An Example Of What Phillies “Instructs” Are All About At The Carpenter Complex

It’s been a long baseball season for those of us who follow the Phillies from our base in the Clearwater area.  Baseball Betsy and I were there for pitchers and catchers in February; major league spring training games and the minor league camp in March; the opening of the Florida State League and extended spring training in April and the Gulf Coast League in June.

Finally, the beginning of the end of the 2014 Phillies season began on Saturday morning on Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex with the first game of the Florida Instructional League in a game against the Yankees.

“Instructs” as they are called is where the future of  the Phillies organization can be seen, evaluated and projected in three weeks of games against the young prospects of the Yankees, Blue Jays, Pirates and Orioles from now until October 10th.

The score does not matter.  It’s about the young talent on the field.  The Phillies had two sets of  position players, two sets of two designated hitters and an assortment of pitchers who played in the game.

The position players who I will be watching closely in “instructs” and who played today were first basemen, Rhys Hoskins, center fielder Aaron Brown, third baseman Jan Hernandez, shortstop Grenny Cumana, right fielder Cord Sandberg and second baseman Andrew Pullin.

The left-handed hitting Brown looks to me to have the potential as a Phillies center fielder of the future.  He doubled down the left field line.  Left-handed hitting Sandberg showed great hustle running out a pop fly to right center that fell in and he made it all the way to third.  Cumana lined a base hit up the middle and clearly showed he has a major league skill set.

On the mound starter Ricardo Pinto went two innings, hard throwing Edubray Ramos and lefty Elniery Garcia all have major league stuff.  On a scouts speed gun Pinto’s fast ball was sitting at 90-91, Ramos had an impressive two seamer to go with his fastball at 93-94 and was working on a curve ball.  Garcia’s fastball sat at 91 with the best breaking pitch of the bunch.

In talking to Garcia after he left the game pitching one inning, we got an appreciation of what instructional baseball is all about: It is learning.   He told us he has been watching videos of Clayton Kershaw pitch.  We all know the voice of the Dodgers Vin Scully always says, “he is the best there is”. See Kershaw pitch on  HERE and HERE.

Obviously the 19 year-old Garcia is not quite there yet but his fastball velocity is close to Kershaw’s 92.9 mph heater and he has the sharp late breaking pitch that strikes out batters from both sides of the plate at the rookie level as does Kershaw at the MLB level.  See Garcia get his final two “strike threes'” of the GCL season last month HERE and HERE.

Now, Garcia needs to command his pitches as well as the great Kershaw.  And that will take time.  Garcia did average a strikeout an inning and pounded the strike zone in a limited role with the GCL Phillies this season.  But this is what “instructs” is all about:  Can a 19 year-old learn from a Kershaw and make it to the Show one day?  We will see.

I would guess all these guys at “instructs” have been watching videos of major league players that the Phillies development people hope someday they can become.

So we will be watching this learning process to see if any of these guys are on the road to develop the tools to ever play in the major leagues.

“Instructs” over the next three weeks will go along way to tell us if these players have what it takes to be major league prospects or just remain organizational fillers.





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My Awards For The Phillies Minor League “Unsung” Position and Pitcher Players Of The Year Goes To Carlos Alonso and Josh Taylor

To me the most fascinating players are the unsung guys who play day in and day out and just get the job done or come out of nowhere to leave a quick impression of the potential for something special down the road.  Yes, we watched the last two, first round draft picks J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola play for the Threshers this season but everyone knew who they were and what their upside is.   But we have also seen players who are not listed on any top prospect lists but have left lasting impressions on us this season.

It is two of these type of players who I have chosen as the Baseball Ross Phillies Minor League “Unsung” Position and Pitcher players of the Year.  Infielder Carlos Alonso had a career year with the bat for the Reading Phillies and left handed pitcher Josh Taylor was a late free agent signee who in only three relief appearances went 2-0, gave up no runs and struck out 13 in 9.1 innings in the final days of the Gulf Coast League season.

Alonso had to reacquaint himself to play third base this season as he split his time there and second base.  He was the Rawlings minor league second base Gold Glove winner last year with the Clearwater Threshers.

This season he had a career year in hits, total bases, triples, home runs, RBI’s, runs scored, walks and steals while hitting .272 for the season.  He finished strong hitting .395 in his final ten games of the season.

Carlos is the type of player a major league organization that has trouble scoring runs could use because of his ability to generate offense by getting on base and plating runs.  In the field in 2013 he committed only two errors at second base all season. But this season the Phillies minor league department had him split his time between second base and third base and that cause his fielding percent to drop.  But over his last 26 games at third base he committed no errors to end the season.

He will be playing at baseball age 27 next season as he enters his prime baseball years.  He could play a valuable role for any team that wants an intelligent baseball player who knows how to play the game right.  This season he showed he can play both at second or third and put up impressive offensive numbers hitting mostly out of the one or two hole.

It was back on August 22 that I decided to hang around and watch a new guy named Josh Taylor come on to pitch with two out in the fourth and then the fifth, sixth, seventh and eight innings in a GCL game at the Blue Jays Complex.  He struck out five that day in picking up his first professional win.  The big, 21 year-old 6’5″ 225 lbs. lefty was firing on all cylinders with a big 12 to six breaking ball and a low to mid 90’s fastball.  He was throwing strikes and dominating the Blue Jays GCL hitters.

Where did this baseball man of mystery come from?   It turns out that Taylor was overlooked earlier in the June Draft by all 30 major league teams when over 1,200 players were drafted.   He was signed as a free agent by the Phillies Marti Wolever who was watching him pitch that day in Dunedin.

A native from the Phoenix, Arizona area Taylor pitched two seasons for Scottsdale Community College and this season pitched for Georgia College, a Division II team.   He last pitched, before signing as a free agent with the Phillies, back in May in a NCAA Division II regional tournament game.  He went 7-4 for the Bobcats as a starter, striking out 57 in 83.1 innings for a 5.62 ERA.  Nothing to get too excited about.

The three month off must have done him wonders because Taylor looked like a No. 1 draft pick that day back in August against the GCL Blue Jays and in his two other relief appearances at the end of the season.

There you have it two unsung players, from the opposite end of the minor league spectrum.  Onne who has been in the Phillies organization for five years and another who has pitched in only three professional games.  One, who gets little notice in the Phillies organization but knows how to get on base and score runs and the other one that no MBL organization saw fit to even draft back in June.  Carlos Alonso and Josh Taylor are the Baseball Ross 2014 Phillies Minor League “Unsung” Position and Pitcher Players of the Year.


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My Award For The Phillies 2014 Minor League Comeback Position Player of the Year Goes to Peter Lavin

Peter Lavin is the Baseball Ross Phillies Minor League Comeback Position Player of the Year.  He hit .287 in 128 games playing 54 games with Clearwater and 74 games in Reading.  His 21 outfield assist are the highest is all of baseball.  Both at the bat and in the field Lavin had an outstanding breakout 2014 season.

In 2013 Lavin played in only 58 games with the Threshers hitting only .224 with 6 outfield assists.   In the 2012 season with the Threshers he hit .269 in 116 games and looked like he was on the way to a solid career as a minor league outfielder.

But in watching Lavin start this season with the Threshers he looked like a major league prospect.  His defense was major league caliber.  In a series against Dunedin we watched him throw strikes from center field to throw out runners at second, third and home.

He was one of only three of the Phillies minor league outfielders to have the outfielders”triple double” this season.  He hit 11 homer runs, stole 11 bases and threw out 21 runners between Clearwater and Reading.

He finished strong in Reading hitting .345 from August 1st to September 1st.   He had one of the highest averages during this time in the Eastern League.

Though at Reading Lavin played mostly in right field and left field after playing brilliantly in center for the Threshers.  He overcame starting three seasons in Clearwater before finally getting a call up to Reading.  To get playing time he had to switch outfield positions in Reading and continued to have one of the most outstanding 2014 season for an outfielder at any level in baseball.

Lavin will play at baseball age 27 next year.  It’s hard to believe he did not get an opportunity to play at even a higher level this season.   He showed he can play all three outfield positions, hit for a high average and finish strong.  Peter Lavin is my Phillies Minor League Comeback Player of the Year.

Back in June just after Lavin was called up to Reading we saw him play on our trip around the Philles farm system tour when Baseball Betsy and I visited Reading for a game.  In that game Betsy captures Pete hitting a double to right.

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My Award For Phillies Minor League Comeback Pitcher Of The Year Goes To Colin Kleven

I like any award based on merit.  So congratulations are in order to the Paul Owens award winners for the best minor league position player J.P. Crawford and pitcher Luis Garcia.

We have been watching Crawford ever since his first professional base hit in 2013 season  in the GCL last year and have branded him as a can’t miss major league star in the near future.   We watched him this season both in a game with Lakewood and in the second half with the Threshers.

Also last season we watched Garcia pitch for the first time in 2013 with the Threshers throwing 95 mph fastballs out of the pen after signing as a free agent.  He was so dominating with Lehigh Valley as its closer this season.

So it was time for another Baseball Ross award.  This time it is my Phillies Minor League Pitcher Comeback Player of the Year.   Our award goes to  Colin Kleven.  He came back this season from a back injury which cost him to miss most of the 2013 season.  He made only three starts for Clearwater before being forced to shut it down last year.

Kleven finished  strong this season going 4-3 over his last 10 starts for the Threshers, striking out 52 in 54.1 innings.  In fact his 32 strikeouts in only 27.1 innings in August was the third highest in the Florida State League for the month.

It’s always nice to end the season watching a Tampa Yankee hitter shaking his head as he walks away on Kleven’s next to last “swing and miss” strikeout.  Eric Jagielo was a first round 2013 draft pick of the Yankees.  See Kleven’s final two strikeouts of the 2014 season HERE and HERE.  He made all 24 starts this season and just kept getting stronger and stronger as the season came to an end.

Colin Kleven clearly earned the Baseball Ross Phillies Minor League Pitcher Comeback Player of the Year.























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The Phillies Need Pitchers In The System Who Have “Swing and Miss” Stuff

I would like to congratulate Williamsport Crosscutters’ David Whitehead who was selected as the Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month for August.  He had a strong month going 2-1 with a 0.67 ERA.  He was a ground ball pitcher with a 2.35 GO/AO ratio.  He gave up only one home run in 74 innings all season.

But Whitehead does not have a lot of swing and miss stuff.  He struck out only 17 batters in 27 innings with no walks in the month. He reminds me of a young Kyle Kendrick with better control.  Kendrick made it to the Phillies starting rotation back in 2007 as a ground ball pitcher who did not rely on the strikeout.  He struck out only 49 and walked 25 in 121 innings in his first year in the majors.  He wound up with a 10-4 record coming coming directly from AA Reading in mid-season that year.

Kendrick has proven you do not need to be a strikeout pitcher to make it to the major leagues.  David Buchanan is another pitcher who has made it to the Phillies starting rotation who is not over powering and relies on pin point location to get his outs.  He needs to hit his spots to be effective since he is more of a fly ball pitcher.  When he misses he pays for it with the long ball.  He has given up 11 home runs in 93.1 innings so far this season for the Phillies.

Do the Phillies have any starting pitchers in the minor leagues who had “swing and miss’ stuff in August?  Not many who averaged at least a strike out an innings in August.    I came up with only seven.  The pitching slash lines represents, innings pitched/ strikeouts/walks:  Lehigh Valley, Brad Lincoln, 32/32/21; Reading, none; Clearwater, Colin Kleven 27.1/32/13 and Mark Leiter Jr. 31.2/31/10; Lakewood, Ranfi Casimiro 26.2/27/14 and Matt Imhof, 19.1/20/5; Williamsport, Ricardo Pinto 30/31/7 and Brandon Leibrandt 23/27/4.  Lincoln is 29 years old and is not a prospect.  He walks too many to be effective.  Leiter Jr. and Leibrandt rely on off-speed stuff to get strikeouts.

Starting pitchers who are not on the list include some noteworthy names.  They were starting pitchers for Reading in August.   Severino Gonzalez was the Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013 had an August strikeout slash line of 32/22/9 and this year’s first round pick Aaron Nola had a slash line of 24/15/5.  Another power pitcher Jesse Biddle was injured in the month.

Unfortunately the Phillies do have many power pitchers in the system.  When you play in a hitter friendly ball park with short fences such as Citizen Bank Park it is helpful to have pitchers who have “swing and miss” stuff which goes a long way to help keep the ball in the park.  If not, you better be a ground ball strike throwing pitcher as David Whitehead was this season for Williamsport.



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The Baseball Ross 2014 Minor League Awards Are In and Maikel Franco Is The Phillies Offensive Player Of The Year, Miguel Nunez and Ranfi Casimiro Tie For The Pitcher Of The Year And Ethan Stewart Comes Out Of No Where To Grab The Relief Pitcher Award

It is alway best to finish strong in whatever you do especially in the baseball season.  Our Phillies minor league awards go to four players who finished the 2014 season very strong after starting out the season just the opposite.

The offensive winner is Lehigh Valley’s third baseman now with the Phillies for the roster expansion in September Maikel Franco. He hit .343 in July and 308 in August after a slow start to earn a major league call-up

The Phillies Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year was a tie in the balloting by me.  The award is shared by the Clearwater Threshers Miguel Nunez and the Lakewood BlueClaws Ranfi Casimiro.

Nunez was outstanding in his last eight starts going 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA for the  Threshers.  Casimiro was just as good going 3-0 in his last six starts with Lakewood for a 2.59 ERA and averaged a strike out an inning over that stretch.  He improved greatly with his control compared to earlier in the season by improving to a better than 2-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

I was also impressed by several other starting pitchers for the Threshers who I also considers for the award: Colin Kleven, Jordan Guth and Mark Leiter Jr.  The Reading team next season should have a strong starting pitching staff to start out the 2015  season.

The good news is that all three of the winning prospects are young with all of them turning just 22 during the 2014 calendar year.  I would not be surprised to see Franco start the 2015 season with the Phillies with Nunez at Reading and Casimiro with the Clearwater Threshers.

The 6’6″ Nunez and the 6’8″ Casimiro are like the Twin Towers of the Phillies starting  pitching prospects.  It also helps that they pitched well when I saw them in person this season.

Nunez in his next to last start of the season pitched a brilliant eight inning game in the heat and humidity of a Sunday afternoon at Clearwater only to have the bullpen blow the game in the ninth inning.  I was camped five rows back behind home plate fighting the heat too to watch his gem.

Back in June, Casimiro was strong in throwing a six inning, two hit, two run game while Baseball Betsy and I were watching from up behind home plate as his guests at Lakewood.

I decided to include only young Phillies minor league prospects and who played in the full season leagues and not organizational fillers or youngsters who played in the short season leagues for consideration.  Also I had Roman Quinn and J.P. Crawford in consideration on my ballot for the offensive award.

The 21 year-old Quinn quietly had a strong season for the Threshers once he came back from his foot injury.  He hit .317 with runners in scoring position and .327 as a right handed hitter to drive in 36 runs out of the lead off spot.  With his speed on the bases, Roman scored 51 runs .  The problem is Roman hit only .227 left handed and .226 with with the base empty.

Still in 88 games or two-thirds of a minor league season Quinn did hit 7 home runs.   His play in center in the Arizona Fall League starting in October will be a big test to see if he is ready to move up.  Cody Asche proved in 2012 as did Ken Giles in 2013 in the AFL that they were major league ready.

Crawford, only 19,  has such a quick fluid swing and proved himself as a power bat in the lineup hitting eight homers in half a season with the Threshers.  The home runs I saw him hit at Bright House wasted little time getting out of the park.  He hit his eight homers in only 63 games, less than half a season at High A.  I have no doubt he will be the premier power hitting shortstop in baseball once he arrives on the scene in the major leagues.

My most fascination story of the year for me was the transformation of a big left-handed pitcher 6’7″ 23 year old Ethan Stewart.  I decided to add my Phillies 2014 minor league Relief Pitcher of the Year award because of what Stewart accomplished.

Stew as he is called led the the Flordia State League in walks all season as a starter. In 16 starts he walked 53 and struck out only 46 for the Clearwater Threshers  Then he moved to the pen for his last 12 appearances of the season and became an extreme strike thrower after his first relief outing.

In his last 11 games of the season out of the pen he pitched 19 innings, walking one and striking out 21.   Though he did have an ERA 4.71 as a reliever Stewart is going to the Arizona Fall League to build on those last 11 games out of the pen.  He has a major league arm.

In one of his early appearances out of the pen against the Blue Jays in Dunedin we watched him light up the speed gun numbers on the old scoreboard there, at one point hitting 96 MPH.

So there you have it, The Baseball Ross Phillies Minor League “2014 Players Of The Year”, Maikel Franco for offense, Miguel Nunez and Ranfi Casimiro, for starting pitching and Ethan Stewart out of the pen.   Congratulations to them all from Baseball Betsy and I!















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Always Best To Finish The Season Strong To Pave the Way For Next Season: Just Ask Phillies Prospects Maikel Franco and Ranfi Casimiro

Home runs in back to back games on the final weekend of the season by Cord Sandberg in Williamsport; Herlis Rodriguez hitting .382 in his last ten games for the Threshers and Maikel Franco hitting .417 over his last ten games with 13 RBIs for the IronPigs are several examples of  Phillies prospects finishing strong.

It is how they finish the season that will be talked about over the winter in the Hot Stove League, not what they did to start the season or how they were playing at the All-Star break.

My pitcher for finishing strong is Lakewood’s starting pitcher Ranfi Casimiro.  The tall 6’8”, 22 year old right-hander finish the season in grand style going 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in August, striking out 27 in  26.1 innings of work in five starts.  Batters hit only .238 against him in the month.

Saturday night in his 24th and last start of the season Cassie, as the coaches call him, came so close to winning his fourth game of the month.  He ended the fifth inning against Hagerstown by striking out the side swinging and after a Lakewood put up a four spot in the top of the 6th to go up 4-1.

He tired in the bottom of the sixth and after two batters got on base he gave way to the bullpen which eventually blew the save in the 7th inning though the BlueClaws did hold on and came back to win the game.

What was the key to the strong showing by Casimiro in August?  He pitched strong with runners in scoring position during the month.  As I figure opponents hit only 5 for 32 against him with runners in scoring position during the month for a .150 batting average.

Cassie is a fierce competitor and he showed it in August by being the toughest when it counted the most and that was with runners in scoring position.

Ranfi Casimiro is my Phillies minor league pitcher of the month for August and it is the most important month for any minor league player IMO.

Ranfi’s fellow Dominican Maikel Franco is obviously again the Phillies position player of the month for hitting .308 with seven home runs, 15 runs scored and 24 RBI’s in 29 games in August for a +10 offensive rating.  That’s after his unheard of +13 for July on the Baseball Ross +/-  offensive rating chart.

By finishing strong and putting up big numbers in August should help pave the way for Casimiro to start the 2015 season on the starting staff of the Clearwater Threshers and Franco with the Phillies.






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