It’s been a long baseball season for those of us who follow the Phillies from our base in the Clearwater area. Baseball Betsy and I were there for pitchers and catchers in February; major league spring training games and the minor league camp in March; the opening of the Florida State League and extended spring training in April and the Gulf Coast League in June.
Finally, the beginning of the end of the 2014 Phillies season began on Saturday morning on Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex with the first game of the Florida Instructional League in a game against the Yankees.
“Instructs” as they are called is where the future of the Phillies organization can be seen, evaluated and projected in three weeks of games against the young prospects of the Yankees, Blue Jays, Pirates and Orioles from now until October 10th.
The score does not matter. It’s about the young talent on the field. The Phillies had two sets of position players, two sets of two designated hitters and an assortment of pitchers who played in the game.
The position players who I will be watching closely in “instructs” and who played today were first basemen, Rhys Hoskins, center fielder Aaron Brown, third baseman Jan Hernandez, shortstop Grenny Cumana, right fielder Cord Sandberg and second baseman Andrew Pullin.
The left-handed hitting Brown looks to me to have the potential as a Phillies center fielder of the future. He doubled down the left field line. Left-handed hitting Sandberg showed great hustle running out a pop fly to right center that fell in and he made it all the way to third. Cumana lined a base hit up the middle and clearly showed he has a major league skill set.
On the mound starter Ricardo Pinto went two innings, hard throwing Edubray Ramos and lefty Elniery Garcia all have major league stuff. On a scouts speed gun Pinto’s fast ball was sitting at 90-91, Ramos had an impressive two seamer to go with his fastball at 93-94 and was working on a curve ball. Garcia’s fastball sat at 91 with the best breaking pitch of the bunch.
In talking to Garcia after he left the game pitching one inning, we got an appreciation of what instructional baseball is all about: It is learning. He told us he has been watching videos of Clayton Kershaw pitch. We all know the voice of the Dodgers Vin Scully always says, “he is the best there is”. See Kershaw pitch on fangraph.com HERE and HERE.
Obviously the 19 year-old Garcia is not quite there yet but his fastball velocity is close to Kershaw’s 92.9 mph heater and he has the sharp late breaking pitch that strikes out batters from both sides of the plate at the rookie level as does Kershaw at the MLB level. See Garcia get his final two “strike threes'” of the GCL season last month HERE and HERE.
Now, Garcia needs to command his pitches as well as the great Kershaw. And that will take time. Garcia did average a strikeout an inning and pounded the strike zone in a limited role with the GCL Phillies this season. But this is what “instructs” is all about: Can a 19 year-old learn from a Kershaw and make it to the Show one day? We will see.
I would guess all these guys at “instructs” have been watching videos of major league players that the Phillies development people hope someday they can become.
So we will be watching this learning process to see if any of these guys are on the road to develop the tools to ever play in the major leagues.
“Instructs” over the next three weeks will go along way to tell us if these players have what it takes to be major league prospects or just remain organizational fillers.