy Tatum & Justin Williams ).
The core of the regular position players ( 11 players ) spent their entire season in the FCL - they were joined by a group of ten draftees and un-drafted free agents signed in July for the last weeks of the season.
Rickardo Perez ( 18 yrs old ) is a raw talent that certainly impressed this season. As a hitter ( bats left handed ) he’s got a line drive stroke, quick to the baseball with hands that in this observer’s view project to be successful at any level. He was slowed early in extended spring when he suffered a lower leg injury but bounced back nicely. Rickardo has a prototypical catcher’s build and with that a frame that with added strength can develop into a hitter with power. He squared the ball up often this summer and consistently hits it hard. As a defender he’s got soft hands and seems to take charge, has a good feel for the game - releases the ball quick and although it was previously written in scouting reports I’ve read that he doesn’t have a strong arm I think that’s somewhat inaccurate - it’s not a howitzer yet but plays and can develop further. Looks like a player to me - just needs to gain experience - projects as a good one.
Rickardo Perez - photo by Mark Wylie
Jackie Pertuz ( 19 yrs old ) - Jackie showed the ability to hit the baseball hard this summer from the left side of the plate. He’s an interesting player - the defensive skills are evident. He’s from Colombia and has only been a pro since 2019 - has good size and a strong arm - reminiscent of fellow Colombian Jorge Alfaro - while not a rocket like Jorge possesses Jackie can throw. I think there’s offensive power still to be unlocked - we’ve seen him make solid contact this summer - just needs experience to see how he progresses - has good tools. He’s also noted as a hard worker and as a coachable student of the game.
Adony Mejia ( 21 yrs old ) - although presently listed on the developmental list with the High A Jersey Shore Blue Claws Adony spent the majority of his season at the complex both in extended spring training and the FCL season. He’s got good receiving skills, seems like a catcher pitchers like to throw to, we saw him a lot in live BP and side sessions with the rehab pitchers. Offensively he’s got some pop - hit three home runs on the backfields in FCL play and one at Jersey Shore. In his first year stateside this season he didn’t get the opportunity for consistent AB’s thus the stat line isn’t great however we saw ability when we watched him and also a decent throwing arm behind the dish. At this point just seems a bit behind others in the rankings affording playing opportunities.
Gustavo Sosa ( 21 yrs old ) and Jordan Dissin ( 20 yrs old ) both saw limited action after being selected in the 2022 draft. They will get a bigger taste of professional baseball life when they participate in Fall Instructs in preparation for 2023 Spring training camp where both should be in the mix for full season roster spots. I only saw them in limited play so will wait for instructs for further observance.
2B/SS Diego Gonzalez ( 19 yrs old ) - a very pleasant young man and popular teammate. Upbeat personality and energetic player. Had a solid summer - is a patient hitter, will work a walk and produced “pro AB’s” more often than not when we saw him play. A little erratic in the field but most are on the backfields - saw most of his action in the middle of the diamond but also played some third base. He’s not intimidated - will get after it. Was consistent in his performance all season - good on base percentages - doesn’t try to do too much and plays smart. We like what we’ve seen thus far - should be in the mix next spring for a full season assignment.
INF Nikau Pouaka-Grego ( 17 yrs old ) is an exciting player to see continue to develop. He can flat out swing the bat - is a left hand hitter and has already shown the ability to drive the ball out of the yard, he hit three homers on the expansive backfields this year and posted a .301 batting average in 103 AB’s with an OBP of .424 in 125 plate appearances and that’s even with losing some time due to a runner sliding into him fielding a throw at third base earlier in the year. For such a young player he’s got the look of a polished hitter already, perhaps due to his extensive play in previous international competitions for Australia. The eye-hand coordination and bat to ball skills stood out as we watched him this summer. Has quick hands and good baseball instincts. Power will develop further as he grows into his body. Defensively we saw him at all four infield positions - frame wise looks like a middle infielder but I could see an Alex Bregman comparison and capability as well - he will need to continue to work to find the proper defensive slot else could perhaps be just as or even more valuable remaining versatile. Isn’t the quickest afoot but when ya square it up consistently that’s not an absolute need. He can play - folks have already noticed - in particular the multiple scouts who’ve seen him. One to watch for sure.
Nikau Pouaka-Grego - photo by Mark Wylie
1B/OF Felix Reyes ( 21 yrs old ) - has enormous strength and power - when he connects the ball goes a very long way. The primary development need is consistent contact and pitch recognition. Felix, like most power bats, tends to get long in his swing and stride - he’s a big fella at 6’4” and seemingly ( at least when we’ve seen him ) does well with balls where he can extend the arms and turn on balls but opposing hurlers tend to pound him deeper inside, especially early in counts, and then get him to dive at pitches away. The physical tools are imposing - defensively he’s gotten better as a first baseman, foot work and understanding of the position is far improved from when we first saw him. He even played a little bit of third base in a pinch this year, has a decent arm in the outfield but foot speed is a challenge in regards to range. It’s just that sound when a powerful hitter squares the ball up that gets ya off your feet to see how far it went that remains the intrigue - just in his second season of play after signing in February of 2020 from the Dominican Republic. Can’t teach the strength and power he possesses - key question is can he be taught to use those tools to become a consistent threat.
INF Jehisbert Sevilla ( 19 yrs old ) - we first saw him in Extended Spring Training and were impressed immediately with the arm strength he displayed at shortstop, it’s certainly one that is worthy of higher marks from scouts. Jehsibert struggled to find consistency this summer offensively - when we watched him he appears to be best suited as a line drive type hitter albeit as the summer lengthened ground ball and soft fly outs seemed to dominate. He’s got decent wheels - played primarily shortstop this year but also saw some action at second base. At this point, at least in our observations, defensively he’s more advanced than he is as a hitter. Youth and energy are to his advantage and with only two years of professional play under his belt there’s time ahead for development, just needs to find an offensive focus to strengthen so that he can position himself to being worthy of being a lineup regular.
1B/3B Randy Vasquez ( 19 yrs old ) - left handed hitter who showed pop during Fall Instructs of last year - earned him a full season stateside after playing in the Dominican Summer League in 2021. Offensively has shown flashes of what might be but also posts a bit too many strikeouts. Defensively we saw improvement at third base, my initial thoughts were that he lacked arm strength to play that corner but as the summer progressed we saw enough to alleviate those concerns - he’s not a great thrower by any stretch but there’s enough to man the spot. At first base he’s smoother and we even saw him at second base near the end of the year. Randy’s got decent speed for a relatively big fella ( 6’ 0” ) and can take advantage of balls in the gaps to extend to the extra base. While we saw home run power in Instructs and Extended Spring it didn’t manifest itself during the FCL season but the frame is there to add strength so that can come. I think he needs to continue to mature both physically and mentally to unlock what he might become as a ball player. While there are some tools that we’ve seen that are intriguing there just feels like there’s a missing element that can make him much better - like most on the backfields is a work in progress.
INF Otto Kemp ( 22 yrs old ), 1B/3B Cole Moore ( 23 yrs old ), INF Ty Penner ( 22 yrs old ), SS Bryan Rincon ( 18 yrs old ) were all late additions to the roster after being drafted or signed as un-drafted free agents. We saw them in limited play - Kemp has subsequently been added to the Threshers roster. Rincon showed pop in his bat - the switch hitter had two doubles and two home runs in 34 AB’s. Moore is an excellent defender at first base, both he and Penner hit from the left side - both hit their first pro home runs on the backfields. We expect to see all of them back in Fall Instructs.