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.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Farm Report: July of 2007 / Summer in Williamsport 

Williamsport, in addition to being the seat of Lycoming County, the home of the Little League World Series and the “Lumber Capital of the World” in the late 1800’s, is the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Philadelphia Phillies Short-Season Single-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League (NYPL). The city’s logging heritage is reflected in the name of the team. The Crosscutters have lived in Williamsport since the team moved from Geneva, New York to Williamsport in 1993. The Williamsport Cubs, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, shifted to the Pittsburgh Pirates and adopted the team name of Crosscutters in 1999, then shifted to the Phillies in 2007. Previously the Phillies Short-Season Single-A team was the Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs.

Today the Crosscutters are loaded with future talent bound for Citizens Bank Ballpark. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, for example, were Muckdogs just a few years ago. Who on the Crosscutters roster will make the journey to Philly?

Some people will notice that power-hitting stats in the minors are generally lower than in the big leagues. You’ll see many more stolen bases and the like in the minors – especially the low minors – than in the big leagues. To give you a bit of an idea about the contrast, the slugging percentage in the NYPL last season was just .334, much lower than the NL’s .427 and the AL’s .437. Home Runs come at a premium in the NYPL.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
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.
The Crosscutter boast … well, that isn’t quite the appropriate word … let’s use “feature” … arguably the worst offense in the NYPL. The Crosscutters have scored 134 runs, good enough for twelfth of fourteen teams in the NYPL. They have stolen 26 bases, good again for twelfth of fourteen teams. Their team slugging percentage is .330, thirteenth in the NYPL. Their On-Base Percentage is just .296, dead-last in the NYPL. As I complained last Thursday, the Phillies have a glut of pitching but a dearth of position player prospects currently in the system. The struggles of the Crosscutters shouldn’t fill us with confidence about the future … Still, there are a few people willing to talk about:

Matthew Rizzotti. Keep an eye on Rizzotti, a big – six foot five, 235 lbs – left-handed bat from Manhattan College. Previously Rizzotti was picked by the Twins in the 46th round in the 2004 draft when he was in high school, but passed in favor of college, which was a terrific decision on his part. Rizzotti was picked by the Phillies in the 6th round of this year’s draft, the 203rd player taken.

Rizzotti was a monster in the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAAC), hitting .416 with nine home runs, twenty-one doubles and fifty-seven RBI in forty-eight games in 2005. Rizzotti’s performance was so good he was both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP of the MAAC in 2005. Coach Kevin Leighton called him the Jaspers “franchise player”. Rizzotti continued to dominate in 2006 and 2007. The Phillies drafted Rizzotti and shipped him off to Williamsport.

At the moment, Rizzotti is one of the few bright spots in the Crosscutters lineup. He’s hitting .296 (.384 OBP), second-best on the team after Tyler Mach (more on him later). Rizzotti has also hit two home runs and thirteen doubles, enough power to run his slugging percentage to a robust .472, twenty-second in the NYPL. Rizzotti is also hitting .324 BA/RISP.

I like the fact that while Rizzotti is a slugger, he’s displayed some good bat control in drawing fifteen walks in twenty-nine games. I give Rizzotti an excellent chance to make the majors, although he seems a natural first baseman and that position is occupied right now by Ryan Howard. Could Rizzotti be Howard’s successor at first if the Phillies can’t re-sign him in 2009? We’ll see.

Tyler Mach. Almost certainly the Phillies best prospect in Williamsport, perhaps even before Joe Savery. The Phillies fourth-round pick – 143rd overall – had previously been drafted in the 2006 draft by the Cardinals, who took him in the 40th round. The extra time at Oklahoma State University enabled Mach to hone his skills and improve. Mach was a Baseball America Third Team All-American in 2007.

So far Mach has single-handedly kept the Crosscutters out of the statistical basement. He’s hit four home runs, a triple and ten doubles on his way to a .583 slugging percentage, the fourth-best in the NYPL. Given how terrible the Crosscutters are, think of where they would be without Mach.

But Mach isn’t just a slugger. He’s hitting .333 (.443 OBP). He has displayed tremendous bat control. Walks: 13. Strikeouts: 13. A power-hitter with a 1:1 K/BB ratio? How often do you see that? Todd Martin of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who is leading the NYPL in slugging percentage at .621, has struck-out 25 times to 14 walks. Need clutch-hitting? He’s has a .423 BA/RISP. Add in that he’s playing a challenging defensive position – second base – and it is hard not to anoint Mach as the Crosscutters MVP.

After Rizzotti and Mach, the Crosscutters see a massive talent drop-off …

Michael Taylor. Picked between Mach and Rizzotti in the 2007 draft, Taylor has a terrific resume. Like Rizzotti, he’s a big player: six foot six inches tall, 250 lbs. Taylor played with the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaskan Summer League (ASL) in 2005, where he hit .317 with four home runs and twenty-five RBIs in forty-one games. Baseball America named Taylor as the ASL’s top prospect.

Unfortunately, Taylor is off to a grim start: .176 BA (.252 OBP), with just two home runs and seven doubles (.304 SLG) and 17 RBI. Taylor has struck-out thirty times against ten walks. Taylor needs to improve his bat control (3-to-1 K/BB ratio) and needs to increase his power at the plate to justify his position on the team.

D’Arby Myers. The Phillies picked Myers in the 4th round of the 2006 Draft, the 127th player selected. Myers is a well-regarded prospect who has been compared to former Phillies great Garry Maddox. Praised for his strong work ethic, Myers had a 4.0 GPA and a 1300 SAT at Westchester High School in Los Angeles, California.

He played in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) last season and hit .313 (.353 OBP). Myers displayed some speed – eleven of fifteen stolen bases – and played well generally, although he struck-out 32 times and drew just 7 walks. Moved up to the NYPL this season, Myers has struggled a little: .248 BA (.294 OBP), one home run and six doubles in thirty-one games (.316 slugging percentage). Myers has gotten caught four times in the nine steals he attempted and hasn’t hit a triple.

A problem I see with Myers is his bat control:

K/BB ratio
2006 (GCL): 4.57
2007 (NYPL): 2.78

He strikes out far too much for someone who might lead-off. In order for Myers to make it to the majors, he’s going to have to cut-down on the strikeouts, draw more walks, and make contact a little better.

Unfortunately I don’t have any metrics to examine Myers defensive abilities, but I am told that he’s very talented.

In terms of pitching … The Crosscutters are much stronger on the mound. They rank second in the NYPL in strikeouts (293), have allowed the fewest walks (96), and rank second in WHIP. The team’s ERA is sixth – I suspect a product of the team allowing a number of home runs – but this is a major strength of the team and pretty much the only reason why the Crosscutters are near .500 (16-20, .444).

Clarence Chapman. I think Chapman is the best prospect in Williamsport right now in terms of pitching. Drafted in the 8th round out of Oral Roberts University (263rd overall), Chapman wracked up good numbers at ORU:

2007: 8-1 / 1.34 ERA / 12.16 K/9
2006: 5-1 / 1.55 ERA / 6.99 K/9

Chapman showed great promise and was selected by the Phillies. Chapman has a 3-2 record with a 2.43 ERA. Chapman’s ERA and WHIP are both eighth in the NYPL, and he ranks seventh in strikeouts with 36. Chapman has a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is extremely impressive. Chapman doesn’t allow many walks or home runs and gets a lot of strikeouts. Traits you want to see from a pitcher.

Drew Naylor. Not many players of the Phillies minor league rosters hail from the land down under, but Drew Naylor was born in beautiful Brisbane, in the state of Queensland. Naylor was signed by the Phillies in 2004 and has gotten off to a slow start with his major league career, until recently. Naylor pitched relief mostly with the GCL Phillies in 2006, throwing 36 & 2/3 innings, on his way to a 2-3 record with a 4.66 ERA. Naylor started two games and pitched relief in ten others.

Promoted to Williamsport to further develop his skills, Naylor got off to a blisteringly hot start in 2007:

W-L: 4-0
ERA: 0.62
BB/9: 0.93
K/9: 9.93

Naylor’s first start of the year was a dominating seven-inning outing in which he struck-out eight, allowing just four hits, no walks and no runs.

Naylor was so good he was named the NYPL pitcher of the week for July 2nd. Unfortunately, the wheels have fallen off the cart since …

W-L: 0-3
ERA: 9.00
BB/9: 5.00
K/9: 8.50

It is hard to say if Naylor remains a good prospect, but it is worth noting that he was leading the NYPL in strikeouts. And he’s allowed just one home run in 47 innings. We shall see …

Tyson Brummett. Drafted a round before Chapman in the 7th round (233rd), Brummett is a California guy, having been born in LA, been drafted out of high school by the San Francisco Giants, and having attended UCLA. Brummett was taken by the Giants in the 35th round in 2003 and in the 38th round in 2004, but dramatically improved his pro prospects by going to UCLA and turning in some nice performances. After going 6-7 with a 4.52 ERA in 2006 (2.59 K/BB ratio), Brummett improved to 10-6 with a 4.04 ERA (3.36 K/BB ratio) and was named to the 2007 All Pac-10 Team. Brummett was called a “Giant Killer” by his coaches.

Brummett is off to a nice start in the NYPL, going 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA. He’s struck-out fifteen to three walks and hasn’t given up a home run in twenty-five innings. I like what the Crosscutters have seen from Brummett, who shows real possibilities as a pitcher although he seems like he might be a little slight to make it as a major leaguer (six foot, just 150 lbs … Compare that to Chapman, who is six foot four, 200 lbs). Let’s hope he keeps it up …
Tomorrow, I'll talk about Chris Roberson and the role he'll play in the Phillies run to the playoffs...


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