Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day Preview: Phillies at Rangers

The 2014 season kicks off on Monday, as the Phillies open on a road trip, visiting the American League's Texas Rangers.  The newly renamed Globe Life Park will play host to both clubs' initial series of the season.

While the core of the Phillies lineup has looked the same for several years, the Rangers have new additions leading the charge into the 2014 season, namely Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo.  Their first real test in their new uniforms will come against a familiar figure.

Phils ace Cliff Lee will be making his first return to the Texas mound since he pitched for the Rangers in the 2010 World Series.  Rangers hurler Tanner Scheppers will be making his debut as a starter after shining out of the bullpen last season.

Weather forecasts call for 80 degrees and partly cloudy on Monday in Arlington.  The teams will play two more games against one another there on Wednesday and Thursday.

Read ahead for details on the pitching match up plus plenty more stats.

Monday, 2:05pm.  Cliff Lee (14-8, 2.87 ERA in 2013) vs. Tanner Scheppers (6-2, 1.88 ERA in 2013).  In 16 road starts last season, the lefty Lee posted a 7-3 record along with a 2.43 ERA.  Lee had a 2-1 record in three starts against interleague opponents last year.  In his career against Lee, Adrian Beltre is 4-for-32 (.125 avg).  Scheppers, a right-hander, was the Rangers' 1st round (44th overall) draft choice in 2009.  The 27-year-old Scheppers was 3-0 with a 2.85 ERA in 42 home games last season.


Ben Revere is 13-for-42 (.310 avg) in his career at Texas.  Revere batted .294 in 21 spring training games this year.

Marlon Byrd is a career .305 hitter with 25 homers and 123 RBI at Globe Life Park.  Byrd batted .298 in 21 games this spring.

In 22 games against Texas in his career, Ryan Howard is a .273 hitter with two homers and three RBI.  Howard batted .234 in 45 road games in 2013.

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo went 3-for-19 (.158 avg) against the Phillies last season.   Choo batted .161 in 20 games this spring.

Prince Fielder went 1-for-12 (.083 avg) against the Phillies last season.  Fielder batted .225 with a double and no RBI in the postseason last year. 

Geovany Soto batted .307 with seven home runs and 16 RBI at the Ballpark in Arlington last season.  The righty batting Soto batted just .200 against lefties last year. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Minor League Roster Announcements

JP Crawford, Image- Jay Floyd
As the 2014 season draws near, rosters for the Phillies' minor league clubs have begun to surface.

The Class A Lakewood BlueClaws will feature the return of last year's top draft selection SS J.P. Crawford. Local NJ product Mark Leiter Jr., who made his pro debut last year, will return to the Claws as well.

The team's outfield will be made up of 2011 top pick Larry Greene Jr., 2012 2nd rounder Dylan Cozens, well-regarded youngster Carlos Tocci as well as Samuel Hiciano.

Joining Crawford in the infield will be Andrew Pullin, Zach Green, Wilmer Oberto and Robinson Torres.

The team's backstops will be two Velezuelans Gabriel Lino and Willians Astudillo along with Jose Mayorga of Panama.

The Lakewood pitching staff will also feature Alejandro Arteaga, Tyler Buckley, Ranfi Casimiro, Cody Forsythe, Ulises Joaquin, Shane Martin, Manny Martinez, Julio Reyes, Yacksel Rios, Keivi Rojas, Jesen Therrien and Tyler Viza.

The Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs will feature plenty of familiar names on their roster. The team's outfield will include last season's Phillies cup-of-coffee name Steve Susdorf while catcher Cameron Rupp, who made his big league debut also last year will be on the opening day roster for the Pigs. Reliever Phillippe Aumont and starting hurler Jonathan Pettibone were also with the big league club last year and will open the season with LV.

According to Greg Joyce the team will also be made up the following:

Outfield- Tyson Gillies, Clete Thomas and Leandro Castro.
Infield- Maikel Franco, Jim Murphy, Tyler Henson, Reid Brignac, Andres Blanco and Troy Hanzawa.
Catcher- Koyie Hill
Pitchers- Greg Smith, David Buchanan, Barry Enright, Sean O'Sullivan, Luis Garcia, Shawn Camp, Hector Neris, Mike Nesseth, Kyle Simon, Jeremy Horst, Cesar Jimenez.
Disabled list- Brian Bixler, Chris Bootcheck, Adam Morgan, Dave Sappelt.

The Double-A Reading Fightins will feature a load returning names including top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle, outfielders Zach Collier, Anthony Hewitt and Kelly Dugan, infielders Albert Cartwright, Edgar Duran and Matt Tolbert, catchers Sebastian Valle and Tommy Joseph, pitchers Tyler Knigge, Brody Colvin, Jay Johnson, Justin Friend and Austin Wright.

Also included on the Reading pitching staff will be lefty Hoby Milner, right-hander Perci Garner, Luis Paulino, Kenny Giles and Nefi Ogando. Last year's Paul Owens Award winner and rising pitching prospect Severino Gonzalez will also open the season with Reading.

Infielders Brock Stassi, Carlos Alonso and Chris Serritella will also be sporting Ostriches on their caps to open the 2014 campaign.

Cameron Perkins will round out the outfield for the Figthins.

Aaron Altherr, a toolsy outfielder that is often praised by scouts, is slated to begin the season on the disabled list for Reading. Hurler Ryan Demmin and Jiwan James will also open the season on the DL.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 56: Minor League Promotions, Big League Transactions

On episode 56 of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast, Tug and Jay chat about the minor league promotions that stand out for the coming season, plus several Phillies transactions including the team moving on from Bobby Abreu, Mike Stutes and Kevin Frandsen. Also news related to former Phils Seth Rosin, Vance Worley and Carlos Carrasco is discussed.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

You can also check out previous episodes and subscribe on iTunes

Friday, March 21, 2014

PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 55: Chris Roberson Interview, Rollins Situation

It's episode 55 of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast. On this edition of the show, former Phillies outfielder Chris Roberson phones in to talk about the 2007 division title team, his time in the minors, playing in Mexico, who he looks up to from his time with the Phils and plenty more. Tug and Jay also talk about Jimmy Rollins' negative vibe lately and Tug's new gig as the team photographer for the Double-A Reading Fightins.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

You can also check out previous episodes and subscribe on iTunes

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Phillies Minor League Workout Groups


Click the image for a closer look at the latest Phils minor league workout groups.

Prospect Nation 2014: #1 3B Maikel Franco

Franco (center) keeps things loose with teammates, Image- Jay Floyd
Since he arrived in North America, third baseman Maikel Franco has put his skills with the bat on display. An outstanding offensive campaign last year made him the buzz name in the Phillies' organization and has landed him in the top spot among the club's promising crop of upcoming prospects.

Signed as an amateur free agent by the Phillies in 2010, Franco would make his professional debut with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies that same year. As a 17-year-old, he posted respectable numbers, with a line of .222/.292/.330 in 51 games.

A year later, the righty hitting Franco began the season in extended spring training and later competed with the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters. Franco looked great against New York-Penn League competition, posting a .274/.339/.389 line while driving in 28 runs in 42 games before earning a promotion to Class A Lakewood.

In the South Atlantic League, at the age of 18, the baby-faced Franco struggled quite a bit. In 17 contests for the BlueClaws, Franco went 8-for-67 (.123 avg) and racked up an awful .349 OPS. The Phillies realized Franco was over-matched and that he was growing discouraged, so he was re-assigned back to Williamsport, where he finished the season by batting .333 with seven extra-base hits and 10 RBI over his final 13 games with the Crosscutters.

In 2012, Franco returned to Lakewood, showing much improvement throughout the season. Franco began the year at somewhat of a slow pace, batting just .207 with six homers, 27 RBI and a .607 OPS before he heated things up after the South Atlantic League All-Star break. In the second half of the season, Franco really showed what he can do, tallying a .346 average with eight home runs, 57 RBI, which were tops in the league during that stretch, and a .925 OPS.

Last year, Franco opening the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater. In 65 contests in the Florida State League, the youngster sported a .299 average with 16 homers and 52 RBI. In early June, he was promoted to Double-A Reading and continued on his torrid pace in the Eastern League. As a member of the Fightins, Franco batted .339 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 69 games.
The thing that stands out most about Franco is his power. He has a swing that's often described as long, but his quick hands blaze through the zone and drive the ball great distances. His six-foot-one 190-pound frame will continue to mature and so will the pop in his bat.

Speed is not a weapon for the young Dominican, as he has swiped just four bases in his pro career.

Defensively, Franco glides to the ball and has great range with a strong arm. He often looks like a natural at third base. In the second half of last season, the Phils tried Franco at first base. He continued playing there with the Gigantes in the Dominican Winter League and has spent some time there this spring as well. More reps at first will be required for him to get used to the new position, if needed, but Franco's versatility can only benefit him as he tries to break into the big leagues.

Franco, who has a terrific work ethic, is steadily focused on improving. He seeks advice and insight from teammates as well as coaches to absorb as much as he can. Franco loves the game and is willing to put in the work it takes to play at the highest level. Having played in 15 games with the big league team thus far this spring, Franco has gotten plenty of opportunities to add to his knowledge base.

It's safe to say that naming Maikel Franco as the Phillies' top prospect is unanimous across all reputable outlets. Scouts and writers alike feel that the 21-year-old could be ready for a 2014 big league debut. Look for Franco to begin the season with either Double-A Reading or Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Click here to view the running list of this year's countdown.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Prospect Nation 2014: #2 LHP Jesse Biddle

In recent years, Jesse Biddle has become the prospect that Phillies fans have heard the most about. This year though, the hometown kid may go from highly touted prospect to major league rookie and the stuff that Philadelphia faithful have heard will be on display at the top level of the sport every five days.

Upon signing his first pro contract, Biddle quickly made his minor league debut, beginning his journey toward donning the uniform of the team he cheered on from the seats of Citizens Bank Park all throughout his teenage years. The graduate of Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia combined to post a 4-1 record with a 3.92 ERA and a .241 batting average against in 12 starts with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies and the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters in 2010.

The following year, Biddle became an All-Star in the Class A South Atlantic League as a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws. As the team's most dependable starter through much of the season, Biddle posted a 7-8 record with a 2.98 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) and notched 124 strike outs in 133 innings pitched. Also, he held opponents to a .219 batting average.

In 2012, Biddle had a very good season, representing the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League All-Star Game. That season he sported a 10-6 record with a 3.22 ERA, a 9.53 K/9 mark and a .237 batting average against.

He followed that up with another All-Star campaign in 2013 for Double-A Reading. In 27 starts, Biddle tallied a 5-14 record with a 3.64 ERA, a 10.02 K/9 mark and a .210 batting average against. A troubling pair of outings in which he allowed nine earned runs in two total innings in July had a negative impact on his numbers. Without those two stat lines, Biddle's season ERA drops by a half run.

He also represented the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Futures Game, earning the win for Team USA at New York's Citi Field last summer.

A year after he took great strides with improving his walk rate (11.9% in 2011 to 8.9% in 2012), Biddle's walk rate of 14% in 2013 left him with plenty to work on in relation to consistency around the strike zone.

Confident in his own abilities, Biddle maintains a firm focus on the tasks at hand, even on off days. There is not a day that passes, during the season, in which the poised Pennsylvanian hasn't done homework in some fashion to learn a bit more about the game of baseball. Biddle also has a great frame of mind and realizes that achievements and promotions won't be handed to him and that he has hefty amounts of work ahead at all times.

His pitch repertoire includes a four-seam fastball that typically clocks in the 92-93 MPH range, but can reach higher. He also features a dominating curveball that often leaves opposing batters looking foolish and a solid change up, which he has built confidence in to throw in any count.

Biddle enjoyed his first big league spring training this year, learning from the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Mike Adams and loads more veterans. In two Grapefruit League appearances, he allowed four earned runs in three innings of work. He has since been reassigned to minor league camp to lengthen his endurance before the season gets underway.

With an easy, over-the-top delivery, Biddle is a skilled hurler that will steadily improve as his career progresses. No matter if he begins the 2014 season back in Double-A or with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he'll be one call away from the big leagues. If the 22-year-old continues to progress at the pace he's steadily shown in recent seasons, this should be the year in which he makes his big league debut.

Click here to view the running list of this year's countdown.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Jesse's Journal, Vol. 3: Still positive after being reassigned to minors

Jesse Biddle, Image- Jay Floyd
We continue on with our running series of interviews with top Phils pitching prospect Jesse Biddle, whose time with the big league team in spring training came to a close last week when he was reassigned to the minors.

Biddle, who was the Phils' top draft choice (27th overall) in 2010, represented the organization in the MLB All-Star Futures Game last year. Now, Biddle is setting his sights on a 2014 big league debut and has tried to absorb as much as he can in order to get better each day.

In Grapefruit League action, Biddle allowed four earned runs in three innings over two appearances. After his first spring start this week, Biddle provided his thoughts on several topics including the type of feedback he was given upon being sent down, his feelings on his time in big league camp, who he learned from and much more.

Read ahead for the latest from Jesse.


Sharing his thoughts on being reassigned to minor league spring training last week...

I was just really happy that I was able to compete at that level and take part in a big league spring training and get my first one under my belt, but I've got more coming up. The fact is, you know, there are a lot of guys in front of me on the depth chart as a starter that have to get ready for their season with the Phillies and I was told from the beginning that I wasn't going to break camp with the team, so it's just nice to be able to go back down to minor league camp and get my innings in and get my work in every day.

On if there was any displeasure with the timing and if he thought he would stay with the big league club longer...

I mean, the fact is that they were only letting me go one or two innings because that's how many innings they had available for me or some of the other guys, so I'm not necessarily displeased with the timing, in a weird way. The sooner they sent me down, the earlier I'd be able to get my work in and get me back up there.

Talking about the type of feedback that was shared when he was advised he was being reassigned...

It was nothing but positive stuff. It was really, really great to talk to Ruben, Bob McClure, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Jordan, all those guys. They sat me down and they said, "Hey, look...we really appreciate all the work you've put in. We know you can pitch at this level." They want to see the consistency and they want to see me just show them that I'm ready and that's when they'll know that I'm ready. And that's really what it comes down to is me finding that consistent rhythm and that consistent delivery that's going to help me have success and get me to the next level.

Thoughts on the two appearances he had in the Grapefruit League with the Phillies...

It was fun. It was definitely a little bit humbling, you know, there were a couple pitches there, especially in the first outing, that I thought were pretty good pitches, that ended up being hits and it was just because I missed by a couple of inches. And that's what it comes down to in baseball, it's a game of inches. If I put those pitches exactly where I want them, I could get outs, but if I leave them up a little bit, they turn into hits. And that's just an experience that I- they can tell you that all they want, but you don't really understand it till you get in the game situation.

On people he learned from at MLB camp aside from the coaches, instructors and Cliff Lee...

I mean I learned a lot from watching Kendrick and watching Mike Adams. And I learned from Papelbon. I really learned from everybody in a different type of way. Whether it was me asking questions or me just watching the way they work out or the way they throw their bullpens, everybody kind of taught me something. And that was my main goal going into spring training, was just, "Do I come out on the other side as a better pitcher?" And the answer is yes. I feel like I learned a lot from it and I feel like I grew up and saw and learned what it takes to be a big leaguer.

Speaking of his efforts since going down and what's coming up with the minor league squad...

I threw three innings (on Wednesday). That was my first appearance. I felt great, did pretty well. It was nice to be able to start a game for the first time and it's something to build on. That's really all it comes down to. You know, I felt great. My arm feels good. And everything else keeps clicking into place. I just can't wait to get back out there.

They'll mostly just give you an innings limit (each outing). They say- each game is kind of mapped out for you, so I think the next time I go out, hopefully, I'll be throwing four innings. Next time after that, I'll be going five and then maybe one after that and then the season starts. The goal is to get better. The first one was good, but I can do better and that's just how I'm going to treat everything.

On pitching now with the group that will become the Triple-A IronPigs and if he has any idea if that's where he'd start the season...

I'm not really sure. I'm not too worried about the specifics of, you know, Lehigh Valley or Reading. When it comes down to it, no matter where you're at, Double-A or Triple-A, you're one call away from the big leagues. And that's really the thing that I'm focused on. Just maintain and get to a point where I'm maintaining that fastball command and all my stuff is going to speak for itself. I'm going to do everything I can to get hitters out, no matter where they put me.

On his family and friends visiting Clearwater and seeing him pitch with the big league team...

They came down just in time to watch me pitch against the Pirates. It was really fun. It's, obviously, big to have your family supporting you and being there for you. It just sucked to see them leave.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Prospect Nation 2014: #3 SS J.P. Crawford

JP Crawford, Image- Jay Floyd
Equipped with big-time athleticism, a strong baseball IQ and all the right on-field tools, J.P. Crawford joined the Phillies system last year and quickly proved to be among the organization's best prospects. Drafted in the opening round of last year's amateur draft, Crawford looked sharp and put himself on the map as a fast rising talent in baseball.

Last year, Crawford posted great numbers at Lakewood High School in California, batting .432 in 25 games during his senior season and he stands as the school's all-time leader in hits and runs scored at a school that also produced former Phillies 1st round draft choice Travis d'Arnaud.

Upon signing his first pro contract and making his minor league debut as an 18-year-old with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, Crawford was very impressive. He lead the GCL in batting for a considerable stretch and posted a .345 average with a homer, 19 RBI and 12 stolen bases through 39 games. To wrap up the regular season, the youngster was promoted two levels up to Class A full season Lakewood.

In the South Atlantic League, Crawford handled the jump quite well enough for a kid that was playing high school ball just three months earlier. Crawford sported a .208 average with a double, two RBI and two stolen bases in 14 contests. The move to the Lakewood BlueClaws was partly due to a season ending injury suffered by another well regarded short stop prospect Roman Quinn. That vacancy opened the door for the stunning first-year pro.

A cousin of big league outfielder Carl Crawford, J.P. is also very close with budding Twins star Aaron Hicks. He credits the two more experienced players with helping him prepare mentally for the grind of a pro schedule and for what is ahead on his road to the big leagues.

With a solid six-foot-two 180-pound frame, the lefty batting Crawford projects to add power. Currently, Crawford doesn't knock many balls out of the park, but drives balls into the gaps with enough authority to show there's plenty of pop to build upon.

On the bases, Crawford has above average speed. With his lean build and long strides, he could definitely improve in this area to become more of a true stolen base threat.

Defensively, Crawford displays very good range and delivers the ball to first base with accuracy and quickness. Great footwork helps his throwing. He seems very capable of holding down the shortstop position as he ascends upward in the developmental ranks.

This past season, Crawford impressed coaches with his knowledge of the game and his adaptability. Where some of older players might have possessed a lacking approach, Crawford shined and produced in ways that were beyond his years.

As a testament to Crawford's tremendous potential, his manager with the Class A BlueClaws, former Phillies All-Star Mickey Morandini, stated during an interview with me this off-season, after being reassigned as a coach with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, that J.P. might be the first player he coached in A ball to catch up to him with the IronPigs.

It's possible that Crawford will open the 2014 campaign with the Class A Advanced Clearwater. If Morandini has any level of clairvoyance, Crawford, who enters the season at the age of 19, could have a huge season. In case Mickey is less like Ms. Cleo than some fans may hope, a remarkable season in which Crawford further proves why he was selected with the Phillies' highest draft pick since they chose Gavin Floyd 4th overall in 2011 might be more realistic.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Minor League Injury Notes: Numata, Walding, James

Chace Numata, Image- Jay Floyd
Just a few quick notes on some injuries throughout minor league camp…

Catcher Chace Numata confirmed with me today that he will miss at least a few months following a fractured hamate and surgery to repair triangular fibrocartilage in his left wrist. The 21-year-old Hawaiian was a South Atlantic League All-Star for Class A Lakewood last season, posting a .231/.307/.305 line in 94 contests.

Third baseman Mitch Walding is on the shelf as he continues to deal with the rib issue that shortened his season last summer. Walding was dealing with a misdiagnosed fracture when he suffered a more severe break while getting off the couch in the Lakewood locker room last August. Walding told me today that he is scheduled for surgery to fully remove the rib and is likely to miss at least six weeks. The 21-year-old was the Phils’ 5th round draft pick in 2011.

Outfielder Jiwan James, who missed a considerable portion of last season following knee surgery, is out of action once again with a knee issue. The limitation is precautionary, according to a source. James, who is a month shy of turning 25, sported a .260/.301/.322 line in 36 contests with Class A Advanced Clearwater last season.

This post originally appeared on PhilliesNation.com.

Prospect Nation 2014: #4 2B/OF Cesar Hernandez

Cesar Hernandez, image- Jay Floyd
Signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent at the age of 16 in 2006, Cesar Hernandez swiftly proved himself as a capable prospect that had quite a future in baseball. Last year, the young Venezuelan was honored as a Triple-A All-Star and made his big league debut. This year, he'll be doing everything in his power to earn another chance to compete at the top level of the sport.

Hernandez, a switch-hitter, made his professional debut with the Phillies' Venezuelan Summer League team in 2007. In two seasons there, he tallied a .296 batting average with three home runs and 45 RBI in 114 games. He followed that effort with a campaign in which he batted .267 with five doubles and a triple in 41 games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2009.

The following season, with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters, Hernandez was voted as the Most Valuable Player of the club by his teammates and was a New York-Penn League All-Star. Overall that season, Hernandez sported an impressive .325/.390/.392 line with 13 doubles and two triples in 65 games and placed second in the New York-Penn League in stolen bases, with 32.

His outstanding season with Williamsport led to Hernandez complete skipping full season Class A Lakewood. He played the entire 2011 season with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, where his offensive production took a dip (.268/.303./.333). With just 15 extra-base hits and 98 singles that year, increased power was something that the Phils’ brass and coaches were looking for when they assigned Hernandez a strengthening program during the following off-season.

In 2012, the 5-foot-10-inch 175-pounder was named as an All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League, as he sported a .304 average with 26 doubles, a league leading 11 triples, two homers and 51 RBI along with 16 steals in 104 games with the Reading Phillies. After July, Hernandez was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he batted .248 with four doubles, a triple, six RBI and five steals in 30 games.

Last year, Hernandez began the season back at Triple-A where he tallied a .309 average along with 12 doubles, nine triples, two home runs and 34 RBI in 104 contests. After earning a cup of coffee with the big league Phils, Hernandez batted .289 with five doubles and 10 RBI in 34 games.

Improvement with being patient at the plate was evidenced last year by Hernandez lifting his walk rate to 9.3% in the minors, up from 5.4% in 2012. His strike out rate saw a boost as well though, coming in at a 18.1%, which was a 4.5% jump from the previous season.

The 23-year-old plays in the Venezuelan Winter League during the off-season. As a member of the Margarita Bravos for the fourth straight year, Hernandez posted a .254/.318/.347 line in 31 games this winter.

On the bases, Hernandez is a true speedster. He was successful in 32 of 40 chances (80% success rate) in the minors last season. His stolen base totals have steadily looked nice during his pro career, though he failed to steal safely in three opportunities in the big leagues last year.

Defensively, Hernandez’s range as an infielder is very good. Converted to an outfielder last year at the All-Star break, when he skipped representing the IronPigs in the annual exhibition in order to have a few extra days to work on his defensive transition with the Phillies' Double-A team, Hernandez still appears to be learning the new position and developing his reaction to batted balls. He committed four errors in 25 games as a minor league outfielder last season. The switch to the outfield will require some more work, but with the added versatility, his value is enhanced. Hernandez's arm is solid and capable of keeping aggressive runners from taking extra bags on balls in play.

Phillies developmental coaches like Hernandez's adaptability and feel his strength is hitting the ball to all fields. Maturing and learning outside of the game has helped the outgoing Hernandez when it comes to baseball as well. A focus on improving his English and fully adapting to the cultural changes that come with playing in the United States, has increased the his confidence and his ability to pick up more about the game from his coaches and peers.

With a competent bat, quick feet and some defensive depth Cesar Hernandez is the guy on this list that's closest to helping the big league team. It's likely he'll begin the 2014 season with Lehigh Valley but he'll possibly be the among the first position players that get the call when a roster spot with the Phillies opens up.

Click here to view the running list of this year's countdown.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Philies Minor League Workout Groups List

Here's a quick look at the Phillies minor league workout groups. With some players sent down from big league camp this weekend, this will surely be updated soon. Click the image to enlarge the listings, which includes injured players in red.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Prospect Nation 2014: #5 OF Kelly Dugan

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It took Kelly Dugan about four years to show and prove why he was once the Phillies' top draft choice (2nd round, 2009). An excellent campaign in 2013 has many believing that the young outfielder could be close to helping the team at the big league level.

Much hype surrounded Kelly upon being drafted to the Phillies, as an image of him on the set of his director father Dennis Dugan's film Grown Ups, with many of Hollywood's comedy elite, made the rounds. In the years that followed, Dugan dealt with a series of injury concerns that kept the 6-foot-3-inch 195-pounder from fully establishing himself as a potential rising star.

Dugan would debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2009, after signing his first professional contract, posting a .233 average with eight doubles, a triple and eight RBI in 45 games. The following year, with the GCL team and short-season Class A Williamsport, Dugan sported a .366 average with a homer and eight RBI in 28 combined games. He missed roughly two months of action that year after he was hit in the leg with a batted ball during batting practice in June and later developed a staph infection that required draining.

In 2011, Dugan returned to Williamsport and represented the club in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. With the Crosscutters, in 47 games, he sported a .284 batting average along with two home runs and 21 RBI.

With Lakewood the following season, after missing time with a severely sprained ankle, Dugan displayed improved power and steady production, as he notched a .300 batting average, 12 homers and 60 RBI in 117 games. Additionally, his OPS, at .857, was .127 points higher than his mark from the previous season, which was a major plus.

Last season, Dugan made a big splash in the Class A Advanced Florida State league, as he posted a .318 average with 12 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs and 36 RBI in 56 games. With that excellent production, the Phils moved Dugan up a level to Double-A Reading. There, in 56 contests, Dugan tallied a .264 average with 12 doubles, a triple, 10 homers and 23 RBI.

A drastic drop in walk rate between the two levels (9.7% to 2.2%) last year was quite concerning, but Dugan typically doesn't struggle with being selective, so this should not turn into a trend that continues.

While the 2013 regular season seemed to be mostly injury free for Dugan, he missed out on participating in the Arizona Fall League after dealing with turf toe.

A refined approach at the plate a couple years back was a big reason for the strides Dugan has taken on offense. Making the choice without consulting the Phillies, Dugan ended an experiment to develop an ability to switch-hit and began hitting strictly from his natural side as a lefty batter.

At the plate, the Encino, CA native, is confident and consistent. He loves hitting. Dugan, who has great bat speed, has shown abilities to drive the ball well and hit the other way. Making contact is an area where the Phils will want to see Dugan make improvement, as he posted a strike out rate of 24.1% at two levels last year.

In order to ensure improvements during the winter months, Dugan spends time over the off-season privately working on his hitting with seven-time big league All-Star Reggie Smith in batting cages at the Dugan family home.

In 2012, concerns with Dugan's hamstring during the preseason and then an ankle sprain in April had the youngster resigned to manning first base for the BlueClaws. Once he was fully healthy, however, Dugan moved back to the outfield, where he feels most comfortable. With Reading last year, Dugan, who has a strong, accurate arm, split his time evenly between left field and right field, but he has played about five times as many in right field during his career.

The 23-year-old displays average speed on the bases, but has a strong ability to read balls off the bat and get solid jumps on fly balls while on defense in the outfield. Dugan, who is currently participating in his first big league spring training, is not a stolen base threat, as he was successful in one of five opportunities last season and sports a 66% success rate in steal attempts during his pro career.

In the coming season, Dugan should see time with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, although it's likely he'll return to Reading for opening day. If he continues the solid progress with his bat and stays off the disabled list, Dugan could be helping the big league team before too long.

Click here to view the running list of this year's countdown.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 54: PA Announcer Dan Baker Interview

Tug and Jay are back with the 54th edition of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast.  On this episode the guys are joined by longtime Phillies and Eagles Public Address Announcer Dan Baker, who chats about being the most tenured announcer in MLB, his roots in sports, how ingrained his family is in Philadelphia athletics, his various other gigs and so much more.  The guys also talk about Tug's "Casual Fan" tour of three years ago, Phillies spring training among other subjects.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

You can also check out previous episodes and subscribe on iTunes

Monday, March 3, 2014

Prospect Nation 2014: #6 RHP Ethan Martin

After a season in which Ethan Martin made his big league debut, the Phillies entered spring training with hopes that the young righty hurler would show enough in camp to prove they could rely on him as a contributor this year. After experiencing discomfort in his throwing shoulder recently, not only where he'll pitch this season, but also how much he'll be able to pitch is unclear.

Diagnosed with a strained capsule and a strained triceps, the 24-year-old Martin has been shut down. Ordered to rest for three weeks, the Georgia native will be re-evaluated following the down time. Several months back, the Phils' 2012 top draft selection Shane Watson, another right-handed pitcher, was diagnosed with a similar capsule injury and prescribed rest as well. Watson required surgery to repair the issue when rehab did not have great results.

Originally selected by Los Angeles in the 1st round (15th overall) in the 2008 amateur draft out of Stephens County High School (GA), when scouts weren't sure if he would proceed as a pitcher or a third baseman in his career, Martin had not posted great numbers in the minors prior to 2012. He was acquired in the trade that sent Shane Victorino to the Dodgers.

In his first three years as a pro, Martin posted a 24-29 record with a 5.42 ERA. He missed action in 2008 due to a knee injury and officially began his pro career in 2009 with Great Lakes of the Class A Midwest League. There, with the Loons, he performed well, sporting a 6-8 with a 3.87 ERA and a .232 batting average against in 27 games (19 starts).

The following season, the six-foot-two 195-pounder had a difficult time, posting a 9-14 record along with a 6.35 ERA and a .279 batting average against in 25 games (22 starts) for Inland Empire of the Class A Advanced California League. In 2011, Martin split his time between the California League and the Double-A Southern League, putting together a 9-7 record and a 5.95 ERA in 37 games (12 starts).

In 2012, in a return campaign with Double-A Chattanooga, Martin began to show why he was such a high pick, as he tallied an 8-6 record with a 3.56 ERA en route to becoming a Southern League All-Star. Following his trade to the Phillies, Martin looked unbeatable, posting a 5-0 record with a 3.18 ERA and a .206 batting average against in seven regular season starts for Reading in the Double-A Eastern League.

Martin also pitched very well for Reading in the EL playoffs that year, striking out 11 batters while walking none over 7 1/3 innings in a loss to Trenton, in which he surrendered three runs (one earned).

A year later, in his first full season in the Phillies organization, Martin struggled early, posting a 1-2 record with a 7.66 ERA while striking out 23 and walking 20 in 22 1/3 innings in five April starts for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Martin turned things around over the 16 starts that followed, though, tallying a 10-3 record with a 3.27 ERA while striking out 84 and walking 47 in 93 1/3 innings.

The improved output into the summer months last year earned Martin a call up to the big leagues, where he went 2-5 with a 6.08 ERA and a .261 batting average against in 15 games (eight starts).

When Martin was removed from his outing this past week with the shoulder concern, his velocity was maxing out at 85 MPH. His 93-96 MPH fastball with little movement had become a signature for the young power pitcher in the past. Martin also sports a hard slider and a plus curve ball.

The six-foot-two 195-pounder displayed tendencies to be better the first time through the batting order with the Phillies last year, which might lead to him being better suited for a role in the bullpen in order to limit his exposure to the opposition.

The area that has posed the greatest challenge for Martin has been his control, as his consistency with his mechanics have posed some concern. Working to overcome those struggles, he has shown improvement with his walk rate in the past two seasons. He'll need to continue the trend of harnessing his command if he is to succeed in the big leagues.

Overall, Martin has steadily notched strong strike out numbers through his time in the minor leagues, averaging 8.74 K/9 in the minors over the last three seasons and 10.2 K/9 during his stint in the majors.

The injury for Martin, who grew up as a Braves fan, nearly assures that he won't begin the 2014 campaign on the big league roster. Look for Martin, if healthy, to open the season with Lehigh Valley, where he'll look to bounce back and prove he is 100 percent and ready to help the Phillies.

Click here to view the running list of this year's countdown.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

PNTV Interview Outtakes with Cody Asche

Throughout the first half of the 2013 season, I conducted dozens of interviews with Phillies minor leaguers for a concept segment on Comcast's Phillies Nation TV. Those interviews were never used on the program.  I've been chasing the powers that be to put the planned segments together as web content for the better part of six months, since the minor league season ended. While nearly all of that footage is likely to never be seen, I did come across a pair of digital files and put together this two-minute segment featuring Phillies third baseman Cody Asche.

The 23-year-old University of Nebraska product, Asche, was a 4th round draft pick by the Phils in 2011. Since then, Asche proved to be a rising star and made his major league debut with the Phillies last summer, posting a .235 average with five home runs and 22 RBI in 50 games in the bigs.

Check out the media player below to see this never-before-released interview with Cody, as he answers silly questions that didn't make the cut for television.



Check out my other salvaged TV outtake interview with Ethan Martin by clicking HERE.