Watching Phillies minor league games requires a lot of patience and winning is NOT a particular priority. Just ask the fans in full season Lakewood and half-season Williamsport. Their teams are now a combined 27 games under .500 as the 2019 season moves into July.
Player development is a priority so we look for players who standout that we have seen in person this season in Clearwater. The Phillies top draft pick Alec Bohm is the only Phillies player selected for this Sunday’s Future game. We believe he is a future third baseman but when we watched him earlier in Clearwater in addition to third base, he was a designated hitter and played first base.
The other position player who has captured our attention for the Threshers is corner outfielder, Jhailyn Ortiz. He started in left field yesterday for only the 6th time this season and in his minor league career. He has started 45 games in right field and 12 games as the DH this season. According to Baseball Reference, he has not been charged with an error in 93 chances including 8 assists from the outfield.
Yes, Ortiz is not hitting for much average but his power is coming along quickly. He has hit six homers each in May and June including yesterday’s homer in the ninth inning to tie up the game in an eventual 5-3 win. He has hit 13 homers in 63 games this the season. He is now tied for third in the FSL in homers and RBIs.
The Clearwater Threshers record for homers in a season is held jointly by the now departed left handed bats of Kyle Martin who hit 19 in 2016 and Art Charles who hit 19 in 2014. The record for a right handed hitter was Jose Pujols’ 18 home runs last year. Maikel Franco hit 16 homers in 65 games back in 2013. Pujols was called up to Reading for August last year. We would not be surprised to see Ortiz get the call up to the Reading outfield also before the season ends. Especially now that he is getting playing time as a DH and in left field for the first time in his career.
At low A-ball Lakewood in particular, the Phillies minor league department uses what they call a “piggyback system” for the starting pitchers. They are on tight pitch count limits. The starters rarely make it past four innings then a reliever pitches the fifth inning and another starter comes in for the final three or four innings.
We focus on certain pitchers who are major league prospects. For example, Clearwater’s braintrust last week pulled a top pitching prospect Kyle Glogoski who was pitching a shutout after 4.2 innings and 80 pitches. The reliever came in and allow two inherited runners to score. Both runs were charged to Glogoski. We watched the same thing happen to starter Damon Jones several times when the Clearwater manager would come bolting out of the dugout with the hook after he had pitched just 4.2 innings.
We made an extra effort to get to the Threshers games when Jones pitched. When he was still in Clearwater, Damon led the Florida State League in ERA and strikeouts. Now in Reading, he has been limited to pitching six innings an outing where he has allowed only two runs and struck out 25 in his three AAA starts. His pitch counts were 83, 80 and 94.
We attended the home games back in April when Spencer Howard was in the Threshers starting rotation. Last week, he just returned from nearly two months of inactivity on the 7-day Injured List with three shutout innings in a GCL rehab start. Apparently, the pitch limits in his four April starts did not work keeping him healthy enough to pitch in May and most of June.
Five players to watch in the rest of 2019 Phillies minor league season are corner infielder Alec Bohm, corner outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, pitchers Damon Jones, Kyle Glogoski and Spencer Howard.