The most difficult team to follow in the Phillies system are the Clearwater Threshers. Heck even the Threshers opening day roster appeared on the minor league internet web site just the night before the first game. This was well after the other teams in the organization released their rosters. The Threshers uniforms have no names on them. The program they handed out at Friday night’s home opener seems already out dated. The team gets no newspaper coverage. The only play by play on internet radio they get is if the other team provides it. The team’s website seems almost like an after thought. Though if it were not for the internet web sites they would be known only to the fans who go to the game.
We have managed to visit Clearwater the last two years to see the Threshers play. This year we expect to see even more games since we have relocated to the Tampa Bay area. Last night I went to the season’s home opener at Bright House against the Dunedin Blue Jays. We saw the first game of the season on Thursday night a few miles up the road in Dunedin. Even after two games you get a feel for this team. It looks like a long season for the Threshers. They were shut out last night and scored only three runs in the first game of the season.
Still several players have stood out. I have mentioned in previous posts Pete Lavin in center has looked good. Edgar Duran can play shortstop well. Jim Murphy will give them some power at first. Still it going to be a long season unless they can get some pitching. Because of all the injuries at the major league level, the Thresher will be the destination of future rehabbing players like Ryan Howard, Michael Martinez and Chase Utley. As we mentioned in a previous post pitcher Jose Contreras is already in town trying to get back in shape to get back on the active major league roster. I do not like to watch rehab baseball.
It is important to go to the games and actually see these guys play. Do they have any major league prospects even if they struggle to win games this season. The answer is yes. In just the two game I have attended I was intrigued by three players that just reading the box scores might not give justice to them. They were pitcher Adam Morgan, third baseman Cody Asche and catcher Cameron Rupp.
On opening night lefty Adam Morgan had a rough outing. He was the scheduled starter but had to wait until the second inning because Contreras started in the first inning. Morgan is a 22 year old, third round draft pick from last season who pitch in college for Alabama Tuscaloosa. He pitched well at Willliamsport after being drafted with a low 2.01 earn run average. He is skipping over Lakewood, the next step in the minor league ladder, to open the season with the Thresher. Though he gave up three runs and seven hits in 4.2 innings he showed he is a prospect to watch. His fastball was sitting between 92-94 mph on the scoreboard all night and he became more effective when he mixed in his change up and curve in the later innings. He did strike out six but his fast ball was straight and was hit hard when he relied on it. If he can get some movement on that fast ball he will be pitching in the major leagues someday.
With Placido Polanco nearing the end of his career, the hunt is on for the Phillies major league third baseman of the future. The Phillies have jumped left handed hitting, 22 year old third baseman Cody Asche from Williamsport to Clearwater again bypassing Lakewood. Asche was a fourth round pick last year after playing college ball at Nebraska. . He hit only .192 last year in the NewYork/Penn league. So far in two games he is two for six with a double. However last night he could have very easily had a couple of more hits. He hit a blast that was caught just in front of the .401 sign in dead center field and lined a ball that the second baseman just barely grabbed going hard to his left to deny Asche.
One of the players I have been most impressed with this spring has been 23 year old catcher catcher Cameron Rupp. He was a third round draft pick out of the University of Texas in 2010. He hit .272 last season with Lakewood. Last night he had two line drive singles and could have had a third but the shortstop went deep into the hole to get to the hard hit ball to just get Rupp at first to deny him his third hit of the game. On Thursday night Rupp showed a power arm throwing out a runner at second attempting to steal. I look for a big season from Rupp.
Even though the Thresher’s have been out scored 11-3 in the first two game of the season they do have some major league prospects who will play at the next level in the farm system either later in this season or next year. By attending the games the talents of Adam Morgan, Cody Asche and Cameron Rupp become apparent even though they may not show up in the box score. We might never know about them if we waited for newspaper or radio coverage of Threshers baseball which is a well kept secret in the Tampa Bay area.