The Memorial Day weekend is generally considered the one-third mark in the minor league season. For some players down here in Florida such as Clearwater Threshers catcher Logan Moore and outfielder Cameron Perkins it has been breakout seasons so far. For others in extended spring training it is the dream of just making the Gulf Coast Phillies and avoid being sent back to the Dominican or Venezuela..
Who would have thought when the 2013 season started that the left-handed hitting Moore would put his name in contention as a Phillies catcher of the future. To start this season there was a 40 man roster catcher Sebastian Valle and the key to the Hunter Pence trade and much hyped Tommy Joseph ahead of him behind the plate. Plus last year’s Threshers catcher Cameron Rupp was still rated ahead of him.
All of the sudden Moore has move up the catching prospect ladder by throwing out an amazing 43% of runners trying to steal in the first third of the season. Usually 30% is the goal of all catchers. Last year at Lakewood he threw out only 17% of base stealing attempts. Never much of a hitter but in his last ten games, he has an on OPS (base plus slugging percent) of .843, helped by four extra base hits and six walks which has resulted in eight runs scored and five RBIs during the time. Most impressive in his last two games he has homered off left-handed pitchers. He had only hit two homers, one each, in his two previous professional seasons. Moore is only in his third season in the Phillies system and will not turn 23 until August. He has made himself into a top catching prospect. Both he and Reading’s catcher Cameron Rupp, who has hit five homers in his last eleven games, have had strong starts to the 2013 season.
This week the MILB web site listed the top five batting averages in all 30 high A baseball teams. Cameron Perkins was listed as third on the list with a .351 average. I first saw Perkin hit in the Gulf Coast League last year after he was drafted out of Purdue but he did not leave a lasting impression. Then he went on to Williamsport in the NY-Penn League and hit over .3oo. In this spring minor league camp he was slated for Lakewood on all the roster sheets I saw but then an opening happened on the Clearwater roster with outfielders Miguel Alvarez and Kelly Dugan starting the season on the disabled list. As they say the rest is history. Perkins has led the Florida State League in average, total hits and doubles most of the season and is in a good spot to make the June 15th FSL All-Star game. Always the first of the minor league All Star games.
While several Phillies prospects had breakouts down here in Clearwater during the first third of the minor league season, other even younger players have spent much of the same time just trying to win spots in extended spring training games on the two half-season leagues: the GCL and the NY-Penn league which start a few weeks after the first year draft June 6th. This a particularly challenging time for the 40 or so international players in camp most of whom are from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela.
This morning Baseball Betsy and I dropped by the Carpenter Complex for our regular Saturday morning baseball fix. A lot of activity was taking place there. A Big East tournament college game was taking place over at Brighthouse and as we walked up to Ashburn Field a bus was unloading the Rutgers Scarlet Knights baseball team for a workout on Carlton Field. Eventually we heard the notorious sounds of pings off the bat from there. To me that was not a baseball sound!
Over on Ashburn and back on Roberts fields we heard the more welcomed sound of the crack of wooden bats. But it seemed to me it like the dog days of extended spring training was here and these guys could not wait for it to end. On Ashburn the Aussie pitcher sent down from Lakewood, Josh Warner, was being hit hard by the Blue Jays. Then a top Phillies Dominican catching prospect, Deivy Grullon, was dropping a pop foul down the first base line and later throwing ineffectively to second and third bases. Over on Roberts the action was not much better as Andrew Pullin was striking out and Dylan Cozens followed by hitting a bouncing ball out to second for the final out of the inning. They all looked like they were a bit bored with the never ending extended spring training action and ready to report to any where other than another extended spring training game at the Complex.
Back to Ashburn, I ran into my favorite Phillies Domincan pitcher Feliberto Sanchez. I introduced him to Baseball Betsy and asked him when he would be pitching next . With a sense of excitement he said “Monday against the Yankees”. I told him we would try to be there to see him pitch. It is the likes of the 19 year old Sanchez, who pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year as a starter with a 4-5 record in 14 starts with a 4.29 ERA, the extended spring game on Monday might mean something, like making it on the GCL roster or being sent home.
This Memorial Day means many thing to many different people. To us Americans it is remember those who fought for our freedom which we enjoy each and every day. To others, such as the many professional minor league baseball players, it is the start of the middle third of the season. If they have not had a break out 2013 season yet, still time exists to have one. The rest hope to still keep on playing somewhere.
To the many international players still in camp, with a new group of American prospects headed for camp just after the upcoming first year draft in ten days, it is a fight for a roster spot for the rest of the season. For the lean and lanky Feliberto Sanchez, Monday’s 10:00 a.m. outing, against the youngest of the two Yankees extended spring squads, just might be the most important outing yet in his young baseball career.