Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New AFL Season Kicks Off

Tuesday marks the beginning of another baseball season...the Arizona Fall League season.  This year, as the league celebrates its 20th anniversary, representatives from the Phillies organization will team with players from the Reds, Padres, Twins and Mariners to make up the Poeria Javelinas roster.

Led by 2012 Double-A Reading Phillies manager Dusty Wathan, the club will feature seven Phils minor leaguers.  Righty relievers Kyle Simon, Tyler Knigge and Colby Shreve, who each manned a key bullpen role for the R-Phils into the playoffs this season, will solidify Peoria’s relief corp.  Left-hander Jay Johnson will also be serving as a reliever for the team.  Additionally, catcher Tommy Joseph, who was acquired by the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade this year, will see considerable playing time.  Third baseman Cody Asche, who made an impact at two levels in 2012, his first full year of professional baseball, is also on the roster along with outfielder Zach Collier, who was the Phils’ supplementary 1st round draft choice in 2008.

Simon, a 22-year-old, was acquired from Baltimore in the Jim Thome trade this year, posted excellent numbers after joining the Phils system.  In 20 contests, the University of Arizona product posted a 4-0 record with a 1.36 ERA while striking out 35 batters and walking just six in 39 2/3 innings.  Simon was the Orioles’ 4th round draft pick in 2011.

Knigge, who will turn 24-years-old in late October, had an outstanding season at two levels in 2012.  In 34 outings with High-A Clearwater, Knigge sported a 0.60 ERA and, following his promotion to Reading, he tallied a 2.92 mark.  Overall, the 12th round draft choice from 2010 notched a 4-1 record with 11 saves and a 9.09 K/9 mark.

Shreve began his 2012 regular season in Lakewood, but moved up two levels by early June.  The 24-year-old was selected in the 6th round of the 2008 amateur draft despite being sidelined, in need of Tommy John surgery at the time.  In 47 combined games at three levels this year, the 6-foot-5-inch 210-pounder went 6-3 with a 3.69 ERA and a 7.38 K/9 mark.  This year marked the first season of his career where Shreve appeared exclusively as a reliever.

With Reading this year, Johnson missed time due to a shoulder strain, but posted a 2-1 record with a 4.24 ERA while averaging 10.59 K/9 in 33 games, which includes some rehab outings with the GCL Phillies and Clearwater.  The 21-year-old Canadian was signed as a free agent prior to the 2011 season.

The 22-year-old Collier began 2012 serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for banned substances in 2011.  In 78 games this year with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Collier posted a career high in HR with 6 while driving in 32 runs and stealing 11 bases in 14 chances.  Collier has had a rough pro career, having missed the entire 2010 season due to injuries and later being forced to sit out this year.  Playing against the solid competition in the AFL will certainly allow the left-handed hitting Collier to make up for some missed time this year.

Joseph, an All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League this year, posted a .257 batting average with 11 homers and 48 RBI in 108 combined games between the Giants and Phils organizations during the regular season.  The 21-year-old was San Francisco's 2nd round draft pick in 2009.

Asche, the Phillies’ 4th round draft selection from 2011, was a fast mover this year. After playing for the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters and participating in the fall instructional league last year, Asche began the 2012 season with Class-A Advanced Clearwater, where he batted .349 with 2 home runs and 25 RBI in 62 games. Promoted to Double-A in late June, Asche was a key contributor to Reading’s offense, as he sported a .300 batting average while mashing 10 homers and driving in 47 runs in 68 games. His .849 overall OPS was certainly impressive as well.

The Javelinas play their home games at the Peoria Sports Complex, which serves as the spring training home to the Padres and Mariners.

Players from last year's Arizona Fall League that made their big league debuts in 2012 include Darin Ruf, Tyler Cloyd, Anthony Gose, Mike Olt, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

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