Arrived late to the Complex this morning and decided to zero in on the first baseman in the Phillies organization and Maikel Franco was not one of them. After watching him play third base on ESPN Deportes in three of the five games his Dominican team played in the recent Caribbean Series, he was just too good at third to play any first base. He played first in the the other two games.
With Franco out of the first base equation, I basically focused on watching Ryan Howard play first and hit today. He is in great shape. Looks ready to play. No limp which was noticeable as recent in seasons from his injuries. Watching him closely from behind the batting cage on Ashburn Field was Ryne Sandberg. I predict a big season for “Howie”. Maybe he will be in competition for the “Comeback Player of the the Year” award.
Also working at first base with Howard on defensive drills was Darin Ruf. Should Howard need a backup, gets moved or needs a game off Ruf would be an option to take over this season. Right now it looks like Ruf will be on the 25 man roster in some capacity because of the need for a right handed bat. The Phillies likely 25 man roster will be very left-handed hitting dominated. Ruf’s right handed bat will be needed to provide some balance.
After a quick trip to Chick-Fil-A for lunch, I was back at the Complex this time watching the early minor league camp in the afternoon going on at Carlton and Roberts Fields. Also pitchers bullpens were taking place at the seven-mounds pen. On display was rigorous in field drills by run by the coaches. I focused on the first basemen who have arrived in camp-Art Charles, Brock Stasi and Rhys Hoskins. Also joining them after working out at third base as well was Zach Green.
Light hitting, limited power but smooth fielding, free agent Chris McGinness will take over at first at AAA. He is still in the major league camp though. It looks like right now its Stassi returning to Reading as a first baseman and spare outfielder. Charles should be the regular first baseman for Reading and Hoskins should move up to Lakewood. It remains to be seen where Green winds up but Clearwater looks like the most likely landing spot.
Art Charles is a strong left-handed power bat but he needs to cut down on his strike outs. He hit 18 of the 19 home runs against right handed pitchers last year. Reading’s ballpark is perfect for his swing and he should be able to increase his home run total if he plays there. In 2013 he hit only two of his eleven home runs at the pitcher friendly park in Lakewood and then hit 12 of his 19 homers at Bright House last year. He should add even more home park, home runs at the cozy hitting confines in Reading.
I am a big fan of Rhys Hoskins. He put on quite a show at instruct and hit the only Phillies home run I saw hit in the instruct games I attended. He hit the ball hard to all fields. I would double jump him from Williamsport and start him in Clearwater with the Threshers at the same field where he hit so well in back in the Fall. He could be a nice right handed power bat at first to team with Maikel Franco at third in future Phillies lineups.
The Phillies Front Office knows they need some right handed bats in the lineup in the future. Right now even Jeff Francoeur has a chance to make the Phillies opening day roster simply because he hits from the right side. Baseball Betsy caught the Phillies brass studying and discussing his every swing Thursday morning on Roberts Field.
Jeff Francoeur bats as Charlie Manuel, Mickey Morandini, Ryne Sandberg and Pat Gillick watch