I always look forward to watching games in the old Dunedin Stadium or whatever they are calling that ballpark today. The fans in the stands sit so close to the action that nets are stretched across the dugout roofs for protection from foul balls. Just last season I was not sitting low enough behind the net and my right ear was buzzed by a foul ball off the bat of a right-handed batter while I was sitting behind the third base dugout. Go figure that one out.
So what will I be looking for other than foul balls headed by way in tonight’s Florida State League lid lifter between the Threshers and the Blue Jays? It will be to see if any Threshers players have the potential to get moved up by the All-Star break? In the two seasons we have been attending Threshers games on a regular basis, each year at the FSL All-Star break roster changes have taken place. The All-Star game is scheduled for June 14th, only about ten weeks away.
In 2012 third baseman Cody Asche got the call to Reading after playing in the FSL All-Star game. Cody had a hot first half hitting .349. He hit to all fields that year but had only two home runs. But one was a majestic shot that hit off the Clarion Inn billboard sign attached half way up the light tower pole and bounced back on to the field in right at Brighthouse. Right then and there we knew Cody had home run pop. He would go on to hit ten more long balls at AA in the more hitter friendly parks in the Eastern League the second half of the 2012 season.
Last season Maikel Franco and Kelly Dugan got the call to Reading at the All-Star break. Franco hit .299 and blasted 16 home runs in the FSL including one that hit off the center field side of the Tike Bar roof in left. He would go on to hit 15 more in Reading. Dugan missed the first month last season with a back injury but managed to hit ten homers with the Threshers before getting the post All-Star call-up to Reading. Kelly used the “Oakley” billboard sign behind the berm in right as his home run bulls-eye. I seem to recall him hitting the ball out there at least four times while with the Threshers. He would go on to hit ten more homers for Reading.
The three players who are most likely to be moved at the All-Star break are third baseman Harold Martinez, first baseman Art Charles and catcher Logan Moore. This is Martinez’s second season in Clearwater taking over at third after Franco got the call-up last season. Harold has had a big spring camp and drove a homer to right field in Monday night inter-squad game. He also committed a throwing error in the game. He is not a plus defender at third but should put up good early offensive numbers.
My favorite to have a break out season is Threshers first baseman Art Charles. The ball carries reasonably well to right at Brighthouse and if he can exceed Dugan’s long ball numbers from last season with the Threshers, he deserves a shot at the home run haven in right at the Reading Stadium the second half of this season.
Logan Moore put on a show with his arm in Tuesday’s inter-squad game by throwing out runners trying to steal second. The ball seems to be jumping off his bat better than last season. Left-handed hitting catchers are a premium in baseball at any level. He been serving a Cole Hamels rehab catcher and should Reading need a catcher during the season LoMo should get the first call-up.
On the pitching side the talent is somewhat thin. Everyone seemed to get a kick out the fact that the Threshers play by play announcer at Wednesday’s “Meet the Threshers” event introduced only one player as having “Top 30” status in the Phillies system in reliever Dan Childs. Fellow reliever Colton Murray would be another pitching candidate for a Reading post All-Star call up. Don’t know where the rest of the players on the Threshers roster other than Child are ranked by the experts but it must not be pretty.
Injuries and call-ups at MLB, AAA and AA level could force call-ups to fill the gaps earlier from the Threshers but the Phillies usually bring in AAAA players from independent ball as fillers. However the the first half play of position players such as Martinez, Charles and Moore and pitchers Child and Murray could determine if they can make the post FSL All-Star game call-ups to Reading just as Asche did in 2012 and Franco and Dugan did last season.