The Phillies minor league schedule called for a camp day on Thursday. That means its the AAA team (Group 1) playing the AA team (Group 2) on one field and the A+ team (Group 3) taking on the A- team (Group 4) on another field while Group 5 plays whomever might be available for a game on another field at the Carpenter Complex.
This camp day was no exception. While the Phillies and the Yankees were squaring off in the afternoon Grapefruit League game at Brighthouse field over the left-field fence of Ashburn Field and right field fence of Schmidt Field, the minor league guys played two intrasquad games. Phillies pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo did some pitching in the AAA game to get some inning in but by and large it was another day of getting ready for the start of the minor league season in the first week of April.
It’s hard to believe that the minor league camp breaks in two weeks as the teams head north with the exception of the Clearwater Threshers and those players who will be assigned to the extended spring training games which start at the Complex in early April.
I have never seen more situational baseball practiced than this year in the minor league camp. Most of the innings start off with runners on base making the pitchers throw from the stretch. There was the likes of Cameron Perkins, Chris Serritella and Dylan Cozens sacrifice bunting instead of trying to drive the ball deep. Different types of bunts have been laid down in record numbers compared to bunting in camps that we have attended in prior years.
Over on Schmidt Field in the A ball intrasquad game one of the pitching coaches was over heard admitting that the batters are ahead of his pitchers at this stage of camp. Base hits were flying every where in the A game. Andrew Pullin, J.P. Crawford, Zach Green and Art Charles were squaring up the ball for base hits. Dylan Cozens slid into third for a triple after driving one to the base of the center fence just to the right of the batters eye. Not to be out done Larry Greene and Sam Hiciano tripled as well and Jan Hernandez who has been outstanding in camp so far doubled. Wilmer Oberto is back after leaving the game on Wednesday after fouling a ball off his foot and had a good situational at bat by hitting another sacrifice fly RBI.
Two of the young pitchers we followed in the Gulf Coast League last year threw multiple innings today. Rick Bielski reported that he threw two strong innings for Group 5 on Roberts Field. The best 6’8″ pitcher the Phillies have in the organization, Ranfi Casimiro, was stretched out to three innings in the A ball game. Ranfi is one of the hardest throwers in camp with his mid 90’s fastball and now only needs command to move up in the organization.
I always try to keep my eye on the unsung players in camp. These are the guys who just get the job done day after day and play baseball the right way. It seems every time I have checked in on the AAA/AA games in the camp there is Brock Stassi lining a base hit. Today was no exception as he square up a ball for a base hit to right. Stassi was a 33rd round draft pick of the Phillies in 2011 out of the University of Nevada-Reno. Here is a guy who really never has been given a regular position. He’s primarily a first baseman but has played a little left field and even pitched two shutout innings for the Clearwater Threshers last season.
Stassi had a break out season of sorts last year. He has turned himself into a professional left-handed hitter. He put up amazingly consistent numbers for the Threshers. He hit .295 before and after the Florida State League All-Star break; .316 against left-handed pitching, .288 against right-handers and .300 with runners in scoring position.
On Thursday we could easily see that the hitters are ahead of the pitchers in camp; the coached are stressing situational hitting to unprecedented levels; young pitchers are getting stretched out but now have to start to get batters out and even 33rd round draft picks are getting noticed in camp. Let’s see what Friday holds in games against the Blue Jays minor league teams.
Below tall Ranfi Casimiro is working on his release point to improve on his command and control. He has been one of the hardest throwers in camp.