Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Farm Report, Part IV: Clearwater Threshers 

The Clearwater Threshers finished with a 77-72 record in the Florida State League (FSL), ending up twelve and a half games out of first place. In a contrast to the Batavia Muckdogs and the Lakewood Blue Claws, the Threshers were more of an offensive team, finishing fourth in runs scored and leading the FSL in OBP. It was a good thing that they scored runs, because they did a bad job stopping the opposition, allowing a 4.01 ERA, tenth of twelve teams. Expect the Threshers ERA to improve in 2007 with Carlos Carrasco, Matt Maloney and Josh Outman, all hot Phillies prospects, likely to join the team from Lakewood. The Phillies dramatic commitment to pitching – 12 of the Phillies first 21 picks in the 2005 draft were pitchers, as were 6 of the first 12 in 2006 – will bear fruit for the future.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

...and for the pitchers ...

WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

As I noted, the Threshers were nothing special in terms of their pitching in 2006. J.A. Happ, the highly regarded prospect who jumped from the Threshers to the Reading Phillies to the Scranton Red Barons in 2006, hurled eighty innings in 2006, 3-7 with an impressive 2.81 ERA. Happ struck out four times as many batters as he walked with the Threshers (77 to 19), a factor which led Baseball America to peg Happ as having the best control of any Phillies prospect, and to rank him as the eighth-best prospect in the Phillies organization. Happ’s stats:

HR/9: 1.01
BB/9: 2.14
K/9: 8.66
WHIP: 1.03

After Happ, the Threshers best pitcher was Kyle Kenderick, who went 9-7 with a 3.53 ERA, good for seventh in the FSL. I wonder what Kenderick’s pro prospects look like however: he just finished a short stint for the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League where he went 2-0, but with a 6.75 ERA.

The Threshers have two players that interest us: Mike Costanzo, a third baseman and the Phillies first pick in the 2005 draft (in the second round), and Gregory Golson, an outfielder and the Phillies first pick in the 2004 draft (in the first round). We’ll start with Golson, who I talked a little about yesterday and was lucky to escape Lakewood and move up to Clearwater.

Golson struggled mightily in 2005, hitting just .242 GPA with 106 strikeouts and just 26 walks in Lakewood. When you are 4.08 times more likely to strikeout than to walk, you are going to struggle badly, and Golson did. Golson, the Phillies tenth-best prospect according to Baseball America, didn’t improve with the Blue Claws in 2006, hitting a .199 GPA with 107 strikeouts to 19 walks (an atrocious 5.63 K/BB). Aside from displaying speed in Lakewood – 48 steals in 64 attempts between 2005 and 2006 – Golson really struggled to make much of anything happen.

Despite his struggles, the Phillies moved Golson up to Clearwater to join the Threshers. Golson then improved dramatically, hitting .264 GPA. The ability to draw a walk still eluded him (just eleven vs. 53 strikeouts, 4.81 K/BB), but Golson suddenly displayed some power to his swing:

Clearwater (’06): .208
Lakewood (’06): .075
Lakewood (’05): .125

Perhaps Golson will make the Phillies roster one day, but that day is not tomorrow and he still needs to work on his plate discipline. If he does that, he’ll be deadly on the base-paths. Baseball America named Golson as the Phillies best base-runner and their best athlete. BA also named Golson as the Phillies best defensive outfielder and said that Golson had the team’s best arm. Golson was the sole Phillies prospect to place in BA’s top ten for the FSL, ranking at number twenty.

Top Prospect Alert is a little higher on Golson, ranking him as the Phillies top position player prospect and as the Phillies fourth overall prospect.

Mike Costanzo’s career seems to be rolling along quite nicely. In 2005 he played for the Batavia Muckdogs and hit .278 GPA with a .199 ISO. Costanzo was bumped up to Clearwater, bypassing Lakewood, and played some more good baseball: .267 GPA, .153 ISO. Impressively, Costanzo displayed a lot of power at the plate and, while he struck out 133 times in 2006, he also drew 74 walks and his OBP was over one hundred points better than his batting average. He strikes me that he’s got the stuff to be a big leaguer: he’s got power at the plate and has enough bat control to work the counts and get on base. We’ll see Mike Costanzo in the big leagues for sure. Costanzo was also a 2006 All-Star for the FSL, and BA ranked him as the Phillies top power-hitting prospect.

It will be interesting to watch the Threshers in 2007. Will Golson and Costanzo advance to Reading and Ottawa? Will Maloney, Outman and Carrasco dominate the FSL? With so many exciting prospects down in the Phillies system at Lakewood, Batavia and the GCL, expect there to be a lot of action in Clearwater in 2007.

Happ seems to be a finesse pitcher which will be a good thing with all of the hard throwers in the system. From what I read he projects as a mid rotation or long relief pitcher. Kendrik may be a real gem in the system though its too early to project how he may pan out just yet.
This upcomming year will be huge for Golson as he may either continue as a prospect or drop out of the top 15. His tools are really good, so if he can put it together this year they may have a legit prospect in him. The SO will likely be there throughout his career.
Costanzo looks to have a bright future and may end up in AA or even AAA by the end of the year.
This is interesting stuff. I also have relatively no knowledge of the minor league Phils, but after this I feel like I've learned a great deal. Really liking these posts!
Yes I really like this break down you are doing on each of the minor league teams. It would be nice to do one after spring training when the rosters are set as well.
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