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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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Farm Report: July of 2007 / How are things in the Gulf Coast League? 

Ah, the joys of Rookie League baseball! With nearly all of the Phillies top draft choices signed – as I write this Brandon Workman, the Phillies third-round pick out of Bowie High School was the only one of the team’s top twelve picks not signed – the baseball seasons in Williamsport and in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) are well under way. I’ll talk a little bit about the Williamsport Crosscutters tomorrow. Today is about the GCL Phillies.

Players in rookie league ball are typically high school draft choices whose assignment to the GCL is their first taste of professional baseball. This isn’t a hard rule – Karl Bolt, the GCL Phillies First Baseman, is a graduate of Air Force Academy – but it is generally true. Travis D’Arnaud, the Phillies supplemental first round pick – thirty-seventh overall – is a graduate of Lakewood High School from Lakewood, California. Travis Mattair, the Phillies second-round pick – third overall and the eighty-third player picked overall – is a graduate of Southridge High School, Kennwick, Washington State.

Currently the GCL Phillies are 14-17 and sit in fifth place (of six teams) in the GCL North. The team began play on June 19th and their season doesn't end until August 27th, just over two months.

I’ve complained in the past that the Phillies have put too few position players in their farm system. The team needs Matt Costanzo, Greg Golson, Jason Donald or Adrian Cardenas to be a big hit in the majors in the next two or so seasons because if they fail to make it to the majors, the farm system basically has nothing after them. The 2007 draft was largely an attempt by the Phillies to restock their farm system at the position player level. Arms they have. In a year or two the Phillies will have a surplus of pitching in Triple-A ball, with future stars like Kyle Drabek, Josh Outman, Carlos Carrasco, Matt Maloney, and Andrew Carpenter in the pipeline. The Phillies need some bats to back up Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Despite the fact that the Phillies took pitcher Joe Savery with their first pick, the team focused on a lot of position players in the 2007 Draft. Let's talk about a few on the GCL Phillies roster...

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)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

Karl Bolt. You have to love Bolt, a fifteenth-round pick out of the Air Force Academy, who is an old man by the standards of the GCL Phillies are age 21. He's just the second player from the Air Force Academy drafted after Mike Thiessen in 2001. Bolt owes the U.S. Air Force duty, so I am unsure of how his committment will affect his major league career, but he's gotten an opportunity to play a little in the GCL thus far.

At the moment Bolt has six home runs, best on the GCL Phillies, to go with four triples and four doubles. He packs a lot of power at the plate - his slugging percentage is eighth in the entire GCL - and seems to hit for average decently well. In comparison to a teammate, Bolt isn't striking out a lot either: just 19 K's in 104 At-Bats. That's not too shabby. With Bolt's maturity and skills, I am confident he's a bona fide prospect and will continue in the Phillies system.

Francisco Murillo. The twenty year-old Murillo, a native of Venezuela, has played in most of the GCL Phillies games thus far. Murillo most recently played in the Venezuelan Summer League with the VSL Phillies, where he hit .299 (.402 OBP), with 10 Home Runs and 56 RBIs to go with nine steals in eleven attempts. Murillo journeyed to the U.S. this season to play ball with the Phillies and thus far has done a lot to impress people:

.290 BA (.356 OBP), 5 home runs on 22 RBI, along with 8 doubles.

For the GCL, five home runs is big stuff. Murillo’s slugging percentage is a robust .538, which ranks him eighth in the entire GCL, tied with teammate Karl Bolt. Edgar Lara leads the GCL with just seven home runs. Murillo looks to be a big-swinging slugger. He has thirty strikeouts in just 93 At-Bats. He hits the ball a mile, though it is too soon to tell if he is good at working counts and getting on base. His 37 walks in VSL play was pretty good. I like seeing ballplayers who’s OBP is a hundred points higher than their batting average.

Perhaps the Phillies have found themselves a future star in Murillo, a Latino on a team that has a disgraceful lack of talent from Latin America.

Travis Mattair. The Phillies highly touted third baseman is just eighteen years old, having been about a month old when George H.W. Bush (a.k.a., Bush 41) was sworn in as President. (Jeez, I’m getting old!) The Kennewick, Washington native is a tall (six foot five) right-handed hitter who has so far been a bust in the GCL.

To date Mattair has played in nearly every game for the GCL Phillies and is hitting .240. What is damning to me is that Mattair has drawn just four walks and has struck out twenty-eight times. That’s a seven-to-one ratio! The ability to make contact with the ball and put it into play is critical to success on the baseball diamond. This is an ability I wonder if Mattair has. As a consequence of his low walk total, Mattair’s OBP is a laughable .294.

Power-wise, Mattair has struggled. His isolated power at the plate is just .070. While power numbers are compressed in the GCL because of the pitcher-friendliness of the ballparks (and the humidity of the air in Florida, I suspect), Mattair is well behind his teammates:

Bolt: .288
Murillo: .248
D’Arnaud: .100
Mattair: .070

Or perhaps Bolt and Murillo are doing that good of a job. I tend to think that Mattair needs to hit some more home runs and doubles to justify his place on the roster. I am very disappointed with Mattair’s performance, but I am confident that he’ll improve. Mattair is a lock to continue on to Lakewood and play on the Jersey Shore with the Blue Claws in 2008 because he was a high draft choice of the Phillies. Kyle Drabek struggled badly in 2006 in the GCL, but still moved onto Lakewood and pitched well in 2007 before an arm injury ended his season. Struggles in the GCL mean nothing for a highly touted prospect.

Travis D’Arnaud. Even younger than Mattair – D’Arnaud was born three weeks after Bush 41 took the Oath of Office – D’Arnaud is a graduate of Lakewood High School in California. A right-handed hitter, D’Arnaud is a catcher, a position that the Phillies probably will need some help with in the future. D’Arnaud has gotten off to a slow start, but shows some promise. In nineteen games he’s hit two home runs and a double to go with his eighteen hits in seventy At-Bats. Like Mattair, I don’t care for D’Arnaud’s serious inability to draw a walk – two walks to nine strikeouts – but D’Arnaud strikes me as being more of a disciplined contact hitter.

Here are the GCL Phillies top hitters:

GPA: (50 At-Bats Min.)
Murillo: .295
Rincon: .278
Bolt: .274
Quiroz: .254
D’Arnaud: .226
Mattair: .210
Warren: .176
McDonald: .164
Sanchez: .154

At this juncture players like T.J. Warren and Darin McDonald are basically done with their pro baseball careers. Both played with the GCL Phillies in 2006 and failed to advance to Lakewood, the stop GCL teammates Kyle Drabek and Adrian Cardenas took this season. Their struggles now portend omniously for their future careers.

As for the GCL Phillies pitchers, nearly all were later-round picks and none stood out to be as I evaluated their stats. No, the GCL Phillies are built around their bats. Good thing too, because we are going to need some in Lakewood in 2008.

Tomorrow: Williamsport.


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