Yankees Fans Had Fun Watching Young Yankees Prospects Play In Tuesday’s Game, The Phillies Fans Had Few New Prospects To Watch

What a start to the spring training series for the Phillies organization.  They get beat on Sunday by a D-2 college team on a grand slam and on Tuesday they open the Grapefruit League getting tied by the Yankees on a three-run homer by a hitter who played in the high A Florida State League last season.

For Yankee fans it was a lot of fun watching their farm system prospects play the Phillies for the most part.  Young guys signed and developed by the Yankees dominated their lineup.  Many of them we watch over the last several seasons playing against the  Clearwater Threshers in the FSL.

What about the Phillies?  All of the Phillies non-roster invitees in the major league camp are mostly six year free agents released by other organizations.  Some released more than once in their careers.  These guys may have once been prospects but are now little more than aging organizational fillers.

The Phillies did play some young  guys who came up through the organization such as catcher Cameron Rupp and Aaron Altherr but we had to watch the likes of old veterans like Andres Blanco, Cord Phelps, Jeff Francoeur and Koyie Hill as they came into the game off the bench.

All of the many minor league Yankee prospects who came off the bench Tuesday came up through their system:  outfielders  Jake Cave, Slade Heathcoat, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, infielders Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, Cito Culver, and catcher John Ryan Murphy.  Several of them played in the Arizona Fall League against Roman Quinn.

We got to see pitch the Yankees No. 2, 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren pitch Tuesday.  I have yet to see the Phillies No.1 picks pitcher Aaron Nola from 2015 or J.P. Crawford from 2014 anywhere yet.  The young pitchers acquired in the Rollins and Byrd deals are just reporting to the minor league camp.

It not that Phillies minor league prospects who were signed and developed by the Phillies are not around.  They just are hard to find.  They have not been invited to the major league camp.  Guys like pitcher Colin Kleven, infielder Carlos Alonso and centerfielder Roman Quinn are here but can only be found on the backfields of the Carpenter Complex taking fielder practice and participating in live batting practice.

Kleven actually was invited to Bright House Field for Sunday’s game against the University of Tampa. He stood in the Phillies bullpen in uniform but did not pitch.

Colin Kleven in a Phillies Uniform in the Bullpen

Colin Kleven in a Phillies Uniform in the Bullpen

Quinn was one of the top rated young players in the prestigious Arizona Fall League and Alonso has been hitting the ball hard in live batting practice but to watch them you need find a map to Robin Roberts and Steve Carlton Fields where you might find them sometime after noon each day in the minor league camp.

Roman Quinn

Roman Quinn

It’s not that they can’t play.  In one of the last games of the 2014 Florida State League season,  Kleven struck out Tampa Yankees’ Aaron Judge, See Here.  It was Judge who hit the game tying three-run homer in the top of the ninth in Tuesday’s game.

Alonso in 2013 won a minor league gold glove for his play at second base for the Clearwater Threshers while Rob Refsnyder was at second base for the Tampa Yankees.  Alonso has never received an invite to the major league Phillies spring camp or appeared in a Grapefruit League game.

For Yankees fans in attendance at Tuesday’s game they had a chance to see the best of the Yankee farm system play and watched them bring the team back to force  a nine inning 5-5 tie.  For those of us who follow the Phillies farm system, we must head to the back fields of the Carpenter Complex to see some of their top prospects hoping beyond hope they might get a chance to actually play in a Grapefruit league game this spring training.  It is a clear difference in player development philosophy between the Yankees and the Phillies.

This song goes out to Colin Kelvin, Roman Quinn and Carlos Alonso:

John Fogerty Centerfield

 

 

Posted in March 2015, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Phillies Lefty Reliever Elvis Araujo Might Be Someone Special

What can you say but it was exciting baseball.  It still took almost three hours to play even with a big clock in centerfield but anytime a Division two college team beats a bunch of pros makes for an exciting game.  The Phillies were made up of mostly AA and AAA guys, showed little offense and several of their pitchers were unimpressive.  See Here

One Phillies pitcher trying to make this team did impress, Elvis Araujo.  He is a 23-year old free agent signing from the offseason.  He might turn out to be someone special as a lefty out of the pen.

Araujo struck out three and gave up a hit in facing four batters in the fifth.  He threw 93-95 mph but used his slider which was at 83- 86 mph to strike out three batters in the inning. See Here, Here, Here.  This was the first game in the ten-year history of Bright House that the scoreboard had  pitch speed posted on the scoreboard.  It was fun to watch.

Araujo had excellent control of his fastball to get ahead in the count and then put the University of  Tampa Spartans hitters away on his off-speed pitch.  He pitched much like Ken Giles did last season.  He would get ahead in the count with his fastball and then use his slider to get the strikeout.

I was not impressed with starter Paul Clemens.  Yes, his fastball was 94-96 but his curve ball was loopy and appeared to hang.  Rule Five pick, lefty Andy Oliver, then came on to pitch.   His fastball was only 92 mph.  Of the battle of the lefties out of the pen, Araujo had the the better stuff and higher velocity. After Araujo left after one inning in the fifth, Phillippe Aumont came on for an inning with a fastball sitting at 93 mph and gave up a run on three hits.   He did not have much especially with his breaking ball.

In the big seventh inning for the Spartans, Nefi Ogando came on for the Phillies and looked good getting two strikeout but had control problems.  His pitches were up in the zone.  With the bases loaded he walked Phillies General Manager’s nephew, Andrew Amaro to tie the score at 2-2.  Ogando’s fastball was sitting at 95 mph but he did not have an effective secondary pitch and clearly needs more work work on his slider, probably as Reading’s closer this season.

Then, Hector Neris was called in from the pen by pitching coach Bob McClure. His fastball was at only 90-91 mph and he got an off speed pitch up and in to the Spartans’ Giovanny Alfonzo and he hit the pitch into the Tiki Bar in left for a grand slam which  finally resulted in the 6-2 University of Tampa win.  See Here.

At the bat the Phillies did not show much but centerfielder Odubel Herrera did get his first base hit in a Phillies uniform.  He lined a single to left center.  See Here.  It probably will just the first of many he will hit with the Phillies in his major league career.

So what did we learn from the game?  We learned that Elvis Araujo is one to watch as a potential left-handed reliever out of the Phillies pen this season and it was really neat to watch a game with the pitch speed posted on the scoreboard for the first time ever at Brighthouse Field.    Also,  Araujo showed much better stuff than did Rule Five pick Andy Oliver.  Each of them fighting are fighting for a LHP out of the pen spot.  The other Rule Five pick,  Odubel Herrera, looks like even more of a lock to make the team than he did when the game started.  It remains unlikely the Phillies would carry two Rule Five picks on the 25-man roster all season so Oliver will have to dramatically up his game.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in March 2015 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carlos Alonso Bats Against Austin Wright In Live Batting Practice At The Phillies Minor League Camp

Most of spring training is somewhat repetitive and boring.  Doing the same thing over and over again such as throwing bullpens and PFP’s for pitchers and coaches batting practice and fielding practice for the position players are the norms day after day.  Those coaches soft toss at a speed that makes me even want to grab a bat.

But when it comes to live batting practice, it’s a different story.  It’s hitter vs. pitcher when he is throwing some of his best stuff.  Nothing beats watching a swing and miss power fast ball or a sharp breaking Giles-type slider from a pitcher on the mound or a batter squaring one up and driving it on the line or far and deep.

Even the coaches take notice when it’s time for live pitcher’s batting practice.   Still the all knowing pitching coaches tell what they want to see and the hitting coaches and Front Office types queue up behind the batting cage to watch as the catcher put down the signal.  For me it’s the highlight of the day.  Can the hitter best the pitcher?

Each pitcher after warming up in the adjacent bullpen throws 20-25 pitches from the mound.   For me, it is the best way to measure what stuff a pitcher has and can the hitter barrel up his best pitches   Of course the pitcher and hitters are working on different techniques as they get coached up during the session but it is as close to game-type action you can get at this point of spring training in both the major and minor league camps.

All the attention given to live batting practice make actually watching it from behind the fences difficult.  However, I did manage to get an nice session on video of Carlos Alonso vs. Austin Wright which best shows the intensity of live BP.  Notice all the coaches watching from behind the pitching screen and batting cage and even walking by as these two battle.  After fouling off several pitches Alonso does manage to line a Wright pitch just inside the left field line.  See Here.

As you know I like to follow the minor league camp.  The camp’s official start is next week, March 5th, when all pitchers and catchers are required to report. Betsy has notice on their tweeter feeds that they are ready to go.  However, some of them have been in Clearwater working out since January to get an early start to the season.

I have been watching the minor league camp since the major league camp opened Thursday, a week ago.  Every afternoon at 1:30 these guys have been  reporting to the  Carlton and Roberts backfields after the major league workouts have ended for the day.

The Phillies had invited about 20 pitchers to camp at that point and more pitchers have reported this week. The hitters in camp for live batting practice have been Carlos Alonso, Tyler Henson, Jiandido Tromp, Roman Quinn and Cord Sandberg.  Other position players who have arrived in camp early to join them have been Zach Green, Cameron Perkins, Carlos Tocci, Art Charles, Rhys Hoskins and Brock Stassi.   Minor league catchers in camp I have noticed have been Andrew Knapp, Corey Bass, Joel Fisher and Logan Moore.  Knapp and Moore have been catching some live batting practice in the major league camp in the morning as well.

The major league spring training games start on Sunday with Phillies taking on the University of Tampa.  The official start of the Grapefruit League is Tuesday at Bright House against the Yankees.  The minor league spring training games start on March 17th  but I would expect intrasquad games in the meantime when all the minor leaguers report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in February 2015, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zeroing In On The Phillies System’s First Basemen Today At Spring Training

Arrived late to the Complex this morning and decided to zero in on the first baseman in the Phillies organization and Maikel Franco was not one of them.  After watching him play third base on ESPN Deportes in three of the five games  his Dominican team played in the recent Caribbean Series, he was just too good at third to play any first base.  He played first in the the other two games.

With Franco out of the first base equation, I basically focused on watching Ryan Howard play first and hit today.  He is in great shape.  Looks ready to play.  No limp which was noticeable as recent in seasons from his injuries.  Watching him closely from behind the batting cage on Ashburn Field was Ryne Sandberg.   I predict a big season for “Howie”.  Maybe he will be in competition for the “Comeback Player of the the Year” award.

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

Also working at first base with Howard on defensive drills was Darin Ruf.  Should Howard need a backup, gets moved or needs a game off Ruf would be an option to take over this season.  Right now it looks like Ruf will be on the 25 man roster in some capacity because of the need for a right handed bat.  The Phillies likely 25 man roster will be very left-handed hitting dominated.  Ruf’s right handed bat will be needed to provide some balance.

After a quick trip to Chick-Fil-A for lunch,  I was back at the Complex this time watching the early minor league camp in the afternoon going on at Carlton and Roberts Fields.  Also pitchers bullpens were taking place at the seven-mounds pen.  On display was rigorous in field drills by run by the coaches.  I focused on the first basemen who have arrived in camp-Art Charles, Brock Stasi and Rhys Hoskins.  Also joining them after working out at third base as well was Zach Green.

Light hitting, limited power but smooth fielding, free agent Chris McGinness will  take over at first at AAA.  He is still in the major league camp though.  It looks like right now its Stassi returning to Reading as a first baseman and spare outfielder.  Charles should be the regular first baseman for Reading and Hoskins should move up to Lakewood.  It remains to be seen where Green winds up but Clearwater looks like the most likely landing spot.

Art Charles is a strong left-handed power bat but he needs to cut down on his strike outs.  He hit 18 of the 19 home runs against right handed pitchers last year.  Reading’s ballpark is perfect for his swing and he should be able to increase his home run total if he plays there.  In 2013 he hit only two of his eleven home runs at the pitcher friendly park in Lakewood and then hit 12 of his 19 homers at Bright House last year.  He should add even more home park, home runs at the cozy hitting confines in Reading.

I am a big fan of Rhys Hoskins.  He put on quite a show at instruct and hit the only Phillies home run I saw hit in the instruct games I attended.  He hit the ball hard to all fields.  I would double jump him from Williamsport and start him in Clearwater with the Threshers at the same field where he hit so well in back in the Fall.  He could be a nice right handed power bat at first to team with Maikel Franco at third in future Phillies lineups.

The Phillies Front Office knows they need some right handed bats in the lineup in the future.  Right now even Jeff Francoeur has a chance to make the Phillies opening day roster simply because he hits from the right side.  Baseball Betsy caught the Phillies brass studying and discussing his every swing Thursday morning on Roberts Field.

Jeff Francoeur bats as Charlie Manuel, Mickey Morandini, Ryne Sandberg and Ed Wade watch

Jeff Francoeur bats as Charlie Manuel, Mickey Morandini, Ryne Sandberg and Pat Gillick watch

Charlie Manuel, Jeff Francoeur, Mickey Morandini and Ryne Sandberg

Charlie Manuel, Jeff Francoeur, Mickey Morandini and Ryne Sandberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in February 2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Phillies have Some Power Hitters and Pitchers In The Minor League Camp Too!

The Phillies major league spring training is going at full pace.  In fact I have been impressed by the pace and conditioning of the guys in camp after the first two days.  But as you know I like to follow the the minor league guys.  These are the guys who do not get invited to work out with the big boys.  They struggle day after day for recognition.  They put in the time hoping only that they might get called over for backup fielding roles or a chance to pitch an inning in relief in a major league spring training Grapefruit game.

After the 58 guys in the major league camp called it a day a little after noon each, the minor league guys get ready to take over on the back fields of Carlton and Roberts at the Carpenter Complex.  In the morning hundreds of fans jockey for positions to watch the guys of the major league camp and reporters stand around waiting to ambush Cliff Lee and others to see how he they feel.  Only a handful of us at most gather behind the screens in the afternoon to watch the minor league guys in their unofficial early camp go through the motions in near anonymity wearing their nameless and numberless jerseys.

Several of these guys should have been invited to the Phillies major league camp but to no avail.  The Phillies brought in 15 or so minor league free agents and gave them invites to the major league camp.  All of them have been let go by other organizations.  Many of them let go by more than one MLB team over the years.

I’ll take the Phillies minor league guys any day.  Roman Quinn and Carlos Alonso are both under six feet in height but they both have put on power shows with the bat in the early minor league camp’s live batting practice.  Today, Roman hit two long drives left-handed, one that hopped over the left center field fence and the the other bounced over the right field fence.  Carlos has squared up more balls than any other of the hitters so far during live batting practice.  Though Tyler Henson is a close second.

Not only have we seen power bats in the minor league camp but we have seen some power arms.   I asked one of the starting pitchers in the camp if he could pitch in relief since it seems like the Phillies have a glut of starting pitchers in the organization.  He said he probably could it if that what it took to move up and could throw 98 mph for an inning.  I told him that one of his sliders that he threw in live batting practice that day reminded me of Ken Giles major league slider from last year.  Giles fastball according to Fangraph averaged 97.2 mph last year. His slider usually hit 88 mph when I watched his pitch speed on MLB-TV last year.

It would have been nice if some of these guys in the minor league camp would have gotten invites to the major league camp.   But it was not to be.

Below are Baseball Betsy photos of minor league camp pitchers Colin Kleven and Perci Garner and outfielder Cameron Perkins from the minor league camp from the last two days:

Colin Kleven

Colin Kleven

Cameron Perkins

Cameron Perkins

Perci Garner

Perci Garner

 

 

Posted in February 2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Thoughts After The First Day Of Full Squad Phillies Spring Training Workouts

Tuesday was a long day at the Carpenter Complex baseball fields watching all the moves at the major league camp in the morning and the activities of the early reporting players at the minor league camp in the afternoon.   It was a never ending story of the Phillies organization in action during the first day of full squad major league workouts at 2015 spring training.

Mostly everything went well and ran on or ahead of time as the boys of summer moved from field to field on a tight schedule of drills.  What caught my eye at one point was outfield coach Juan Samuel standing in left field with Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera as defensive drills took place on Schmidt Field.   It is clear Herrera will get every chance to make the opening day 25 man roster.   Based on how he performs in the spring games, Herrera might even be in the Phillies opening day starting lineup.

Watching Charlie Manuel and Mike Schmidt tells you a lot about the Phillies concerns.  Over on Roberts Field, Charlie and Mike were studying the stokes of Maikel Franco and Domonic Brown in batting practice.  Manuel moved later to Ashburn Field to follow Ryan Howard and in what appeared an attempt to correct a flaw in his swing.

It was good to see Adam Morgan on the mound throwing live batting practice but the Phils seem to have an overabundance of starting pitching every where.  They have built a great deal of starting pitching depth at the major league and AAA levels.  Let’s count them.  Start with the top five right at the MLB level now.  Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Aaron Harang, Chad Billlingsly and Jerome Williams.  That leaves a lot of other starters on the major league spring training roster looking for spots somewhere in the system.  They include David Buchanan, Joely Rodriguez, Ethan Martin, Jonathan Pettibone, Adam Morgan, Kevin Slowey, Sean O’Sullivan and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

I counted 13 starting pitchers fighting for 10 spots on the major league and AAA Lehigh Vally rosters in the major league camp.   This count does not include the likes of starters Hoby Milner and Severino Gonzalez from the 2014 Reading roster and the reported minor league free agent signing of veteran P.J. Walters.

The starting pitching log jam is also exacerbated by the pickups of Zach Elfin and Tom Windle in the Jimmy Rollins deal with the Dodgers and Ben Lively in the Marlon Byrd trade with the Reds.  All indications are that these three will be joined by Phillies former first round draft picks Jesse Biddle and Aaron Nola to make up the 2015 Reading AA starting rotation.  This likely means that the chances for starting pitchers from the Phillies A ball level rosters in 2014 to move up will be limited, barring injuries, releases or trades during spring training and later.

So after the first day of the full squad major league camp I will be watching if Odubel Herrera can crack not only the 25 man roster which is all but assured but can he actually make the opening day starting lineup most likely in left field?  Can Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown hit enough to fill the void in the offense caused by the loss of Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd? And what the heck will the Phillies do with all the starting pitchers they have collected in spring training at the major league and AAA levels.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in February 2015, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Phillies Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph Showed Power In Today’s Catchers Batting Practice

Tuesday will be the first day of full team workouts in the Phillies major league spring training camp.  All 58 of them will be ready to begin rounding into shape.  Only 25 will make the opening day roster.  One of the most watch position will be catching.  Current starter is fan favorite Carlos “Chooch Ruiz”.  But Ruiz turned 36 last month and has not caught more than 114 games in any of the last three seasons.

The catching position is one of the most demanding mentally and physically position in all of sports.  So who will back up Chooch?  The Phillies have six catcher in the major league camp but it looks like Cameron Rupp has the inside track to back up Chooch.  Rupp was a Phillies third round draft pick in 2010.  The 26 year old looks in the best shape of his career and has been driving the ball hard in catchers batting practice.  In today’s BP I saw him drive two balls off the wall of the Phillies clubhouse beyond the left field wall of Ashburn Field.

But the backup catcher is not expected to hit.  He is expected to be a “catch and throw” receiver who plays maybe once a week to give the starting catcher a rest.  Last season Rupp threw out 39% of the runner who attempted to steal on him in 18 major league games he played.  The league average for a catcher was 28%.  He had only one passed ball and two errors in the 185 innings he played for the Phillies.  He is what you want in your second catcher, good defense with the ability to take the ball deep from time to time.

The other catcher who showed pop today in BP was Tommy Joseph.  Often injured in previous seasons, Tommy looks ready for a big injury-free season.  I would not be surprised to see him as the starting catcher for the Reading Fightin’ Phillies.  Tommy dropped the barrel head of the bat on one BP pitch and easily drove it over the left field fence.

In the afternoon Baseball Betsy and I went around the corner at the Complex to Roberts Field to check up on our minor league guys who reported early to camp.  Most of them are catchers and pitchers but we did see Zach Green at third, Tyler Henson at short and Carlos Alonso at second taking infield ground balls from infield coach Chris Truby.   Also three outfielders were in the minor league camp taking fly balls, Carlos Tocci, Jiandido Tromp and Roman Quinn.  Tomorrow, we expect to see some live batting practice which will be thrown by several of the minor league pitchers already in camp.   Several other of our minor league pitching friends have Facebooked Baseball Betsy that they will here next Tuesday to start their spring training workouts.

Below are several photos we took of Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph from today’s spring training action:

Cameron Rupp takes BP

Cameron Rupp takes BP

Cameron Rupp in the field

Cameron Rupp in the field

Tommy Joseph takes BP

Tommy Joseph takes BP

Tommy Joseph takes BP

Tommy Joseph takes BP

 

 

 

Posted in February 2015 | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments