I don’t often get overly annoyed with things … politics, bullying, prejudice, social stigmas, lying, disinformation, etc … the usual hot buttons … ok, I get annoyed often 😂.
Another pet peeve is piggybacking opinion based solely on conjecture … things like baseball prospect rankings and lists … they always have stuck in my crawl. From my perspective observing is the key component, without personal observation the picture is incomplete. Same goes for statistics, especially in a season where a full prior year has been missed, I’d be very cautious of this season’s numbers, in particular the early months … just saying.
Not that anyone puts merit into what I write or say here’s the first in a series of articles from this observers view of the “state of the system.” I’ll attempt to “keep it real” … not a doom and gloom, there’s no talent in the system editorial but also not a “pie in the sky” everything is great PR piece … just a somewhat educated “fan’s view”.
I will break the review into parts … let’s begin with areas of strength and depth as I see it … younger pitching, catching and outfielders … those will be the first parts … then we will focus on infielders and the upper levels. Here goes … the first of part one - “Arms”.
There were quite a few pitcher’s injuries or at least extended stints on the IL this summer for pretty much every organization. The Phillies were no exception … they had 34 minor league pitchers on the IL near the end of the season … 14 of which were on the 60 day list, multiple TJ surgeries incurred.
With that in mind innings were closely monitored and limited … only eight Phillies minor league hurlers are over 80 innings pitched at this point with just Lehigh Valley and the two DSL squads left with games to play … none have reached 100 IP. Younger arms were especially protected, in all of minor league baseball this season just three pitchers under the age of 20 pitched more than 80 innings … in total 136 hurlers have thrown 100 innings or more … that compares to 330 pitchers who threw over 100 innings during the 2019 season … yes I realize that fewer games were played this summer but still there was a concerted effort by every organization to ease pitchers back from a year of inactivity.
So the old adage that the best way to learn to play is to actually play ? 🤔 … still applies from my perspective but it doesn’t hurt to be conservative in a re-ramp of action either. However, in the same vein trainers and medical staff shouldn’t dictate complete conservation in regards to return to action, especially from rehab assignments. It’s been my observations that such returns have often been delayed unnecessarily due to a disconnect in aligning opinions between the medical folks and baseball operations. It should be collaborative but baseball operations should be the decision maker based on key advice else players sit idle and miss valuable development playing time, just saying. Ballplayers are never 100 percent healthy … it’s illogical and inappropriate to shelve guys indefinitely.
Here is a highlight list of a few pitchers to keep an eye out for as they continue to progress … let’s keep in mind that velocity alone isn’t the end all be all for pitchers, it certainly helps to have it but the ability to throw quality strikes and develop secondary offerings is still vital in developing big league pitchers. While I will mention velocity throughout this review as a reference it shouldn’t be taken as the only pathway to success … simply put it’s an advantage for sure but old fashioned ball movement, mechanics and proper sequencing remain the key concepts to success. Knowing how to pitch off the heater and using such knowledge to become a pitcher rather than a thrower is the true path to sustainable success.
Dominican Summer League :
Nineteen year old RH Jean Cabrera pitched so well in his first eleven appearances this season he was chosen for the Paul Owens Award. The young man can bring the heat, he’s been up to 97 mph this summer and has also shown great command. Jean has struck out 58 batters while walking only 10 in 48 2/3 IP thus far. This is his first season of pro play, hopefully we will see him in Fall Instructs.
RH Eiberson Castellano ( 20 yrs old ) is Cabrera’s teammate and has also posted impressive numbers in his first season of play, he’s not a high velocity pitcher but has been very effective as a multi inning reliever. RH Jonathan Petit ( 20 yrs old ) is another young man who’s shown great command ( 36 K’s and 4 walks in 36 2/3 IP ). RH Estibenzon Jimenez ( 19 yrs old ) has recorded a 6-0 record in 14 games ( all but 2 as a reliever ) and has also displayed good command with 35 K’s and 11 walks in 39 1/3 IP, fastball generally in the 90-93 range … a WHIP of 0.76.
On the Phillies Red roster RH Manuel Urias ( 20 yrs old ) has posted outstanding numbers. He’s in his third season of DSL play and has a career 1.73 ERA in 37 games ( 166 1/3 IP ). Manuel now generally sits in the 92-93 range with the heater which is a few ticks up from when we saw him in Instructs a couple years ago. He’s a consummate strike thrower with just 3 walks in 45 1/3 IP this year and only 22 in total over his career. He reminds me of fellow Mexican RH Fernando Lozano with a bit more zip.
Nineteen year old RH Oswald Medina ( FB range 89-92 ) is another supreme command hurler, he’s walked just 6 batters in 54 1/3 innings of work this year with 61 K’s - a WHIP of 0.98 in 13 starts. Eighteen year old RH closer Jesus Querales has posted 8 saves thus far, he’s yet another strike thrower ( 31 K’s, 5 BB - 18 games - 25 IP ). His FB range at this time is in the 90-93 range. Twenty one year old lefty Joel Valdez has posted heaters as high as 95 mph … he’s in his second year of DSL action and has a 1.64 ERA in 49 1/3 IP ( 13 starts ) this summer.
I’m very impressed with the DSL contingent’s ability to deliver strikes … indicates to me great coaching has occurred this summer at the Dominican Academy.
Florida Complex League :
RH Andrew Painter ( 18 years old ) pitched as advertised in his first pro game action, generally sitting in the 94-96 range with the FB, great poise and command as well albeit in just 4 games ( 6 IP - 12 K’s, 0 BB ). It’s gonna be fun watching him progress.
We are also excited about RH’s Andrew Baker ( 21 yrs old ) and Micah Ottenbreit ( 18 yrs old ). Andrew showed an upper nineties FB, he ran into a rough spell with control while with the Threshers but returned to the backfields to work with Coach Pat Robles and came back to the early form we saw, success his last FCL outings, gives him a base line to build upon in Fall Instructs. Ottenbreit had one rough outing in his four FCL appearances but threw scoreless ball in the other three, we saw poise and a mix from him that projects very well. We think RH Malik Binns, RH Jose Pena Jr, RH Jose Ulloa, RH Ben Brown, RH DJ Jefferson, RH Sam Jacobsak, RH Carlos Betancourt and lefties Christopher Soriano, Jake McKenna & Corey Phelan are as good and as an intriguing a mix of potential power arms with pitch ability skills that we’ve seen in a long time on the Phillies backfields … looking forward to seeing them more in Fall Instructs. In our opinion Ben Brown is ready to explode … just a matter of having a good run of extended health and opportunities, he finished the season in the FCL after being sidelined earlier in the year from a strong start with Jersey Shore ... Ben was popping the mitt consistently at 95-96 in his last couple of FCL outings.
In the interest of brevity and keeping your interest I’ll cut off here for the first article. We will pick up with the full season squads and pitchers on the IL in our next session.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
Ben Brown - photo by Mark Wylie