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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

8/30/22 : FCL ( Florida Complex League ) Phillies season review - part three - pitchers

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.

This is part three of the series on the pitchers -

Pitchers :

Team ERA :   4.60 - 12th in 16 team league

Team WHIP :   1.400 - 10th in 16 team league

Team Runs Against per 9 innings average :  5.21  - 11th in 16 team league

Forty Five different pitchers took the mound for the FCL Phillies during the 2022 season - 19 were on rehab assignments - 3 of which are no longer with the organization ( Cam Bedrosian & Scott Moss-released,JoJo Romero - traded to Cardinals ).

There were seven 2022 draft selections and un-drafted free agents ( Josh Bortka, Braeden Fausnaught, Eric Garcia, Orion Kerkering, Alex Rao, Mason Ronan & Andrew Walling ) who saw limited action with the FCL Phillies after the July draft.  I will chat more about them after Fall Instructs which will give us more time to watch them throw.

Starters :

RHP Jaydenn Estanista ( 20 yrs old ) - when scouts gather en masse behind the backstop of home plate at the complex with radar guns in tow you know that a pitcher of intrigue is throwing.  We first saw Jaydenn in 2021 Fall Instructs from beyond the outfield gates but even from afar it was evident he was producing a lot of swings and misses.  He’s packed on quite a bit of muscle to his 6’3” frame this summer and with that the fast ball climbed to a regular range of 93 to 96 mph and even touched 97 mph.  It’s not just the velocity that plays but the moment - it jumps.   He’s working on both the curve and slider as secondaries - the curve in particular is of focus as while it’s coming from the same slot it was noticeable how arm speed slowed.  The young man from Curacao doesn’t have a great deal of experience so the talent is still relatively raw yet there’s no denying the upside once you’ve seen him in action.  Continued work this offseason on strength and weight training seems to be the docket - this kid can be a really good one.

Jaydenn Estanista - photo by Casey Burns

RH Estibenzon Jimenez ( 20 yrs old ) sits 91-93 mph with the fastball - flashed a bit higher - and has both a slider and change up as secondaries.  He finished the FCL season strong posting a 1.29 ERA in three August games ( 14 IP ) with 15 K’s and 4 walks.  Overall he posted a 2.29 ERA in 35 1/3 IP.  He gets after it, doesn’t waste pitches and throughout his brief two year career has a 3.4 K/BB ratio.  Estibenzon will likely get a couple games to finish the season with the Threshers, there’s seemingly room for growth in velocity as he further matures physically - when coupled with his moxy and baseball smarts there’s both potential roles as a starter or as a high intensity reliever ( one who can handle critical game situations ).  We like what we saw this summer, anxious to see more.

Estibenzon Jimenez - photo by Casey Burns

RH Jose Pena ( 19 yrs old ) can spin the baseball at high rates, this summer the fastball generally sat 88 to 92 mph but we’ve seen him touch 94/95 both last fall and in extended spring.  The high spins come on the curve ball  with his change up used to filter hitters from the heater.  He’s very young and is a bit too hard on himself at times, wants badly to succeed and is a very good competitor.  Where he’s struggled is control - got into self made jams with walks, hit batters and wild pitches - youthful energy and excitement ran amiss.  As he matures both physically and emotionally what we’ve seen baseball talent wise is a young man who’s deliveries have significant movement - in fact seems natural.  He’s a right hander but gets lefty movement - don’t see a lot of straight pitches from him.  Key will be learning how to harness that, add strength, mental toughness and adaptability - if can accomplish that can do quite well.

RH Manuel Urias ( 21 yrs old ) - from Sinaloa, Mexico - a big fella at 6’6” and an extreme strike thrower - doesn’t walk hitters - has a 2.09 BB/9 ratio over his three year career to date.  Fastball generally in the 90-92 mph range with a curve, change and slider as secondaries.  Is well schooled on how to mix pitches, change speeds, eye levels and location - pitch ability is his strength.

RH Jonathan Petit ( 21 yrs old ) - fast ball range sits 90 to 94 mph - slider and curve are secondaries. Got off to a strong start to the season throwing nine scoreless frames in his first two games.  Showed flashes thereafter battling command leaving too many pitches out over the plate.  Has a live arm with potential of higher velocity.

RH Oswald Medina ( 20 yrs old ) - broke spring camp with the Threshers in the starting rotation - transferred to the FCL team in mid May and threw 34 innings as the main starter - totaled 69 IP combined for the season.  Fastball ranges from  85 to 90 mph with a slider and change up as support.  Ball comes out of his hand differently - hard to describe - unique movement on many pitches.  Solid second year of experience after tossing 58 1/3 innings in the DSL in 2021.  Lean frame - room to add muscle and weight and incorporate legs more into delivery.

Relievers :

RH Fernando Lozano ( 22 yrs old ) - from Mexico - was an innings eater this summer appearing in 20 games and tossing 48 innings including 16 with the Threshers at the start of the season.  Generally in the 85-90 mph range with FB, slider and change up as secondaries. Command is key and pitch ability - generally will make the batters put the ball in play.

RH Daniel Mejia ( 20 yrs old ) - tall ( 6’5” ) and lanky - fast ball is generally in the 90-92 mph range - showed a slider but we saw mostly a fastball approach.  Had issues with control during the summer walking far too many batters.  It’s an easy delivery - not high intensity which indicates to this observer that with added strength velocity can tick higher - key is to harness control and build command.

LH Jose Acuna  ( 19 yrs old )  - fastball range we saw was 87-90 mph but had a big spin rate on his curve ball which has an old school 12 to 6 break - we also saw a change up and perhaps a slider.  Didn’t see a lot of game action as focus was on strength, conditioning and refining pitches.  We met his parents this summer along with younger brother and sister - very nice folks as is Jose himself.  May see him in Instructs.

RH Malik Binns - ( 23 yrs old ) imposing physical presence at 6’7” 240 - very muscular.  Broke spring camp with the Threshers but was transferred to FCL in June.  Had trouble throwing strikes - 40 BB in 35 IP but also showed strikeout stuff with 45 K’s - is very inexperienced as a pitcher - played primarily basketball previously - fastball this summer was in the 88 to 93 mph range in attempts to find the right arm slot and release point - also threw a change up, slider and curve.  There’s definitely the ability to go higher on the velo scale but must harness the strike zone first.  A very approachable and pleasant personality - a fella easy to root for.

RH Ty Collins ( 21 yrs old ) - slender build - 6’3”  - fast ball sat in the 88 to 90 mph range this year, we’ve seen him hit up to 93 in the past - also throws a slider & curve.  Limited action this summer as focus has been on weight training - in particular adding weight.  Had a few of his strongest outings in August with three scoreless appearances.

LH Maikel Garrido ( 22 yrs old ) - big arm capabilities have kept Maikel with the Phillies ( 94 to 96 mph FB - have seen him go higher ).  He was signed in 2018 and pitched in 14 games with Clearwater in 2021 but all of the other 26 games he’s pitched in over 4 years have been at either the Dominican or Clearwater complex.  Has always battled control - 59 walks in 53 career IP with 62 K’s.  It’s the intrigue of a lefty with upper nineties capabilities heat that if harnessed could play.

RH Nicoly Pina - ( 22 yrs old ) - was promoted to the Threshers on 8/25 and made his debut with a scoreless frame.  Coming back from TJ surgery performed during the 2021 season he was sitting 92 to 96 mph with the fastball in FCL play this year and even touched 97 - he can dominate appearances, has great movement which is also often a task to command, too many walks and wild pitches but yet can punch out hitters with stuff seemingly at will.  Needs to get back to a regular routine and accumulate innings - secondary pitch is a slider and is working on change up.  The velo will go higher and when the arm strength builds will very likely sit there, he’s in excellent physical condition - coupled with control and command he’s got the goods to pitch at the upper levels.

Nicoly Pina - photo by Mark Wylie

LH Christopher Soriano ( 20 yrs old ) - throws a natural cutting fastball ( sits 90 to 92 mph ) and a curve.  Pitched in 16 games and like others battled control - 16 walks/20 K’s - 23 1/3 IP.  Ball has both lefty tail and cutting action - unique combination.  Has a frame to add bulk and strength and with that presumably velocity will have an uptick as well.

RH Wilson Valdez ( 22 yrs old ) - converted to a pitcher this spring from being an infielder since signing in 2018.  Initially struggled with pitching mechanics - short armed it - but worked diligently and by the end of the FCL season was pitching really well - an ERA of 2.00 in his last 8 games over 9 IP.  Fastball sits in the 90 to 93 mph range, working on slider and change up as secondaries.

Wilson Valdez - photo by Mark Wylie

RH Guissepe Velasquez ( 19 yrs old ) - fastball sits in the 90 to 92 mph range - we saw his curve ball as the primary out pitch - was a starter in the DSL in 2021 but pitched exclusively out of the pen in the FCL albeit limited - 9 games ( 11 IP ).  A year of learning with an eye towards future path.

A thanks to Matt Winkelman who diligently maintains pitch data on his Twitter page and website - a great reference tool to collaborate and align our observations with.

Players Released during the season ( extended spring & FCL )  :

Catcher Oscar Gonzalez

RHP DJ Jefferson

Catcher Edward Barboza

LHP Nick Fanti

RHP Jonas De La Cruz

LHP Sergio Sanchez

This concludes the review of the 2022 FCL Phillies - next we will move on to the Dominican Summer League Phillies Red season.

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