You may think the excellent pitching of Aaron Nola for the Threshers was the really big story in the Phillies minor league system last night. But to me it was about Maikel Franco not playing for the second straight game for the IronPigs and Dylan Cozens hitting a game winning home run and stealing another base for the BlueClaws.
Last night was the second straight game the top rated prospect in the Phillies system did not play. Maikel Franco has hit only .170 over his last 39 games. Maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe it is that he has been selected by he Phillies to be one of the teams two representatives at the upcoming Future Game before the All-Star game and he just needs some days off.
The drop-off of Franco’s production is the biggest story of the 2014 Phillies minor league season. Last year Franco hit .339 with 15 home runs and a .929 OPS in the second half of Reading’s season. This season at the first half mark after moving up to Lehigh Valley he is hitting just .209 with five homers and an OPS of only .585.
Everyone had him battling Cody Asche for the Phillies third base job this season. He was even given playing time at first base just in case Ryan Howard got injured. Even Ryne Sandberg said even recently that Franco was a better fielder than Asche. But Franco’s challenge to Ashe has been only been in Sandberg’s mind.
The second biggest story yesterday was about Lakewood’s right fielder Dylan Cozens. He hit what turned out to be a winning home run in the 6th inning of Lakewood’s 2-1 win last night. It was his tenth of the season tying Pete Lavin and Jim Murphy for the lead in the Phillies minor league system.
Like Franco, Cozens has struggled moving up from Williamsport last season to Lakewood this season. He hit .265 with an .812 OPS and 9 homers in the half-season New York- Penn league. Now he is on pace to hit close to 20 homers but he is batting only .226 with a .684 OPS.
With two month remaining in the minor league season and as desperate as the Phillies are for big bats in the lineup, the two young big power bats from the 2013 minor league season need to come up big for the rest of this season if they hope to move up in the system in 2015. Clearly, the Phillies will need power bats in the next few years if not sooner.
The good news yesterday was the pitching of first-round draft pick Aaron Nola. He pitched four inning; threw 48 pitches; gave up only one hit; walked no one and struck out three. Unlike his first appearance in Lakeland he had excellent control and command in the strike zone.
His three strikes outs of Blue Jays batters showed in first strike out how he used his breaking pitch to get a swing and miss and in his second and third strike outs it was pitch location on the corners to get a swinging and a called strike out. SEE HERE, SEE HERE, SEE HERE.
The Phillies want to limit Nola’s innings pitched for the rest of the season up to five innings or 50 pitches each outing. I would expect him to move up to Reading or Lehigh Valley soon based on his pitching performance last night for the Threshers.