Phillies Minor League System Check: Reading

Apparently, the only known photo of Darin Ruf in Reading. - Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Double-A Reading Phillies, boasting arguably the most talented roster in the Phillies' farm system, secured a playoff berth, and featured the home run king of all of minor league baseball in Darin Ruf. Will any of their players make a big impact in Philadelphia any time soon?

This is the second in a series of prospect focused reviews of the Phillies Minor League system. We'll go club by club and look at the good, the bad and the ugly. The focus is on players who may help the Phillies, so I won't be discussing the positives of Troy Hanzawa or Scott Elarton, for example.

Reading is the next stop on the system check where we have quite a few prospects. As we move down through the system I will become more selective at each level on which prospects I spend more time on and which just getting some passing notes. I'll do my best to hit everyone of interest in some post this offseason, so if I don't cover someone here, I will pick them up in a specific Prospect review post or elsewhere. Lest these system check posts grow to War and Peace.

Cody Asche - 6'1" 180 lbs 22 years old 3B Started his season in Clearwater (a double jump) before moving up to Reading. A+: 62 games, .349/.378/.447, 13.7% K, 4.4% BB, .098 ISO, 2 HR, .399 BABIP AA: 67 G, .301/.359/.514, 19.4% K, 7.4% BB, .213 ISO, 10 HR, .349 BABIP

This time last year Asche was a high college draft pick (4th round) who struggled in Williamsport (A pitcher's league, but still a place where a College player should probably get above the Mendoza line). He wasn't very high on many prospect radars coming into 2012. The years started with a switch to Third Base and that double jump over Lakewood. Asche started off more than okay in Clearwater, a somewhat more Pitcher friendly league, while he had some BABIP luck, he made a good number of prospect watchers giddy by looking to be a fairly legit third base prospect. Then he was jumped to Reading in mid-season, the jump from A+ to AA is considered the most difficult in baseball. And it looked like the most difficult jump for the first few weeks for Asche. On July 19th Asche had been in AA about 1 month and had 1 multi-hit game, 1 HR, 1 Triple, 1 Double and a handful of singles that was the nadir of his season as he went 0 for 3, got plunked and struck out. On the 20th, he went 3 for 5 with a HR. The following day: 1 for 3 with 2 walks, then 2 for 6 with a HR and a walk. A few days later 3 for 4 with 2 HRs. Asche had seemingly adjusted. There was much rejoicing. Asche has a few things to work on to be a future MLB regular at 3rd: He needs to maintain the power he showed in Reading (something which was not there in Williamsport or Clearwater) and he needs to continue improving his defense at Third Base. I find it hard to believe he wouldn't start 2013 in AAA, but it's possible the team wants him to spend a month in Reading to build on this year's success before moving up, but Third has suddenly become a position with pressure in the pipeline with Franco, Walding and Martinez behind Asche, he'll be in the Lehigh Valley before too long.

Lisalverto Bonilla- 6'1" 164 lbs RHP 22 years old Like Asche, split time between A+ and AA. A+: 13 1/3 IP, 1.35 ERA, 2.16 SIERA, 2.08 FIP, 12.15 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 0.98 WHIP AA: 33 IP, 1.64 ERA, 2.68 SIERA, 2.35 FIP, 12.55 K/9, 4.64 BB/9, 1.21 WHIP

Lisalverto Bonilla had a mighty good season. Here's a good link for some videos of him pitching this Spring. He has to work on his Walk Rate, walking almost 5 guys per 9 innings would be fairly unsustainable. That said, he's 22, and it's not unusual for BB rates to rise for Pitchers making the jump to AA.Bonilla switched to the Pen full time this year. That's a bit of a bummer, as I'd rather keep someone a Starter until they fail miserably and need to move to the BP. Still, can't argue with those results, as even his advanced metrics are really solid, he's a damned terror to ground dwelling insects everywhere.

Leandro Castro- 5'11" 175 lbs OF 23 years old Spent the whole year in Reading. 131 G, .287/.316/.427, 13.7% K, 3.3% BB, .140 ISO, 59% SB Rate, 16.1% of his contact is Infield Fly Balls (I had to do that math a few times just to make sure)

Castro doesn't walk enough, doesn't have great power, has decent speed, but nothing amazing, he apparently pops up frequently (27.3% OFB, plus his 16.1% IFB. Obviously not all the OFB would be "pop-ups"). I'm guessing Castro is probably a likely AAAA guy. He just doesn't have any particular skillset where he's above average. Sometimes those guys can make it (Chris Heisey in Cincy, for example). He'll be in AAA next year.

Brody Colvin- Brody had most of his struggles in Clearwater, so he'll get coverage there.

Tyson Gillies- 6'2" 205 lbs OF 23 years old Spent the year in AA, aside from a few brief rehab appearances in A ball. All stats combined here. 74 G, .297/.369/.440, 17.4% K, 6.0% BB, 64% SB Rate, 9 SB, 51.2% GB

Dammit, stay healthy, Gillies of the Phillies! I'm a big fan of Gillies, but he lost time in 2010 to injuries. He lost damned near all of 2011 to Injury and he missed parts of 2012 to Injuries. Worse, most of that time was to leg injuries. That's bad for a guy whose calling card is speed and whose hitting style relies on beating out grounders. I have hopes, as many of us do, that Gillies could be the CF of the future, but if he can't stay healthy it's going to be a tough road for him. And that isn't even to mention the behavioral red flags. 2013 is a big year for Gillies. If he has a full, healthy season in AA and performs at the level he did this year in AA... Dream on.

Jiwan James- 6'4" 180 lbs OF 23 years old Spent the whole year in Reading. 110 G, .249/.292/.361, 27.7% K, 5.1% BB, .112 ISO

I should nickname James "Flashes". Every once in a while he has a few games where you can see the athletic potential scouts have discussed in past years with hope. Sadly, those flashes haven't lasted very long and his numbers this year are fairly rough, there just isn't anything in that line you can really look at and say "Well, this is promising." His K rate rose and BB rate fell. He had a little more power this year, but just a little. The one good thing isn't on his stat line, but it's right next to it. Twenty three. There is still time. James lost a season to Pitching after being drafted, so maybe another season in AA is good for him. He's eligible for the Rule V again this year, but I think he's a safe bet to return to Reading next Spring.

Tommy Joseph- 6'1" 215 lbs C 21 years old Mastered the 2 of the R's in the Eastern League: Reading and Richmond(tic). I'll combine the stat lines here for ease. 104 G (16 games at First Base, 74 behind the dish, 18 games DH, yes some games are counted twice), .260/.321/.398, 21.5% K, 7.8% BB, .138 ISO, 0 for 4 SB (hey, he is a Catcher), 40.4% CS, 11 PB

That 40% Caught Stealing is pretty darned good for a 21 year old Catcher and is actually pretty much in line with his prior work behind the plate. 11 Passed Balls isn't great, but that has gone down every year he's played, at least (though his pace this year is similar to 2011 when he caught more games). Joseph is a legit catching prospect. I prefer him to Valle both Offensively and Defensively. His one weakness is that he is lacking a little in the power department, but he's young, and power can sometimes develop late for players, so there's still hope. If both Joseph and Valle are in the Org next year, I'm guessing Joseph gets a year in Reading to consolidate his progress and get regular work behind the plate instead of splitting time.

Ethan Martin- 6'2" 195 lbs RHP 23 years old Spent the year in AA. The Southern League is fairly neutral to a little Pitcher friendly, Reading is a little more hitter friendly. Stats combined. 157 2/3 IP, 3.48 ERA, 4.09 SIERA, 3.54 FIP, 8.39 K/9, 4.51 BB/9, 1.27 WHIP, .269 BABIP

Martin came over in the Dodgers deal. Walks a lot of dudes, but at least that number is trending down. I need to learn more about Martin, honestly. Word on the street is he's always had good stuff, but can't get it over consistently. He reportedly has a pretty straight Fastball (works in the 92-94 range) and a hard Slider or Curveball (depends what Scouting report you read). For a guy with a hard slider his GB rate is lower than I'd expect, but his BB rate is also down this year, so I'm going to assume he backed off the slider some, causing both his BB rate and GB changes. He doesn't really have a Change-up, so with 2 plus pitches, he could end up a high leverage bullpen piece. He was a First Round pick by the Dodgers in 2008 seen as having Ace potential. That potential is still there, the Phillies have been successful in the past getting pitchers to add Change-ups and Cutters. If Martin can hone his control and add one of those pitches with consistent command and control, he could still be an Ace, but he's likely either a mid-rotation starter or a Bullpen guy. I'd like to see him stay in AA next year and focus on control.

Trevor May- 6'5" 215 lbs RHP 22 years old Spent his season in AA. 149 2/3 IP, 4.87 ERA, 4.00 SIERA, 4.88 FIP, 9.08 K/9, 4.69 BB/9, 1.52 WHIP, 19.5 HR/OFB

Similar case to Martin. May has Ace potential, but just walks too damned many guys (not to mention some bad luck with Homers). Dr. May appeared in the first 5 or 6 weeks of the season, before Trevor Hyde started making appearances in Mid May and walking everyone. Dr May returned with a vengeance in June, when in 4 straight starts Dr. May kept his walk rates low and struck out dudes like Lincoln hunting vampires. Then on June 30th Trevor Hyde returned and made more people walk than a Faith Healer. Dr. May returned to finish out the season in August (aside from one bad luck start in the middle of the month). I'd actually prefer to see May spend the first month or so of 2013 in Reading, then move up to LHV. He's still a top prospect, but he needs to get a little more consistency. That said, I think he could handle Triple-A right out of the gate if the team decides to go that route instead.

Jonathan Pettibone- 6'5" 200 lbs RHP 22 years old Split year between AA and AAA. Decent sized sample in both leagues, so I'll list them individually instead of combined. AA: 117 1/3 IP, 3.30 ERA, 3.96 SIERA, 3.63 FIP, 6.21 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP, 47.7% GB, AAA: 42 1/3 IP, 2.55 ERA, 4.41 SIERA, 3.25 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 4.68 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP (Consistent!), 50.8% GB

The walks in Triple-A were a bit of an anomaly for Pettibone, and perhaps are some combination of small sample size and adjusting to the hitters at that level. Prospect watchers talk a lot about floor and ceiling. If I want to do that for Pettibone, I'll say he's the 'Being John Malkovich' of Phillies prospects (sans the hidden portal with the exit by the New Jersey Turnpike). His floor is probably Kyle Kendrick, while his ceiling might be Joe Blanton. He doesn't strike too many guys out, but he induces grounders like almost no one else in the system. He's almost perfectly the profile of a mid-to back of the rotation starter. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That is a valuable, if not particularly sexy, asset to have on your team, as you won't always have 3 or 4 aces. That said, he was almost certainly the Ace of the Reading staff this year and it's hard to argue with his results the last few years.

Darin Ruf- 6'3" 220 lbs 1B/LF 26 years old Spent the whole year in AA, prior to a September call up when he became the most popular stocky guy in Philadelphia while single handedly fighting the Nats. 138 G, .313/.404/.617, 17.4% K, 11.2% BB, 38 HRs, .304 ISO, .318 BABIP

Look at that line! I mean, really, look. It's beautiful. Like, Peter Lik sunset in the desert beautiful. Ruf didn't really become a prospect until he turned 26. That's pretty rare. I, for one, believe in his bat. That BB rate is not a fluke, that's not too far out of line with his minor league career. Same with his BABIP, and I don't think it's a case of guy too old for level beating up on kids, either. Problem is, he's apparently a good defensive First Baseman (I say this in an attempt to avoid the Creighton University PR department) and not a very good Left Fielder (though his arm is plenty strong, he's kind of the anti-Ben Francisco). I think Ruf stands a fairly good chance of being a decent MLB regular. I'm just not sure that will happen in Philly. So the question becomes: trade him now, while his stock is high, or, if you believe in his bat, play him next year and hopefully build his trade value for a deadline deal? I think his future is at First, which means it's probably not here.

Sebastian Valle- 6'1" 205 lbs C 22 years old Spent all but the last few weeks in Reading. Combined stats: 104 G, .253/.271/.430, 27.5% K, 3.2% BB, .170 ISO, 17 HR, 26% CS, 11 PB

Valle is young and he has very good power potential. He also is a work in progress behind the plate, where he is good, but not great defensively. He strikes out at a high rate, but walks pretty rarely. I remain fairly high on Valle because of his power, but if he can't get on base at something better than a .280-.290 rate, it's going to be impossible for me to rate him higher than Joseph.

Other notables:

David Buchanan- Pitched decently when he was healthy. Kind of a low K/high BB guy. May have a future in the Bullpen. He's age appropriate for the level and too exciting. Of course, as noted previously, it seems like every now and then these middle of the pack guys suddenly contribute to the big club, so Buchanan is worth keeping an eye on, but not much more.

Cesar Hernandez- Hanging onto a 40 man spot, so the clock is ticking a bit for Cesar. A solid season in AA this year, but struggled with AAA in a small sample. Probably profiles as a future Utility guy. Nothing wrong with that, he'd be a helluva lot cheaper than Wiggy.

Austin Hyatt- It's not as bad as it looks. Which is not to say it's great, his K and BB rates are decent, but he's a dead fly ball pitcher. Bullpen?

D'arby Myers- Welcome back. Myers spent most of his career sucking, but it appears he may be finally putting the puzzle together. That's good, as he has a nice ceiling. Wait and See, but lots of promise this year.

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