Down at the bottom rung of player development is the Gulf Coast League. They play a half season at the various minor league complexes in Florida from mid June to the beginning of September.
Last season the GCL Phillies won the Northwest division and lost in a best of three final series against the GCL Cardinals.
Saturday’s game at Robin Robert Field was the first big win in professional baseball for the Phillies GCL players and they came up big in a 5-1 win over the GCL Blue Jays in the battle for first place in the Northwest division. They now lead the division by three games with six games to go over the Blue Jays.
First baseman Quincy Nieporte came up big with a solo home run in the fourth and a two run single in the fifth to tack on three big runs. Watch HERE.
Nieporte was a 26th round draft pick in the 2017 draft out of Florida State and is one of the oldest players on the roster at 23. He has been the big offensive bat in the middle of the lineup hitting .457 with runners in scoring position in 47 at bats this season. He is third in RBIs with 34 in 38 games, only 3 behind the league leader.
The other offensive force in the lineup, usually hitting behind Nieporte, is the best under 20 year-old player in Canada, corner outfielder Ben Pelletier. Ben just turned 19 last week and is hitting .398 in 83 at bats in August. He went 2 for 4 with a double in Saturday’s game. Watch his single HERE. He has five outfield assists, including one in Friday’s game, in only 43 games.
Another player who caught my attention in Saturday’s game was 17 year -old starting pitcher Francisco Morales, a big international free agent signing last year from Venezuela.
After a shaky start in the first inning where Morales hit a batter, gave up his only two hits and run, he settled in and put up a career high in strikeout, six, in his five innings start. He had an excellent slider which he used to shut down the Blue Jays allowing no runs or hits and striking out five over in his final four innings. Watch a slider and a fastball strike three HERE.
With only six game left in the GCL regular season, the season might come down to the final two games with the Blue Jays, Friday noon at the Carpenter Complex and Saturday morning (10:00 AM) at the Blue Jays Complex in Dunedin.
The winner plays a knockout game on Sunday against one of the other divisional winners. Then on to a “best of three” final series against the winner of the other knockout game on Monday. Hopefully, it will be an interesting Labor Day weekend for the GCL Phillies.