The six week Arizona Fall League for the top prospects in baseball ended last week. Each major league team sent seven of their best minor leaguer prospects to play for about six weeks after the regular major league season ended.
Each Phillies position player received about 60 plate appearances and the four relief pitchers threw 11 to 14 innings out of the pen in AFL action. Only hard throwing Ken Giles made the Stars game. The team, the Peoria Javelinas, to which the Phillies prospects were assigned had the second worst record in the six team league and the worst team batting average and earned run average in the league.
But, as we always say it’s about player development that is important, not winning and losing. Though playing for a winning team probably would not hurt player development.
Four of the Phillies players in the AFL stood out in one way or another when compared to the other prospects. Catcher Cameron Rupp, outfielders Cameron Perkins and Aaron Altherr and pitcher Ken Giles showed promise for big seasons in 2014.
Rupp hit well in the chances he had as he had to share time with two other catchers. He was the only catcher of the 18 in the league to hit for what I call a “season cycle”. He hit four doubles, a triple and a homer. He was the only catcher there to hit at least one of every type of extra base hit. Rupp showed in Arizona why he is one of the best young catchers in minor league baseball. With the signing of Carlos Ruiz it looks like, barring injury or a trade, he is ticketed to catch for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs again to start next season.
The Phillies have several good outfield prospects and Cameron Perkins and Aaron Altherr are two of them. A turf toe injury sidelined Kelly Dugan from AFL action and Perkins took his place. Though Perkins only hit .216 he did lead the league in four, hit by pitches and threw two runners out from left field in one game at home plate. Perkins broke his wrist on a HBP just prior to the Florida State League All Star game back in June.
We know based on his first half of last season with the Clearwater Threshers Perkins can hit and has a major league arm. He did go 5 for 16 against left-handed pitching for a .313 average in the AFL. He looks like he will be a AA Reading corner outfielder next season.
Aaron Altherr looks ready to join Perkins in the Reading outfield next season, likely in centerfield. Aaron was slowed by a wrist injury but found his stroke in the last five AFL games going 6 for 19 and struck out only once during that time. Last season with Clearwater he averaged more than a strike out an innings. As we detailed in an earlier post he is a rare five tool outfielder in the Phillies system who can hit, hit with power, run, throw and field. Aaron is now the only proven five tool outfielder in the Phillies system, since Derrick Mitchell is now an unsigned free agent.
Without a doubt Ken Giles was the most impressive Phillies prospect in the AFL. What stood out was he had the highest strike outs per nine innings of any pitcher in the AFL. Including his two strikeouts in his one inning in the Stars game, Ken struck out 18 in 11.1 innings. This was almost at a 15 strikeouts per nine innings pace. Based on how slowly the Phillies advance players up the minor league chain, he will likely pitch out of the AA Reading bullpen in 2014.
If he can avoid the oblique back injury which stymied him in the 2013 season at Clearwater, Ken will be the most exciting pitcher in the Phillies system sporting his 100 mph fastball and lock down slider in close and late games in 2014. All he needs to do is throw strikes and avoid walks which he showed he could he do in eight of his eleven appearances where he walked one or no batters. Also he was three for three in save opportunities.
So the 2013 season here is finally over. Games will go on with a few Phillies prospects in Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. But until pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater and other spring training sites in mid February, the only baseball action around here will be in the Hot Stove League. The finalization of the 40 man roster to protect players from the Rule Five draft and the league meetings next month are the key events coming up on the baseball calendar.