As I sit here on our front porch with southern exposure in 75 degree temperature with blue skies overhead in Dunedin Florida blogging to start off February, I am starting to think about the upcoming Phillies minor and major league camps. Our good buddy Feliberto Sanchez from last year’s GCL Phillies recently updated Baseball Betsy via the internet from the Dominican that he will be reporting on February 27th with the minor league pitchers and catchers. We are especially looking forward to the Phillies inter-squad game the next day at Brighthouse when all the players invited to major camp will play against each other.
Two names who have been stables at Phillies spring training will not be participating in the managing and coaching this time for the first time since we have been coming to spring training. As we all know Charlie Manuel lost his job as manager to Ryan Sandberg last season.. He will eventually join the Phillies in an advisory capacity at some point to work with the minor league hitting prospects but not at spring training.
Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt has alway been at spring training for a week or two each season working with the players at all levels. For medical reasons he announced several weeks ago he will not be able to attend this year’s camp in a coaching capacity.
Both of them not coaching at spring training will be Phillies losses. Last season we watched a lot of power bats in the Phillies minor league system from spring training, to extended spring, then with the Threshers, the GCL and into Fall Instructs. It was obvious the Phillies minor league system is well stock with power bats. Under Manuel the likes of Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown developed to two feared power bats at the major league level and the talent level is there at the minor league level for more power bats to make it to the majors.
The Phillies minor league system is loaded with power bats that will eventually benefit from Manuel’s coaching. It’s just too bad it won’t be in the minor league camp. Charlie said he does not want to a distraction. We watched the likes of Maikel Franco and Kelly Dugan with the Threshers emerged as legitimate major league home run prospects the first half of last season before they got the call to Reading. They could have benefitted from Manuel’s coaching when they get sent down to the minor league camp.
One of the highlights of last season’s minor league camp was watching Art Charles and Dylan Cozens bat back to back and power the ball out of the fields at the Carpenter Complex. Then over the summer the only team to almost make the playoffs, the GCL Phillies was powered by long balls we saw leave the park by the likes of Wilmer Oberto, Jose Pujols, Cord Sandberg and Trey Williams among others.
We saw the Phillies catcher of the future Deivi Grullon hit his first and only home run of the season at Roberts Field in the game Roy Halladay pitched for the GCL team. But rest assured it won’t be his last.
In Fall Instructs the balls again left the park off the bats of Charles, Cozens and we saw some long drives by the leader in home runs in the NY-Penn League for Williamsport, Zach Green. In fact three of the six domestic Phillies farm teams, the GCL Phillies, Williamsport and the Reading Phillies led their respective leagues in team home runs in the 2013 season.
In particular the absence of Mike Schmidt will not be beneficial to third base prospect and power hitter Zach Green. Green turns only 20 on March 7th and would benefit greatly from a guy like Schmitty coaching him up in camp. Zach is an inch taller and a few pounds heavier than Michael Jack and showed major league power potential last season for Williamsport where he hit 13 homer runs in the half season league. This was especially impressive in that he hit 9 of them at the Crosscutter’s home pitcher’s park, Bowman Field.
Schmidt was one of the greatest third baseman of all time but he had a rough start in his minor league career, hitting only .211 with eight home runs in 74 games after he was drafted as a second round pick out of college at baseball age 21 playing for Reading back in 1971. In the same number of games last year at Williamsport, Zach Green hit his 13 homer runs and batted .252. It was at a much lower level but Green is younger than Schmidt was when he broke in. Mike was a shortstop back then with 23 errors in his debut season but eventually wound up as one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball. Green committed 17 errors at third last year but like Schmidt will get better defensively.
So as we start February, the 2014 baseball season is getting off to a staggered start. Reports of player sighting in the Clearwater area surface daily from our friends around town and the activity at the Complex is picking up. With all catchers and pitchers in the major league camp required to report by February 13th, we know that spring training will then begin in earnest. Well, I must go inside now as the temperature here in the early afternoon is approaching 80 degrees on the first day of the new month and must get something cold to drink.