Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pitching prospect Garner, others released, Dugan has setback

PerciG
Garner, image- Jay Floyd
Via the esteemed Jim Salisbury on Twitter, there were a couple noteworthy minor league reports on Sunday with righty hurler Perci Garner being released and outfielder Kelly Dugan returning home to heal from a stress fracture in his foot.

Garner was the Phillies' second round draft choice in 2010. The 26-year-old sported a 19-23 record along with a 4.50 ERA and a .266 batting average against in 87 career games over his career.

Dugan, the Phils' 2nd round draft selection in 2009, has not played this spring as he was initially sidelined with a stress reaction in his right foot. The injury was re-diagnosed as a stress fracture, with the 24-year-old returning to his native California to rest and recuperate.

In his pro career to date, Dugan has tallied a .293/.368/.451 slash line in 425 games.

Additionally, as per well-connected Phillies blogger Baseball Betsy, the Phillies also parted ways with pitchers Jordan Guth and Kyle Bogese as well as first baseman Wilmer Oberto on Sunday.

Phillies prospects predict WrestleMania results

wm31For those of you that read the site regularly and perhaps also follow a few Phillies Nation staffers on Twitter, you know that some of us are lifelong professional wrestling fanatics. Not surprisingly, some Phillies minor league players have also long enjoyed action in the squared circle as well.

This weekend marks the Super Bowl of the pro wrestling world, with WWE's WrestleMania set to take place in California. I caught up with minor league hurler Mark Leiter Jr. along with outfield prospect Brian Pointer to get their predictions on the full card.

Here is how the two youngsters see the event shaking out along with some insight from each man on the World Champ Brock Lesnar's part time/special attraction status with the company as well as if they each see his main event challenger Roman Reigns as a viable contender for the championship strap:

WWE World Heavyweight Title Match, Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

Leiter- I like Reigns, but whoever wrote that ending to the (Royal) Rumble really dropped the ball. Having Big Show and Kane (remaining at the end)? Everyone knew they weren't winning. Then the Rusev thing just was stupid. As cool as Lesnar is, it's hard to buy a champion who only wrestles on pay per view.

Lesnar wins. Rollins then cashes in his Money in the Bank contract and loses.

Pointer- I'm a Brock Lesnar guy. I would like to see him more, but he will only come on part time. I don't really like that because I want to see him in more matches, but when he comes on, I am pumped! And I think Reigns will be a big time superstar, but I don't think he can match Lesnar right now. Lesnar is on a roll and it's not stopping.

Triple H vs. The Icon Sting in Stings's WWE wrestling debut

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nola shines brightly in big league spring debut

spring-training-2015Clouds and rain showers couldn't prevent the Phillies' top pitching prospect from shining on Friday when he took the mound for the first time in a big league spring training game.

In three innings of work in relief against the Yankees, Aaron Nola allowed five hits and no runs while striking out four and walking none. His efforts included punch outs of legendary sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

Those getting their first look at Nola took notice of the polished control of his three pitches and his comfort level on the mound. His fast ball ranged from 92 to 94 MPH with movement, his change up was used to his advantage, , making some batters look foolish, and his breaking ball supplemented both of the other offerings nicely, keeping the opposition guessing.

Nola was taken with the seventh overall selection in last year's MLB amateur draft. He sported a 4-3 record with a 2.93 ERA and a .240 batting average against in 12 combined games for Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading.

Prior to signing with the Phils, Nola was twice honored as SEC player of the year while compiling a 30-6 overall record with a 2.09 ERA in three seasons at LSU.

On Friday, the 21-year-old pitched in relief of Jonathan Papelbon, who started the game when the weather forecast threatened his outing as a reliever. Papelbon tossed a scoreless frame, lowering his spring ERA to 1.50 in six appearances.

Entering the fifth inning, the game was a scoreless tie, but a troublesome appearance by Jake Diekman and additional relief by Hector Neris coughed up seven runs before the Phillies could take their turn at bat for the inning. Game still in progress. Check back later for more.

*Update:
 In a rain-shortened affair, the Yankees were victorious by a score of 10-0, thanks to a 15-hit attack on Phils hurlers.  Diekman was charged with seven earned runs in 1/3 inning, taking his Grapefruit League season ERA to 12.27.  Neris surrendered three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Catcher Cameron Rupp notched his 10th hit this spring, taking his batting average to .400 in 12 games.  Rule 5 pick up Odubel Herrera went 1-for-2 placing his spring average at .354.  Infielder Cesar Hernandez sports a .098 average this spring, following a 0-for-2 effort in the contest.

The Phils are back in action on Saturday, when they will take on the Twins.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Phillies add Lohman with Crawford out of action

With top prospect J.P. Crawford out of action due to an oblique strain, the Phillies have acquired shortstop Devin Lohman from Cincinnati. 

Crawford, the Phils' top selection from the 2013 draft has been on the fast track through the developmental ranks since first signing a pro contract.  The 20-year-old sports a .292 average with 12 homers, 69 RBI and 38 steals in 176 total pro games at four levels of the minors.

The Phillies anticipate that Crawford will be out of action for four to six weeks.  Once he's ready to return to the field, it will likely be for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, where he finished last year, so the team's trainers can keep a close eye on the talented youngster.

Lohman, 25, was the Reds' third round draft selection in 2010.  In 564 games over five pro seasons, the Cal State University, Long Beach product has tallied a .251 average with 38 homers, 252 RBI and 79 stolen bases.

Look for Lohman to fill the void left by the ailing Crawford, at either Clearwater or Double-A Reading, through the first month of the regular season.  

Crawford's Chronicles: J.P. talks about looking up to Mansolino and Rollins

JPCraw1
JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
Throughout spring training, Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford has been checking in to offer his thoughts straight from Clearwater, FL.

The 20-year-old is widely considered the Phils' top prospect after the team's first round draft pick in 2013 posted a .285/.375/.406 slash line in 123 combined games at Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater last year in his first full pro season.

News broke today that Crawford would miss time to open the season with an oblique strain. Despite the ailment, the California native, in his exclusive weekly interview with Phillies Nation, spoke about a new focus in the Phils' developmental ranks this year, what made Philadelphia appealing to him as a child, his daily spring routine and plenty more.

Read ahead for all that Crawford had to say and click here to read previous entries in this series.

-Sharing thoughts on how things have been going in minor league camp thus far in 2015...

"We've been playing real well together. We've been playing real team baseball, which has been the goal for spring training. But our top guy says he wants us playing team baseball and wants to change it up this year and everybody's just doing their job to try to win a ball game and it's been paying off."

Phillies Nation season premiere: 2015 fantasy preview

Phillies Nation is back with another season of baseball coverage on your television.  On the season premiere of the program, Corey and Pat are joined by new co-host Rachel.  The gang offers complete analysis on fantasy baseball options for 2015, so don't head into your draft without checking out the show.  Corey also visits with Sean Forman of BaseballReference.com regarding that site's advantages for fantasy managers.

Additionally, stay tuned through the full episode to catch my up-and-coming prospects worthy of grabbing and stashing for the future of your fantasy squad.

New episodes of Phillies Nation premiere each Tuesday at 6pm on The Comcast Network and repeat throughout the week on TCN and Comcast Sportsnet.

Take a look at the media player below for the season premiere of PNTV!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crawford's Chronicles: J.P. Talks Game Action, Teammates, Utley, Greene

J.P. Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
Throughout spring training, Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford will be checking in to offer his thoughts straight from Clearwater, FL.

Crawford, 20, is widely considered the Phils' top prospect after the team's first round draft pick in 2013 posted a .285/.375/.406 slash line in 123 combined games at Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater last year in his first full pro season.

This week the lefty batting shortstop spoke about the start of game action, his double play combo partners, Larry Greene Jr.'s surprise absence from camp, Chase Utley once again plus plenty more.

Read ahead for all the exclusive quotes straight from the one and only J.P..

-With games getting underway, Crawford talked about how he and his group that's being coached by the Clearwater staff did in the opening two days...

"We played the Blue Jays (on Tuesday) and the Pirates (on Wednesday) and we beat both of them. We started off real well, playing real good team baseball. I went 2-for-3 on Wednesday, so, I'm finally starting to get a feel for live pitching again and everything's starting to come around.

"I think I went 0-for-3 on Tuesday and played all nine innings. I played seven innings (on Wednesday)."

-On the topic of the intrasquad games in which the Phillies' minor leaguers play against one another and if the players take those games seriously...

"We always take it serious. Whenever we're on the field playing a game, we're out there trying to win. And especially when we're out there playing against the older squad, it's a lot of fun. It's really competitive for us. We're trying- we're going out there to beat them.

"The first intrasquad game, I went 2-for-4. I faced Zach Eflin the first game. I got a base hit off of him."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Amaro refutes Biddle's concussion diagnosis again and again


Jesse Biddle, image- Jay Floyd
When a CSNPhilly piece by Jim Salisbury featured quotes from Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discrediting prospect Jesse Biddle's assertion of suffering from a concussion last season, the uproar that should accompany such contradiction was missing

The Phils' 2010 opening round draft choice (27th overall), Biddle, missed considerable time last year after the Phillies told the media that the German Town Friends School graduate needed a mental break.

Biddle struggled with his production after he was struck in the head with an ice pellet during a hail storm in May.  Prior to the ailment, which forced him to miss one start initially, the Philadelphia native posted a 3.18 ERA with 61 strike outs and 24 walks in 10 starts for Double-A Reading.  In the five starts that followed he had a 9.81 ERA with 15 strike outs and 16 walks issued.

At the time of the injury last year, Biddle was diagnosed by a doctor as having a concussion and, according to a piece by the Reading Eagle's Mike Drago last year, it was his the third of his life.

Biddle's high demands on himself drove him to push through the difficulties and things weren't getting better.  In June he would be shut down to visit a specialist and participate in physical therapy in Florida.

Biddle offered a declaration to me in August that the damage caused by being struck in the head was quite substantial, having an impact outside of baseball.

"I definitely was experiencing some symptoms and whether or not they were affecting me on the field, they just affected my day to day life," Biddle said.

The young left-hander also expressed that the concussion symptoms lasted for some time and any implications that he is delicate between the ears was of no great concern to him.

"I didn't really read anything about it," Biddle stated.  "One of the things I'm learning is to just try not to read stuff about yourself."

In Salisbury's article though, the man that should be expected to have some interest in the welfare for Phillies on-field personnel, Amaro, seemed to be resistant toward Biddle's diagnosis.

Amaro this week acknowledged that Biddle had “concussion symptoms,” but added, “I don’t know if it was a full-blown concussion.” He went on to say, “That wasn’t the reason we gave him the break.”

What is it that the guy in charge of the Phillies is trying to convey there? Why does he continue to question the 23-year-old's toughness?   Does the general manager aspire to be a brain trauma expert?

Amaro's doubtful critique of the scenario can't benefit, in any fashion, a player that should still be a prized prospect to his team. There's also no manner that ripping Biddle's fortitude can help to boost his value to a different team.

So, what good can this do?  None.  Could it have a negative result?  Maybe.  Biddle and other players could take notice of Amaro's resistance and opposition toward medical diagnosis and may develop resentment toward management.

While there have been plenty of reasons in recent years for fans to dislike the job Amaro has done and to call for his termination, perhaps there is no more appropriate reason to call for his removal from the team's front office than a complete and demonstrable disregard for a player's health.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Crawford's Chronicles: JP Crawford talks Spring Training

JPCraw1
JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
Entering this year as the widely regarded top prospect in the Phillies organization, J.P. Crawford will be taking time each week to provide insight directly from inside spring training in Clearwater, FL, right here on PhilliesNation.com.

Crawford, 20, was named the top positional prospect in two leagues (Class A South Atlantic League and Class A Advanced Florida State League) last year, when he combined, in 123 games, to post a .285 average, 11 homers, 48 RBI and 24 stolen bases. He also represented the Phils organization in the MLB All-Star Futures Game last season.

As the 2015 campaign approaches, the six-foot-two 180-pound lefty batter is expected to reach the Double-A level and continue to prove why the Phillies selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft.

In this initial installment of our weekly check-in with J.P., he shares thoughts on a variety of topics, including his exclusion from big league camp, which member of the big league roster he's impressed by, which minor league teammate he looks up to, his coaches and more.

-Sharing his thoughts on not being invited to big league spring training...

"I mean, it's (the team's) decision. I'm just going to go out, where ever I am, I'm just going to try to play hard and just try to impress everybody and do my job. I didn't have an opinion about whether or not I should be there, so I'm not going to get mad about anything."

-Providing feedback on the coaching group he's assigned to thus far in camp...

"I'm working with Greg Legg and (Rob) Ducey and Steve Schrenk, so it's the Clearwater staff. I like them a lot. I mean, we're all working on something, trying to get us to reach the same goal. It's a lot of fun to be around a lot of people with that same goal. They're great. They have a bunch of wisdom and they know what they're talking about, so if they try to tell you something, you better listen, because they know what they're doing."

-Speaking about which Phillies personnel have addressed the minor leaguers thus far...

"We just just had the bosses, Ruben (Amaro) and Joe (Jordan) come in and talk to us on Monday. They talked about what kind of players they're looking for: players that know how to win and players who get after it. So, it kind of fired me up and made me want to work a little bit more. It's the same talk every year and they don't really give any names as examples, but it gives you something to shoot for."

-On the topic of being viewed by his coaches as a leader for his teammates-

"I think it's a real good honor. All throughout my life, people have always looked up to me, like on my travel ball teams and on my high school team, I was a leader almost all four years, so it kind of just comes naturally to me now, so it's just normal to me."

-Sharing thoughts on if he's got any teammates that he views as leaders...

"I definitely look up to Art Charles. I view him like an older brother. He's helped me learn the ropes in this organization and has shown me around and has made me feel a lot more comfortable than I was."

-Speaking about which big league players have left a solid impression on him...

"Chase Utley, I had dinner with him the other day. He's a really good dude. He's all about baseball. He's all about being that winning type of person. He's all types of serious, so I kind of look up to that and it just makes me want to go out there with a serious approach and work a little harder than everybody else. He's with the same agency as me, so our agents took us out. Us and Chase d'Arnaud too, who just joined the Phillies.

I worked out a lot with him this off-season. We worked out at our high schools. We'd hit, we'd take some ground balls and get after it."

Check back in the coming weeks for more exclusive content from J.P..

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hanson is latest Phils minor leaguer to move on from baseball

Nic Hanson w/ Lakewood in 2013, image- Jay Floyd
News of Phillies minor league players stepping away from baseball seems to be a regular thing in recent days. On Monday, righty hurler Nic Hanson became the latest prospect to announce his retirement from the game.

News of Phillies minor league players stepping away from baseball seems to be a regular thing in recent days.  On Monday, righty hurler Nic Hanson became the latest prospect to announce his retirement from the game.

Faced with the hurdles of recovery from two elbow surgeries last year, the six-foot-seven 210-pounder confirmed via text message that he has officially retired from baseball.

Hanson, who was a 16th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2012, posted a 5-10 record along with a 4.54 ERA and a .287 batting average against in 46 games (24 starts) over three pro seasons.

The California native last appeared in two games for Class A Advanced Clearwater last August, where he allowed eight earned runs over six frames, before he was sidelined with a setback.

Moving forward, Hanson is excited about his future, as he is currently in school to follow in his father’s footstep and become a firefighter.

The details on Hanson come on the heels of former top draft selection Larry Greene Jr. choosing to not play baseball this year as well as minor league veterans Jim Murphy and Steve Susdorf moving on from the diamond.

This post originally appeared on PhilliesNation.com.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Another retirement announced out of minor league spring training

With minor league camp underway and the initial work out groups list unveiled this weekend, thanks to Jim Peyton of PhuturePhillies.com (see below), a key question arose. Where is Larry Greene Jr? The omission of the Phillies' top selection from the 2011 draft (39th overall) has plenty of people wondering about his status.

Confirmed by manager of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, the 22-year-old Greene has retired from professional baseball.

In three pro seasons, the six-foot-one 225-pounder posted a .224 average with eight home runs and 74 RBI in 242 games.

Greene, a Georgia native, signed for a reported $1 million following the 2011 draft.  The Phillies retain the rights to Greene, if and when he decides to return to baseball.

Also of note from the list, per Legg, Andrew Pullin, who made an impact as the second baseman for Class A Lakewood last year (.270/.333/.394 in 129 games), will officially move forward as an outfielder, the position he played prior to being drafted as a 5th rounder in 2012 out of high school.

Additionally, multi-positional batsman Willians Astudillo, who was second in the Class A South Atlantic League in batting last year with a .333 mark, is listed as a catcher, where the Phillies hope he can catch on. Last season with Lakewood, the 23-year-old Venezuelan played first base, left field and catcher.

In recent days it was announced here on PhoulBallz.com that minor league slugger Jim Murphy's playing career was likely done after he was not offered a deal by an affiliated team this off-season.

It wouldn't seem that, based on recent news, Greene or Murphy will be impacting baseball odds at betfair.com going forward.  Perhaps Pullin and Astudillo could do so in the future, though.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Longtime Phils minor leaguer Jim Murphy likely done with playing career

Jim Murphy in the cage last year while coach Mickey Morandini looks on
Slugging first baseman Jim Murphy has decided that his playing days are over.

Reached for comment on Thursday, the Washington state native asserted his time in the lineup has ended.

"I didn't get a spring training invite from (a major league affiliate)," Murphy shared. "I don't want to play independent ball. I'm done playing."

The Phillies' 17th round draft choice in 2008 out of Washington State University, Murphy notched a .264 average with 98 home runs and 432 RBI in 800 career professional games. Having played at every single level of the Phils' developmental ranks, the six-foot-four 240-pounder was twice an All-Star in his minor league career, in 2011 with Class A Lakewood, where he is a massive fan favorite, and in 2013 with Double-A Reading.

After wrapping up his 2014 season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Murphy became a free agent.

Murphy has long been viewed as a player that could one day have a future in coaching. Through his career, he'd regularly spend time during off-seasons working at youth clinics and told me a few winters back that he would like to stay in the game after his playing days were over, whether as a coach or by working in the front office for a team.

For now, the 29-year-old is currently working in the home loan industry in Seattle.  If the right offer to again don a uniform came his way, it's possible Murphy would return to the game.

Update: After the initial publication of this piece, I heard back from Murphy who did not wish for me to use the word "retired" to describe his status.  He declared that, despite stating that he's done playing, he prefers the phrase "un-signed free agent".

Image- Jay Floyd