Yesterday Was A Long Goodbye to the Clearwater Threshers and GCL Phillies For the 2014 Home Season With Video of Herlis Rodriquez, Art Charles, J.P. Crawford and Colin Kleven

Baseball Betsy and I have spent our summer days and evenings and for that matter for most of them our springtime watching the guys on the rosters of the GCL Phillies and Clearwater Threshers.  Yesterday was the final home game for both teams.

Betsy was busy getting signatures on baseball cards.  The GCL guys do not rank high enough in the pecking order to merit a card but she was able to Dan Child to sign his Clearwater Threshers card and Nick Ferdinand signed his Williamsport Crosscutters card over at the Complex.  In a reversal our good friend the GCL’s Elniery Garcia gave us both one of his signed Crosscutters cards.

Before and after last night’s Threshers season final Betsy got cards signed from most of the Threshers.  I went down after the game and gave and “atta boy” to my favorite pitcher Colin Kleven and shook hands with Jordan Guth for making it worth while to go to Threshers games when he was the starting pitcher.   Earlier I gave a “good game” shout out to Miguel Nunez as he walked by over at the Complex for his outstanding eight inning start on Sunday.

The GCL team made us feel good as they ended the season going 18-5 in August and they had the third highest winning percentage in the 16 team league.  They did not make the playoff finishing a game and a half  behind the Yankees1 team in the Northwest division.   problem was that  only the four division winners make the playoffs.

However, the good news is that some of the guys will be back in two weeks for Instructs.  See Instructs schedule.  Yesterday’s winning pitcher Franklyn Kilome and the lefty with the best curve ball on the team Elniery Garcia are two 19 year-old pitchers who are expected back for Instructs.

For me it was a long season for the Threshers but certain players kept me coming back for the games.  So the rest of the blog is a “thank you” using video plays from Thursday night’s final game of several of them for making the spring and summer Florida State League games interesting for us.  The videos include the following:

Herlis Rodriquez.  Why he did not have a regular outfield position somewhere in the organization is one of the great unknown questions of the Phillies minor league season?  It’s not that the Phillies system will have a great minor league won-loss record.   Currently they have the worst winning percent of the 30 MLB minor league systems.   His bags were alway packed in the 2014 season.  He was on the rosters Williamsport, Lakewood and finally Clearwater this season. Not playing much anywhere.  He really started coming into his own playing left field with the Threshers the last couple weeks of the seasons.  In his last nine games Herlis is hitting .414.  See his two hits in last night’s game, Here, Here.

Art Charles.   As anyone who follows my blog knows my favorite play will always be the long ball out of the park.  I always paid attention when Art Charles came to bat this season.  We just never knew when Art was going to go deep.  He leads the team with a career high 19 home runs with still three games left to play.  Last night he beat the shift by getting an RBI single to the left of second base.  See HERE.

J.P. Crawford.   J.P. is a lock to be the heir to the Phillies shortstop job whenever Jimmy Rollins retires.  The 19 year-old will be soon the top power hitting shortstop in baseball for a long time.  In only 60 Florida State League games he has hit eight homers which would be on pace for 21 homers in an 162 game MLB season.   He has hit 7 of his 8 Florida State league homers at Bright House which has similar dimensions to Citizens Bank Park.  We have seen most of them and they have gotten out of the park quickly.  Last night Crawford showed his quick bat as he lined a double down the first base line.  See Here.

Colin Kleven.  What can I say.  He is my favorite pitcher.   I have a bias for power pitchers who can throw the ball passed the batters.  Colin does that.  He fought back from a back injury from last season and finished strong this season averaging almost a strikeout an inning in the second half of the season.  In last night’s game his first four outs were by strikeouts including six of his first nine outs by swinging strikeouts by Tampa Yankees hitters.  He was just that overpowering.  He wound up with seven K’s in five innings while giving up a run.  He did run out of gas in the sixth inning but in the first five innings I saw a major league arm that with one exception dominated the Yankees high A team.  See Kleven’s first  four “strike threes” in a row HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

The bottom line from both Baseball Betsy and me is thanks to “all the GCL Phillies and the Clearwater Threshers boys of summer” for giving us an interesting 2014 season to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phillies Minor League Baseball Season Is Coming To An End Here In Clearwater: Crawford, Nola, Quinn, Kleven, Guth, Leiter, Nunez And Stewart Stood Out

Today is like the end of the baseball season here in Clearwater.  The GCL Phillies play their final game at noon.  The Threshers home season ends tonight.  One team just eliminate from the post season while the other eliminated almost from the first pitch of the season.

The GCL Phillies go into today’s game with the third best winning percent in the league but only the four division winners make the post season.  The fought to the end going 17-5 in August to come just short to the Yankees1 team.  The seemed to take off after the major league rehabbers left and the roster settled.

The Threshers never were in it from game one.  The were weak in many facets of the game.  Yet we got to see the last two No. 1 picks in J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola.  Crawford will be a major league impact player as a power hitting shortstop in a year or two.   If Nola can keep the ball in the park he might make it as a No. 4 or 5 in the major league rotation.

The jury is still out on Roman Quinn who has converted to centerfield.  Right now he is in the middle of the pack in the Florida State League in batting average and on base percent.  His play in the Arizona Fall League will tell us a lot about him as a prospect.

Speaking of the AFL the other player I will be watching is big lefty Ethan Stewart.  He showed promise out of the pen once he was taken out of the starting rotation.  I saw him hit as high as 96 on the speed gun.  So far with four games remaining in his last ten games over 18 innings in relief he has walked only 1 and struck out 20.  As a starter in 80 innings he had more walks than strikeouts.  Big Stew does have a major league arm.

I was also impressed with the Threshers second half starting rotation.  Colin Kleven and Jordan Guth have major league arms.  We watched Miguel Nunez pitch eight brilliant innings on Sunday and Mark Leiter has been up and down but when he is spotting his pitches he can and did go all nine and get double digit strikeouts.

Last night Baseball Betsy and I went over to Steinbrenner Stadium to watch Guth pitch in his final start against the Tampa Yankees.  He was up in the zone and gave up a couple of homers but you could still see a major league arm.  Control and command are all that is stopping him from pitching in the major leagues.

I wrote down Guth’s pitch speeds from the big scoreboard and when he was down in the zone he was hitting 94 but sat at 91-92 when he was up.  His curve came in at 79-81 and his change-up was around 83.  Now he only needs work and he will be a starting pitching prospect.

 

Tonight we get to see our favorite starter Colin Kleven for the Threshers.  The tall, lean right hander can bring it and when he is locating his pitchers he can average a strikeout an inning with his 92-93 mph fastball.

So we have watched Phillies prospects this season here in the Tampa Bay area.  With Crawford at short, the starting pitching also shows promise.  Not many wins but they do have some major league prospects worth watching.   Next year in Reading hopefully we will not be watching on MiLB-TV starting pitching some of whom were in their early to mid thirties pitching there as was the case this year.

 

 

 

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The GCL Phillies Pitcher Josh Taylor Is Trying to Carry The Team On His Back To The Playoffs

It’s not always easy being a middle reliever coming out of the pen early to either protect a lead or with your team down on the scoreboard by a run and having no margin of error to give up any more runs.  Especially with elimination from the playoffs staring you in the face.

These scenarios faced the Phillies big 6’5″, 225 lbs., left hander Josh Taylor  in his last two appearances, Friday against the Blue Jays and today against the Yankees1 team.  Both times he shut down the other team and held them scoreless until his teammates could add on even more runs or come from behind to win the game with playoff ramifications on the line.

Friday, Taylor came in with two on and two out in the bottom of the fourth to induce a ground ball out to second and get out of the jam to protect a 4-2 lead in a game the GCL Phillies would go on to win 8-3 over the Blue Jays.  Taylor would pick up his first professional win pitching 4.1 innings of shutout relief.

In today’s game against the first place Yankees1 team Taylor came on again out of the pen with the Phillies this time trailing 1-0 after five strong innings by starter Jason Zgardowski marred only by a solo home run.

Taylor would shut them down for the next three innings with the Phillies still down 1-0 with only three outs left in the game for them to score.   Finally the bats woke up and the Phillies pushed across three runs to take a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.

Out came Taylor for the bottom of the ninth and he would get two strikeouts swinging  after giving up a lead off single.  For the final out and his second win in five days he got a Yankee to line out to Carlos Duran to end the game for a 3-1 win.

His two outings resulting in his two wins have been season savers so far for the GCL Phillies.  Losing either one would have meant likely playoff elimination.  With two  games to play in a home and home series with the Pirates, the Phillies trail the Yankees1 team by a game and still have a chance for the post season.

Just who is this Josh Taylor guy anyhow?  We know from watching him he throws a fast ball in the low to mid 90’s and has a nice tilt on his curve ball.   He has stuck out 13 in his three appearances over the last eight days, giving up no runs.  He has allowed only five hits and four walks in 9.1 innings for a WHIP under one since being signed as a free agent by the Phillies.   Not bad for his first week as a professional baseball pitcher.

As the late great Richie Ashburn might have said “hard to believe Harry” this guy was not drafted in any of the 40 rounds by the 30 major league teams in the June draft.

On Friday at the Blue Jays minor league complex I watched Taylor pitch under the eye of Chief Amateur Scout Marti Wolever who was at the game.  See Josh pitch in the eight inning of that game in video from an August 24th blog.  In Taylor’s case he has to be one of the Phillies best signing from their tryout camps.  So let’s get to know him a little better:

Josh was signed as a free agent out of Georgia College and according to their website he spent two seasons at Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.), where he played for head coach Alex Cherney … The Artichokes went 39-21 his sophomore season, playing in the NJCAA World Series back-to-back.

High School: Graduated from Centennial High in Peoria, Ariz., where he played for head coach Jason Nuttall … Earned team’s Cy Young three times and MVP once.

Personal: Majoring in exercise science with a minor in physical education … Son of John and Susan Taylor … Born March 2 … Favorite athlete is Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks … Ringtone is “Redneck Crazy”  … His biggest sports thrill was going to the JuCo World Series back-to-back years … Lists failing as the thing that scares him the most … Favorite song is “Redneck Crazy”, movie is Pineapple Express and TV show is Family Guy … Lives by the motto: “It’s better to give all that you have and fail than to not, and wonder what if.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday In A Poorly Played GCL Game Resulted In Defeat For the GCL Phillies But Today Behind the Brilliant Pitching Of Josh Taylor They Win With Three Runs in the Ninth 3-1.

After a well played GCL Phillies 2-1 walk-off win Saturday morning,  we saw one of the worst played games of the season as the Yankees1 team knocked around the Phillies team in a must win GCL game on Monday.

The Yankees1 team squared up Elniery Garcia’s fastball from the first batter on which set the pace for a 16 hit attack, helped by poor fielding by the left side of the Phillies infield, in a 7-2 loss.

Had the Phillies won they would have been tied for first place with the Yankees1 and a playoff spot in the Northwest division of the Gulf Coast League.

I tend forget most of these guys will never play in the major leagues and after yesterday any scout could see why.  The challenge of the big game comes even at the entry level.  The GCL Phillies came up small and exposed the lack of major league prospects.

One of the GCL fans standing next to me at the game yesterday asked a good question.  Which of these guys are major league prospect?  I could not answer.  I have been a big fan of shortstop Grenny Cumana but he ran the bases poorly and could not make the routine plays at short. I have also been a fan of catcher now first baseman Jesus Posso.   Other than them it is a stretch to see any of the position guys even making much of a contribution at the higher levels of the minor league system.

Pitching might be a different story.  Elniery Garcia has an sharp breaking curve ball but appears to not throw hard enough to get even rookie level players out with his fastball.  He is only 19 so the jury is still out on him.

Several of the other starting pitchers are interesting but it is hard to make an evaluation against such low level competition because they do not throw all that hard such as teenagers Denton Keys and Lewis Alezones.

Certainly other teenage starters such as Franklyn Kilome can sit at 90 and Sam McWilliams throws in the high 80’s and are tall and still maturing so they may grow into their bodies and gain velocity.

This is why I was so surprised by the pitching on Friday of Josh Taylor.  The 21 year old was throwing in the low to mid 90’s with a sharp downward tilt on his breaking ball and good command.  He actually looked like a major league prospect.

But we should not expect too much from GCL baseball at the stage of the season.  Most of the Phillies top prospects spent only a week or two here this summer before moving on to Williamsport and Lakewood.  And the first two-thirds of the season we saw several rehabbing players each game off the major league roster.

Back in 2010 in the GCL championship game only a third baseman by the name of Maikel Franco remains in the Phillies system of those guys who were in the starting lineup from that game.

Three more games remain in the GCL season and if the GCL Phillies lose today to the Yankee1 they will be mercifully eliminated from the post season.

Update:  Trailing 1-0 going into the top of the ninth today “the never say die”  GCL Phillies scored three runs to down the Yankee1 team 3-1 at Tampa to trail them by one game for first place in the division with two games left to play.  The Phillies visit Pirate City tomorrow in Bradenton and then they play the Pirates at the Carpenter Complex Thursday to end the regular season.

In today’s game big lefty Josh Taylor picked up his second win in three relief appearances. He pitched the final four innings of shutout relief.  The recently signed free agent has pitched 9.1 innings of shutout ball giving up only five hits, four walks and striking out 13 in his first three professional appearances.

 

 

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The Phillies Minor League Season Is Ending But The Pitching Of Josh Taylor, The Long Balls of Art Charles, and J.P Crawford Plus The Eight Inning Start by Miguel Nunez Were Impressive Over The Weekend.

The next to the last weekend of the minor league season is wrapping up.  It has been a poor season for the Phillies minor league teams in general.   All of them except the rookie ball, short-season GCL Phillies will finish under .500.  Most of them well under the break even point and far out of playoff contention.

Still we go to the games and find interesting play and players down here in Clearwater and Dunedin.  On Friday I saw one of the best middle relief appearances of the season from an undrafted free agent, big 6’5”, 225 lbs. left hander Josh Taylor.  Throwing a 92-94 fastball on the guns at the game and a sharp breaking slider to go with control, Taylor pitched 4.1 innings striking out five to pick up his first professional win in only second appearance out of the pen.  Two of his strikeouts came in his fifth inning of pitching.  SEE HERE, SEE HERE. And see his big curve ball HERE to the final batter he faced.

Later on Friday night, Baseball Betsy and I headed off to Bright House to see the Threshers.  There, designated hitter Art Charles hit a “no doubt about it” three run homer in the first game of a doubleheader.  See HERE.

Charles would hit a second homer of the night in the second game to add to his career high  18th of the season for second place overall in the Florida State League.  It was his seventh homer in the month of August.

That is where I thought the Art Charles weekend story would end.  But Sunday afternoon was another game against the Brevard County Manatees.  And Art Charles was there playing in the field for the first time in the series at first base.  The first time up Art almost went yard for the first time all season against a lefty.  The ball was caught at the base of the wall just to the right field side of the 401 ft.  sign in center.

Then with the score knotted at 1-1 in the bottom of the eight,  Art did go yard against the same lefty Hobbs Johnson; his first homer of the year against a southpaw.  It was a majestic towering shot that wound up on the berm in right center to give the Threshers what turned out to be a short 2-1 lead going into the ninth. SEE HERE.

Charles is second among  all Phillies minor league players in homers with 19 and ties Ryan Howard for third place in homers in the organization. Only Marlon Byrd with 23 and Reading Jake Fox with 21 have more homers as a Phillies organization player this season.

The problem is up until today Art had hit all 18 homers off of right handed pitchers.  The Phillies really do not have a great need for a left handed hitting designated hitter.  He has seen his playing time decrease at first base once Chris Serratelli joined the team at mid-season.  This will be a weekend he will never forget with five hits in three games including three home runs a double and a single.

The real reason I went to the Threshers game today was to watch big right hander Miguel Nunez.  He has pitched well the second half and perhaps threw his best game of the year this afternoon.  He went eight innings and gave up only one run on an infield fielders choice with the infield in, striking out five and walking only one.

Nunez got two strikeouts with his low 90’s fast ball.  He had a great breaking ball early in the game which he used to strikeout three batters  in the game and relied on two double plays to keep his pitch count down in the later innings to go deep into the game. See his curve ball strike outs HERE, HERE, HERE.

Nunez was simply brilliant having to pitch from the second inning on protecting a one-run lead which which J.P. Crawford gave him with a line drive home run over the championship billboard in right.  Crawford would homer for his eight homer in the ninth inning in a futile effort to get back into the game after Lee Ridenhour came in out of the pen to give up four runs in the top of the ninth.

The Threshers would lose 5-4, negating the unbelievable efforts of Art Charles, Miguel Nunez and J.P. Crawford and one of the best played games of year except for the top of the ninth.

Saturday morning we watched another great game as the GCL Phillies came back from a one-run deficit with a run in the eight inning and a walk off run in the ninth for the 2-1 win over the GCL Blue Jays.

The bottom of the ninth was perfect fundamental baseball as third baseman Damek Thomscha work a walk to lead off the inning.  Jesus Posso bunted him to second and Gustavo Martinez lined a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a base hit scoring Thomscha who just beat the throw from center on a slide at the plate for the win.

The clutch win kept the GCL Phillies within one game of first place GCL Yankees setting up the two big games with them Monday at the Carpenter Complex and Tuesday at the Yankees minor league complex over by Raymond James Stadium.  With only four games remaining in the season these two games will likely determine who will win the Northwest division and make the GCL playoffs.

Lefty Elniery Garcia is slated to start Monday’s game.  Lean, lanky, 6’5″, undrafted free agent, right handed Jason Zgardowki will be making his third appearance and second start of the season for the GCL Phillies on Tuesday.

What a weekend of baseball it has been starting at noon on Friday.  The GCL Phillies, Art Charles, J.P.Crawford and Miguel Nunez put on shows that will be forever remembered.   The season will be over by next weekend but this weekend will be one to remember thanks  to those guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in August 2014, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s More Than Just Three Days In Late August For Phillies Minor League Starting Pitchers Jordan Guth, Colin Kleven and Elniery Garcia

It’s a given the Phillies need starting pitching.  In fact Cole Hamels and David Buchanan are the only ones who can be penciled in the 2015 starting rotation and even Hamels has been subject to trade rumors.  Other starters, A. J. Burnett has been unimpressive this season and is talking about retiring.  Cliff Lee has an elbow problem and is out for the season.  Kyle Kendrick is a free agents for next season.

I have not been impressed with first round draft pick Aaron Nola.  He has thrown to many fly balls for my taste.  I saw three of the four home runs he gave up when he was in Clearwater and he has given three more for Reading.  Let’s see how he throws next spring.

Top prospect Jesse Biddle has been stymied by a series of misfortunes including his latest, a quad strain.  Other starters such as Hoby Milner and Severino Gonzalez are finally throwing quality starts for Reading after less than impressive performances most of the season.  That about does it for young starting arms at AAA and AA.

At the high A ball level for the Clearwater Threshers we have documented the strong starting performances from mid-July on of Colin Kleven and Jordan Guth.  In August alone, Kleven has gone 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts.  Guth is 1-0 in three starts this month has a 1.45 ERA.

Tonight, 23 year old Guth goes on the hill against the left handed hitting dominating Daytona Cubs.  This will be the second time this month he will have faced the D-Cubs.  It should be a good test.

Tomorrow night, 23 year old Kleven takes on the Brevard County Manatees, the farm team of the Brewers in the first of a twi-night doubleheader at Bright House.  He has been strong from July on going 4-2 over his last ten starts.  In his three starts this month Colin is 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA.

Monday is a big game for 19 year-old lefty Elniery Garcia.  He started the season as a reliever with Williamsport before being send down to the GCL Phillies.  As he built up arm strength he has been strong with a 1.69 ERA in 22 innings including starts in his last three of his six appearances.  He was outstanding in his last start pitching six innings for a two hit shutout and the win.

Unlike the Threshers, the GCL Phillies are fighting for a playoff berth.  They trail the GCL Yankees1 team by one game going into today’s action.  Garcia is slated to face the Yankees1 on Monday at the Carpenter Complex in the first of a home and home series which will likely determine which of them wins the Northwest division and a playoff spot.

What separates these guys from the rest of the young arms at the A ball level?  They can throw in the low 90’s and have swing and miss stuff with fastball command to go with the slider/change up off speed pitches as our videos of them in previous blogs have shown.  Garcia is particular has had excellent command and is the only one of the three with a WHIP under one.

So the games tonight for Guth, tomorrow night for Kleven and Monday afternoon for Garcia will have extra special importance. They have only one or two more starts left in the 2014 season and right now they are pitching the best they have all season.

No one is suggesting that these three young arms at the A ball level will be in the Phillies starting rotation anytime soon but they have shown over the last six weeks or so that they have major league stuff to someday reach every pitcher’s final goal, to pitch in the major leagues.  The next few days will tell us what they are made of as the 2014 minor league season starts to wind up.

 

Posted in August 2014, February 2013 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GCL Phillies Have Finally Caught The First Place Yankees1 Team Behind Elniery Garcia, Tim Zier and Venn Biter

It’s been a long chase for the GCL Phillies but after winning Tuesday’s game 5-1 over the GCL Astros, they have finally caught the GCL Yankees1 team for first place in the Northwest division of the Gulf Coast League.   The Phillies have gone 13-2 so far this month with eight game still to play in the season including a home and home, two game series with the Yankees1 team on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Both teams have identical 31-20 records and a league leading .608 winning percent going into the final week of the four team, four division short season rookie league.    Only the first place teams in each division make a one game playoff game with the winners playing a three game series for the league championship.  The Phillies last won the championship under de Armas back in the 2010 with Maikel Franco at third base.

2010 GCL Championship

Manager Roly de Armas  has done an outstanding job overcoming constant player movement to bring the squad into contention for a playoff spot.

In Monday’s game, 19 year old left hander Elniery Garcia pitched a gem of a game giving up only two hits and a walk while striking five over six inning to get the win.   Luis Morales pitched shutout ball over the 7th and 8th innings and Jared Fisher came on in the ninth to pitch out of a bases load jam to get the save.

Garcia was outstanding  with a live fastball, slider and change-up repertoire that kept the Astros off balance.  Since coming down from Williamsport earlier in the season he has been one of the top pitchers on the staff going 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA.  He has a WHIP of under one and has struck out 18 and walked only three in 22 innings. Only Garcia and Franklyn Kilome have WHIPs under 1 on the starting staff.

Elniery Garcia Card

The offense was paced by lead off hitter Venn Biter’s three RBIs including two off of a triple that hit the base of the wall in left giving him 13 RBIs on the season.  Who said lead off hitters can’t drive in runs?

The second and third hitters in the lineup, second baseman Tim Zier with a double and shortstop Grenny Cumana with an infield ground out, drove in the other two runs.

Zier has been the best pure hitter on the team and perhaps the entire league.  He is hitting .354 on the season with 16 RBIs and a league leading .440 on base percent.  In Monday’s game he laid down a perfect bunt hit down the third base line for a base hit and then lined a shot by the third baseman for a double the next time up for his RBI driving in Venn Biter.  See Here.

The GCL Phillies have a two game, home and home series remaining with the Braves, Blue Jays, Yankees1 and  Pirates before the season concludes on August 28.  It’s been good baseball and who said the Phillies are not in the playoff hunt.  Just ask the GCL Phillies.

Posted in August 2014 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment