Guth, Charles, Pointer And Forsythe Come Up Big For Threshers in 4-3 Win And Fight For Prospect Status

It was a big win last night for the once hapless Clearwater Threshers who are coming alive in the second half of the Florida State League season.  But was even a more important game for the future of several Threshers who are on the border line between being considered suspects or prospects in the Phillies organization.

Last night it was no doubt about it that Jordan Guth, Art Charles, Brian Pointer and Cody Forsythe played like prospects in the 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays farm team, the Charlotte Stone Crabs, at Bright House.  As a result, thanks to starting the standing all over again, the Threshers are only 5.5 games out of first place and 4 games under .500 with 40 games left to play.   They finished the first half of the season  28.5 games off the pace and 34 games under .500 in the northern division of the FSL.

Jordan Guth pitched like a top of the rotation major league starter with the help of Carlos Ruiz behind the plate last night in striking out six with no walks over six innings.  He make only one mistake giving up a homer to left.

Guth started out as the Threshers closer to begin the season but was ineffective.  He was move to middle relief and set-up roles but fared little better.  Last night he had all his pitches working in his dominating five hits, one run performance . SEE HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

The big first baseman and last night the  DH, Art Charles, came to life and drove in three of the four Thresher runs including a long two run triple over the center fielder’s head.  See Here.  Charles needs to finish strong and put up some big numbers to get to prospect status after an up and down season.

Brian Pointer drove in Charles with what turned out to be the winning run in the sixth inning.  See Here.  Pointer’s bat has come alive in the second half.  He has one of the best throwing arms of any player in the Phillies minor league outfield and has begun to drive in some big runs.

Cody Forsythe is turning out to be the best left handed arm in the Phillies minor league bullpen.  Last night he came out of the pen with one out in the top of the eight inning in a 4-3 game with runners at first and second.  On his first pitch he threw a sinking pitch, what I call a “rotorooter” slider, to induce a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.  He came back out to pitch a scoreless ninth to pick up his first save with the Threshers after getting nine saves with the Lakewood BlueClaws earlier in the season.

Names to watch over the next 40 Threshers games are Guth, Charles, Pointer and Forsythe.  If they can finish the 2014 season strong,  they will go into the 2015 season as major league prospects.   Any major league organization, especially the Phillies, could alway use prospects who have the potential to project as a major league starter, a power hitting first baseman, a strong armed right fielder with a clutch bat and a shutdown lefty out of the pen.







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The GCL Phillies Edubray Ramos Emerging As The Best Closer In The Gulf Coast League

It was one of those interesting Saturday morning Gulf Coast League games that true baseball fans love.  This time the game was played on Richie Ashburn Field at the Carpenter Complex.  The GCL Phillies won it 3-1 against the GCL Braves thanks from timely offense by shortstop Grenny Cumana and dominating starting and closing pitching.

As is becoming more and more the case, it is all about the pitching for the GCL Phillies.  Starter Lewis Alezones relying on ground balls and a big curve ball pitched four innings giving up no runs or hits and struck out four. SEE HIS FINAL STRIKE OUT HERE.  Edubray Ramos came on in the ninth and pitched a clean inning striking out two to get his fourth save.

But you do need to score some runs and that’s where Cumana comes into the story in this morning’s game.  Here’s how he did it.  With two out in the fifth inning,  he singled in Jake Sweaney who had doubled, then steals second and scores from second on an infield throwing error on a Tommy Joseph infield grounder.  He drove in what turned out to be the winning run and scored tack on run.  He just makes things happen.

Grenny Cumana

Pitching-wise Ramos is quickly becoming the top closer in the GCL.   He is now four for four in save opportunities to take over the lead in the GCL. He arrived back on June 21st from the Venezuelan Summer League and has been impressive since then striking out 13 and walking 5 in 9.1 innings.  In seven games he has given up only one earned run.

Today, the 21 year old right-hander was dominating with his breaking pitch in striking out GCL Braves Luke Dykstra, SEE HERE, to lead off the ninth and getting his second strike out on fastball to end the game, SEE HERE.  Luke Dykstra was the seventh round draft pick of the Braves in 2014 Draft and is the son of former Phillies Lenny Dykstra.

Yesterday was the last day major league teams could sign players from the June draft.  The Phillies signed 27 of their first 28 picks including 17 pitchers.  The rosters have been in a state of flux since then as the draftees have been moved up and down the Phillies A ball level teams, the Threshers, BlueClaws, Crosscutters and many of them started out with the GCL Phillies but have since moved up.  First round pick Aaron Nola now with the Threshers is expected to move up to Reading soon.

Now that the GCL Phillies pitching roster is stabilizing, a five man starting rotation has come into its own this week..  In the last five starts the starting pitching has been outstanding. Opening day ace Luis Morales has joined with Franklyn Kilome, rehabbing Nic Hanson, the only Phillies high school draftee Sam McWilliams and this morning’s starter Lewis Alezones to pitch a combined 20 innings giving up only 14 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks and 18 strike outs over the last five games.

While the rest of the higher up Phillies minor league teams struggle to win and are in a state of general chaos from never ending roster moves, excitement is now building at the lowest levels of the system.  Last night we watched on MiLB-TV Williamsport’s first baseman Rhys Hoskins hit his third homer of the year, a long 400 ft. plus home run high over the wall in right center on Staten Island.  His long ball seemed headed across the water to lower Manhatten.

Hoskins drive against the Yankees helped the Crosscutters win a 6-3 game.  And this morning we saw some great starting and closing pitching for a GCL Phillies 3-1 win over the GCL Braves.

Though the rest of the Phillies farm system teams are struggling to win and are way under .500 for the most part and playing out the string for the 2014 season,  the Cutters and the GCL Phillies are now above .500 and still in the wild card hunt in the the NY-Penn and Gulf Coast Leagues.  Yes everybody, the Phillies farm system is still worth watching even if it is at the lowest levels of the organization.



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Nic Hanson, Grenny Cumana And Franklyn Kilome Stand Out In GCL Phillies Action

Watching the action in the Gulf Coast League “is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get” as Forrest Gump would say.  With the GCL Phillies you might get two or three rehabbing major leaguers or higher up minor league players in the lineup, or some really good baseball from potential teenager who might turn out to be stars of tomorrow, mixed in with wild swing and misses and off the mark throws as they learn their trade.  But it is always interesting.

Because of the unpredictable nature of GCL baseball I prefer watching its games over say the Florida State League where you have a good idea of what you are going to see every game, especially with the Clearwater Threshers.

Yesterday’s GCL’s action on Robin Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex was typical.  I saw some of the best pitching I have seen this season in Clearwater when rehabbing 22 year old Nic Hanson made his 2014 pitching debut to help win 4-1 in the first game of the doubleheader.  He pitched four shutout innings with two swinging and two called strike outs .  He had outstanding late movement on his slider that kept the Astros hitters off balance and good command of all his pitches.  See Here.

Shortstop Grenny Cumana is one of those players you make an extra effort to come to see.  He is listed at 5’5″ 145 lbs. but plays much bigger.  He has a rocket for an arm and the ball jumps off his bat.  In yesterday’s game he was on base all six times in the doubleheader going two for two with a walk in each game.  What caught my attention in the first game was how he showed bat control when he went to right field for both of his hits in the first game.  With his single, he hit behind the runner on first.  See Here.

Cumana is only baseball age 18 but plays older.  He is one of the small in height Venezuelans but they know how to play the game at a high level.  For example Houston’s All Star second baseman Jose Alturve is listed at 5’6″.

Another player for theGCL Phillies who is worth watching is 6’6″, 19 year old pitcher Franklyn Kilome.  The lean, gangly right hander started the second game and it was his error on a pick off attempt that would allow an unearned run to score which turned out the be the difference in the  second game 3-2 Astros win.  Kilome is being brought around slowly but in his five appearance including the last three as a starter he is being hit for only a .178 average.  He has a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings and yesterday struck out three in three innings on the mound. See Here.

The GCL is about guys like Nic Hanson who shows that he does have talent and is not the ineffective pitcher we saw last season with the Threshers.   But even more so, it is the likes of teenagers like Grenny Cumana who already shows that someday he will play in the major leagues if not be a major league impact star or Franklyn Kolome who is making gradual progress toward being a major league pitcher.  It is players like these three guys who keep me coming back game after game to see GCL baseball because you never know what you might find.




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Watching the Williamsport Crosscutters vs. Staten Island Yankees On the Net.

Last night Baseball Betsy and I sat down,  put up on our flat screen the Williamsport vs. Staten Island game webcast on MiLB-TV.   It was not of the quality of the previous night’s production of the Major League All Star game but it was a watchable production and an interesting game.

We wanted to see the new Crosscutters in action.  They have added four players to their starting lineup from opening night back in Williamsport when we first saw them play this season.   Draft picks Chris Brown in center, Derek Campbell at second, the DH Matt Shortall and shortstop Emmanuel Marrero have joined the lineup since opening night. Newcomer draftee lean, lanky Calvin Rayburn came on to pitch the eight.  It was our first time to see all of them since they went right to Williamsport after the draft.  Campbell had two hits.  Brown and Shortall each had a hit a piece.

Clearly Campbell has had the biggest impact.  He lined a double last night to add to his league leading 14 doubles in only 25 games.  Though he has walked only 3 times this season he has a nice slash line of .337/.375/.541 with two homer runs.  He is fourth in NY-Penn League batting averages.

I was impressed with the catching, throwing and hitting of Deivi Grullon.  No pitches got by him. His pitch framing was as usual outstanding as the plate umpire had a wide strike zone.  Deivi showed a strong arm arm putting the ball on the base at second to get the runner trying to steal in the eight.  Earlier he appeared to pick off a runner at first but did not get the call.  He also came up big looping a single to center over the drawn-in infield with runners at second and third to drive in two runs in the second inning.   Also Rhys Hoskins drove in a run with a double in the three run second inning.

It seems every time we see Manny Martinez pitch he looks like he belongs in the major leagues, not the NY-Penn League.  He came on in the seventh inning with the Crosscutters down 7-3 to the Yankees and he toyed with a rare “immaculate inning”.  He struck out the first two batters on six pitches.  Each strikeout was same way on a called strike, a foul ball and a swinging strike three.  He retired the final batter on two pitches on a ball one and a ground out to second.

We saw Manny throw during the first week of the season and he was hitting the high 90′s with his fast ball pitching at the picturesque Penn State home park of the State College Spikes.  Mt. Nittany stood over his shoulder and framed the batters eye in center.  The huge outline of a Nittany Lion hanged over the south end zone of Beaver Stadium and loomed behind home plate at the baseball field.

This time Manny looked major league with the Freedom Tower of the Manhatten skyline and the Staten Island Ferry Station framing the outfield walls of the Yankees’ Richmond County Bank Stadium.   He must like the big venues. His other outings this season must have not been as spectacular since he came into the game pitching 10 innings only striking out 8 and walking 8.

We enjoyed the netcast of the game.  We only had two brief hiccups in the webcast but quickly regained the picture.   The two play by play guys were both named Shane and both were interesting and informative.  Though with a live mike between one inning we did hear a couple of references to an old barnyard expression when the went to radio commercials.  It was a simulcast off of the radio by play-by-play of WSIA-FM 88.9.

The Yankees had excellent between inning activities, including among others its dance team and “Scooter”, “the holy cow”.  The signature nickname and saying of the legendary Yankee player and broadcaster, the late Phil Rizzuto.  It was WFAN night at the game and the fans selected the walk-up songs.  They had no centerfield camera or replays but relied heavily on a first base field level and high behind home plate camera angles which did capture action well during the game and between innings.

The next two Crosscutters games are scheduled to be webcast from Staten Island on MiLB-TV.  It was nice to kick back on my easy chair down in Florida and watch good short season baseball.  Let’s hope in the next two games the Crosscutters can put two W’s in the win column and we don’t have to listen again to the recording of Sinatra singing “New York, New York” as we did last night after the 7-3 Yankees win.



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Phillies Outfield Prospects Dylan Cozens and Brian Pointer Are Breaking Out

Sometimes it may take only one game or one month but it’s fun watching prospects break out.  For Lakewood’s right fielder Dylan Cozens last night it could be one game.  He went 4 for 5 with two solo home runs and three RBIs.  In the last Clearwater Threshers game it was right fielder Brian Pointer, not Cliff Lee, who impressed.  He homered to left to continued his break out second half which started with a break out month in June when he hit .370 for the month.

I have alway been a big fan of  Cozens ever since watching him in the GCL in the 2012 season and each spring minor league camp since he was signed as a second round draft selection in the 2012 draft.   He has been struggling with Lakewood hitting only .246 this season.

Still he has shown at times his great potential this season with his organizational leading 13 home runs, going 16 for 19 in stolen base attempts and his 7 outfield assists.   He has a chance for the rare outfielder’s “triple-double”, double digits in homers, assists and stolen bases.  Last year Cozens played only in the short season NewYork-Penn League but still managed to hit 9 homer, stole 11 bases and picked up 4 assists.  Only two Phillies minor league outfielders accomplished the “triple-double” in 2013.

Not to be out done, I have become more and more impressed with the play of the Clearwater Threshers right fielder Brian Pointer this season.  Pointer started off slowly hitting only .214 with three homers in the first half of the Florida State League season.  But he has been on a tear in the second half hitting 6 home runs to bring his total to 9 for the season in addition to hitting well over .300.   He just might be forcing his way on the 40 man major league roster at the end of the season because of the Rule Five draft.

Pointer has a rocket for an arm and has picked up 7 assists this season including three in his 12 games in centerfield.   He also has speed on the base paths stealing 6 times in 10 attempts.  Last year in Lakewood he stole 22 bases in 29 attempts, had 10 assists but hit only 6 home runs.

It’s amazing how similar the 20-year old Cozens and the 22-year old Pointer match up in skill sets.   They both bat and throw left handed, have great arms, can run the bases and can hit the long ball.  They are both hitting around .250 for the season.  They do have differences though. The 6’6″Cozens was a high draft pick while the 6’0″ Pointer was a 28th round pick in the 2010 draft.  Cozens has committed 6 errors while Pointer has yet to be charged with an error this season.

They both are major league prospects if they can just hit consistently for a higher average.  But they can’t both play right field at the same time for the Phillies.  The question is do the Phillies need two more left handed bats in the lineup  down the road in the outfield?  Reminds me of the current battle with the Phillies between Cody Asche and Maikel Franco as to which one of them will be the third baseman of the future.

In any event for the final six weeks of the minor league season, it will be fun to watch Cozens and Pointer to see which one of them finishes the strongest and to see if both of them can become Phillies outfielders of the future.



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Nola, Crawford and Franco: What did We Learn Sunday About The Three Top Phillies Prospects?

Yesterday the top three Phillies prospects were on review for Baseball Besty and me to see.  Of course one day does not make a season or career.  But one moment in time does give us chance to evaluate the Phillies top prospects as the front office contemplates rebuilding a last place major league team at the All Star break.

The Phillies recent No. 1 draft pick Aaron Nola was disappointing in his start against the Palm Beach Cardinals at Bright House Field in the Clearwater Threshers 3-1 loss.  We watched him give up two long home runs to the same batter, Luke Voit.  He drove in all three runs with the two “no doubt about it” long balls to left.  They were not the only well hit balls off of Nola either. In addition to Voit’s second homer in the fourth inning Nola gave up a long triple over the head of Roman Quinn and later a double to right in the inning.

Nola was not throwing hard and gave up 7 flyouts to 3 groundouts in his five innings of work.  Unlike his first start when we watched him walked three, in his fourth start yesterday he had no walks but ran numerous two-strike counts.  He recorded only two strikeouts.  He just did not have a put-away pitch. He was helped by a couple of double plays and a throw out of a runner at home plate over his five innings.

Nola was a flyball, hard contact, strike thrower in the game yesterday in gaving up only the three runs on the two long balls.  Those kind of pitchers usually do not last too long in a hitters venue like Citizens Bank Park.  He will need to make some adjustments if he is to pitch effectively for the Phillies.

The Future game the Sunday before the Tuesday All-Star game is always interesting.  Last year we watched Jesse Biddle pitching for Team USA strikeout Maikel Franco of the International team.  Yesterday Franco and J.P. Crawford represented the Phillies in the game at Target Field home of the Minnesota Twins as we hurried home from the Threshers game to watch them on MLB.

I have been most impressed with last year’s Phillies No. 1 draft pick J.P. Crawford this season because of his power potential. He has driven the ball well for the Threshers since his call-up from Lakewood.   In 21 games he has hit four home runs in the Florida State League including three at home.  His most memorable long ball was a recent shot that cleared the Oakley sign on the berm in straight-away right field at Bright House.  Including the three he hit with Lakewood he has hit more home runs this season than Maikel Franco.

Crawford can leg out a bunt with his speed as well as drive the ball .400 ft. with his whip like swing.  Hitting four home runs every twenty games which he has done at the FSL level would put him in the neighborhood of a potential 30 home run a season pace over a 162 game major league schedule.

In yesterday’s Future’s game as the youngest player there, Crawford showed how a shortstop turns a 4-6-3 double play, how to muscle a single to center, then steal a bag and score the tying run on the game winning home run.  He is a five-tool, big game player already at only 19 years of age.

Franco on the other hand had a season to remember last year as the Phillies Minor League Player of the Year when he hit 31 homer runs with a .320 batting average between Clearwater and Reading.

This year at AAA it has been a different story for Franco.  He is hitting only .230 with 6 homers with only about 45 games remaining in the Lehigh Valley schedule.   Though much has been made of his recent surge, hitting a homer and batting .348 over his last 10 games at AAA. He still must finish strong to get a September call-up  if not sooner to the Phillies major league roster that everyone expects.

In yesterday’s game, Franco showed what he has been doing too many times all season as he hit two fly ball outs to center including his last at bat when he skied a high fast ball for the out to end the game resulting in a 3-2 loss for his International team.

Since the end of last season in Reading, Franco has not hit well in the Dominican Winter League hitting only .227, the Grapefruit League where he hit .184 in spring training and up until the last two weeks the International League.  The rest of the season at Lehigh Valley will be very important to him.

Sunday offered very interesting tests for the Phillies top three prospects.  J.P. Crawford passed his test with flying colors.  Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola still have more work to do.




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The Phillies Full Season Farm Teams Have All Hit Bottom So Let’s Look To The Final 45 Games Or So That Remain In The Season and the AFL For The Future

Two-thirds of the minor league season is over.  Only about 45 games or so remain.  It has not been a good season for the Phillies minor league full season teams.  Yesterday, all four of them lost again.  All of them are currently in last place in their respective divisions except the Clearwater Threshers.  They are next to last in the second half standing but overall have the worst record in the Florida State League.

With the minor league season starting to wind down I am simply amazed about the lack of long ball power in the organization.  I can find only Jim Murphy, Pete Lavin and Dylan Cozens with double digits in home runs as the 2014 minor league season is nearing an end.  Cozens leads with 11 and six of Levin’s ten homers were at high A Clearwater.

It’s hard to paint an optimistic picture to be honest.  The only two players whose OPS percents are above average and have improved significantly from 2013 are Carlos Alonso and Pete Lavin at AA. At baseball age 26, they should both be at AAA right now.

The biggest question that remains unanswered it how can Maikel Franco can go from hitting 31 home runs with a combined batting average of .320 at high A and AA in 2013 to hitting only 6 home runs and .230 batting average at AAA with two-third of the 2014 minor league season over?  I suggest even at only 21 years of age he is just worn out playing year around without a break.  When he did get a few days off this month he went on a tear hitting for Lehigh Valley.  Let’s see how he does in today’s Future’s game.

Pitching in the Phillies system has been dominated by older guys in their 30′s guys  released by other organizations over the years.  The best young starter hands down has been Aaron Nola.  The No. 1 pick is probably the fourth best starter in the entire organization right now behind Hamels, Lee and Burnett.  But we must think inside the box and let him work his way up the farm system.

In the bullpen the only one in the minors who has begun to stand out is Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.  His velocity has increased and his control is somewhat better but the last time I saw him pitch in Clearwater his curve ball was still spinning like a cement mixer coming into the hitters.

I am also interested to see which players the Phillies select to play in the Arizona Fall League.  This league begins action in the second week of October.   It has been a good proving ground for the likes of Ken Giles last year and Cody Asche in 2012.  Both were selected to the AFL Stars game and Cody led the AFL in double during his season there.

The spotlight will be on the guys the Phillies choose to send this year to the AFL to see if they actually have any major league prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.  I’d like to see them send outfielders Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan, Cameron Perkins catcher Tommy Joseph again to the AFL give them a chance to prove themselves as major league prospects.

It would be great for even Jesse Biddle to get some work in the desert to get a different coaching perspective. Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford and Colton Murray, who has set-up stuff ,would benefit also from AFL action.  Maybe they send Perci Garner to the AFL to see if they want to protect him in the Rule Five draft now that he is pitching out of the bullpen for Reading.

The good news is that both the short season A level Williamsport Crosscutter and the rookie league GCL Phillies are Not under .500 yet.  Though the GCL Phillies  lineup has seen two or three rehab players from higher levels play in most games so it is really only a partial rookie team.

With about 45 games to go the only direction for the Phillies farm teams to go is up. They have hit bottom!  Here are some of the young players I will be watching to see it they can finish strong for the 2014 minor league season: outfielders Cameron Perkins (Lehigh Valley), Kelly Dugan and Aaron Atherr (Reading), Roman Quinn (Clearwater), Dylan Cozens (Lakewood); infielders Maikel Franco (Lehigh Valley), J.P. Crawford (Clearwater), Zach Green (Lakewood), Andrew Pullin (Lakewood) Andrew Knapp (Lakewood); catcher Tommy Joseph (Reading) pitcher Hoby Milner (Reading), Severino Gonzalez (Reading), Aaron Nola (Clearwater).

The next 45 or so games will determine a lot  for these players.  No longer does it matter much what it shows on the back of their minor league baseball cards but it does matter what the 2014 season will show for each one of them on their Baseball Reference pages.   Unlike baseball cards which get thrown out in the trash over time, Baseball Reference pages will live for ever around the world on the internet.



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