Things were looking up, then they were quite down. Not being able to secure a playoff birth was a bit disappointing. Clearwater finished 2nd in the North Division standings to close out the 1st half of the season. In the Florida State League, the division winners of the first and second halves make the playoffs. All the Threshers had to do was either finish 1st or 2nd depending on if the division winner from the 1st half won again. They of course failed to do that either, going a forgettable 29-39 after a 38-32 first half.
All this was mostly in part to the absolute dismal state of the offense, which struggled most of the regular season. Lineup mainstays Jose Pujols, Jan Hernandez, Grenny Cumana and Emmanuel Marrero all ranged from discouraging to downright abysmal. However, the Threshers perhaps saw their biggest intake of promising pitching prospects in years. With Jose Tavares, Franklyn Kilome, Cole Irvin, Seranthony Dominguez, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez and Sixto Sanchez all taking the mound at various points.
The offensive outlook next season should look a bit brighter as they should get a full season of 2017 South Atlantic League HR champ Darick Hall, 1st round picks Mickey Moniak/Adam Haseley and dynamic middle infielders Daniel Brito/Arquimedes Gamboa. The pitching shouldn’t look to bad either with Nick Fanti, Adonis Medina and Bailey Falter all likely to make the jump. There is also a very good chance we see Sixto Sanchez, JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez in Clearwater to start the year. It will get better Thresher fans.
Cornelius Randolph, LF
13 HR, 55 RBI, 7 SB (.250/.338/.402)
Perhaps a case could be made for 1st baseman Wilson Garcia, but Randolph’s season and status as a prospect elevated him a bit higher in my opinion. 2017 saw Randolph finally tap into his power with a .152 ISO (an increase from 0.83 the previous season). That of course came with a slight increase in both his walk and strikeout rates as well. Randolph closed out his season with a .344 wOBA and 118 wRC+, which if you take a lot of stock into advanced stats for prospects is really quite good as most folks pegged him as an already “bust” entering the season.
Cornelius Randolph will likely get to showcase his talents in the friendly confines of Reading, Pennsylvania next season. He will need to continue to show improvements at the plate, specifically with recognizing off-speed and breaking pitches. Randolph’s road to the show will rest solely on his bat as he isn’t the most gifted outfielder (remember he was drafted as a SS). His 2017 should be an indicator that he’s still very much a prospect in the Phillies farm system and someone to keep an eye on.
The entire starting rotation
Is this cheating? Sure, but take a look at who started games for this club and how well they did for the Threshers. You have Jose Tavares, who had the most strikeouts among starts and who wound up starting games in Lehigh Valley to close the season. Franklyn Kilome who started to harness his command and was promoted to Reading. Seranthony Dominguez who could have topped most categories if he was able to stay healthy. Then you have JoJo Romero and Sixto Sanchez, who breezed through low-A ball and continued their dominance after their promotion to the Florida State League.
Best Moment/Key Promotion:
Sixto Sanchez making his High-A debut August 5th. Sixto Sanchez and that sweet mid-high 90’s fastball (that can touch triple-digits) is not only the Phillies top pitching prospect, but one of the best in all of baseball. So when Sanchez was promoted after only 13 starts in the South Atlantic League, the collective fanbase got quite excited. In 5 starts with the Threshers, Sanchez was able to pull together 20 strikeouts to 9 walks in 27.2 innings, holding batters to a .252 average. Please keep in mind, the kid is still 19 years old and will be until late-July next year.
Jose Pujols, RF
8 HR, 29 RBI, 150 K (.194/.247/.305)
It was just a downright atrocious season for Pujols. Many thought perhaps Pujols had finally broken out following a 24 HR campaign in Lakewood in 2016. I’m not sure anyone saw things falling apart so quickly the way it did. His BB% dropped, K% rose and his lack to hit anything offspeed killed any of that natural raw power that we saw in previous seasons. He might get another shot at Clearwater next year, but this offseason he is in danger of completely losing his spot in the organization.