Give me the “swing and miss” stuff on the mound and the three-run homer at the plate. That’s baseball to me. I am old fashion. Don’t waste an out on the sacrifice bunt. Play for the big inning. Yes, give me guys who can get on base but only to set up the long ball. I like “big ball”. To me that’s strikeout arms and power bats.
Now its “pitch to contact and hit the pitch the other way or bunt to move the runners. The Phillies recently have picked-up a slew of young arms from other organizations. None of them were able to average a strike out an inning this season. They pitch to contact READ HERE. That’s all well and good but if you play in a ballpark designed for the long ball you better have pitchers and hitters who fit. One thing you can be sure of a with a strikeout the ball will not leave the park. Pitching to contact it sometimes does!
This is why my most memorable innings watching Clearwater Threshers baseball in 2014 were the first and second innings of Colin Kleven striking out four Tampa Yankees in a row and Art Charles hitting a three-run homer, both in games were back in late August.
Kleven struck out the heart of the New York Yankees High A level lineup, swinging in order. He made it look easy as he sat down the three through six hitters in the lineup. This was the best the great Yankee franchise had to offer last season in A ball. This included the third and fourth hitters in the Tampa lineup who were the Yankees 2013 t0p picks in the entire Draft: Eric Jagialo, the 26th overall and Aaron Judge the 32nd overall. Kleven just blew them away in turn in his final start of the season. See Here, Here, Here and Here.
Kleven was just one of just six starters who averaged at least a strikeout an inning in the final month of the Phillies 2014 minor league season. He struck out 32 in 27.1 innings in August. The five other starters were Threshers Mark Leiter Jr. (32 Ks, IP 31.2); Lakewood’s Ranfi Casimiro (27 Ks, IP 26.2); Tyler Viza (20Ks, IP 19); and Williamsport’s Brandon Leibrandt (27 Ks, IP 23) and Ricardo Pinto (31 Ks, IP 30).
My favorite long ball of the 2014 season was the three-run shot by Threshers’ first baseman Art Charles. He drove one over the right field wall at Bright House Field back in August that was a thing of beauty. See Here.
Charles hit 19 homers in 2014 and and the first 18 of them were against right-handed pitching. He hit more homers off of right-handed pitching than any other batter while in the Phillies organization in the 2014 regular season. Here is his only long ball of the season off of a lefty for his 19th homer of the season. He hit it off of Hobbs Johnson of the Brevard County Manatees.
Charles’ 19 homers were the most ever by a Clearwater Thresher in one season. Ryan Howard hit 23 long balls back in 2003 when the Phillies High A team were called the Clearwater Phillies and played at old Jack Russell Stadium. The previous Threshers single season home run record at Bright house Field was 17 by three players including Darin Ruf in 2012. He would go on to 38 home runs for Reading in 2012.
The Phillies at the MLB level need strikeout arms and power bats if they are to move forward and get back into the playoff hunt. They do not have a lot of either at the minor league level. Pitching to contact is okay but that type of pitcher needs a good sinker to keep the ball in the park. With Marlon Byrd and his 25 homers from last season gone to Cincinnati this season, projected home run bats are now hard to project in the Phillies lineup at the MLB level.
Young power bats are few and far between in the Phillies minor league system. The best hopes for the long balls in the future, as we have discussed in recent blogs, come from the right-handed bats of the likes of Maikel Franco and Rhys Hoskins. Aaron Altherr hit 18 homers, including four he hit while in the Venezuelan Winter League. The bats of Dylan Cozens and Art Charles are best power bats from the left side of the plate. If Cozens’ eight homers are included from the Australian Baseball League with his 16 at Lakewood, he finished with 24 home runs total. Franco is the only one of them though who is considered major league ready. He hit 16 homers at Lehigh Valley and 11 in the regular season and playoffs in the Dominican Winter league.
We will be watching all their progress in the minor league spring training camp come March to start the 2015 season.