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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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Farm Report 2007: What's Up North of the Border 

Last year I promised to devote more time in the future to discussing the Phillies farm system. Well, a little less than a month into the year I thought that I might take a moment and talk a little about the Ottawa Lynx.

As I noted a few months ago, the Ottawa Lynx are the Phillies new Triple-A affiliate, replacing the Scranton Red Barons in the International League (IL), the fourteen team Triple-A league that services MLB teams like the Yankees (now the Red Barons parent team), and other teams like the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Richmond Braves, and the Toledo Mud Hens (the Detroit Tigers Triple-A team). The Phillies presence in Canada is temporary, as the Lynx are slated to move south of the border to Allentown and become the Allentown Iron Pigs in 2008.

There’s a lot of pathos and drama surrounding the minors, which makes for interesting subject matter. Bull Durham, one of the best movies about baseball ever made, deals with players trying to make their way out of the Carolina League and into the big time. A lot of players make their way to Triple-A and flame out, never to achieve their golden dream of becoming a major league baseball player. Others get their taste of glory and fall back to earth, desperately trying to claw their way back into the majors. Triple-A is a pretty tough place to be. Close, but not yet.

A word about stats … It is difficult to evaluate stats from the minor leagues and especially with the low-level minor leaguers. For players in Rookie League or Short Season Single-A ball, power is difficult to show at that level. A “power hitter” of the future might have three or four home runs over the course of a season. Chase Utley, for example, hit two home runs in forty games in Single-A Batavia in 2000. Triple-A stats approximate major league stats a little better, but they are still a little off.

Many of the names on the Lynx roster are familiar to Phillies fans … Chris Roberson, Danny Sandoval, Chris Coste, Zach Segovia, Fabo Castro, Eude Brito, etc. In the case of players like Sandoval, Coste and Roberson, you worry that they fall into the category of players who got to the majors and never returned. In Coste’s case, this is particularly tragic given that Coste has been fighting and clawing his way towards the majors for years and years.

As I write this, the Lynx have been on a roll, having won seven of their last eight games. After defeating Syracuse 4-3 on April 14th, the Lynx were snowed out of their game on April 15th, and then took three games against Charlotte before falling to Gavin Floyd – remember him? – on April 20th by a score of 3-1. The Lynx responded by shelling the Red Barons 17-4 the next day, an impressive rout that saw the Lynx rally from a 3-0 first inning deficit by scoring six runs in the bottom of the first. The Lynx went on to outscore the Red Barons 17-1 after they got their three runs to start the game. The Lynx have two more games against the Red Barons, tonight and tomorrow at 7PM.

At the moment the Lynx are 8-6 and sit in third place in the IL’s Northern Division, just two games behind the Rochester Red Wings, the Baltimore Orioles affiliate. The Red Barons, by the way, are 7-10 and sit four and a half games out of first place.

Let’s discuss a few players of note …

Chris Coste. Coste became a favorite of bloggers and myself with his exceptional story in 2006. The thirty-three year-old Coste, a native of Fargo, North Dakota, had spent years and years in the minors attempting to claw his way into the show. He finally got his chance in 2006 when the Phillies dealt the light-hitting Sal Fasano to the Yankees and watched Mike Lieberthal spend much of the season on the D.L. Carlos Ruiz and Coste were brought in to split the catching duties and both turned in spectacular performances. As a Phillie, Coste hit .328 (.376 OBP), with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in just 65 games. What made this performance all the more impressive was the fact that Coste had hit .177 in Scranton before coming up to the majors, including two home runs and fourteen RBIs in 39 games played. Not too shabby.

The Phillies decision to bring in Rod Barajas and award Ruiz the backup job meant that Coste was the odd man out. The 34-year old from the plains of middle America was sent back up to the frigid north to play with the Lynx. At the moment Coste is playing alright primarily as the Lynx DH and occasional catcher. He’s hitting .225 (.340 OBP), with zero home runs and three doubles.

Chris Roberson. I’ll state that I am stunned so see Roberson in a Lynx uniform in 2007. After journeying up to the majors to play with the Phillies last season, I was certain that the Phillies would award the fifth outfielder job to Roberson, who pinch-hit and, more importantly, pinch-run numerous times in 2006 for the Phillies. The Phillies decision to make Michael Bourn the #5 outfielder was a shock to me. Expect to see Bourn get a lot of time substituting for Pat Burrell in left field and occasionally hitting for the Phillies.

Roberson, meanwhile, is back to the minors. He’s not exactly proving the Phillies were wrong keeping him in the minors either. He’s hitting .207 (.262 OBP) with two doubles and a triple. His .537 OPS is worst on the team.

The Pitchers … Brian Mazone (2-1, 1.90 ERA) and J.A. Happ (1-0, 1.08 ERA) are both off to great starts this season with the Lynx. Zach Segovia (0-2, 4.85 ERA) appears to be a little rattled after his disastrous start against the Florida Marlins where he surrendered five runs in five innings of work. The Phillies might want to keep some of their pitchers in the minors and not expose them to being shelled in MLB games until a later date.

It seems like, for all of the struggles of the Phillies MLB staff, there are a lot of talented arms in the Phillies system. Happ, Mazone and Segovia in Ottawa, Matthew Maloney with the Reading Phillies, Josh Outman, Andrew Carpenter and Carlos Carrasco in Clearwater, and Kyle Drabek in Lakewood with the Blue Claws. It will be interesting to see if those guys will transform the Phillies into a pitching powerhouse in 2009, 2010 and beyond.

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I really believe that Roberson is a AAAA player.
I like the blog, even tho I'm not a huge Phils fan (living in Minneapolis, why would I be?!). To the extent I follow them at all, it's mostly to see if Coste gets called up again. My neighbor grew up with him in Fargo and says the decision not to bring him up is political, not performance based. Not only is he a great story, but he can also play (as his numbers last year show). What's the feeling among the Phils faithful - do you want him back? Just curious.
I am one Phillies fan who still can't believe Coste is in AAA. The Phillies' front office seem to refuse that Coste's 2006 performance ever happened. I think Coste is a much more complete catcher than Barajas.

But of course making stupid decisions is what the Phillies do best!
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