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Phillies 2012 Minor League System Check: Clearwater Threshers

Clearwater had a quietly good year on the prospect front. There were some high profile guys (Asche, Biddle, Rupp) and some other guys who are borderline, but had nice seasons. It's probably the least talked about of the clubs in prospect terms, but there were still some good things going on. (The picture is Drew Naylor, BTW. Picture choices are pretty slim this low in the system)

Al Messerschmidt

This is the third 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.

Jesse Biddle- 6'4" 225 lbs LHP 20 years old Spent the whole year in Clearwater (I sure hope he visited the Dali Museum while he was there).
142 2/3 IP, 3.22 ERA, 3.43 SIERA, 3.23 FIP, 9.46 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 1.32 WHIP

What can I say, that's a very solid year. I don't have much else to add, Biddle is probably #1 on my Phillies prospect list this year (I know I shouldn't give away the ending of a future article, but maybe it's still possible I'll reveal that Biddle has actually been dead the whole time and that's why no one can hit his ghost pitches). I still have to look over my list of prospects, compare numbers, etc., but I think, for me, Biddle is going to be tough to unseat. Double-A is a big jump, so next year may be more interesting, but I've been very impressed by Biddle so far.

Zach Collier- 6'2" 185 lbs OF 21 years old When not serving a PED suspension, he was in Clearwater.
75 G, .265/.331/.394, .129 ISO, 19.0% K, 8.3% BB, 78.6% SB

I like Collier. He's got a really good skill set, but he's a fairly classic better athlete than baseball player type. There are some good signs in his line, though. His K rate and BB rate along with most of the rest of his line held up from last year. His power and Line Drive rate improved. It would be easy to write Collier off because of the PED issue and the slow progress, but he has legitimate skills that if harnessed could make him a valuable player for the Phillies. If he continues to progress as he currently has been, he'll be a quality backup Outfielder someday. But, if he develops some power he could project as a starter in a MLB outfield. I think the chances of that are likely low, but there's still enough talent here to pay attention to. I think he'll handle the jump to AA since his plate discipline numbers have been pretty solid the last 2 years.

Brody Colvin- 6'3" 195lbs RHP 22 years old Threw a few games in Reading, and spent some time in the bullpen. His time in Reading is SSS, but the numbers are so incredibly different from his A+ numbers that I'll list them seperate.
A+: 105 1/3 IP, 4.27 ERA, 4.23 SIERA, 3.73 FIP, 7.95 K/9, 4.36 BB/9, 1.64 WHIP, 43.3% GB
AA: 29 1/3 IP, 9.51 ERA, 6.10 SIERA, 7.50 FIP, 4.60 K/9, 5.83 BB/9, 2.15 WHIP, 32.4% GB

Ugghh. Brody Colvin aggravates me. He has a great Fastball working 92-94. Scouts rave about his mechanics and most seem to agree that his Curve and Changeup have potential to be above average offerings, yet he still struggles with his command and control and the results have been underwhelming in 2011 and 2012. There's a lot to like about Colvin who could be a fine #2 Starter, but he's also got some red flags (arrest in 2010, reportedly out of shape to start 2011). In the long run, maybe he's better off in the bullpen, but I think it would be best to press him 1 more year as a Starter before seriously considering giving that up. It looked like the Phillies did that earlier this summer when Colvin briefly worked out of the Bullpen, but I think that may have been more to rebuild confidence, as Colvin had a tough luck year. After almost 2 full seasons in A+, Colvin is going to Double-A next April, come hell or high water.

Percy Garner- 6'3" 225 lbs RHP 23 years old Spent his season in Clearwater.
134 IP, 4.90 ERA, 4.76 SIERA, 4.26 FIP, 6.11 K/9, 4.23 BB/9, 1.53 WHIP, 46.5% GB

That's a pretty good Ground Ball rate. Beyond that Percival has some work to do. Percy's another guy whose long term fit could be a bullpen, but he lost time to injury early on after being drafted and he doesn't have a great history as a Pitcher, since he was a two sport star in College. He's got a plus Fastball working in the mid-90's and a potential plus Curveball. He's played with a Slider, but doesn't seem to use it much, per scouting reports. And his Changeup is pretty fringy. Reports note he has a consistent arm slot and good mechanics, he's missing command of his pitches, and he may well be able to work through that. If he can, he's a potential top of the rotation starter. If he can't, he may still be able to be a high leverage reliever given the quality of his 2 best pitches. I expect he'll spend all of 2012 in the rotation in Reading.

Anthony Hewitt- 6'1" 190 lbs OF 23 years old Spent the whole year in Clearwater.
107 G, .241/.282/.389, .148 ISO, 13 HR, 31.0% K, 4.2% BB

The good news for Hewitt is that his stats across the board are almost identical to 2011 (to a really, really weird degree) so the jump in level didn't hurt. The bad news is his stats across the board are almost identical to 2011. Hewitt has as much raw talent as anyone in the organization. He has speed, he can hit for power, but he can't stop striking out. A lot of people point to plate discipline stats like K rate and Walk rate as being the key indicators on whether or not a prospect can make it. Some guys beat the odds (Ryan Howard struck out a ton), but most never get beyond Double-A. That will make 2013 a very interesting year for Mr. Hewitt, he's shown flashes. Can he put it together?

Tyler Knigge- 6'4" 215 lbs RHP 23 years old Split the year between Clearwater and Reading.
A+: 44 2/3 IP, 0.60 ERA (not a typo), 2.89 SIERA, 1.72 FIP, 9.07 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 0.83 WHIP, 45.9% GB
AA: 23 2/3 IP, 3.04 ERA, 3.79 SIERA, 3.45 FIP, 8.75 K/9, 4.56 BB/9, 1.61 WHIP, 56.3% GB

Knigge is legit, and while no one should get too excited about relievers in the Minors, Knigge is worth getting somewhat worked up over. He's a Fastball/Slider guy and from reports, both are quite nasty. I assume the higher Walk rate in Double-A is the result of more selective hitters and a bit of an over-reliance on the Slider. Per his splits he is absolute death to Righties and holds his own against Lefties. If he can work on pitch selection and setting hitters up for the Slider, he's got potential for back of the bullpen work. At worst, I think he can be a middle reliever similar to David Herndon.

Adam Morgan- 6'1" 195 lbs LHP 22 years old Like Knigge, split time between FSL and EAS.
A+: 117 2/3, 3.29 ERA, 2.62 SIERA, 2.32 FIP, 10.17 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, 1.10 WHIP, 42.7% GB
AA: 35 2/3 IP, 3.53 ERA, 3.89 SIERA, 3.23 FIP, 7.32 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 1.26 WHIP, 35.9% GB

The numbers look awesome, Morgan works in the upper 80's/low 90's mostly with his Fastball. He has an average Changeup and developing Slider and Curve. He seems to have some stiffness in his delivery causing pitches to float higher than intended across the plate (potentially dangerous if you make a habit out of that type of thing). I expect Morgan may sneak into the Top 10 this year, he's probably a mid to back of the rotation Starter in the Majors, but nothing wrong with that. He'll stay in Reading next year.

Cameron Rupp- 6'1" 240 lbs C 23 years old Spent his summer in Clearwater.
101 G, .267/.345/.424, .157 ISO, 10 HR, 20.1% K, 10.4% BB, 34% CS, 7 PB

I really like Cameron Rupp and it's not crazy to suggest he may be the 2nd best Catcher in the system (depending upon how concerned you may be about Valle's plate discipline). Both his Offensive and Defensive numbers are what you want from a 23 year old Catcher. He's age appropriate for the level, but bordering on the high side, so that is important to keep in mind. Rupp looks like a Linebacker. I have nothing else to say on that really, he's just a big, country strong looking dude. Double-A is a big jump, I think Rupp will handle it fine. If he develops his Power, he'll be a very good #1 Catcher prospect, but even as is, he probably projects to be a mighty fine backup Catcher.

Kyle Simon- 6'5" 225 lbs RHP 22 years old Simon was everywhere this year, Carolina League, Florida State League, Eastern League, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...
A+ CAR: 72 2/3 IP, 3.96 ERA, 4.02 SIERA, 4.44 FIP, 6.07 K/9, 2.60 BB/9, 1.57 WHIP, 56.1% GB
A+ FSL: 13 2/3 IP, 1.32 ERA, 1.78 SIERA, 2.25 FIP, 8.56 K/9, 0.00 BB/9 (Infinite K:BB Ratio!), 0.73 WHIP, 61.8% GB (wait, it gets better)
AA: 22 2/3 IP, 1.59 ERA, 2.59 SIERA, 2.45 FIP, 6.35 K/9, 1.59 BB/9, 0.71 WHIP, 64.6% GB

When the Phillies acquired Simon in the Thome trade, I was mostly intrigued by his porn mustache. Then he started pitching and putting up strings of zeros. Who is this guy who looks like his baseball card is from 1978? Well, he isn't a particularly hard thrower, working in the upper 80's and low 90's. He works low in the zone inducing an insane percentage of ground balls. This is even more pronounced due to a 3/4 delivery. So the more I looked the more I thought "Why isn't he starting? He was starting when he was with Baltimore." It may be two-fold: He had a total of 17 Professional innings last year and Baltimore had already quadrupled that and perhaps the brass thought his stuff would play up more in the 'pen. I'd like to see him start in 2013, but given his success in the bullpen, I think that's likely his home now. I think he can be successful in either role.

Austin Wright- 6'4" 235 lbs LHP 21 years old Spent his summer in Clearwater.
142 IP, 3.42 ERA, 3.91 SIERA, 3.61 FIP, 8.37 K/9, 3.74 BB/9, 1.46 WHIP, 44.3% GB

Mr. Wright does have some platoon splits, but they aren't extreme enough to prevent him from developing into a quality Starter. Wright's Fastball works in the low to mid 90's and is an above average pitch, by all accounts. It seems to be his Curveball that has improved most since College. His Slider and Changeup reportedly still need some work. Reading could be a tough test as Wright struggled in college with Walks and there was a lot of consternation at the time of the 2011 draft that he may not get to the Majors as more than a LOOGY because of those struggles. Hitters are more selective in the higher levels, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep his BB Rate down in the 3.00-3.50 range.

Other Notables:

Edgar Duran- Who? Well, Duran is kinda fringy. His numbers aren't eye popping, but they've improved every year and he's fairly young for the level. He was considered a glove first prospect when he signed, but he seems to have a somewhat developing bat, and in the middle infield a .700-ish OPS would be manageable. Nothing too exciting yet, but he's worth keeping an eye on, he's a potential sleeper.

Garett Claypool- His name ain't Mudd, but it was not a very good season for Mr. Claypool. The good news is he had some really, really bad luck. As his FIP and SIERA are 3-4 full runs lower than his ERA. He's a fly ball pitcher who had an abnormally high HR rate (~15% OFB) and a fairly high BABIP (.359). Hopefully he rebounds next year, but he's probably more of an organizational arm who gets the occasional cup o' coffee.

Mario Hollands- Almost exactly the same age as Claypool, Hollands pitched a few innings at basically every level of the Org this year. His most successful stint was in Clearwater. He's a bit of a Ground Ball pitcher, though not strongly and his K and BB rates are decent enough. If he gets to spend more than 10 games at any level, perhaps he could settle in and become a useable middle relief option.

Harold Martinez- Martinez was a bit of a lottery ticket when they Phillies took him in the 2nd round in 2011. He was seen as having very good power potential and the glove to stick at 3rd. Weirdly, he has probably since been passed by a 2nd baseman and a Short Stop who were drafted behind him in the same draft as the future hopes at 3rd. Martinez struggled badly at Clearwater and 3rd base has suddenly become the development pipeline equivalent of the hose with the thumb over the end. Upward pressure from Walding, Franco and Asche leaving a void at 3rd in Reading probably pushes Martinez up next Spring. I'm not sure he's ready for it, but it's sink or swim time for him with all the sudden competition.

Drew Naylor- I mention him, in part, because I'm using a picture of him for the article, but also for his really weird line in Clearwater (in a very SSS he had a .556 BABIP against and K'd 44% of hitters he faced). Honestly, Naylor's an Org arm, but he may be useable for the occasional spot start or long relief guy for the Phillies. More likely, he's elsewhere next year.

Final notes: This is where we start seeing a lot of the guys from the 2011 Draft. I honestly am starting to think as I write these articles, that the 2011 draft class has really awesome potential and could really cement a fine, if under the radar, legacy for Amaro. It's waaay too early to start counting chickens, but I expect my top 20 list is going to be absolutely littered with guys picked in that class. Guys who one day could form the core of a new Phillies team. Of course, I could also look back on this paragraph in 5 years and wonder what the hell I was thinking, but I feel pretty confident declaring this the best draft of Ruben's or Gillick's tenures with the Phillies.

When I do these prospect reviews it takes plenty of looking at stats (minorleaguecentral, baseball-reference, fangraphs) and an awful lot of searching for scouting reports (Minor League Ball, Baseball Instincts, ESPN, Fangraphs, probably 10 other sites that come up routinely). I cull through and really only repeat things which seem to be consensus here, so there may be one scouting report which says Player X has the best Curve in all of baseball, but 6 other reports list it as above average, then I'll say it's above average, but may note that it has plus potential or sometimes plays higher. I haven't seen a ton of these guys in person, so I wanted to make sure that somewhere along the lines I give props to the scouts, fans and stat sites that help build the picture.