It Was The Willians Astudillo Show In Saturday Morning Phillies Minor League Spring Training Baseball

Up early for Saturday morning baseball Baseball Betsy and I made a quick couple mile trip over to the Blue Jays complex to see Phillies minor league baseball.  The sky was blue and the temperatures were in the 60’s. It was perfect baseball weather.  It turned out to be three game being played at once with the Phillies high and low A work groups and the extended spring training team playing against their counterparts of the Blue Jays.

With starting pitcher Ranfi Casimiro on the mound for the mound for the high A team, he got a quick called strike three which woke us up and got things going for the morning of baseball action. Watch Here.  It’s not easy trying to watch three games being played at once but it is sure is fun trying and the design of the Blue Jays fields allowed us to position ourselves to do it.

The irony was one player so stood out for the Phillies that he was compelling to watch over all the other players.  Willians Astudillo stood out far and above all the other players.  He started out as a designated hitter and finished at first base in the field but it was with the bat that he captured our attention.

Willians Astudillo

Willians Astudillo

In Astudillo’s first at bat he moved Rhys Hoskins to third base by going the other way with a ground ball to second on a ground out. Hoskins, who had doubled to start the inning, then scored on a ground out with the infield back.  It’s the type of small ball the Phillies have been preaching all spring.

Later in the game Astudillo came up and hit a solo home run to left.  It was a line drive no doubt about it drive over the fence in left-center.  That’s my kind of baseball.

Not finished yet Astudillo came up late in the game with runners on first and second and drilled a double down the left field line to drive in two runs.   Watch the double Here and also see the great slide by Chase Harris to score the second run.  Harris, who was on base after lining a single, continues to have one of the best camps of any Phillies minor league player.

Willians Astudillo is one of the most fundamentally sound players in the Phillies minor league system. He is all but impossible to strikeout, can move  runners into scoring position when needed and has the power to go deep and drive in some runs.  This morning  he put on quite a show in all those hitting situations.

It’s easy to see why Astudillo was in the battle for the South Atlantic League batting championship with Lakewood right down to the last week of last season.  He had one of the best bats in the Phillies minor league system in 2014, hitting .333 and striking out only 20  times in over 460 plate appearances.   Whether it be catching, serving as designated hitter or playing first base he is one of the most valuable players in the Phillies farm system.  To me after watching the major league Phillies play this spring, I can see no reason why the 23-year old Astudillo should not play some day soon at the major league level.

 

 

 

 

 

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An Important Phillies Minor League Camp Day

Yesterday was a camp day for the Phillies minor league squads.  That means afternoon intra-squad games.  These games give Player Development Director, Joe Jordan and his assistant Steve Noworyta a good look from the observation deck at the Carpenter Complex at all the guys in camp before final decisions are made when camp breaks a week from Saturday.

It’s also time to take stock of any injuries.  When we arrive at the Complex,  Baseball Besty made small talk with J.P. Crawford who was in civilian clothes sitting on top of the waist- high wall in front of Ashburn Field watching the action.  We later learned he is out 4-6 weeks with a left oblique injury.  Kelly Dugan still has not played this spring and we last saw him with a walking boot on his right foot.  Pitcher Feliberto Sanchez who is coming back from Thanksgiving knee surgery has just start fielding balls rolled to him.  He has begun to pitch live batting practice  off the mound but still needs pitchers fielding practice before cleared for game action.

Action on the field was interesting.  I continue to be impressed with Zach Eflin who was one of the starting pitchers.  He is a strike throwing, ground ball pitcher.   I have yet to see him pitch against a visiting team.  But in his live batting practice and yesterday in the intra squad game he looked sharp.

Several Phillies came over from the major league camp.  Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore and Cesar Hernandez batted every inning under the watchful eye of Charlie Manuel.   Hernandez made some outstanding plays at shortstop and it looks he has the inside track to make the Phillies opening day lineup as the utility infielder.

A big play came with Roman Quinn on third.  Quinn singled and stole second and third.  Then on a  shallow fly ball to center, Quinn tagged up but was out at the plate on a throw on the fly by Carlos Tocci to catcher Gabe Lino.

Outfielder Dylan Cozens was barreling the ball hard.  He hit a line drive to left that Cameron Perkins froze on only to see the ball sailed over his head for a double.  Next time up Cozens lashed a single  to right.  He looks ready for a big season.

Outfielder Aaron Altherr was squaring up the pitches as well.  He drove a long shot over the head of Carlos Tocci that hit the base of the batter’s eye in center for extra bases.  Altherr in a later at bat drove a single up the middle.

Catcher Chace Numata has been hitting the ball hard in camp.  Earlier in the week he hit a three run homer to right on Roberts Field.  Yesterday he hit one into the gap in right center on Schmidt Field for a triple.

Another guy who has had a strong camp is middle infielder Drew Stankiewicz.   He struggled last season with the bat with Lakewood after hitting over .300 with Williamsport.   With the injury to J.P. Crawford he might have a roster spot opening wanting for him at the A ball level.

One of my favorite relievers Edubray Ramos looked sharp picking up a couple of strike outs in his relief appearance.  Ramos has a closer mentality.

The least exciting drill of the camp day is always watching starting pitchers trying to sacrifice  bunt.  Every time a man was on first with less than tow outs Joely Rodriquez and Tom Windle were sent to the plate to try to bunt.  I did seen Rodriquez after a number of failures get down a sac. bunt.

So now the Phillies Front Office is working on player assignments for the three teams that will head north when camp breaks in ten days and the Clearwater Threshers and the extended spring training teams who will play their seasons here.

Phillies minor league pitchers heading to Lehigh Valley, Reading and Lakewood will soon be trading in their shorts and T-shirts for jackets and long sleeves when they head north in ten days.

Colin Kleven, Jesse Biddle, Perci Garner, Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner

Colin Kleven, Jesse Biddle, Perci Garner, Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner

 

 

 

 

 

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The Phillies Aaron Harang and Elniery Garcia: The Present And Future Of Starting Pitching

Yesterday was interesting at the Phillies Carpenter Complex from a starting pitching perspective. Warming up side by side to start the two A-ball level games against the Pirates in the bullpen between Schmidt and Ashburn Fields was  a young, 20- year old left-hander representing the future and an old soon to be 37-year old right-handed journeyman representing the present.   The contrast could not have been more stark.

garcia and harang garcia and harán

The somewhat portly Aaron Harang is viewed as a stopgap until young pitchers such as young Elniery Garcia can develop.  Harang would go on and pitch five innings giving up three runs on seven hits, striking out five against the young A level Pirates.   Garcia would pitch three shutout innings on one hit and striking out two.

Garcia is a highly regarded prospect who relies on a late breaking curve ball and a sinker as his out pitches.   Baseball Prospectus rated him as the ninth best prospect in the Phillies system after last season and before the big Rollins and Byrd trades for additional starting pitching.  Baseball Prospectus’ comments are below:

9. Elniery Garcia
Position: LHP
DOB: 12/24/1994
Height/Weight: 6’0” 155 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 5.79 ERA (4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 K, 2 BB) at Short-Season Williamsport, 2.08 ERA (26 IP, 26 H, 23 K, 4 BB) at complex level GCL
The Tools: 5+ potential FB; 5+ potential CH; 6 potential CB

What Happened in 2014: Garcia handled the complex league competition well, fanning 23 and only issue 3 free passes in 26 innings.

Strengths: Projectable body; fastball has potential to tick up in velocity; presently works 89-92; shows late, arm-side tail; solid feel for snapping off curve with two-plane break; plus potential; loose wrist when dealing changeup; flashes arm-side fade.

Weaknesses: Overall command needs improvement; releases fastball early; changeup has a ways to go to play as a viable offering; curve gets loose and sloppy; crude with level of pitching polish.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Realistic Role: High 4; long/middle reliever

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; 19 years old; complex-level resume;

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: When you’re down to the complex-league level, there are better chances to take in fantasy formats than Garcia.

The Year Ahead: Garcia is an arm who has shown fastball velocity growth over the past couple seasons, with the overall stuff beginning to show progress as well. The left-hander has fairly limited professional experience and is relatively unknown, which on the surface may make him a curious choice for this placement, but there’s a gut feel here. A good showing in either the New York-Penn League or placement in a full-season league will really start to move the stock forward. This is a pitcher with feel for his stuff at an early age. While Garcia is a far from putting his projection in focus, this season is about taking a few more steps forward against better competition.

Major league ETA: 2018

After Garcia finished up his three innings he continued to throw in the bullpen to work on his change up, sinker and curve.   Watch Here.

While Harang looks to be the number two starter behind Cole Hamels in the Phillies rotation, Garcia would seem to be slated to be on the Lakewood BluClaws starting staff in the low A, South Atlantic League.  Both of them represent symbols of what the state of the Phillies organization is for the 2015 season which is hope for a better future while watching veteran starting pitching at the major league level.

While I was watching Garcia and Harang pitch yesterday, I pulled out my phone and watched another young pitcher make his major league spring training debut, Severino Gonzalez.  He was pitching his third and final inning against the Braves over at Disney.  He looked strong throwing 90-92 and dropped in his big 12-5 curve at 77 on one occasion.  But you could tell he has major league potential though he tired a bit in the inning.  Still he pitched three shutout innings.

On Friday the top Phillies 2014 draft pick Aaron Nola makes his major league spring training debut at Bright House Field.    Milling around the backstops watching Harange and Garcia pitch yesterday in addition to Nola were other highly prized minor league starting pitcher prospects such as Matt Imhoff, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin and Jesse Biddle.  Brandon Leibrandt came on after Harang finished up on the mound  The talent is there, now it is up to the Phillies to develop it.

 

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Phillies Pitching Prospect Franklyn Kilome Hits 97 On the Radar Gun According To Baseball America

At the end of last season, Baseball America named Franklyn Kilome as No. 10 prospect in the Phillies organization.  He pitched well in the Gulf Coast League and Fall Instructs considering he had not pitched in the Dominican Summer League.

Baseball Betsy and I got to know the tall, 6’6″ right hander during last season and consider him a good friend.   So when Baseball America named him to its top Phillies prospect list, we went out and picked up an extra copy of its January 2015 edition where he was listed.

Franklyn Kilome in Baseball America

Franklyn Kilome in Baseball America

When we first saw him at the start spring training we gave him a copy.  He thanked us and said he would show it to his family back in the Dominican Republic.

On Saturday, Franklyn made a spring training  appearance over at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa.  There was Baseball America to video his outing and they put it up on their Facebook page for all of us to see.  We were unable to make the game but on Sunday we told him that BA had reported that he hit 97 miles per hour on the speed gun.  His eyes opened wide and he said he never threw that hard before.  He was excited as we were for him.

It is times like this to be able give a pat on the back to a young player like Franklyn Kilome that makes going to the minor league complex so worth while.   BA reported that his fastball sat at 91-94 but that one time he hit 97 will never be forgotten by Franklyn and all of us who hang out at the Carpenter Complex.

 

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Fighting For A Job, The Phillies Chase Harris Is Having A Strong Minor League Camp

Every spring training several players  stand out who were not on anyone’s radar when spring training started.  After week one Chase Harris fits that description.  A fourth outfielder last year for Williamsport he hit .200 in 75 at bats and his only extra base hits in the NY-Penn League were two doubles.  With 20 outfielders in the minor league camp and more expected to be sent down from the major league camp soon, a guy like Harris does not seem to have much of a chance to stick.

I watched Harris play three time last week including two games over the weekend.  In each game he did something extraordinary, especially for a seldom used 14th round draft pick from last season out of New Mexico.

In the first game I saw him play he  lined two base hits in his first two times up.  Then, on Saturday against the Yankees AA team I had to ask “who was that guy in centerfield?”.  Harris caught a long drive over his shoulder running toward the batter’s eye in centerfield at Schmidt Field and later he laid out to catch a ball in the left center gap.  Wow was that really Chase Harris?

Yesterday was made difficult by the fact that instead of the scheduled 1:00 o’clock start the Phillies decided to start the A ball games against the Pirates at 11:00 a.m.  So Baseball Betsy and I rolled in around one o’clock just in time to see Harris line a home run over the left centerfield fence on Ashburn Field.

So in three games I have seen him play, he has had two hard hit singles, made two great catches and hit a home run. Not bad for for a guy fighting for a job.  Harris still has a big challenge ahead of him to win a roster spot.  He turns 24-years old in July and stands only 6’0″ 190 lbs.  With Williamsport he stole only three of seven bases.  Nothing special there.

The minor league camp still has two weeks to go before the teams break on Saturday, April 4th. Three teams will head north, Lehigh Valley, Reading and Lakewood.  Two teams will stay here, the Threshers and the Extended Spring Training teams.

Right now Chase Harris is still in the hunt for a spot on one of these squads as a fourth outfielder.  After one week of camp he has been one of the best players here.  But his work is not yet done.

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Phillies Minor League Weekend Report

We got to the Carpenter Complex in time to watch Chad Billingsley coming back from two elbow surgeries to make his 2015 debut on the mound.  He went an inning with a strikeout but gave up two line drive hits including a double.  His final out took a great play by Carlos Alonso at second to snare a hard hit bouncer that took a bad hop.  Looks like we will see  Billingsley in extended spring training for most of April.

Chad Billingsley

Chad Billingsley

Maikel Franco was back home in the minor league camp Saturday afternoon and it did not take long for him to hit a long ball.   Against the Yankee farmhands he hit one over the left field fence at Ashburn Field.

Maikel Franco

Maikel Franco

Not to be out done Brian Pointer lined a pitch over the right field fence as well.  Both Franco and Pointer played well into the new year.  Franco played for his home Dominican Republic where he homered once in five games of the Caribbean Series.   Pointer homered for Perth winners of  the Australian Baseball Championship.

Zach Green continues to hit the ball hard.  In yesterday’s AA game against the Yankees he hit one that the centerfielder caught over his shoulder as the ran into the batter’s eye in dead centerfield on Schmidt Field.  Green has been one of the most impressive players in camp in the first week of  games.

Right-handed pitcher Feliberto Sanchez is making a strong recovery from left knee surgery  back over the Thanksgiving holiday.  He is throwing 0ff the mound for the first time and is only a few weeks behind the other pitchers in camp. Sanchez pitched a five inning no-norun game for Williamsport last season.

Zach Elfin looked sharp yesterday in his start.  He pitched only two innings because the game had a half hour delay as the plate umpire was injured with J.P. Crawford at bat.  The plate umpire finished the inning but the base umpire had to finish the game.  A Phillies coach took over on the bases.

We have been following the two Phillies minor league prospects who MLB.com are projecting to have breakout seasons.   Earlier we did a blog about outfield Aaron Brown. On Friday we focused on 20-year old Elniery Garcia who pitched two innings against the Blue Jays.  He put on quite a fielding pitching show in his second inning of pitching to get out of a jam.

With runners on first and second and none out, it took Garcia only two more pitches to get out of the inning.  He fielded a ball hit to the second base side of mound and threw to third where Mitch Walding put the tag on the incoming runner. For video See Here.

Elniery Garcia prepares to throw to third.

Elniery Garcia prepares to throw to third.

Garcia throws...

Garcia throws…

Walding grabs the laser-like throw from Garcia and applies the tag.

Walding grabs the laser-like throw from Garcia and applies the tag.

 

Then on the next pitch he threw his sinker and induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.  Garcia’s fielding was on a major league level.  See Here.  To pitch in the major league requires the ability to field your position.  Garcia proved he can field and pitch in clutch situations Friday against the Blue Jays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zach Green And The Phillies No. 2 Work Group Are Ones To Watch In Minor League Spring Training

By far the most interesting Work Group of the four in the Phillies minor league camp is No. 2 as they have been designated.  On the schedule that is the high A team which would be the likely squad of the Clearwater Threshers made up mostly from last year’s Lakewood BlueClaws. Gregg Legg, veteran manager from last season’s BlueClaw team is managing the Work Group.  He will manage the Threshers this season.   Lakewood did not have a very good 2014 season but in this spring training they seem like a different team with the bat.

Around the infield yesterday they had Mitch Walding at third, J.P. Crawford at short, Jesmuel Valentin at second and Zach Green at first. In the outfield Andrew Pullin was in left, Carlos Tocci in center and Dylan Cozens in right.  Andrew Knapp was the designated hitter.  Only Knapp played college ball and all of them range in age from 19 to their early twenties.  Valentin was the only one not drafted by the Phillies.  He was acquired in the Roberto Hernandez trade last season from the Dodgers.  Sometime we forget how young these guys are in age.  So far this spring they have been the where the Phillies stars of tomorrow have been playing in camp.

They did pound the ball yesterday in a spring training game against the Blue Jays high A spring team in a 5-1 win.  The hitting was lead by Zach Green who had three hits including a long triple to right center and a single to left, See single HERE, and Mitch Walding who homered over the right centerfield fence at the Blue Jays minor league complex in Dunedin.

Ben Lively went three inning to start the game and picked up the win. Watch Lively induce a broken bat double play HERE.  He struck out four in three innings of work. Watch a strikeout HERE.  Acquired in the  Marlon Byrd deal over the winter from the Reds he has been projected to start the season in the Reading rotation.

One of the best at bats was by the left handed hitting Pullin.  In the first two inning experience Blue Jays left-hander Matt Boyd, who was one of the top pitchers in the Florida State League last season before being called up to AA, struck out the first three left handed hitting bats he faced, Crawford,  Cozens and Walding.  Pullin would be the first left handed bat to hit Boyd by lining a bullet by the first baseman down the right field line to finally get to him.

After nearly a week of game action in the Phillies minor league camp, Zach Green has been the one guy who has stood out to me.  We watched Green play both strong defense at third and square up several pitches in last Saturday’s game against the Canadian Junior National team in addition to his hitting in yesterday’s game.  He seems like a man without a position though.  With Walding holding down third it looks like Green will be seeing more time at first base this season.   Still it’s a nice problem to have.

With two more weeks to go in minor league spring training games and if you are coming down to Clearwater to see some good baseball, your best bet would be to catch the games where these guys are playing.   You won’t be disappointed.

Zack Green

Zack Green

Mitch Walding hits a home run.

Mitch Walding hits a home run.

Ben Lively

Ben Lively

 

 

 

 

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