Most of the minor league teams will play around 140 games this season. All the teams are now at the first quarter mark of the season. They have played around 35 games each. At this stage of the season most hitters have had a few more than 100 at bats, the starting pitchers have appeared in 7 games and the relievers have worked in 13-14 games. It is not easy to project the current pace for the rest of the season because baseball is a game of call ups and sent downs, hot streaks and slumps, injuries and benchings. So it is risky business to project a complete season but let’s find out who got off to a strong start after the first quarter of the Phillies minor league season.
Reading’s first baseman Darin Ruf has had the best start of all players in the Phillies minor league system and maybe minor league baseball. He leads the Eastern League in hitting with a .383 batting average, RBIs with 27, hits 49 and OPS 1.032. Only in homers is he lacking triple crown status right now. He has hit six long balls, trailing the league leader who has 8 homers.
On Saturday night we watched Clearwater’s first baseman Jim Murphy line a two out bases loaded clearing triple down the right field line to provide the winning margin in the win over Dunedin in the battle for first place of the first half in the Florida State League’s Northern Division. Big Jim is second in RBIs in the league with 29 and is on a pace to drive in over 100 runs this season. He is hitting .371 with runners in scoring position.
Two position players have had break out seasons in the first quarter: third baseman, Cody Asche with Clearwater and shortstop Troy Hansawa with Reading. Asche hit only.192 at Williamsport last year. We saw Cody go three for five Saturday night also flashed speed running the bases. In one at bat he just missed a home run, lining a double off a right field billboard in Dunedin. He is now second in batting average in the FSL with a .364 average. Hansawa hit only .213 combined between Clearwater and Reading last year but is currently ninth in hitting in the Eastern League with a .324 average. He is hitting an incredible .469 with runners in scoring position.
We have talked a lot about the starting pitching in previous blogs. After seven starts Tyler Cloyd is 6-0 between Reading and Lehigh Valley with a 1.40 ERA. Trevor May is 5-2 at Reading with 2.84 ERA and leads the league in strike outs. The three big lefties anchor the Clearwater staff . They include Adam Wright at 5-0 is tied for the best record in the league, Adam Morgan is leading the FSL in strike outs and Jesse Biddle is averaging better than a strike out an inning and in his last three full starts has an ERA of just under 1.50.
Of the relief pitchers, finally, Jake Diekman got the call to the big leagues after going 1-0 and five for five in saves with Lehigh Valley. Also we saw two relievers get promoted from Clearwater to Reading in Justin Whatcott and Lisalverto Bonilla. Reading’s Justin Friend is second in the Eastern league in saves with seven. Clearwater’s Hector Neris turned in a most impressive two inning save performance Saturday night in Dunedin throwing a 93 mph fastball and a hard slider at the knees to pitch two clean innings.
A lot of baseball remains to be played. Still after the first 35 games a clear picture emerges as to the players to watch as we start the second quarter of the minor league season. It has been a productive first quarter for the Phillies minor league system. One young lefty reliever has just made the Show. One pitcher is 6-0 while another is 5-0. Of the position players a triple crown candidate has emerged along with a potential 100 RBI guy. Two pitchers are leading their respective leagues in strike outs. Do not forget two players out of nowhere who are having breakout seasons. Now, if one of the position players can just start hitting the long ball out of the park more often, the Phillies would be set with prospects to watch in just about all categories.