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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

9/10/23 : 2023 Regular Season Recap - Phillies Minor League A Level

Clearwater Threshers : 79-50 (.612) - best overall record in Florida State League

Few teams experience the level of success that the Clearwater Threshers had in the first half of the 2023 Florida State League season. They finished as the West Division champions with a dominating 44-21 (.677) record and earned a playoff qualifying position.  The club posted a thirteen game winning streak from April 23rd to May 9th and a sixteen game winning streak at home thru May 20th.  They played at a winning clip well above the .700 mark for most of the half.

The team adopted the moniker “Pressureville” to describe their aggressive style of play as they led the final league tally in stolen bases by forty-eight bags. They embraced a collective team spirit with an emphasis on a winning baseball focus, the opening day roster was largely composed of the 2022 draft picks and un-drafted free agent signings which positioned the group to experience their first full season of play collectively, turned out brilliantly eh 😎.

There was a collective no-hitter on 4/8/23 against Bradenton.  Sam Aldegheri threw four perfect innings and struck out seven batters. Eduar Segovia threw two strong innings behind him allowing two walks and punching out two batters. Andrew Walling pitched the seventh inning walking one and striking out two.  Orion Kerkering struck out the side in a flat out dominant 8th inning.  Wesley Moore completed the no hitter with an one walk, two strikeout ninth frame!  The five hurlers combined to tally sixteen strikeouts and allowed just four walks.  Catcher Caleb Ricketts caught all nine innings of the historic game.

Otto Kemp produced a twenty nine game on base streak from April 15th thru May 27th.  Justin Crawford had a fifteen game hitting streak that began in the first half on 5/30/23 and ran into the second half of the season till 6/29/23.

Multiple Threshers players were promoted to the next level near the end of the first half and into the second part of the season. The second half of the year also produced a winning record (35-29) as new players found their footing including many from the  2023 draft class.

Individual standouts during the year at Clearwater included the organization’s player of the month for April (Gabriel Rincones Jr) and August (Justin Crawford) and organizational pitchers of the month for April (Orion Kerkering), May (Wesley Moore) and July (Danny Wilkinson).  Upon his promotion to Jersey Shore on 8/15/23 Crawford was the Florida State League leader in batting average, second in OPS, 5th in slugging, 6th in OBP and third in stolen bases.  Wilkinson struck out a remarkable 106 batters in just 56 2/3 innings pitched for the year as a multi inning reliever, a 16.84 K/9 ratio.

Emaarion Boyd had an outstanding first year as a pro finishing second in the league in stolen bases (56) and in the top ten in runs scored. The young man just turned twenty years of age in late August and has a very bright future ahead of him.  Before the season began I predicted that Justin Crawford would steal sixty bases, base-running coordinator Gary Cathcart told me to not forget about Boyd as well, the two speedsters stole a combined ninety-six bases as Threshers, good stuff!

Eighteen players who began their full season assignments with Clearwater were promoted to High A Jersey Shore during the year (Caleb Ricketts (.368 in 95 AB’s), Erick Brito, Otto Kemp, Felix Reyes, Freylin Minyety, Cole Moore, Bryan Rincon, Justin Crawford (.344 in 276 AB’s), Cade Fergus (12 HR’s), Gabriel Rincones Jr, Orion Kerkering (0.00 ERA in 9 appearances), Samuel Aldegheri, Konnor Ash, Jack Dallas, Jonh Henriquez, Wesley Moore, Wen-Hui Pan and Andrew Walling) which is telling of the talent the assembled group displayed.  The club had seven teenagers on the roster during the year, (Justin Crawford, Emaarion Boyd, Bryan Rincon, Jordan Viars, Aidan Miller, Raylin Heredia, William Bergolla), all of whom had their shining moments.  The team led the Florida State League in hits, stolen bases and batting average.  In addition they were in the top four in runs scored, home runs, RBI’s, OBP, Slugging and OPS.  The pitching staff led the loop in shutouts and strikeouts and was in the top four in batting average against, least runs allowed and saves.

Three pitchers who appeared in 15 games or more had ERA’s under 3.00, all were promoted during the season to High A - Jack Dallas (0.60 in 30 IP), Wesley Moore (0.72 in 25 IP) and Wen-Hui Pan (2.81 in 57 2/3 IP).  Jonh Henrique led the league in wins (14) and posted a 3.21 ERA in 61 2/3 IP.  Estibenzon Jimenez posted a solid 3.60 ERA in twenty one appearances (nineteen starts) amassing 90 IP.

In a survey conducted by Baseball America the following players were selected as the league’s best in these categories - best changeup (Estibenzon Jimenez), best fastball, best reliever and best breaking ball (Orion Kerkering), best outfield arm (Cade Fergus), fastest base runner, best defensive outfielder (Justin Crawford) and best defensive SS, best infield arm (Bryan Rincon).

All tolled 82 different players wore Clearwater uniforms into action in 2023 for skipper Marty Malloy.  A very successful year with the team now advancing to the league playoffs beginning on 9/12/23 with a best of three division series against Lakeland.

Jersey Shore BlueClaws : 73-58 (.557) - second best overall record in South Atlantic League

The BlueClaws were in the playoff hunt for most of the first half finishing with a 35-30 record. They went 38-28 in the second half and won the division with a roller coaster 10-9 eleven inning win on the last day of the season!

During the season ten players were promoted to double A level Reading - Marcus Lee Sang, Nick Ward, Rixon Wingrove, Casey Martin, Matt Osterberg, Jordi Martinez, Tommy McCollum, Carlos Francisco, Tristan Garnett and Orion Kerkering. Ward was second in the South Atlantic League in runs scored and fifth in OBP when he was promoted on 8/8/23.  Lee Sang was fourth in runs scored, fourth in hits, fifth in doubles, third in triples, second in walks and eighth in OBP when he was moved up on  8/15/23.  Wingrove was second in RBIs, tenth in home runs, tied for sixth in doubles and twelfth in hits when he was promoted on 8/21/23.

The pitching staff, especially the bullpen was outstanding - from July 21st on the BlueClaws bullpen ERA was the third best in all of Minor League Baseball (Greg Giombarrese).  It was no coincidence that the club went 31-14 from that date forward and was also fueled in a large part by eighteen player promotions from “Pressureville”.

The pitching staff tossed eleven shutouts during the season. They were in the top five in the league in ERA, saves, least hits allowed, least runs allowed, WHIP and batting average against.  Eight pitchers who appeared in 15 games or more posted ERA’s under 3.00 - Orion Kerkering (1.77), Wesley Moore (1.91), Tommy McCollum (2.31), Konnor Ash (2.35), Tristan Garnett (2.39), Cam Wynne (2.55), Jack Dallas (2.80) and Carlos Francisco (2.80).  Both Matt Osterberg and Jordan Fowler stood out as steady starters for the first half while Rafael Marcano, Mitch Neunborn and Christian McGowanexcelled as starters in the second half.

Offensively the club was 4th in the league in walks and OBP, Ward and Lee Sang led the way in both categories until their respective promotions.  Standout accomplishments during the year included the organization’s player of the month for May (Marcus Lee Sang) and August (Justin Crawford) and pitcher of the month for June (Carlos Francisco) and August (Rafael Marcano).

Otto Kemp played stellar defense at third base, Leandro Pineda finished the season strong offensively and Gabriel Rincones Jr and Kendall Simmons supplied glimpses of power that make all intriguing players going forward.  Justin Crawford and Bryan Rincon became the first two players born in 2004 to play for the BlueClaws and both teenagers showed why most acknowledge a very bright future for each.

In a survey conducted by Baseball America the following were selected as the league’s best in these categories - best breaking pitch, best reliever (Orion Kerkering), best defensive first baseman (Rixon Wingrove) and best manager prospect (Greg Brodzinski).

The BlueClaws will play Hudson Valley in a best of three North Division series beginning on Tuesday.

All tolled 65 different players wore Jersey Shore uniforms into action in 2023.

If I do individual player reviews this off-season like I did last fall we will write more about what we saw with each this summer.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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