Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This season has to be rated as something of a disappointment for the Phillies, when looking at their minor league teams. In 2006 there was a lot of reason to be cheery about the Phillies minor league prospects. The 2006 Lakewood Blue Claws, the Phillies Class-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League (SAL), won the 2006 SAL title. Three of the Phillies six minor league teams led their league in ERA in 2006: Lakewood, the Short-Season Single-A Batavia Muckdogs, and the Triple-A Scranton Red Barons. The 2007 Phillies farm teams weren’t so good. The Advanced Single-A Clearwater Threshers and Blue Claws posted winning records, but the other four teams did not. Ominously, the Phillies new Triple-A team, the Ottawa Lynx, in particular looked awful, going 55-88 and falling 29 games behind the Red Barons, now the Yankees Triple-A affiliate.
Here are the high-lights, but mostly low-lights, from the Phillies three low minor league teams:
Gulf Coast League Phillies – The GCL Phillies season kicked off right after the 2007 MLB Draft when the Phillies assigned their draft picks to either Rookie League or Short-Season Class-A ball. Primarily high schoolers were assigned to the GCL Phillies squad, who proceeded to post a 28-32 record in the GCL North, finishing fourteen and a half games behind the GCL Yankees, who at 42-17 had the best record in the GCL.
The 2007 GCL Phillies were nothing spectacular, finishing thirteenth of sixteen teams in terms of runs scored per game (4.15 R/G vs. the GCL average of 4.62), and a respectable eighth in terms of runs allowed per game (4.47 R/G). Looking over the numbers, it appears that the GCL Phillies pitching was pretty lousy, but they were saved by decent fielding. The GCL Phillies were slightly better than the league average in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), .643 vs. .639, and they committed 92 errors. (The GCL Reds led the GCL with 127.)
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate. Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF).
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
Travis Mattair and Travis D’Arnaud, the Phillies supplemental first-round and second-round picks respectively, didn’t play particularly well …
Mattair, a graduate of Southridge High School in Kennwick, Washington, and the Phillies third pick and 83rd overall, hit .235 / .297 / .340 with a .637 OPS and 3.29 RC/G. Mattair, a third baseman who also DH’d for the GCL Phillies, posted disappointing numbers. His OPS was under the league average (.691) and the team average (.678). Mattair struck out five times as often as he walked: 58 to 12, or 4.83 K/BB ratio.
D’Arnaud, the Phillies second pick and the 37th overall, hit even worse: .241 / .278 / .348, with a 2.69 RC/G and .626 OPS. Like Mattair, D’Arnaud was pretty shaky making contact on the field of play: 23 K’s vs. 4 BB’s, or 5.75 K/BB ratio. Both of these guys will have to step things up if they want to make the majors.
The GCL Phillies best players were Arlon Quioz, the GCL Phillies centerfielder who hit .272 / .378 / .364 and stole 20 of 25 bases with the GCL Phillies, and Karl Bolt, an Air Force Academy graduate who hit .256 / .336 / .459, with an impressive .795 OPS and 5.30 RC/G. Quiroz led the GCL Phillies with a 5.62 RC/G, by the way. I am very impressed by Bolt, who struck out just 34 times in 233 plate appearances. Bolt displayed real power at the plate, hitting eight home runs. Playing in large stadiums in the damp summer Florida air, GCL players don’t typically hit for power, but Bolt did:
GCL Phillies: .117
GCL Avg.: .107
Of the GCL Phillies pitching, the less said the better. Miguel Matos was the best of a bad bunch, going 6-3 with a 3.36 ERA. Nobody stands out from the Phillies as being particularly talented here. It is worth noting that it appears that the Phillies invested heavily in position players and college pitchers, so the poor quality of the Phillies GCL pitching isn’t really a cause for worry. The Phillies aren’t counting on these guys to fill out the rotation in 2012.
Moving along to beautiful Williamsport … the 2007 Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phillies new Short-Season Single-A affiliate (replacing the Batavia Muckdogs), finished the season at 34-42, finishing thirteen games behind the Auburn Doubledays, the Toronto Blue Jays team. Despite the disappointing finish, the Crosscutters actually have quite a bit of talent on their roster. Of the Phillies first eleven picks in the 2007 Draft that signed with the team, nine were college players. Mattair and D’Arnaud were the sole high schoolers the Phillies picked before round eleven. This is where the bulk of the Phillies 2007 Draft cut their teeth.
Offensively, the Crosscutters were a disappointment, scoring just 4.07 R/G, twelfth of fourteen teams and well off the league average of 4.52. Defensively, they were much better, allowing just 4.28 R/G, fifth-best in the New York – Penn League (NYPL). The Crosscutters team ERA was a very good 3.57 ERA, fifth in the NYPL and better than the league average of 3.89, and they did better than the league averages in home runs allowed, walks allowed and strikeouts:
NYPL / Williamsport
HR/9: 0.52 / 0.41
BB/9: 3.52 / 3.04
K/9: 7.86 / 7.94
I ran the numbers on Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and determined that the Crosscutters FIP was 3.55 in 2007, 0.02 better than their ERA. This was a team with a lot of pitching talent. We begin with Joe Savery, the Phillies first-round pick … nineteenth overall … out of Rice University, pitched well enough, going 2-3 with a 2.77 ERA in just seven starts. Savery will obviously be in the uniform of the Lakewood Blue Claws in 2008 and has a very bright future ahead of him, although it is difficult to evaluate him on just twenty-six innings of work in the NYPL.
Clearly, the Phillies best pitcher was Drew Naylor, the twenty-one year-old right-hander who led the NYPL in strikeouts with 97 on his way to an 8-6 record with a 3.29 ERA. In 93 innings of work Naylor allowed just three home runs, or 0.29 HR/9 and had a 3.46 K/BB ratio. His FIP reveals just how well he pitched: he out-pitched his “real” ERA by nearly a third of a run, 2.94 FIP.
Close behind Naylor were the Crosscutters other main starters, Tyson Brummett and Chance Chapman. Brummett, the Phillies seventh round pick out of UCLA (233rd overall), and Chapman, the Phillies eighth round pick (263rd overall), were talented pitchers taken out of UCLA and Oral Roberts respectively. Brummett went 5-5 with a 3.39 ERA while Chapman went 5-3 with a 2.08 ERA. Their FIP ERAs are much closer. Here are the Crosscutters four main starters FIP ERAs:
Moving on to the Phillies position players … Check out the Phillies top performers in terms of Runs Created per 27 Outs:
We’ll start with Mach. Tyler Mach was the Crosscutters best position player in a lot of respects. Taken in the fourth round, 143rd overall, out of Oklahoma State, Mach is going to be an extremely talented member of the Phillies one day. Mach hit five home runs and had 38 RBIs. He displayed impressive bat control, notching just 33 strikeouts against 21 walks.
After Mach the Phillies had a number of other impressive performers:
Tyler Mach: .803
Matthew Spencer: .789
Dominic Brown: .756
Matthew Rizzotti: .741
Derek Mitchell: .701
Mike Durant: .666
Michael Taylor: .665
D’Arby Myers: .582
Spencer, Mach, Taylor and Rizzotti were taken in sequence in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Aside from Taylor, who struggled a little, each one played quite well and made a compelling case to advance on to play with the Lakewood Blue Claws in 2008.
Rizzotti, in particular, is an intriguing player, standing at six-foot-five inches, weighing in at 235 pounds, and having graduated from that baseball hotbed, Manhattan College, a three-time Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) First-Team selection and the 2005 MAAC Rookie and Player of the Year. Though he hit just two home runs and had 27 RBIs, he seems to be extremely talented and could turn into a tremendous player. Though he struck out 63 times with the Crosscutters, he did manage to draw thirty walks. He seems like the prototypical slugger-with-a-good-eye. How did Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s not snatch him up?
Despite their sub-.500 record, the 2007 Crosscutters were loaded with talent and played quite well.
Moving along, we journey from north-central Pennsylvania to the Jersey Shore, where the 2007 Lakewood Blue Claws play. After the 2006 season, where the Blue Claws went 84-55 (.604) and won the SAL title 3-1 over the Augusta Green Jackets, there was bound to be a let-down. With last year’s trio of Matthew Maloney, Josh Outman and Carlos Carrasco having moved on to Clearwater and Reading, the Blue Claws pitching staff was all-new in 2007.
Still, the 2007 Blue Claws were an extremely talented team on the mound, finishing fourth of sixteen teams in team ERA at 3.75. By far the Phillies best pitcher was the unfortunately named Antonio Bastardo, who was a blistering 9-0 with a 1.87 ERA in just fifteen starts as a Blue Claw. Kyle Drabek, the Phillies first selection in the 2006 Draft, pitched alright as a Blue Claw, going 5-1 with a 4.33 ERA. Drabek got a decent number of strikeouts (7.66 K/9), but allowed a lot of walks (3.83 BB/9) and a large number of home runs (1.50 HR/9) before injuring his arm. Drabek might still develop into a stellar pitcher, but these are issues he needs to sort out.
The rest of the Blue Claws rotation is a far cry from the glory days of 2006. Carlos Monasteros (11-11, 4.62 ERA), Darren Byrd (9-11, 4.04 ERA) and Edgar Garcia (4-9, 4.12 ERA) are a far-cry from the stellar performance Matt Maloney, Josh Outman and Carlos Carrasco turned in last season.
In terms of position players, the Blue Claws have a number of talents on the roster. Foremost amongst them is Adrian Cardenas, the Phillies supplemental first-round pick in the 2007 Draft, who has excelled and might be the best position-player prospect in the Phillies system right now. Cardenas had a .384 OBP with thirteen steals in sixteen attempts in Rookie League ball in 2006 and built on that with a .354 OBP and nineteen steals in twenty-six tries in 2007 with the Blue Claws. There are a lot of things to like about Cardenas: he’s got speed (thirty doubles, nineteen steals) and power (1.048 OPS+) and he reminds me a lot of Chase Utley. He even plays the same position as Utley: second base. Cardenas switched after playing shortstop, his high school position, in the Gulf Coast League. Cardenas is so athletic he could play any position aside from pitcher or catcher. I see him manning left field for the Phillies in 2009 or 2010.
Quintin Berry also turned in an impressive performance in 2007: .395 OBP, 55 steals in 73 tries. Berry has a lot of speed and has really shown a lot of control with his bat at the plate. His nearly .400 OBP is a product of a good eye at the plate: 61 walks to 85 strikeouts. Berry’s walks per plate appearance (BB/PA) is .104, an impressive total (i.e., he drew a walk every tenth time he got to the plate). Berry’s Runs Created per 27 Outs (5.93) is better than Cardenas’ (4.96). Berry and Cardenas are rays of hope for the future in the Phillies system.