“Hard to believe, Harry” was a famous saying of the late Phillies Hall of Famer in the broadcast booth, Richie Ashburn, when something over the top would take place on the field. He would use this phase often in his back and forth with colleague Harry Kalas. I am always on the lookout for Whitey’s “hard to believes”. Here are some of my “hard to believes” from the past week in Phillies baseball.
1. If the Phillies deal with the Dodgers for Jimmy Rollins goes through, they would pick up two pitchers including a first round draft pick obtained by the Dodgers from the Padres, Zach Elfin. Elfin would represent the seventh, first round draft pick in the Phillies system. They just might lead the league in first round pitchers. Four of them are Phillies first round picks: Cole Hamels, Jesse Biddle, Shane Watson and Aaron Nola. Two other first rounders were picked by others and acquired by the Phillies including Phillippe Aumont by Seattle and Ethan Martin by the Dodgers. Other than Hamels, stacking up first round pitching arms so far has not been a guarantee of success at the MLB level for the Phillies.
2. The Phillies may have struck gold in the Rule 5 drafting of Odubel Herrera from the Rangers. Herrera won the AA Texas League batting championship this past season. Now he is the batting leader in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting a lusty .372 for an enviable slash line of .372/.424/.551. His .424 on base percent and .975 OPS are both second in the league. Ben Revere can only wish he had those numbers. Herrera is playing in centerfield.
3. While Herrera is tearing up the VWL, leading it in hitting, the likely Phillies 2015 shortstop is at the bottom of the hitting list there. Of 38 players who would qualify for the VWL batting championship, Freddy is next to last in batting average at .232 and dead last in on base plus slugging (OPS) at .601. Don’t pencil in Freddy as the Phillies every day shortstop just yet.
4. The experts keep talking about the need for Phillies starting pitching. A mostly career reliever Cesar Jimenez is throwing his hat in the ring to start. In seven starts in the VWL he is 3-2 and has averaged a strikeout an inning in those starts. In his last start he went six innings and struck out six to pick up the “W”.
5. Willians Astudillo just keeps hitting the ball in his starts in the VWL. He has gone 5 for 15 with a homer and four RBI’s. He has been playing in left field in his three starts this week. And as one of the best contact hitters anywhere, he has not struck out yet. We look forward to seeing him put the ball in play for the Clearwater Threshers or higher this upcoming season.
6. Outfield prospect Aaron Altherr had a strong season in the VWL. He was leading the league in RBI’s before ending his season there Nov. 18th. He had a nice slash line of .286/.392/.486 with 4 homers and 27 RBI’s in 31 games. What is also interesting is that his team Zulia was 24-7 while he was there and has gone 6-12 since he left.
Remember only 67 more days until pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater. Now that is “hard to believe”!