It’s time to do one of those year end wraps and put an end to the 2012 season. Oh, the Phillies still have farmhands playing. Just a couple of days ago in Australia the 2012 ace for the Willamsport Crosscutters, Josh Warner struck out four in two clean innings of relief for the Brisbane Bandits, went one for three and threw out one of three base stealers. It is soon time though to bring down the curtain on 2012 and look to the future. In one last look on the past season I have chosen my top ten moments in a mostly chronological order during the minor league season that either I saw in person, watched on MiLB-TV or followed on its box scores.
No. 1, Austin Wright. In early April the minor league season started and no pitcher came out of the box quicker than did Clearwater Thresher’s big lefty starter Austin Wright. Against Brevard County on April 22, he came on in the second inning for a rehabbing pitcher and struck out 10 in five innings including eight of the first ten batters he faced. For the month Wright went 3-0 and struck out 33 in 23 innings. Austin would cool down a little the rest of the season but still was voted the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year for his 11-5 record.
No. 2, Jesse Biddle. Nothing tests your dedication watching baseball as do Sunday one o’clock starts at Brighthouse in Clearwater. All the fans look for shelter from the Florida heat and humidity under the overhang from the second deck. On this day, the third of June, the weather conditions did not faze Jesse Biddle pitching for the Threshers. He only got stronger as the game against Palm Beach went on as he struck out 12 in seven innings to pick up the win. This game was the first of his three strong seven inning shutout outings we saw at Brighthouse in 2012. In August, Jesse would pitch a seven inning no hit, no run, 12 strike out game and then a two hit, no run, nine strike out game later in the month. When Jesse in on, no one is better. Though he will probably start the season at AA, I see no reason that Jesse can’t pitch at Citizen Bank Park at some point in the 2013 season.
No. 3, Derrick Mitchell. The Phillies have had few five tool outfielders. In the first half of the 2011 season with Reading one of them Derrick Mitchell had a break out. By the All Star break he was hitting .288 and well over .300 with runners in scoring position. The Reading fan program for June of 2011 declared him “Mr. Clutch”. He tailed off in the second half but re-tooled for the 2012 season at AAA. Thanks to MiLB-TV we were able to follow his progress with the IronPigs. After a slow start for the IronPigs he started to turn it on in a doubleheader against the Pawtucket Red Sox on June 2. In the two games he went four for seven with a grand slam and drove in eight runs. It looked like Derrick was set for a strong second half until the next night against the Red Sox. After throwing out two runners from right field, one at the plate and the other for a 9-3 double play, Derrick came to the plate in the IronPigs last at bat trailing 4-3. A veteran journey man reliever, the type who is common to AAA baseball, decided to come inside and fractured Mitchell’s right hand which effectively ended his season as he tried but was unable to regain his stroke after coming off the disabled list later in the the season .
No. 4, Adam Morgan. In 2012 the Phillies had perhaps the best three young left-handed starters in the minor leagues and we were lucky enough to follow them most of the season with the Clearwater Threshers. In a road game against the Jupiter back on July 29th, lefty Adam Morgan had a perfect game going trying to protect a 1-0 lead with one out in the bottom of the eight before he gave up a single to left. It’s unfortunate that the Thresher’s games are not broadcast on radio or on the net so we must follow the box scores on the MiLB web page on many of the road games. Still with every refresh Adam retired 22 straight batters before giving up two runs in the eight. He was soon called up Reading after that game and helped pitch Reading into the Eastern League playoffs.
No. 5, Cody Asche. He had a great second season with the Phillies organization after being drafted in the fourth round in 2011. We watched Cody use the whole field to hit .349 for the Threshers in the first half of the 2012 season. After playing third in the Florida State League All Star game Cody was called up to AA Reading and by the Eastern League All Star game break several weeks later he was hitting only .145. Baseball Betsy and I headed up to Reading to watch the All Star game and the first Reading game after the break. The set up both in Reading and with the Dallas Cowboys are the only two places I know of which requires the players to exit the clubhouse and pass by the fans before they can enter onto the field. We wished Cody well as he stopped to talk with us e before running out to the field to warm up. In the game he hit a long triple over the center fielders head. We knew he was back on track with that shot and wound up hitting .300 for the AA season and .429 in the EL playoffs. He then went on to hit .281 and lead the Arizona Fall League in doubles. His play in the AFL earned him a place on the all-prospects team for his third base play.
No. 6, Dylan Cozens. I never tire of watching the “kids” play as one of our minor league friends describe them. You see them in extended spring training, the Gulf Coast League and in the fall Florida Instructional League if you hang out much at the Carpenter Complex. But it is hard to describe right fielder Dylan Cozens as a kid even though he played in 2012 at 18 years of age after being drafted back in June in the second round, 77th overall out of high school. He stands 6’6″ and weighs .225 according to the 2012 Instructs’ stat sheet. Dylan had just come off of hitting a walk off home run to win the Arizona high school championship game just before the draft. Back on August 7th at Ashburn Field we watched him hit what got to have been the longest walk off single in GCL history to win a game for the Phillies in the bottom of the tenth inning with two out and two on. Cozens drove the ball off the very top of the right center field fence just to the right of the center field batter’s eye to win the game. He was always one of the first players I would look for in GCL and Instruct games. To me he will be the left handed hitting and throwing Phillies version of the Marlins Giancarlo Stanton.
No. 7, Jim Murphy. “Finishing strong” is a battle cry among the minor league players as the regular season heads to an end in August until Labor Day. Big Jim Murphy who was the Threshers first baseman did just that. Since the Dunedin and Clearwater ball parks are only about four miles apart the Blue Jays and the Threshers play at home on alternating days when they have back to back games. In the final four games of the season, all against the Blue Jays, Big Jim went 8 for 17 including five doubles and scored eight runs. In the second to last game of the season on August. 31st in Dunedin we watched him hit three doubles in a row to clinch the doubles crown in the FSL for the season. Murph wound up the season with 43 doubles and 17 home runs, the very same numbers that Darin Ruf put up for the Threshers in 2011. As we all know Ruf went to Reading in 2012 and broke Ryan Howard’s Reading home run record with 38 home runs during the regular season. It will be interesting to see what big Jim Murphy can do if he is assigned to Reading in 2013.
No. 8, Kenny Giles. In the same game that Jim Murphy hit his three doubles. Threshers Manager Chris Truby brought in a right handed reliever in a ninth inning save situation named Kenny Giles. He was called up weeks earlier from Lakewood and he too wanted to end the season on a strong note. He started to pump fast balls to the Blue jays hitters and they could not make much contact. At first I thought the old two digit radar speed gun number listed after each pitch on the scoreboard was not working. It kept saying 00, or 01. But it was just measuring Kenny Giles fastballs. He was the first pitcher that I saw pitch in Dunedin Stadium to break the 100 mph mark with his fast ball. Giles struck out the side to get the save and showed he had highest velocity of any pitcher that we saw in the Phillies organization in 2012.
No. 9, Ethan Martin. We like to attend as many Phillies minor league playoff games as we can each season. Two years ago we were at the game when the Lakewood BlueClaws clinched the South Atlantic League championship. In 2011 we went to the Reading and Lehigh Valley playoff games. Now that we are living in the Tampa Bay area full-time we were not able to attend the Reading playoff games this season. Fortunately the Trenton Thunder televised on MiLB-TV their two playoff home games against Reading. We were fortunate enough to watch Ethan Martin pitch a 7.1 inning, 11 strike out, no walk gem for Reading in game three. Though Reading lost that game 3-1 and would lose the series 3 games to 1 it was one of the most impressive playoff games I have ever seen pitched. According to the announcers Martin’s fastballs setting between 91-95 mph and he had a deadly curve ball. A former first round draft pick, Martin was obtained from the Dodgers in the Shane Victorino deal at the trade deadline back in July. He will be one of the pitchers to watch closely in spring training.
No 10, Roman Quinn. For three weeks from the end of September and to the beginning of October we got to see the young Phillies play in what is call the Florida Instructional League or Instructs for short. Basically the team is made up of players who were drafted in June and played in the GCL, with Williamsport, the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues. They play against nearby teams of Yankee, Blue Jay and Pirates Instructs. One player stood out early who was with the Williamsport Crosscutters, shortstop Roman Quinn. Roman had a strong season in the NY-Penn League. In one Instruct game he had three hits all by different means: one was a Baltimore chop hit so hard into the ground that it bounced right over the first baseman’s head, the second was a line drive through the hole between first and second and the other was a perfectly laid down bunt that Roman easily beat out. This guy will turn 20 in May and is the Phillies shortstop of the future and the way he can generate base hits I would not be surprised to see him win a NL batting championship one day.
Well, that is a brief wrap of top ten minor moments that I saw in the 2012 season. I could have gone on. Other players that should have made the list too included the likes of Tyler Knigge, Cameron Rupp, Keive Rojas, Larry Greene, Shane Watson among others. All did things that made me say “wow”. But since this is the last day of 2012 I better wrap this up now before the year is over and I have to say “Happy New Year” to everyone.