The Phillies have a few players who are playing in the off season leagues. The players who interest me the most are third baseman Maikel Franco in the Dominican Winter League, pitcher Manuel Chavez in the Mexican Pacific League, catcher Cameron Rupp and reliever Ken Giles in the Arizona Fall League.
It appears that the third base job will be decided in spring training with Maikel Franco given a chance to challenge Cody Asche for the job. With Franco not having any AAA experience it is more likely he winds up as the opening day third baseman for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs than the Phils. While Asche was told to rest over the winter, Franco is the starting third baseman for the Gigantes in the DWL. After a slow start he had three singles in his last game.
The Phillies need a right handed power bat in the lineup and Franco would fill that role but probably not to start next season. Look for Asche to open at third but should Howard breaks down again do not rule out Franco at first. He played eight games at first for Reading late last season and committed only one error. The highlight for me last season was watching Franco hit several three run homers during the first half of the season when he was with the Clearwater Threshers. He can be a difference maker in any lineup.
The best young left handed starting pitching prospect in the Phillies minor league system might not be Jesse Biddle or Hoby Milner but Manuel Chavez who turns 20 years old next month. The 6’3″ 175 lbs. lefty went 9-0 in the Venezuelan Summer League. He is now pitching in relief for his hometown Mexicali team in the MPL. Last night he pitched a clean inning of relief and struck out two. This guys has amazing control as he walked only nine in 74.1 innings last summer while averaging nearly a strike out an inning. He will be one of the first players I want to see pitch when he reports to the minor league camp next spring.
It’s not easy to follow the players in the Arizona Fall League. The Phillies prospect there rarely play two games in a row and injuries have plague them. Kelly Dugan suffers from turf toe and had to be replaced by Cameron Perkins. Reports have also mention Aaron Altherr is out with an injury as well. Last night was a special with two Phillies position players in the lineup at the same time. Cameron Rupp went 2 for 5 with two RBIs. He is off to a strong start going 9 for 25 but has only appeared in six of the 12 games so far and several of them as a DH. Since catching so little in the AFL, it looks like Rupp will likely be back at AAA next season and the Phillies will sign yet another aging free agent to as they do so many times.
The mystery man of the Phillies minor league pitching is Ken Giles. On one night he looks like a major league closer with a triple digit fastball and a high 80’s slider. Then in a later gam he can’t get anyone out in a seventh inning role. That happened last week when he picked up a save while striking out the side. Then in a later appearance last week he did not retire a batter, walking the first three he faced and followed that up by giving up four straight hits. The jury is still out on Ken Giles but the talent is there.
Several other players to mention include Reading’s first baseman Jim Murphy who led the Eastern League in games played this past season but no rest for him as he continues to work on his craft in the VWL. Big Jim is off to a strong start for Aragua. The Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Severino Gonzalez, struggled in his only appearance for La Guaira in the VWL walking three in a two inning start. Phillies utility infielder Freddy Galvis played a couple of games for Zulia in the VWL but then was removed from a game last week after hitting a double in the third inning and has not played since then. No word if the injury prone Galvis has broken down yet again. Front Office favorite Cesar Hernandez is continuing to play center field in the VWL after committing two errors in center in the last game of the season for the Phils. He showed no power for the Phillies but did hit a three run homer last night for Margarita in the VWL.