Phillies 2014 Minor League Season Preview
By Scott Grauer
Minor league season has been underway since Thursday, and with the state of the Phillies, it's probably time for people to be acclimated with some of the minor leaguers. For better or worse, these are the players to be looking forward to, so hopefully a few pan out for them to get back on track.
Triple-A Lehigh Valley
Pitching: Lehigh Valley's rotation doesn't really have any prospects, but four of their five starters do have major league experience. The fifth, David Buchanan, had a pretty good showing in big league camp though. Jonathan Pettibone will be continuing his shoulder rehab in the minors to start the season, and if he can prove he's healthy, ideally he replaces one of the lesser starters at the back of the Phillies' rotation. Greg Smith returns after a solid season with the IronPigs last year, and Barry Enright and Sean O'Sullivan round out the rotation.
They have five relievers with ML experience, including Phillippe Aumont who had a disastrous spring training. His stuff is almost certainly better than anyone in the Phillies' bullpen, but it doesn't matter if he doesn't throw strikes. After his public comments at the end of last year when he wasn't promoted in September, I'm surprised he's still even in the organization. Luis Garcia and Jeremy Horst are both on the 40 man roster, but groundball specialist Kyle Simon is the name to watch in relief.
Infield: Maikel Franco leads a group of position players that's wholly uninteresting, and they're going to have a tough time scoring runs. Cameron Rupp will be behind the plate, so at least they'll have a little bit of right-handed power. Jim Murphy assumes the Matt Rizzotti role of older first baseman that's not an awful hitter, and big league veterans Andres Blanco, Reid Brignac and Ronny Cedeno will get plenty of games up the middle of the diamond. At least Michael Martinez is gone.
Outfield: The IronPigs only have three healthy outfielders on the roster now. Veteran Clete Thomas has the most experience, and he's joined by Quad-A players Steve Susdorf and Leandro Castro. Tyson Gillies is apparently just on the temporary inactive list and will at least provide some speed if he can get on base.
Pitching: I was initially surprised when Jesse Biddle was starting the season back in Reading, but after recalling Director of Player Development Joe Jordan's off-season comments about how the Phillies were going to be tougher on pitchers that don't throw enough strikes, it makes sense. Unfortunately, his Opening Day start wasn't much of an improvement.
Severino Gonzalez is returning to Reading after making his last start of the season with them in 2013. Throwing strikes isn't his problem, but this will be a big test to see if his stuff will remain good enough to get batters out. The strike throwing lefty Hoby Milner is the other somewhat interesting arm in the rotation. In the bullpen, Ken Giles is a potential ML back-end reliever if he can throw strikes, and Tyler Knigge and Jay Johnson have had their moments in the past. Brody Colvin is still in the organization.
Infield: Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle find themselves on the same roster again, and Joseph should get as much time behind the plate as he can handle. Valle's ship has almost certainly sailed. The entire infield is essentially minor league veterans and organizational players. Maybe first baseman Chris Serritella will show a little more power in a more favorable hitting environment.
Outfield: This is a pretty deep-ish outfield, and getting everyone the at-bats they need will be a challenge for manager Dusty Wathan. Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan and Cameron Perkins all have to play every day, and Zach Collier really should too. Anthony Hewitt is also on the roster, and at the very least, he showed that he should still be playing a bit with his speed and power.
Class A-Advanced Clearwater
Pitching: Clearwater has by far the weakest roster in the organization at the start of the season. Their opening day starter was Colin Kleven who only pitched 11.1 innings last year with a broken spine. Ethan Stewart once showed some promise, but with more walks than strikeouts last year, it's hard to say that now. Jon Prosinski was the second pitcher they drafted in 2013 whose amateur status was not torpedoed by the organization, and he's with the Threshers after throwing only 37.1 innings for Lakewood.
The only top 30 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America on the roster is reliever Dan Child. He has middle relief potential, but it's not a good sign when your best prospect is an 18th round pick coming out of the bullpen. The 6'7 Nic Hanson was solid for Lakewood last year, but he's starting this season on the DL.
Infield: Logan Moore, a Clearwater veteran who can't hit at all, will be behind the plate again. He'll be joined by another returning player, former third rounder Harold Martinez who has also not hit as a professional, although he did bat .325 in 2013's second half. Art Charles and Willie Carmona offer a bit of power potential, but a potentially interesting name is shortstop K.C. Serna. He's 24 years old and spent the last two years in Indy baseball. He was a productive player at the plate, but his calling card is above average defense at shortstop.
Outfield: There's probably even less going on in the Thresher outfield. Left fielder Peter Lavin is in his third season there and should consider taking up permanent residence. Brian Pointer has a little power, but he doesn't make good contact enough to take advantage of it. Justin Parr was their eighth round pick last year but didn't have a good pro debut.
Class A Lakewood
Pitching: Lakewood's pitching staff isn't any better than Clearwater's. After a strong pro debut, Mark Leiter Jr. is actually one of their more intriguing names in the rotation, and as an experienced 23 year old, he shouldn't have a problem getting outs in the South Atlantic League. 32nd rounder Tyler Viza signed right out of high school, and he was assigned to Lakewood in his first full season despite the expectation that he'd be raw and take some time to get going as a professional. He's also the youngest pitcher on the roster.
It doesn't seem like there's much potential in the bullpen either. Tyler Buckley has a nice curveball, and if he can throw more strikes, maybe he could reach the majors someday. One notable name not here is former first rounder Mitch Gueller; he struggled with Williamsport last year, and he must not have shown he's ready for Lakewood this spring.
Infield: Deivi Grullon is not getting an early season look with the BlueClaws, and that's okay because he's still so young. Gabriel Lino, the young catcher acquired for Jim Thome two years ago, will be behind the plate, and he still has potential with a strong arm and power potential.
Out in the field is where the real potential lies, especially on the left side with J.P. Crawford and Zach Green. Crawford was very impressive in his pro debut last year, and Green has big power potential. Crawford's double play partner will be Andrew Pullin. He didn't hit as well as expected last year for Williamsport, but he should have a nice approach with good bat-to-ball ability.
Outfield: Carlos Tocci and Larry Greene return from last year's team to no one's surprise. Greene's first few games have actually been productive, so maybe this season he finally bothered coming into camp in shape. Tocci has gotten stronger since last season, and hopefully that results in better contact in 2014. The powerful Dylan Cozens makes his full-season debut alongside those two returning players.
Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball - check him out! Scott also regularly updates the PSC Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more...