At AAA in the Phillies system journeymen in their late 20’s to mid 30’s will dominate the Lehigh Valley IronPigs roster again this season. In today’s AAA game 30 year old plus veterans dominated the lineup. Hector Luna was in left. In came Joe Thurston to play second. Out in center was Rich Thompson. Then there was Tug Huylett at third. Don’t forget Kevin Frandsen at short. The starting pitching staff will have 30 year old plus veterans like Nate Bump, Dave Bush and Pat Misch. These guys over 30 years old and veterans of many seasons in the minor leagues and a few years in the majors are not why I come to the minor league spring training camp. The Phillies Front Office love these old guys at AAA. They do play a role as a pool of stop gap, emergency fill ins to draw from during the major league regular season when injuries arise. However, I come to spring training to look for younger guys who have never played in the big leagues and deserve a shot.
One of my favorite guys who has never had a shot to play in a major league game is Steve Susdorf. Every game I have watch Steve played this spring he has done something special. Today was no exception. Against the Pirates AAA team at Ashburn Field Steve made a nice pick of a ball in the dirt at first on an errant throw from across the infield. Later in an at bat the left handed hitter stroked an RBI base hit to left against a left handed pitcher. In previous games I saw Steve line a grand slam to right and make a nice stab on a ground ball down the line at first. I would not be surprised to see him play a lot of first base for the Iron Pigs this season and get a shot at first with the big team if Howard can not come back from his foot surgery or Jim Thome breaks down and is limited to pinch hitting. I have no doubt he has a better bat and is would be a better first baseman that Laynce Nix has shown in the major league camp this spring.
Another guys I like to watch is catcher Bob Stumpo. He is an excellent defensive catcher with a strong arm. He was behind the plate in today’s AAA game. He made an excellent throw to nail a runner attempting to steal second. It will be interesting to see where he is assigned in the catcher ranks. With Erik Kratz the starter at AAA and Sebastian Valle the likely starter at AA, it looks like Cameron Rupp and Stumpo will fight it out for the Clearwater and Lakewood starting jobs. As I have stressed Logan Moore has to catch somewhere too. He might wind up in extended spring training and be the starting catcher for the short season Williamsport Crosscutters when their season starts in mid June.
Another guy who I have spoken about in previous posts is Cody Overbeck. He is having a strong spring at the bat and today was no exception. What caught my eye in today’s game was Cody was playing at third base when I arrived at the game. When I first saw Cody play he was a third baseman in Clearwater several seasons back. Last year he was moved to first base and even played a few games in left field. The way Cody is hitting the ball they need to find him a position some where and let him there. A right handed power bat is a need with the big team and Cody drives the ball to all field. Citizens Bank Park is ideally designed for his power bat.
So young talent in their mid twenties does exist in the minor league system. Let’s hope they get off to strong starts at AAA and AA and get their shots to help the big team down the road in the 2012 season.