Lehigh Valley IronPigs - finished 66-78 (last in the North Division)
The AAA Phillies affiliate is typically inundated with AAA/journeymen fodder with very little of high impact or profile prospects that have you generally excited for the future. This year presented more of the same, but offered a glimmer of hope in the form of Maikel Franco. Franco broke out in 2013 smashing 31 homers, slashing .320/.356/.569 across two levels (Reading and Clearwater) and exciting the local and national media. He was awarded with the Lehigh Valley placement to begin the 2014 season to which many speculated that with a strong first half he would be considered for a summer promotion. Well, things always don't go the way you expect them to in the prospect world. He had brutal months of April and June, which made many doubt whether 2013 was indeed just a flash in the pan. Franco contributed strong months of May, July and August to help ease our anxieties, but at that point the season was very much considered a disappointment. Nonetheless, Franco would get the call in September to the Phillies. He finished Lehigh with 16 HR and a .257/.299/.428 slash line in 521 at bats.
Franco couldn't have been the only story from LHV this season, right? Well, despite not making the big league roster, Darin Ruf should have cemented himself as a viable callup, but couldn't produce or stay healthy enough to do that on a frequent basis. He would find time on the big league squad by the end of the season, albeit in a limited role, which has been much debated among the collective fanbase.
Perhaps the most disappointing season of all IronPig players was none other than Cameron Arthur Rupp who dazzled the first week of the season mashing some homers, only to forget how to hit the rest of the way. He slashed .165/.256/.299 in 194 at bats. Rupp has all the makings of a solid backup catcher, but the decline at the plate is certainly a bit alarming. He will likely need 2015 to prove once again he can be a viable backup at the major league level.
The three aforementioned players will all likely not be on the team next season, along with a slew of AAA journeymen with the exception of Leandro Castro, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Cam Perkins. The latter joined the team after a phenomenal Reading campaign which forced the Phillies hand. His time in Lehigh Valley was comparable to a dumpster fire. There is (small) hope that with a strong finish to the 2014 season that there is some upside and adjustments were being made.
Believe it or not, the IronPigs had some pitching talent on the team in 2014, but it all came out of the bullpen. Ken Giles, Justin De Fratus and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez emerged as legitimate bullpen options. Ken Giles opened eyes with his 100 mph fastball and devastating slider to give the fans hope of a future dominant closer. Cesar Jimenez and Luis Garcia both put up pretty convincing and dominating performances themselves. Garcia earned the Paul Owens Award for the top pitcher in the Phillies minor league organization this season for it. Damning praise if there ever was. It was an indicator that it wasn't a particularly strong year from pitchers within the organization. (More on this in a future article...)
All in all, it was your typical IronPigs season. Phillippe Aumont was bad, Ethan Martin was confusing, Pettibone was hurt, an underwhelming pitcher turned some heads (Buchanan) and people still clamored for Steve Susdorf. Call it the status quo.
**As I rather not bore you with reciting this past year's stats, feel free to check out how everyone did this season via this LINK.