Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The Phillies begin a three-game series tonight in Florida. Brett Myers vs. some guy I've never heard of. Let's turn to the minors.
As I mentioned yesterday, the minor league system consists of a number of steps that players have to pass through in order to make their way to the major leagues. The Double-A Reading Phillies and Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs are the final two stops players have to pass through in order to make the big leagues in Philadelphia. The two teams we are going to talk about today, the Advanced Single-A Clearwater Threshers and Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws, are the teams that currently hold players taken in the '06 and '07 Drafts. These players are a few years away from being MLB-ready. Guys like Adrian Cardenas won't have a shot at making the move to Philadelphia until '10. Let's start with ...
Clearwater Threshers. Current record: 26-33. Standings: 6th of 6 teams in in the Florida State League's Western Division, thirteen and one-half games back of the Ft. Meyers Miracles. Players of note: Adrian Cardenas (2B/SS), Quintin Berry (OF), Joe Savery (P) and Kyle Drabek (P).
The crown jewels of the Phillies 2006 and 2007 Drafts - first-rounders Kyle Drabek and Joe Savery, as well as Supplemental first-rounder Adrian Cardenas - are currently sunning themselves in Clearwater, Florida, waiting to move up to Reading and join the Reading Phillies. Kyle Drabek is still recovering from an arm injury and will hopefully rejoin the team shortly. Before his injury last season he was 5-1 with a 4.33 ERA in Lakewood. After a so-so start with the GCL Phillies in '06, Drabek really seemed to have put things together in Lakewood (7.66 K/9). I'd like to see what he'll do in Clearwater. The jury is still out on him.
Adrian Cardenas, who was picked after Drabek in the sandwich round in '06, is off to a terrific start. It is stunning that a player so talented fell to the Phillies in the sandwich round that season. At the moment Cardenas has an OPS of .909, which would rank him second in the entire FSL behind Daniel Valencia of the Ft. Myers Miracles (.938). Cardenas is also fifth in the FSL in OBP at .397. While Cardenas' has just four home runs and twelve RBIs, remember that the FSL is a very pitching-oriented league. Two things that impress me about him: in addition to the power at the plate, Cardenas is quick (4 for 4 in steals this season, 20 of 27 last season; five triples in '06 and '07 combined) and he shows good bat control (17 walks to 21 K's this season). Add in Cardenas defensive abilities ... Cardenas' skills are limitless. He's easily the best position player the Phillies have in the minors and probably their second-best prospect after Carlos Carrasco.
Phillies fans are finally getting their first extended look at Joe Savery. The Phillies first pick in '07, he played sparringly in Williamsport last season, posting a 2-3 record with an impressive 2.73 ERA. The Phillies high command liked what they saw enough to jump Savery over Single-A Lakewood to Clearwater. So far he's off to a solid start, not that you could tell with his 2-7 record and 4.61 ERA, but his numbers are far more impressive. His strikeout rate is 7.54 per nine innings and he owns a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unlike Carrasco and Outman, two players the Phillies have elected to move along slowly, Savery appears to be MLB ready sooner rather than later. I could see the Phillies jumping Savery to Reading before the end of this season and giving him a chance at making the Phillies roster in '10.
Finally, Quintin Berry is really catching my eye in Clearwater. Currently he is second in the FSL in stolen bases at 19 (in 24 tries). If he could improve his ability to get on base (he currently has a .335 OBP), he'd be deadly. Let's move to the Jersey Shore and scope out the ...
Lakewood Blue Claws. Current record: 33-26. Standings: 3rd of 8 teams in in the South Atlantic League's Northern Division, two games behind of the Lake County Captains. Players of note: Dominic Brown (OF), D'Arby Myers (OF), Freddy Galvis (SS), Karl Bolt (1B), Travis Mattair (3B), and Drew Naylor (P).
Here is something that I just realized. The Blue Claws are the only Phillies affiliate right now with the winning record and not in last place. That's pretty sad.
Now, this is just a personal opinion, but I think the Phillies 2007 Draft was pretty good and yielded a lot of talent. While the '06 Draft yielded a clear superstar in Cardenas (the jury is still out on Drabek), I think the '07 Draft will yield a greater dividend of talent in terms of depth as opposed to quality. I can't see Naylor, Savery or Mattair making the kind of contribution that Cardenas will, but each will contribute to the Phillies roster as role players or fourth and fifth starters. In the end that depth will be as important as Cardenas will be. (Can you tell I think this guy is pretty good?)
Let's start with Dominic Brown. Brown is a player who really impresses me. Last season in Williamsport he stole 14 bases in 21 tries and posted an impressive .356 OBP while hitting 5 triples. This season he's surprised me by hitting five home runs (curiously, no triples, but 12 doubles) with an OBP of .362 and 11 steals in 12 tries. Brown is fast and shows good instinicts. I like the fact that in his last ten games he's walked 7 times and struckout just once. Discipline at the plate and speed. Brown could make a very effective leadoff hitter one day.
Airforce grad Karl Bolt and Travis Mattair man each end of the Phillies corner infield. Bolt, a first baseman, got off to an impressive start in the GCL with 8 home runs, 4 triples and 10 doubles and 31 RBI in just 57 games, an impressive feat given how pitcher-friendly the league is. He's off to a less-powerful start in Lakewood, with three home runs and seven doubles. So far Bolt is striking out way too much: 31 times in 37 games. Add in that he draws just 7 walks and you've got a recipe for disaster. Mattair, who played with Bolt in the GCL last season, is also struggling in Lakewood. His On-Base Percentage is an abysmal .322 and he has just one home run and 21 RBI in 52 games. Like Bolt, Mattair has wiffed a lot: 51 times in 52 games.
D'Arby Myers, who played in Williamsport in '07 and in the GCL in '06, is really struggling right now. His batting average is a beyond awful .189 and he's struckout 45 times in 50 games. Myers has speed to burn: 7 of 8 steals this season, 11 of 17 last season, but he's going to get few chances to showcase it unless he improves the OBP of .243 he has this season and the .286 he had last.
So who is the best position player in Lakewood? Say hello to Mr. Freddy Galvis. Ignore Galvis' .288 OBP in Lakewood and his .255 OBP in Williamsport. Galvis is a defensive superstar and has a lot of speed to burn: 9 steals in 10 tries in '08, 9 steals in 13 tries in '07. Galvis's defensive abilities are so impressive that when the team talked about what to do when Jimmy Rollins went down, Galvis' name was floated around by some members of the organization. A player this talented and this raw is still figuring things out at the plate. He'll improve and become a steady MLBer.
Finally we come to Drew Naylor. The Brisbane, Australia, native was the Phillies best hurler in Williamsport: 8-6, 3.28 ERA, 9.35 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 3.46 K/BB ratio, 1.14 WHIP. Those are exceptional numbers and it will be interesting to see if Naylor can sustain those numbers in the long haul. So far this season he's burning up the South Atlantic League: 5-2, 2.61 ERA, 9.91 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 4.55 K/BB ratio, 0.97 WHIP. Wow. If Naylor can keep that up, he's going to become a dominant MLB pitcher.
So in the end, I think that the current group of players at Lakewood will produce several talents who could play important supporting roles on the Phillies. Brown and Naylor are near-locks to make it to the majors, while Galvis ought to, and between Mattair, Bolt and Myers, one of the three ought to make it to the majors. That should be four major leaguers right there. While these guys might not contribute as dramatically as I expect Cardenas to do (I expect Cardenas to be a consistent, 25-30 home run, 100 RBI, 40-50 double type of player), they will perform important roles with the Phillies in the future.
So that's the Farm Report as I see it this first week of June, 2008. Enjoy your day. Tomorrow, I think I'll talk a little about Shane Victorino.