It seems like only yesterday that Baseball Betsy and I were at the Carpenter Complex to watch the start of the Phillies minor league camp. But it was early March and the 2012 baseball season was just underway. For most Phillies minor leaguers the 2012 Baseball season ended about Labor Day but for others like Tim Kennelly it is still going on in the summer heat of Australia. For Phillies prospects Darin Ruf and Cody Asche the baseball season has finally ended this weekend just before Thanksgiving.
On Saturday I was lying in bed at 6:30 in the morning watching on my laptop the Perth Heat battling the Melbourne Aces in an Australian Baseball League game. I was curious to see how Tim Kennelly was transitioning from a super sub utility player to a late inning setup man. Earlier in the week TK was in South Korea in a tournament playing for Perth and DH’d and pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief in the same game. Not easy to do. In Saturday’s game he waited in the Perth bullpen to relieve in the eight inning of a 9-1 Perth blowout out game at the time against the Melbourne Aces. For any reliever coming into a blowout game and throwing strikes is not always easy. Especially one who just started pitching this summer. Tim had trouble with his fastball location and walked three and gave up two infield hits along with three runs. He did get a strike out but only in his last out did the batter square up the ball on a hard hit line drive out to right.
Later on Saturday afternoon I was watching the Arizona Fall League Championship game on the MLB network. Seven Phillies minor leaguers were on the roster of the Peoria Javelinas against the Salt River team. Third baseman Cody Asche, left fielder Zach Collier and left-handed reliever Jay Johnson appeared in the game. During the game the play by play announcer said that Asche was selected as one of the top two third basemen to play in the AFL this season by the managers and coaches in the league. Cody finished the season leading the league in doubles with 11, hit . 281 and committed only one error in 24 regular season games. He played in both the Rising Stars All Star game and the Championship game which was won by Peoria 4-3. Cody went 0 for 2 with two walks in the game and made a nice charge play to get the runner at first in his only chance in the field.
Asche ended a remarkable second season on Saturday as a professional after the Phillies drafted him in the fourth round of the amateur draft in 2011 out of the University of Nebraska. The best I could figure adding up all of Cody’s offensive numbers this season from the Clearwater Threshers, the Florida State League All Star game, the Reading Phillies, the Eastern League Playoffs, the Arizona Fall League, the Rising Stars and AFL championship games, Cody did get exactly 200 hits in 629 at bats for a .318 avg. He had 46 doubles, 6 triples, 13 home runs and 86 RBIs in 161 games. Truly an amazing season for the 22 year old left-handed hitting third baseman.
Even a more remarkable season was had by 26 year old Darin Ruf. In his fourth season in the Phillies minor league system after being drafted out of Creighton University, Darin ended his 2012 season on Sunday with a home run playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. It was his eleventh homer to lead that league to go along with his 38 homers to lead the Eastern League during the regular season for the Reading Phillies. He hit one homer in the Eastern League playoffs and three with the big team in late September. No other professional baseball player will hit more than the 52 home runs Darin Ruf hit in the 2012 season. Darin put together some unbelievable offensive numbers with Reading, including the Eastern League All Star and Playoffs, the big Phillies and in Venezuela. He played in 188 games in 2012 and had 201 hits in 657 at bats for a .306 avg. To go along with his 52 total home runs, he hit 44 doubles, 2 triples and drove in 142 runs. What is even more impressive is how he hit left-handed pitching. In the Eastern League regular season he hit lefties for a .390 average. With big Phillies he hit .375 against lefties going 6 for 16 and in the VWL he went 7 for 15 for a .467 average against them. He will provide the right handed hitting power bat the Phillies are looking for if he can make the conversion from first base to left-field in 2013.
It is an interesting time for baseball at both the minor and major league levels. Free agents are looking for jobs everywhere. Reports are the Phillies are prioritizing free agent B.J. Upton for the center-field job. Along with Darin Ruf in left the Phillies would have a potent attack from the right side of the plate if they can sign Upton. At third-base, rumors are that the Phillies are looking for a veteran free agent like a Kevin Youkilis or Jeff Keppinger to play there in addition to the signing of Kevin Frandsen and using Freddy Galvis at third from time to time. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has told the media that he figures Cody Asche is a year to a year to a year and half away from the majors. But with injury prone over thirty year old veterans players at third, I would not be surprised to see Cody Asche sometime during the 2013 season for the Phils. If Tim Kennelly can tame that 96 mph fastball he would make a strong arm out of the pen. With the Rule Five draft coming up December 6th to close out the Winter Baseball Meetings in Nashville Tennessee, another major league team might draft Kennelly if the Phillies do not add him to the 40 man roster. So let the Hot Stove League heat up over the coming months until pitchers and catcher report in mid February to start the 2013 season.