When you follow minor league baseball of losing teams, you can not worry about winning baseball. You do need a player who is worth the price of admission to motivate you to actually go watch to the games in person. That in a nutshell is the perspective you must approach the Phillies minor league games. All the teams have had a record at or below.500 all season. Even the two short season teams are fighting to get above .500 in the early going.
Last two season Ken Giles was one of the players who we wanted to see pitch. We cheered him on when the pitch speed reading read “00” then after giving his encouragement from the stands Ken got the old gun on the scoreboard in Dunedin up to “01” and “02”. You see it did not even have triple digits.
This season Pete Lavin has been one of players who forced us to go to Threshers games even though they had the worst record in baseball. Pete is now on fire after called up to Reading. In his last ten games he is hitting .368 with three homers and an 1.1o50 OPS.
After watching the poor outfield play in the Phillies game last night, Pete should be in the Phillies outfield right now to stabilize it defensively. We watched him get most of his 14 assists earlier from centerfield when he was here in Clearwater. He has a knack for throwing strikes to the bases and the plate. He sure is better than either Domonic Brown or Ben Revere.
One of the players who has been motivating me to go to the Gulf Coast League games right now, other than curiosity to see the recently draft players in action, is first baseman Trey Williams. On Monday, Trey hit his first home run of the season in the 8-7 loss against the GCL Yankees. In his last three GCL games Trey is 5 for 12 with a double and homer with three runs scored and three run driven in. In Saturday’s game he made two nice picks of short hop throws to first.
Last season Williams started off at third and was in and out of the lineup. He slowly made a transition to first as the season moved on. At one point in extended spring games he did not bat playing only in the field at first. This has helped his first base defense noticeably improve from last season.
It has been his bat that has drawn my attention. Trey seems to have opened up his stance and strides into the pitch and the ball has been jumping off his bat. Last season he hit only .207 but he caught our attention when we went to see the GCL team play the Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Field 3 . He sent a long ball far over the left field fence in the game. He has the pop. It was just a matter of getting him to develop it.
We had expected Williams to be the starting first baseman in Williamsport but the Phillies made college corner infielder/outfielder Rhys Hoskens its fifth round draft pick and stuck him at first instead. Hoskins has struggled mightily with the bat, hitting only .146 ( 6 for 41) with no homers after his first 11 games as the Crosscutters clean-up hitter. Hoskins is almost exactly one year older than the 20 year-old Williams.
It looks like the Phillies first baseman of the future will be a battle between Williams and Hoskens. Apparently the strong play of Williams has challenged 16 year-old Luis Encarnacion for the time being. They gave Encarnacion a million dollars to sign last year as an international free agent out of the Dominican.
In Tuesday’s game Encarnacion appeared in left field, picked up an outfield assist but no putouts and hit a home run. In yesterday’s GCL game the Phillies minor league department benched Trey in order to play Encarnacion at first base. Luis went 0 for 3 and is 1 for 16 so far in the GCL.
The Phillies seem to have given up Encarnacion playing at third and had him at first in most extended spring games I saw. I can’t recall watching him play any left field in the minor league spring camp or extended spring games.
Remember my motto when watching the Phillies minor league games, “It is not whether the teams wins or loses but do they have any players who are big league prospects”. Trey Williams is one of those players, like Ken Giles last year and Pete Lavin earlier in the season, that keeps us going back to see Phillies minor league baseball.