Saturday, April 29, 2017

Phillies are rich with talent at second base

Well stocked for the future at the second base position, the Phillies have a collection of talented players enjoying success at several levels.

It’s, as they say, a good problem to have.

According to the Phillies’ director of player development Joe Jordan the collection of talent at a key position is something the Phillies’ brass has discussed considerably.

Cesar Hernandez, image- Jay Floyd
At the top level, Cesar Hernandez, has become the Phillies’ most consistent offensive performer this season. The 26-year-old could be in line for his first big league All-Star nod if his exceptional efforts continue.

Through 21 games this season, heading into action on Saturday, Hernandez has tallied a .318 batting average with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases. Hernandez mashed just six homers last season in 155 games played with the Phillies. His surge in power and a solid ability to drive the ball has been attributed to a quality workout program last off-season, which reportedly saw the talented Venezuelan add 15 pounds of muscle to his typical middle infielder frame, as well as a refined swing following a benching last summer.

Jordan describes Hernandez as “a guy who's really morphed into a terrific looking major league player”.

Behind Hernandez, though, is a crop of excellent prospects that are garnering a lot of attention throughout the Phils’ developmental ranks.

In Triple-A, Jesmuel Valentin, who had a terrific exhibition campaign in the Grapefruit League, continues to impress. The 22-year-old is batting .271 with three doubles, a homer and six RBI through 18 games for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Versatile in the field, the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin can also play shortstop and third base along with the outfield as well.

“Valentin's a hell of a good baseball player and I think that, he's a switch-hitter, he had a really good (spring training) and was under strong consideration to make the big league club out of spring training,” Jordan said.

Valentin tallied a .366 batting average with six doubles and four RBI in 21 spring games with the big league team this spring. He was acquired from the Dodgers in 2014 as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade after he had been a supplementary 1st round draft choice of Los Angeles in 2012.

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
At Double-A Reading Scott Kingery, the Phillies’ 2nd round draft selection from 2015 has displayed a boost in power as well. Through 17 games with the Fightin Phils, the 23-year-old has notched three doubles, a triple and six home runs while driving in 17 and swiping four bags.

In spring training, the righty hitter batted .286 with a double, two homers and three RBI with a steal in 10 games.

“I think that Kingery showed very well (in spring training also),” Jordan stated. “He's got catalyst potential, a hard-nosed player, you know, maybe a 70 runner, premium defense.”

That assessment is gleaming. But the organization and Jordan aren’t done yet. High hopes surround one more second base prospect at a lower level.

With Lakewood in the Class A South Atlantic League, Daniel Brito, a 19-year-old Venezuelan, has swiftly become that team’s offensive jewel. From the lead-off spot, the young lefty batter sports a .333 average with two doubles, three home runs and five stolen bases through 22 games.

“Brito, you know, honestly, five years from now, he might be the best hitter of the bunch,” Jordan suggested.

All of this depth translates to wealth for the Phillies. An abundance of valuable players at a critical position up the middle can help the organization in more ways than one.

With a crowded scene, the Phils could potentially use some of these options to fill some other essential spots.

“I think those decisions are made, you know, at the appropriate time,” Jordan explained. “If we have players playing good they're either going to help us or help get something we need. That's reality. That's professional baseball.”

Jordan stressed, however, that his job is player development and that entails maximizing the abilities of everyone and getting each of them ready for what’s ahead.

Maximize away, Mr. Jordan and staff. Maximize away.
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