The Phillies minor league Work Groups had a camp day on Thursday but that fact took nothing away from watching some interesting baseball on a breezy cool sunny afternoon at the Carpenter Complex. Basically it was for AA Group 2 Kyle Kendrick starting on the mound vs. the AAA Group 1 and starter Tyler Cloyd facing off on Ashburn Field and the two A ball level working groups facing each other on Schmidt Field with Juan Sosa starting against tall lefty Franklin Vargas. But without a doubt it was the three run homers that made the scrimmages interesting.
It’s challenging trying to follow two games at one time but when they are played on adjacent fields as they were on Thursday it is doable. One of the guys I wanted to watch was big lefthanded hitting first baseman Arthur Charles acquired from Toronto in the Michael Schwimer trade. I was able catch him in a couple of at bats in the A game and in his first at bat he blasted a three run homer to right out toward Brighthouse where the Phillies were playing the Pirates in a major league spring game. The second time I saw him at bat he hit a line drive to right that deflected off the glove of the leaping right fielder and big Arthur went sliding into third with a triple. Not bad work for two at bats for the big power hitter. Shortly after Charles’ three run homer I turned my attention over to the AAA/AA game. Not to be out done Sebastian Valle drop the barrel of the bat on what appeared to be a down and in sinker from Tyler Cloyd and popped another three run homer out to left on Ashburn Field. In a matter of minutes, two, three run homers were hit. That’s my kind of baseball.
From one extreme, the long ball, to the other, pitchers working on sacrifice bunts took place as well. Starting pitchers must learn to get the bunt down. Every time either of the teams had a runner on first base, future AAA/AA starting pitchers were sent up to sac. bunt. On Ashburn were Austin Wright and Adam Morgan and on Schmidt were Jesse Biddle and David Buchanan. Only at the AAA and AA levels do pitchers bat in the minor leagues and then only against National League teams. So for Wright and Biddle it was their first chances to sacrifice bunt in game situations. The best picture of the day was when Baseball Betsy was able to captured on her new camera a sigh of relief on Jesse Biddle’s face when he put down his first of several successful sac. bunts.
Another guy who had a good day at the bat was AAA center fielder Derrick Mitchell. He drove the ball hard to the right side three times for base hits. But his real duel was against AA third baseman Maikel Franco who will probably wind up as the Clearwater Threshers third baseman this season. In Derrick’s first hit he drove the ball down the third base line and Franco was only able to knock the ball down to deny him extra bases. In Mitchell’s final at bat he again drove the ball down the third base line and this time Franco moved to his right and gloved the ball but was unable to get off an accurate throw from well behind the bag to get the fleet Mitchell at first.
Another interesting story line is the right handed power bat of Jim Murphy. He led the Florida State League in doubles last season and put up very similar double and home run numbers to what Darin Ruf put up the year before for the Threshers. We all know Ruf went to Reading and broke Ryan Howard’s home run record for a season in Reading last year. In Thursday’s game big Jim was the DH for the AAA team and hit a home run and later looped a single to right scoring two more runs for Group 1.
Several of other players caught my attention during the two games. Center fielder Kyrell Hudson hit the ball hard for the AA team for a couple of extra base hits. Maybe this will be the year he finally puts it all together at the plate after several less than impressive seasons hitting in the low minors. Deivy Gruillon hit a hard hit line drive double to right in the A ball game. The Phillies gave the now 17 year old Dominican catcher $575,000 to sign last July when he was the No. 15 rated International prospect by Baseball America. My favorite this time long shot international prospect is 21 year old Robinson Torres who played the last three seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He just looks like a third baseman. In an earlier game he showed a strong if inaccurate arm and in the A ball game drove a base hit up the middle.
Tomorrow is another day and the Phillies minor leaguers will be playing the Blue Jays farmhands with the AAA/AA groups going up the road four miles to the Englebert Complex and the A ball guys playing the Jays at the Carpenter Complex. Still the best way to get a real feel for the Phillies minor league organization is watching the intrasquad games such as the two games played on Thursday. These games give you the best way to get a quick snapshot of many of the prospects in the farm system in a three hour period and you might see a major leaguer or two as well.