According to local weather experts this spring training was the warmest temperature wise since 1950. That was a good year for many reasons but especially for the Phillies. They went on that year to win only their second National League championship ever up until that time though they lost four straight to the Yankees in the World Series. The Whiz Kids were a bunch of young guys led by the likes of Roberts, Simmons, Konstanty on the mound and Ashburn, Jones, Sisler, Ennis, Hamner and Seminick in the field. On the other hande the 2012 Phillies will be a bunch of veterans who are built to win now. It looks like at least one rookie, Freddy Galvis, will make the team out of spring training and that is out of necessity due to the knee problems of Chase Utley. We have spend a majority of our time during spring training at the minor league complex looking at younger talent that may some day play in Philadelphia to replace the aging core veterans that now make up one of the oldest major league rosters in baseball . Our focus has been on the AAA and AA level players in the Phillies organization. This will be the first year in my memory that each of the AAA and AA teams will be able to dress 25 rather than 24 players each game. This will usually means 12 pitchers and 13 position players will be available each game.
The AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs should have an interesting team for second year manager Ryne Sandberg to work with.. The starting pitching staff with the exception of Austin Hyatt who moves up from Reading will be AAA veterans led by former major leaguer Dave Bush and veteran Nate Bump both of whom pitched for the Pigs in the International League Playoffs last year. The bullpen will have the young prospects led by Phillippe Aumont, Michael Schwimer, Brian Rosenberg and eventually Justin DeFratus who is expected to start the season on the disabled list. Highly regarded lefties Jake Diekman up from Reading and Joe Savery who finished the regular season with the Phillies are expected to be the top lefthanders in the pen. Catching will be a strong point with last year’s International league All Star Erik Kratz and Readings No. 1 catcher Tuffy Gosewisch flashing the signs. In the outfield Domonic Brown will be learning the position in left, Rich Thompson returns in center and it appears free agent Lou Montanez will be in right. Right now it is appears likely that Derrick Mitchell, Reading’s 2011 starting center fielder, who has played all three outfield positions in the past will be in the outfield mix as well. Derrick was the top player in the Phillies minor league organization last year when combining homers, RBIs and stolen bases. The infield remains in a state of flux with Cody Overbeck splitting time between first and third in camp. Kevin Fransden will be at short and Steve Susdorf will be moving between first base and the outfield. A veteran journeyman and former Phillie Joe Thurston was just signed to play second. But I expect Michael Martinez to take over at second or short when he returns from the disabled list. If Hector Luna does not stick with the big team he will likely see time at the corner infield positions. With Matt Rizzotti traded away to the Twins it looks like Overbeck or Susdorf, both of whom hit well this spring or one of the experienced veterans will fill the DH spot from game to game in the lineup.
AA Reading will be the most interesting team with more young prospects. The starting pitching appears to be led by the No. 1 prospect in the organization Trevor May and returning starter Tyler Cloyd along with Julio Rodriguez, Jonathan Pettibon and David Buchanan all up from the Clearwater Threshers. The bullpen might be a weak spot but last year’s Reading starter Juan Ramirez has been moved to the pen to help out. Top rated catcher Sebastian Valle is expected to handle the pitching staff. Though Valle was was injury prone last year in Clearwater, he was a Florida State League All Star and handled four of the pitchers there who will be in the R-Phils starting rotation. Of the position players it looks like the outfield will be a strong point with Leandro Castro, Tyson Gillies and Jiwan James having played most of the innings in the spring camp. It appears like Mike Spidale will be back back for yet another season to help in the outfield. In the infield it looks like Tim Kennelly who was the backup catcher in Reading last year will see some action at third, Troy Hanzawa who joined Reading late last season returns at short and Darin Ruf and Bandon Tripp will split time at first and filling the DH role. Just last week they started spending time converting Tripp from his normal outfield position where he played last year in Clearwater to first base. Miguel Abreu will also see time in the infield for new manager Dusty Wathan
Since we will be spending significant time in the Clearwater area in the future we will report on them and the players assigned to extended spring training more extensively in future commentaries. Pitchers to watch for the Threshers will be starting pitchers like former No. 1 Phillies draft pick Jesse Biddle and returning starter and once highly rated Brody Colvin. Other pitchers to watch are Lisalverto Bonilla, Percival Garner and Austin Wright. Position players to watch there will be catcher Cameron Rupp, corner infielder Cody Asche, shortstop Edgar Duran, and outfielders Anthony Hewitt and Zach Colliers. At the low A level key position prospects who will be in Lakewood include outfielders Aaron Altherr, Gauntlett Eldemire and Kyrell Hudson. I would project that Bob Stumpo will be the Lakewood catcher though he has been catching with the AAA team in camp. Catcher Logan Moore has caught my attention in the minor league camp also. Perhaps the most important prospect I will be following at Lakewood is third baseman Maikel Franco because of the need at third in the future at the major league level. Pitching seems to be the weak spot of the BlueClaws but time will tell.
Saturday wraps up the minor league spring training games and on Sunday the IronPigs and R-Phillies head out on a jet plane for home to Allentown and Reading. The regular season for all the four minor league teams starts on Thursday. The Threshers move into Brighthouse over the weekend to get ready open the season a few miles up the road in Dunedin and Lakewood heads to Greensboro North Carolina on Wednesday to get ready to start the season there. Its been a fun but hot spring training this year. Everyone seems ready to go. So let’s get this 2012 baseball season started.