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Down on the Pharm — Myers’ Story Changes, Rehab Delayed

Posted by Sam Fran On August - 15 - 2009

With Jaime Moyer moving to the bullpen, Chad Durbin returning from the DL, and J.C. Romero on the way, the Phillies pitching plethora — at least in quantity — could grow again. Opening day starter Brett Myers soon starts his rehab assignment and hopes to land in the Phillies bullpen before September.

In fact, he would have pitched tonight for the Clearwater Threshers had he not sustained an odd — and vague — injury last night.

This morning, the Phillies announced Myers was scratched from his start because he injured his eye while having a catch with his son. Later, the story changed to Myers hurting his eye “when he slipped while getting out of his pickup truck. … Myers landed on his face, causing considerable swelling.”

USA Today posted an interesting quote from Phillies spokesman Kevin Gregg:

“Brett told us one story and then he told us this story,” Gregg said. “We were misinformed by Brett. Read the rest of this entry »

Down on the Pharm – Abridged Edition

Posted by Sam Fran On August - 7 - 2009

Sorry for the lame post, but I’m way down south, near Palm Beach in Florida. This won’t be the one that wins the Pulitzer or a Webby, but I’ll pack some brief news and notes in and around the Pharm system.

Pedro Watch
If you haven’t caught Comcast Sportsnet’s Pedro watch, I’ll bring you up to speed. Through three minor league appearances with Clearwater, Lehigh Valley, and Reading — in that order — Martinez has pitched OK. At times, he’s baffled the youth; at others, he looks like an old man.

In his recent outing with Reading this Wednesday, Martinez struck out 11. Good so far. However, he also let up four runs in six innings. And this is against AA players. Martinez is pitching well enough, but he’s not great. For the Phillies to consider a six-man rotation, like they are, I’d expect some jaw-dropping numbers. Either way, he’ll be up with the big club, in some fashion, soon.

How They’re Fairing
Last week, I detailed the Phillies going up and down throughout the system. Figured we check out the studs in the new duds..or, rather, how the players are playing with their new teams.

Outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor are treading water in Reading and Lehigh Valley, respectively. Taylor’s struggling, hitting .243 through 21 games with three home runs and 11 runs batted in. Brown, in only five games, at least has continued his offensive production: .294 1 HR, 3 RBI.

In his first start, pitcher Joe Savery threw a solid six innings, giving up four hits and one run. Though he walked five batters, he held on for his first AAA win. With Reading — his third team of the year — reliever Scott Mathieson continues to excel. Mathieson’s worked five perfect innings (he has yet to allow an earned run on any team this season).

Sergio Escalona is a man who’s been around this year, as well. The reliever went up and down to the Phillies five times, in addition to pitching with Lehigh Valley and Reading. Since returning as the R-Phils’ closer, Escalona has continued his lights out performance. With the R-Phillies: 0-0, 1.52 ERA, 12 saves in 20 games.

Good for them
New stadiums draw the crowds even for losing ball clubs like the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. So only a few years into the minors game, the IronPigs have been rewarded the distinction to host next year’s AAA All-Star game. Maybe Allentown can someday have the grandeur of a Portland, Oregon — host of this year’s bash between the International and Pacific Coast League. Get your tickets now.

Bill Veeck Award
I haven’t singled out a great minor league promotion in a while, but this offer by the Reading Phillies is too good to neglect. In late August the Phillies host the best sequel ever: Gluttony Night II. For $15, fans can enjoy an all-you-can-eat spectacle in Reading. Although it doesn’t include beer, there’s now cheeseburgers on top of hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, fountain drinks, and other goodies. I’m seriously considering driving up for the August 26 game against the Erie Seawolves.

—Sam Fran Scavuzzo

***follow me on twitter @samfrans ***

Down on the Pharm: A Pedro Prediction, Promotions and Demotions

Posted by Sam Fran On August - 1 - 2009

Apparently, a certain future Hall of Famer may be better suited for the bullpen after all.

In his longest real-time outing on his way back to the majors, Pedro Martinez looked less than stellar. The former Red Sox, Expo, and Met struggled in five innings with the Iron Pigs last night against former Phillie prospect Carlos Carrasco and the Columbus Clippers.

Pedro’s line: 5 innings, 3 hits, 3 BB, 4 K, 4 ER, and 5 R.

In the first, Martinez let up a home run to CF Michael Brantley — the first batter he faced. He settled down for a few innings, but then got lit up for four more runs in the fifth on his way to a AAA loss.

Still, Pedro’s confident: “To me, it felt great; the results might not be what everyone wanted, including me,” said Martinez. “As far as health and conditions, I feel great, and I see it as a positive day, a very positive day.”

But Ruben Amaro’s words don’t seem too glowing: “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to pitch to hitters and compete,” added Amaro. “For him to be sharp for four innings is probably a good sign.” Probably isn’t the strongest of words out there.

Read the rest of this entry »

Down on the Pharm — Clearwater: The New AA

Posted by Sam Fran On July - 24 - 2009

Clearwater Threshers

Future stud Dominic Brown

Future stud Dominic Brown

Advanced-A, Florida State League
44-47 (1st Half – 32-34, fourth; 2nd Half –12-13, sixth (last) in North Division), 3-7 in last 10 games
Manager: Ernie Whitt
Best Ranked Pitching Prospect: P Michael Cisco — Honorable Mention by Baseball America (Best Control)
Best Hitting Prospect: OF Dominic Brown #1
I Can’t Believe He’s on the Roster: RHP Scott Mathieson

I feel the minor leagues as I know it are all scattered — or at least the minor leagues I grew up with. Last week, I praised Reading for its gigantic talent pool and the team’s status as major-league man-makers. But, before, that was AAA’s role. Sure AAA possesses talent, but it’s more about washed-up players.

When it comes to the single A Clearwater Threshers, I get a AA vibe: some prospects who need seasoning and long-term injured potential major leaguers (cue Mathieson). Clearwater just gets more street cred (as much “cred” as a minor league affiliate can get) than it used to. Maybe because when I was a kid, the idea of multiple short-season A ball leagues was in its infancy. Sure Clearwater is just another necessary step on the ladder, but people are getting noticed here more than before.

Additionally, there’s a bunch more dudes on the 40-man roster than I would have thought. OK, it’s only two, but I’m still surprised that P Drew Naylor and C Joel Naughton — not Brown or Mathieson — are a call-up away from the major league roster.

Let’s talk about Brown. Surely someone who is ranked as the best organizational prospect must be awesome. Well, yeah he is. Only in his second pro season, Brown’s attributes and stats are pretty good. He’s six-foot-five, for starters, but only weighs 200 pounds. He’s one of those fancy — and precious — five-tool players you hear about: hits for average (.309 combined AVG), power (9 HR in 61 games), possesses speed (14 SB), and has decent range and strength (Baseball America says he has the Phillies best OF arm) in the field.

The best part: he can’t even drink yet. At this rate, the 20-year-old outfielder will get to the bigs by age 22 or 23. That’s a lot of time for him to roam Citizen’s Bank Park and may coincide perfectly with a Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, or Raul Ibanez departure. Currently, Brown mans right field. Picturing him and Michael Taylor side-by-side is a nice thought.

Who are these other dudes I’ve name-dropped? I know Naylor, Naughton and Cisco aren’t household names, but they could be soon. Naylor, a 23-year-old Australian, needs to get over the single A hump. He’s struggled (5-9, 4.47 ERA), but also shown flashes of brilliance — two complete games in single A are nothing to sneeze at.

Naughton’s name sits on the 40-man roster because he’s a catcher, but his upside might be higher than Lou Marson. The lefty-hitter has struggled with injuries recently (on the seven-day-DL — yes seven), but he was a South Atlantic League All-Star in 2008.

The Cisco Kid, though, definitively has the best upside of the three. Last season — his first professional one — Cisco’s ERA hovered around 1.00 and ended up at 0.99 in 17 games with the Threshers and Williamsport. Starting nearly all his games in 2009, Cisco’s shown consistency — 6-3, 3.66 ERA. And, oddly, he performs better against lefties (.234 AVG) than right-handers (.285). Interesting side note: He’s the son of former Phillies pitching coach Galen Cisco.

Clearwater is also a place for coaches to find their niche. Utility-man Kevin Jordan battled in seven years with the Phillies. Jordan now serves as the Threshers batting coach. Former Phillies bullpen coach Ramon Henderson fell hard last year and missed the Phillies World Series run while battling alcoholism (a great Daily News piece details his struggles). Like Mathieson, Henderson is just trying to get back to the majors.

Speaking of Mathieson, the pitcher required Tommy John surgery in 2006 and then again in 2008. He began rehabbing earlier this season with the Gulf Coast Phils, and has made it back up to Clearwater. These are the sad baseball stories, but Mathieson — now exclusively a reliever — has enjoyed a little success. In seven games, he’s yet to let up a run, and has held batters to a .157 AVG.

There are a lot of bright spots in sunny Florida, and, despite the team’s mediocre record, they are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

—Sam Fran Scavuzzo

***follow me on twitter @samfrans ***

Down on the Pharm – Reading: The Gold Mine

Posted by Sam Fran On July - 17 - 2009

Reading Phillies
AA, Eastern League
51-39, Second in Southern Division, 5-5 in last 10 games
Manager: Steve Roadcap
Best Ranked Pitching Prospect: P Kyle Drabek — Ranked #5 by Baseball America (5-0, 2.70 ERA, 36 K in seven games)
Best Hitting Prospect: OF Michael Taylor #6
I Can’t Believe He’s on the Roster: LHP Mike Zagurski 

The crown jewel of the Phillies system. Period. Sure, they trot out Clearwater every spring, demonstrating Bright House Networks Field’s lovliness, and the IronPigs get some press as the new kid. But Reading is the place where you are made as a major leaguer (or minor leaguer). An affilate since 1967, the R-Phillies (which is their official shorthand) grow the talent that eventually becomes a P-Phillies (like what I did there?) or trade bait.

Look to the Roy Halladay trade talk to see the R-Phillies pull. Aside from J.A. Happ, the major players in the deal are OF Michael Taylor (promoted yesterday to Lehigh Valley) and P Kyle Drabek –both of whom participated in the Futures Game Sunday (with Clearwater P Yohan Flande, who, BTW, just got promoted to Reading). Although the Future’s Game is more about prospective talent than tangible results, it’s nice to get some national recognition. Throw stud righty Joe Savory in the mix and you get the Phillies best prospects who also happen to be performing well (unlike Carlos Carasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson in Allentown).

It goes beyond the Halladay gossip girls, as well. RHP Vance Worley — named to the Eastern League All-Star game — was drafted in 2008, and he’s already in AA. The last Phillie to move through the system that fast was Pat Burrell.

In total, five R-Phils made the EL All-Star game: Taylor, Savory, Worley, 3B Neil Sellers and OF Quintin Berry. Unlike Lehigh Valley, which had three All-Stars with only one (Drew Carpenter) possessing major league talent, four of the Phillies players are hot shot prospects. I’ve written up both Taylor and Savory before, but both deserve an update, as the pair still excels. Taylor — .333 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI; Savory — 12-1, 3.48 ERA, 66 K. 

Berry was a fifth-round pick in 2006 who’s risen through the system at a normal pace. “The R-Phils center fielder and leadoff hitter led the league in runs scored with 60 and stolen bases with 32,” says the team’s Web site. Baseball America rates him as Philadelphia’s fastest baserunner. 

Sellers, on the other hand, is a little older with not as much upside as the other four. Still, four out of five ain’t bad.

The Phillies recognize the R-Phils the most, too. Looking back at minor league players of the month thus far, you’ll see the most acclaim given to Phillies: April (Taylor), May (Taylor and Antonio Bastardo — then at Reading), and June (Savery). Other than Lakewood/Clearwater OF Steve Susdorf, every honoree played for Reading at some point (Flonde won in April).3

True, players usually stop at AAA before making the big club, but it’s Reading where the hype starts. As soon as Clearwater OF Dominic Brown gets off the DL and proves he’s all right, expect a promotion to Reading to see this star grow.

—Sam Fran Scavuzzo

Down on the Pharm — Lehigh Valley: Less than Stellar

Posted by Sam Fran On July - 10 - 2009
A IronPiglets race at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa.

An IronPiglets race at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa.

Unlike nearly every level of professional athletics, you can’t measure the effectiveness of a minor league system by wins and losses. Historically, the Phillies affiliates have been OK, but not great. Sure, Ed Wade felt compelled to keep the team’s prize possession in the past instead of going for gold, but many of those prospects burnt out and now play for the Atlantic City Surf. Over the past few seasons, though, the system has given the Phillies loads of homegrown talent. On the current roster, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madsen, Brett Myers, Cole Hammels, J.A. Happ, and John Mayberry, Jr. grew with the Reading’s, Williamsports, and Lehigh Valley’s of the Phillies system.

Most publications peg the Phillies as owning a slightly above average farm system. Before the season, Baseball America ranked them 12th, Baseball Prosepectus 14th, and FANGraphs 16th (After a possible Roy Halladay trade, we’ll see how stocked it is). For the most part, the teams in the system are adequate. None get crushed, but no one is really winning minor league crowns. That’s not always a negative, as many minor league champions are compromise of washed-up ball players. A good system possesses both the veterans to educate, the coaches to shine the way, and the prospects to one day aid the big league club. Although not great, the Phillies system certainly meets those prerequisite benchmarks.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss teama in-depth.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs
AAA, International League
42-45, Fifth in North Division, 4-6 in last 10 games
Manager: Dave Huppert
Best Ranked Pitching Prospect: RHP Carlos Carassco (5-8, 5.06 ERA). Ranked #2 by Baseball America
Best Hitting Prospect: C Lou Marson (.292, 1 HR, 21 RBI) #3
I Can’t Believe He’s on the Roster: RP Jack Taschner

A write-up after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Down on the Pharm — Rehabs and A Second Chance for Lopez

Posted by Sam Fran On July - 5 - 2009
No rehab date has been named for the All-Star leftfielder.

No rehab date has been named for the All-Star leftfielder.

A thousand apologies for the delayed post. Let’s just say my weekly minor league recap is similar to Raul Ibanez’s Reading Phillies rehab start — although later than expected, it’s gonna be worth it. Which leads me to my first point…

Why is Ibanez in Philadelphia, not Reading?

I know Philadelphia is a cool place to celebrate the Fourth of July and all, but I wish Ibanez toured the Reading Railroad Museum instead of a dugout in South Philadelphia. The National League’s starting left fielder in next week’s All-Star Game, Ibanez is missing time with a groin injury. Eligible to come off the disabled list today, Ibanez missed scheduled rehab starts with the Reading Phillies Wednesday and Thursday before returning to Philadelphia.

Rueben Amaro gave the official explanation:

“He still feels something in there,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before the game. “What that something is, I can’t be too specific because I can’t tell you what it is. But as long as he is feeling something in there and he doesn’t feel comfortable and our medical people don’t feel comfortable having him go out to play, there is no reason to risk it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Down on the Pharm – One Draftee Excels, Another Signs

Posted by Sam Fran On June - 26 - 2009

Reading lefty Joe Savery mows down the Eastern League

Reading lefty Joe Savery mows down the Eastern League

Savor the Minors Joe

There’s only a limited time before Rueben Amaro tags the minor’s hot horse to rescue the big club: Joe Savery. The Reading Phillies ace, unlike his brief rehabbing teammate, has been lights out this year. I plugged Savery as a guy to watch last week, but he deserves some more (virtual) column inches than just stats.

Although a pitcher, at Rice University Savery stared both at the plate and on the mound. He grew up as a Texan that ate and breathed baseball. A great Houston Press article discusses his youth and collegiate struggles prior to blasting off.

After being drafted with the 19th-overall pick in the 2007 draft, Savery pitched mediocre ball with Clearwater.

“At the end of last year, to be honest, I was throwing 84 to 86 mph,” Savery said. “The way my arm felt – it’s not that you think it’s over, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘I’ve had a surgery. Maybe my arm’s just not cut out for this. Maybe this is as good as it gets.’

Read the rest of this entry »

Down on the Pharm: Taylor’s the Man, BlueClaws Champs

Posted by Sam Fran On June - 19 - 2009
Reading OF has caught Bill Conlins attention

Reading OF has caught Bill Conlin's attention

Stud Michael Taylor

In the Philadelphia Daily News, Bill Conlin (that bastard beat me to it) peered into the outstanding year OF Michael Taylor is having. With Reading, the April player of the month, played out of his mind, will probably play in the All-Star Game, and is an Eastern League MVP candidate.

Conlin’s column dwells (almost unnecessarily) on comparisons to John Mayberry, Jr. He thinks Phils’ fans are overly-excited for the underachieiving minor leaguer and need to savor Taylor, the real thing. Judging the numbers, Conlin’s right:

Mayberry was batting .257 for the IronPigs with eight homers, 31 RBI and a .470 slugging percentage. He had struck out 56 times in 183 at-bats. Taylor is batting .333 with 10 homers, 42 RBI and a .562 SP. He has struck out just 33 times in 219 ABs.

Mayberry, a plus runner, had four steals. Taylor, also a plus runner, has 10 steals. Last year, playing at two Class A levels, Michael had 15. He also is second in the Eastern League with four triples. That’s a lot of running for a corner outfielder with small-forward height, 6-6, and power-forward bulk, 250. (Down from 260.)

Conlin writes all about the five-tool player and begs (demands) Ruben Amaro list him as an untouchable. Although I disagree with Mr. Conlin on the untouchable status (another starting pitcher might make us WFC’s Part Two), Taylor definitely could command the Citizen’s Bank Park outfield in the not-too-distant future.

Read the rest of this entry »

Down on the Pharm — Draft Edition

Posted by Sam Fran On June - 11 - 2009

A Look at the Phillies Minor League Exploits

Kelly Dugan lives under the shadow of his Big Daddy.

Kelly Dugan lives under the shadow of his Big Daddy.

Debuting right here, right now, this weekly segment looks to delve deep into the depths that is the Phillies minor league system. Check here every Friday for the scoop on the latest call-ups, rehabbing stars, hot shot prospects, and over-the-hill major leaguers (I’m looking at you Miguel Cairo). The first installment, however, focuses on the just-completed MLB draft, but the minor leagues will get some love next week.

Although lacking the grandeur that its football and basketball counterparts possess, the MLB draft packs a punch in its sheer size. Countless accounts are told of the late-round draft heroics from the Mike Piazza’s to the Ryan Howard’s. Because teams draft upwards of 40 players over 50 rounds, there isn’t the same science as in the NFL or NBA — it’s more guesswork and a lot of luck.

For the Phillies, much of the World Series roster (Rollins, Burrell, Utley, Howard, Hamels, Myers, Madsen) came from the draft. As detailed in a pretty in-depth Inquirer article, loads of preparation goes into the three-day draft (read the piece if you’re really interested in what Eric Valent and Gene Schall are doing now).

Because of the Raul Ibanez signing, the Phils didn’t draft until the second round Tuesday. It’s usually annoying when teams lack first-round picks, but with the Triple Crown candidate and potential All-Star starter Ibanez, I think we can let the Phillies slide this year.

Picking 75th overall, the Phillies selected high school OF Kelly Dugan. Stirring some interest for trend watchers, their second pick, (#106) OF Kyrel Hudson, also came from high school ball. In fact, six of their first 10 didn’t play in college.

Some perils of drafting young is signability. Dugan has a letter of intent to play at Pepperdine, Hudson signed on at Oregon State to play both baseball and football. Same goes with so-called five-tool player Jacob Stewart. Drafted 437th, scouts doubted his commitment to baseball, hence his first-round talent (Baseball America called him the nation’s best high school center fielder) falling to the 14th round. Stewart has signed a letter of intent to play at Stanford.

Dugan does threaten Cole Hamels’ Hollywood nickname as he is the son of film director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, other Adam Sandler stuff). As for talent, this is from MLB.com:

The 6-foot-3 Dugan, who hails from Sherman Oaks, Calif., has at least an average arm, the potential to become at least an average runner, and, most importantly, power from both sides of the plate, Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever said.

Breaking the draft down, the Phightin’s took 49 players. Including the three aforementioned high schoolers, they took 12 outfielders, 11 infielders, five catchers, and 21 pitchers. Lots of unknowns, as always, but I’ll point out a few notables.

With the 137th pick, the Phillies finally nabbed a college boy in IF Adam Buschini. Playing for the Cal State Poly Mustangs, Buschini rotated around the infield, but mostly played first and second base. The junior shares the distinction of being drafted in the fourth round from Cal State Poly with Hall of Fame SS Ozzie Smith. From the Cal Poly site:

Buschini recorded three four-hit games and eight three-hit games for a total of 25 multiple-hit games and 20 multiple-RBI contests, including five RBI against USC on March 31 when he drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-run single in the seventh inning. Buschini finished No. 6 on Cal Poly’s all-time RBI list for a single season with 61 and No. 10 with both his 18 doubles and 11 home runs.

Also in the fourth-round, the Phillies selected their first pitcher in left-hander Matthew Way from Washington State. The senior, originally from Alaska (ala Curt Schilling), went from 4-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 2008 to a 8-4 with 2.49 ERA this past spring. Quite a turnaround, as detailed by this WSU blog.

On the local front, the Phillies drafted two players from area colleges. Albeit very late and on the third day, Wilmington University C Phil Aviola was selected 1,067th overall and Penn State 1B Cory Wine 1,157th. Additionally, Robert Amaro, nephew of Ruben Amaro Jr., was selected at 1,217th from William Penn Charter HS. I wonder how those contract talks will go with Uncle Rube.

You can check out the entire draft list here.

When and if the Phillies sign their draftees, the players will be assigned to various short season and Gulf Coast leagues down south. Tune in here weekly to keep tabs on these and all youngsters in the Phillies system.

-Sam Fran Scavuzzo

***Follow Me On Twitter samfrans***

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