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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

9/12/23 : Phillies A Level Playoff Preview

Both the Clearwater Threshers and Jersey Shore BlueClaws qualified for the playoff round in their respective leagues. With that the Phillies have three 2023 playoff teams amongst their seven affiliates thus far with AAA Lehigh Valley still in the hunt for the International League second half title.


The High A and Low A level divisional series begin today.  In the South Atlantic League the BlueClaws will host Hudson Valley (Yankees affiliate ) for the first game of the best of three North Division series with play shifting to Hudson Valley for the balance of the matchup.  In the South Division Hickory (Rangers affiliate) and Greenville (Red Sox affiliate) square off in a best of three series.  The two winners will meet in the best of three  league championship series.


In the Florida State League Clearwater will travel to Lakeland (Tigers affiliate) for the first game of the best of three West Division match with play shifting to Clearwater for the balance of the series.  In the East Division Palm Beach (Cardinals affiliate) and Jupiter (Marlins affiliate) will play in a best of three series with the winner meeting the West Division winner in the best of three league championship series.


Here’s a look at the two series :


Florida State League West Division Series


Lakeland won the second half title with a 44-22 record (.667) while Clearwater won the first half with a 44-21 (.677) mark.  The Threshers were 79-50 overall for a league best .612 winning percentage while the Flying Tigers were 70-61 (.534) which was the fourth best overall record in the ten team league.


Lakeland has their 2023 top draft pick Max Clark (center fielder) on the roster, the 18 year old from Franklin, Indiana was the third overall selection in the recent draft.  Shortstop Kevin McGonigle (nineteen years old) was the 37th player chosen in the 2023 draft (CB-A round) and has hit the ball well in his twelve games with Lakeland posting a .350 batting average in 40 at bats.  Second baseman Max Anderson (21 year old 2023 second round draft selection - University of Nebraska) has posted solid numbers in his 128 AB’s (two homers, twenty one RBIs, .289 batting average) for the Flying Tigers as has 2023 13th round selection Brett Callahan who’s a Philly area kid from Newark, Delaware and attended St Joseph’s University.  He has a .432 OBP in 46 plate appearances.  Outfielder Jose De La Cruz (21 years old) and catcher Mike Rothenberg (24 years old) led the club in home runs with twelve apiece.  First baseman Quincy Nieporte finished the year with Lakeland on rehab assignment, he’s a former Phillie who hit 31 home runs at AA Erie last season.


On the mound right handler Jaden Hamm (21 year old 2023 5th round selection - Middle Tennessee State) made four starts after being assigned to Lakeland and posted a 0.00 ERA in eleven innings with 11 K’s and one walk. Twenty-three year old left hander Joe Adametz (2022 14th round selection - Liberty) made a couple starts to finish the year after missing last season due to injury and also posted a 0.00 ERA - he pitched ten innings.  Twenty-five year old Cam Brown is a closer, he was signed as an undrafted free agent in April of 2022 from Central Michigan and has 11 saves in 16 opportunities.  Twenty-four year old Max Alba (signed as a free agent 8/11/22) also is used in closing situations.  Twenty year old Edgardo Ibarra (signed as an international free agent 7/2/19 from Venezuela) along with twenty year old Carlos Marcano (signed as an international free agent 1/25/21 from Venezuela) and twenty three year old Joe Miller (2022 11th round draft choice - University of Pennsylvania and is from Hatboro, PA) are amongst the pitchers most frequently used.


The Threshers also have multiple 2023 draft selections on their roster.  First round pick Aidan Miller (19 years old from New Port Richey, FL) has been getting the majority of time at shortstop while infielders Bryson Ware (22 years old - 8th round draft selection - Auburn), Zach Arnold (22 years old - 14th round selection - Houston), un-drafted free agent signee Trent Farquhar (22 years old - Michigan) and catcher Jared Thomas (15th round selection - Loyola Marymount) are likely to see playoff game action as well.


Three twenty year olds (Emaarion Boyd, Ricardo Rosario and Jordan Viars) along with nineteen year old Raylin Heredia will see a good bit of time in the outfield as will twenty-two year old Troy Schreffler.  Eighteen year old William Bergolla will play a good deal in the middle infield spots while Chad Castillo, Dakota Kotowski and Keaton Anthony will vie for time at first base. Catchers Ryan Leitch and Jordan Dissin will be options behind the dish.


Erich Uelmen and Hans Crouse are AAA level pitchers who finished the season on rehab assignment with Clearwater, both will pitch early in the playoffs.  Jean Cabrera and Estibenzon Jimenez will start the first two games, starting options for game three if needed include Eiberson Castellano, Braeden Fausnaught, Ezequiel Ventura and Jonathan Petit.  Josh Bortka finished the year as the club’s most reliable reliever and he’s inherited the closer role.  Danny Wilkinson, Daniel Harper, Nathan Karaffa, Alex Rao and Saul Teran are relief options as well.  2023 draftees and signed un-draftee free agents who finished with the Threshers and are available include Hunter Loyd, Brandon Beckel, Cam Brown, Trey Dillard, Casey Steward, Paxton Thompson and Brayden Tucker plus perhaps a couple more who haven’t seen action yet 🧐.


South Atlantic League North Division Series


Jersey Shore won the second half title with a 38-28 record (.576) while Hudson Valley won the first half with a 39-27 (.591) mark.  The BlueClaws were 73-58 overall for a north division best .557 winning percentage while the Renegades were 70-62 (.530) which was the fourth best overall record in the twelve team league.


Hudson Valley is a very familiar and frequently seen recent opponent as the BlueClaws have played them twelve times in their last thirty games going 9-3.  First baseman Spencer Henson (25 years old-2019 9th round selection - Oral Roberts), outfielder Christopher Familia (23 year old international signee in 2018 from DR), second baseman Benjamin Cowles (23 year old 2021 10th round draft selection - Maryland),infielder Jared Serna (21 year old international single in 2019 from Mexico) and catcher Jesus Rodriguez (21 year old international signee in 2018 from VZ) are their primary offensive weapons.  They have power as Henson, Familia and Cowles each posted double digit home run tallies for the year.


On the pitching side Clay Aguilar (24 yrs old - 2020 undrafted free agent - Houston) is an often used reliever and has had a good season with a 2.25 ERA in 44 innings. Harrison Cohen (24 yrs old), Joel Valdez (23 yrs old and a former Phillie), Mason Vinyard (24 yrs old), Luis Velasquez (22 yrs old - 1.74 ERA in 62 IP) and Nick Paciorek (25 yrs old) are other often used relievers.  Twenty-two year old Yorlin Calderon (signed in 2018 as an international free agent from DR) is slated to start tonight’s game, he’s made two starts since being promoted from low A Tampa on 8/29 and has a 3.38 ERA in eight innings pitched.  On Thursday twenty-four year old Cam Schlitter is slated to start, he was the Yankees 7th round draft selection in the 2022 draft from Northeastern. Schlitter posted a 4.11 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts) and 46 IP during the season. Other starting pitching options if the series goes to three games include twenty-three year old Zach Messinger, twenty-two year old Tyrone Yulie, twenty-four year old Brendan Beck, twenty-one year old Brock Selvidge, twenty-four year old Baron Stuart and twenty-five year old Leonardo Pestana amongst others as the club has added multiple players from low A level Tampa.


The BlueClaws are well stocked with talent. Caleb Ricketts and Anthony Quirion have been handling the catching duties as of late while Andrick Nava is on the seven day IL with either Felix Reyes or Cole Moore at first base, Kendall Simmons or Erick Brito at second, slick fielding teenage phenom Bryan Rincon at shortstop and money player Otto Kemp at third base with Freylin Minyety and Wilfredo Flores in infield reserve.  The outfield consists of teenage standout Justin Crawford, Gabriel Rincones Jr, Leandro Pineda, Cade Fergus and Jared Carr with Crawford, Rincones Jr and Pineda as the primary starters.


Christian McGowan and Mitch Neunborn will get the starting pitching assignments in games one and two. Other starting pitchers who could pitch the third game if needed or appear from the bullpen include Rafael Marcano, Samuel Aldegheri, Gabriel Cotto and Gunner Mayer .  The regular bullpen crew has been stellar and includes Konnor Ash, Carlos Betancourt, Malik Binns, Jack Dallas, Jonh Henriquez, Wesley Moore, Wen Hui Pan, Jason Ruffcorn, Matt Russell, Rodolfo Sanchez, Andrew Walling and Cam Wynne.


Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️





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