• Steve Potter

Triple “A” Level


Continuing with a historical review of the current Phillies Minor League teams ... today I look at the Phillies history of the “AAA” level affiliation with a primary focus on the present club - the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and the International League.


As previously noted in 1963 minor league classifications were adjusted to create the outline of the present structure with AAA, AA, A levels being the framework. Before that most teams were classified as A,B,C,D with some leagues designated as AA.


The International League was established in 1886 without classification, it was deemed a D league for one season in 1908 and then a AA league from 1912 to 1945. Beginning with 1946 it became a AAA league with 1963 becoming the “official” modern day classification as such. Currently the only other professional league classified as AAA is the Pacific League which was founded in 1903. The American Association was another league classified as AAA and was active from 1902 to 1962 and then again from 1969 till it disbanded in 1997.


The earliest Baseball Reference lists the Phillies as having an AAA affiliate is 1948 with the Toronto Maple Leafs having that distinction for three seasons. In 1951 the Baltimore Orioles became the AAA club for three seasons. The Syracuse Chiefs served as the Phillies Triple A club for the 1954 and 1955 seasons.


The Miami Marlins affiliated with the Phillies at the AAA level from 1956 to 1958. Buffalo, NY was the club from 1959 to 1961 with the Bisons as the surname. There was also a one year association with the Indianapolis Indians in 1960 ... another one year stint occurred in 1962 with the Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers ( the club was a shared arrangement with the LA Angels) . Both of those one year clubs played in the American Association ... the other affiliations to that point were all International League clubs.


With the official restructuring of minor league baseball in 1963 the Phillies started a three year affiliation in Little Rock, AK with the Arkansas Travelers - Frank Lucchesi was the manager for all three seasons. My favorite Phillie Dick Allen played his only AAA level season in Little Rock and despite the harsh and improper social treatment that summer he hit 33 home runs and drove in 97 runs.


Skipper Lucchesi moved to San Diego, CA along with the AAA squad in 1966 ... the Padres were the team’s first Pacific Coast League affiliate - they played in SD for three years - Bob Skinner took over managerial duties there in 1967 and won a championship.


From 1969 forward here’s a list of the AAA affiliations :


Eugene, OR - 1969 to 1973 - Eugene Emeralds - Pacific Coast League


Mike Schmidt hit 26 home runs and drove in 91 runs with a .291 batting average ( 436 AB’s ) for the 1972 team - his only year in AAA


Toledo, OH - 1974 to 1975 - Toledo Mud Hens - International League


Hall of Famer Jim Bunning managed the club both years - he was also the MGR for the 1973 season in Eugene, OR


Oklahoma City, OK - 1976 to 1982 - Oklahoma City 89ers - American Association


Bunning managed the club in 1976 turning over the reigns the following year to Cal Emery, Mike Ryan and Bill Connors. Ryan managed the ‘78 season ... Lee Elia took over in 1979 for one year with Jim Snyder as skipper in 1980 and 1981. Ron Clark, Tony Taylor and Cot Deal managed in 1982


Portland, OR - 1983 to 1986 - Portland Beavers - Pacific Coast League


Juan Samuel hit .330 in 261 AB’s in 1983 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs with 33 stolen bases in his only AAA season


Old Orchard Beach, ME - 1987 to 1988 - Maine Guides/Phillies - International League


Both Darren Daulton & Ricky Jordan played for the franchise


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Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA - 1989 to 2006 - Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons - International League


Red Barons Managers :


Bill Dancy - 1989 to 1991

Lee Elia - 1992

George Culver - 1993

Mike Quade - 1994 to 1995

Ramon Aviles - 1996

Butch Hobson - 1996

Marc Bombard - 1997 to 2001, 2002 to 2004

Jerry Martin - 2001

Gene Lamont - 2005

John Russell - 2006


Season Notations :


The 1992 team went to the Championship Finals before losing to Columbus 3 games to 2 ... they had a 84-58 regular season record


2000 - the club also advanced to the Championship Finals before losing to the Indianapolis Indians 3 games to 2. Their regular season record was 85-60. Steve Schrenk posted a 1.31 ERA in 26 games ( 34 1/3 IP ) . Gene Schall had 26 home runs and 80 RBIs


2001 - the team went 78-65 and advanced to the Championship Finals but the remainder of the series was cancelled with Louisville leading after one game - they were declared Champions. Brandon Duckworth went 13-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 22 games ( 147 IP ) - he was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year. Eric Valent led the club with 21 home runs and 78 RBIs


2002 - the team went 91-53 but lost in the playoff round to Buffalo. Joe Roa was 14-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 17 starts ( 111 IP ) ... he was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year. Chase Utley hit 17 home runs and drove in 70 while attempting to learn how to play 3B. Marlon Byrd had 15 homers and 63 RBIs


2003 - Utley moved back to 2B and hit 18 homers with 77 RBIs posting a .323 average in 113 games ( 490 AB’s )


2005 - Shane Victorino was named league MVP - he hit . 310 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs in 126 games ( 559 PA’s ) ... Chris Coste hit 20 homers and drove home 89 in 506 AB’s ... Carlos Ruiz hit .300 in 347 AB’s and Ryan Howard played in 61 games hitting .371 in 210 AB’s with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs 😳


2006 - the team went 84-58 but lost in the playoffs to Rochester. Carlos Ruiz hit .307 in 100 games - 368 AB’s with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs


Players of Note : 1990 to 1999


Dickie Noles, Mickey Morandini, Ricky Jordan, Greg Legg, Ron Jones, Tommy Greene, Rick Schu, Sal Agostinelli, Wes Chamberlain, Kim Batiste, Andy Ashby, Mike Lieberthal, Ruben Amaro Jr, Kevin Jordan, Dave Hollins, Ricky Bottalico, Pat Combs, Wendell Magee, Kevin Stocker, Tyler Green, Wayne Gomes, Marlon Anderson and Pat Burrell


Players of Note : 2000 to 2006


Marlon Anderson, Gene Schall, Jason Michaels, Reggie Taylor, Brandon Duckworth, Marlon Byrd, Nick Punto, Chase Utley, Eric Valent, Geoff Geary, Brett Myers, Travis Chapman, Ryan Madson, Lou Collier, Ryan Howard, Jorge Padilla, Gavin Floyd, Chris Coste, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Chris Roberson, Carlos Ruiz, Dusty Wathan, Cole Hamels & JA Happ


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Ottawa, ON, CA - 2007 - Ottawa Lynx - International League


Manager - John Russell


JA Happ started 24 games, Joe Thurston hit .300 in 496 AB’s - the final season as a player for Dusty Wathan - he hit .272 in 243 AB’s


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Allentown, PA - 2008 to Present - Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs - International League


Iron Pigs Managers :


Dave Huppert - 2008 to 2010

Ryne Sandberg - 2011 to 2012

Dave Brundage - 2013 to 2016

Dusty Wathan - 2017

Gary Jones - 2018 to 2019


Season Standouts :


2008 - Andy Tracy led the club with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. Mike Cervenak (.311 ) and Brandon Watson ( .305 ) hit over .300 as regulars and RJ Swindle posted a 1.98 ERA in 27 appearances ( 36 IP )


2009 - Mike Cervenak hit .305 in 119 games ( 462 AB’s ) ... Andy Tracy hit 26 homers with 96 RBIs and Kyle Kendrick went 9-7 with a 3.34 ERA in 24 starts


2010 - Domonic Brown hit .346 in 27 games earning a promotion to the big leagues after being promoted from Reading to Lehigh Valley earlier that summer. Andy Tracy continued to produce - 21 HR & 80 RBIs ... Michael Schwimer posted a 1.35 ERA in 16 games ( 20 IP )


2011 - the Iron Pigs were Championship Finalists, they lost to the Columbus Clippers 3 games to one ... regular season record was 80-64. Brandon Moss had 23 home runs and 80 RBIs in 436 AB’s ( .275 average ). Michael Schwimer posted a 1.85 ERA in 47 games ( 68 IP ) with a 9-1 record and 10 saves. Six other relievers on the club had ERA’s under 2.00 that season


2012 - Kevin Frandsen hit .302 in 99 games ( 391 AB’s ), Cesar Hernandez made his AAA debut and Tyler Cloyd went 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 22 starts ( 142 IP ) to win the league’s Pitcher of the Year Award


2013 - Cesar Hernandez hit .309 in 104 games ( 391 AB’s ) while Cody Asche hit a solid .295 in 404 AB’s with 15 home runs and 68 RBIs. Mauricio Robles recorded a 1.42 ERA in 34 games ( 38 IP ) with 7 saves


2014 - Maikel Franco hit 16 home runs with 78 RBIs in 133 games ( 521 AB’s ) posting a .275 average. Ken Giles pitched in 11 games recording 5 saves before being promoted to the show.


2015 -Brian Bogusevic hit .296 in 467 AB’s with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs. Aaron Nola made six starts before being summoned to the big leagues - he went 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 32 2/3 IP for the Iron Pigs. Maikel Franco played in 33 games before he was called up to the bigs.


2016 - the team posted their best regular season record - 85-58 but lost in the playoffs to Scranton Wilkes Barre. Darin Ruf hit .294 in 350 AB’s with 20 HR and 65 RBIs. Jake Thompson went 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts ( 129 2/3 IP ) - he was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year.


2017 - Scott Kingery hit .294 in 63 games ( 265 AB’s ) after being promoted from Reading. Dylan Cozen hit 27 homers and drove in 75 despite hitting just .210 in 476 AB’s ... Tom Eshelman went 10-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 18 starts ( 121 IP )


2018 - Joey Meneses had an incredible season ... he led the league in home runs ( 23 ) and RBIs ( 82 ) while finishing second in batting average ( .311 ). The following year he played in Japan before returning stateside for the 2020 season signing with the Red Sox organization. Cole Irvin had an outstanding season as well going 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 26 games ( 161 1/3 IP ). Enyel De Los Santos recorded a 2.63 ERA in 22 starts ( 126 2/3 IP ). Meneses was league MVP, Irvin - Pitcher of the Year and Gary Jones was named Manager of the Yead


2019 - Ali Castillo hit .316 in 415 AB’s - third best in the league. Nick Williams hit .316 in 48 games ( 190 AB’s ) with 10 home runs. Deivy Grullon hit 21 home runs and had 77 RBIs in 407 AB’s ( .283 average ) and Austin Listi popped 12 dingers with 50 RBIs in 71 games ( 259 AB’s ) with a .278 average after being promoted from Reading. Austin Davis went 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in 37 games ( 52 1/3 IP).


Lehigh Valley Players of Note over the years :


JA Happ, Andy Tracy, Lou Marson, John Mayberry, Kyle Kendrick, Domonic Brown,

Scott Mathieson, Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen, Erik Kratz, Brandon Moss, Pete Orr, Justin De Fratus, Andres Blanco, Tyler Cloyd, Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Michael Martinez, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp, Adam Morgan, Michael Stutes, Maikel Franco, Hector Neris, David Buchanan, Ken Giles, Aaron Altherr, Brian Bogusevic, Darin Ruf, Jared Eickhoff, JP Crawford, Andrew Knapp, Ben Lively, Brock Stassi, Nick Williams, Jesmuel Valentin, Edward Mujica, Pedro Beato, Dylan Cozens, Jorge Alfaro, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Cameron Perkins, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Roman Quinn, Tom Eshelman, Zach Eflin, Yacksel Rios, Luis Garcia, Dean Anna, Zach Green, Matt McBride, Ranger Suarez, Roman Quinn, Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos, Deivy Grullon, Adam Haseley, Austin Davis, Edgar Garcia ... more to come


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Phillies AAA Championship Teams :


Syracuse Chiefs - 1954 - International League - defeated Montreal Royals 3 games to 2 - Regular Season Record - 79-76 - Skeeter Wilson - Manager


Buffalo Bisons - 1961 - International League - defeated Rochester Red Wings 4 games to 1 - Regular Season Record - 85-67 - Kerby Farrell - Manager


San Diego Padres - 1967 - Pacific Coast League - defeated Spokane Indians 4 games to 3 - Regular Season Record - 85-63 - Bob Skinner - Manager


Portland Beavers - 1983 - Pacific Coast League - defeated Albuquerque Dukes 3 games to 0 - Regular Season Record - 75-67 - John Felske - Manager


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Phillies AAA level League MVP’s :


Frank Herrera - 1959 - Buffalo - International League

Ted Savage - 1961 - Buffalo - International League

Ricardo Joseph - 1966 - San Diego - Pacific Coast League

Denny Doyle - 1969 - Eugene - Pacific Coast League

Shane Victorino - 2005 - Scranton Wilkes-Barre - International League

Rhys Hoskins - 2017 - Lehigh Valley - International League

Joey Meneses - 2018 - Lehigh Valley - International League


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Phillies AAA level League Pitcher of the Year Awards :


Brandon Duckworth - 2001 - Scranton Wilkes-Barre - International League

Joe Roa - 2002 - Scranton Wilkes-Barre - International League

Justin Lehr - 2009 - Lehigh Valley - also with Louisville - International League

Tyler Cloyd - 2012 - Lehigh Valley - International League

Jake Thompson - 2016 - Lehigh Valley - International League

Cole Irvin - 2018 - Lehigh Valley - International League


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Phillies AAA Managers of the Year


Andy Seminick - 1972 - Eugene - Pacific Coast League

John Felske - 1983 - Portland - Pacific Coast League

Lee Elia - 1992 - Scranton Wilkes-Barre - International League

Marc Bombard - 2002 - Scranton Wilkes-Barre - International League

John Russell - 2006 - Scranton Wilkes-Barre - International League

Gary Jones - 2018 - Lehigh Valley - International League


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Till tomorrow ... Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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