After the first month of the season, the teams in the Phillies’ minor league system haven’t exactly set the world on fire. Only Double A Reading in the Eastern League has a winning record at 13-12.
Triple A Lehigh Valley is 14-14 and Low A Lakewood is 11-17. The there is High A Clearwater, which has the worst record in pro ball at 5-21. Clearwater has had such a tough time this season that Cole Hamels went 0-1 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts for the club during his rehab outings.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that teams are struggling across the board in the Phils’ chain. After all, the brunt of the organization’s best prospects are playing for Reading. And the 13-12 record doesn’t tell the entire story for Reading. Catcher Tommy Joseph (concussion symptoms) and outfielder Kelly Dugan (oblique) have spent time on the disabled list during the most recent road trip and the team went 1-5.
“It changes your lineup, it changes the way they pitch to us. It puts guys in different positions. It's huge,” Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. “Those two are hitting fourth and fifth in your lineup. Tommy was pretty hot. And Dugan was swinging the bat well, too. You lose two guys like that, it's trouble.”
Still, there is much to be excited about. Here’s a rundown of which players are performing well down on the farm:
The flame-throwing right-handed reliever was named the organization’s top minor league pitcher of April on the strength of the best stretch of 12 games in his pro career. Giles has 27 strikeouts in 14 innings with just five walks and eight hits. He also leads the Eastern League with seven saves.
Here’s the amazing stat: Giles is tied for sixth in the league in strikeouts even though he’s pitched just 14 innings. Nevertheless, Giles has more strikeouts than 24 pitchers who have made at least five starts.
Yes, this is the best month Giles has put together in his four pro seasons. He needs to work on the command of his 100-mph fastball and 89-mph slider as well. However, Giles’ time in Double A could be a short one as the reliever jumps on the fast track.
Perkins shared player-of-the-month honors with his teammate Giles and was nominated as a finalist for the Eastern League’s top player in April. All Perkins did in his first month with Double A was compile 12 multi-hit games and slug 11 doubles with a triple, two homers, 14 RBIs and three stolen bases. He also has scored 16 runs and has a .430 on-base percentage with a .379 batting average.
Like Giles, Perkins is playing above Single A for the first time. However, Perkins has had some hot-hitting spells at every stop.
Believe it or not, the Phils’ Triple A relievers have performed well. Whether that bodes well for the team with the worst bullpen ERA in the National League remains to be seen.
Regardless, right-handed reliever Garcia has been lights out since leaving the Phillies following a perfect inning on April 14. In nine appearances, Garcia has five saves, two wins and 12 strikeouts in 12 innings.
Better yet, Garcia hasn’t allowed a run all season. In fact, he’s allowed just 11 base runners and has held the opposition to a .163 batting average.
Want to talk about the fast track? Crawford is on it. For Single A Lakewood, the 19-year old is batting an even .300 after going 2 for 5 with a double on Saturday night. He has a hit in each of his last six games and has a .439 on-base percentage in his last 10 games.
A shortstop, Crawford was selected with the No. 16 overall pick last June and got the promotion to Lakewood after batting .345 in 39 games at the Gulf Coast League.
While a few players have stood out during the first month, there have been a few notable struggles. Top prospect Maikel Franco is batting just .206 through the early going, though his bat seems to be waking up. In the last three games, Franco is 6 for 14 with a homer and three doubles. Nine of his 21 hits this season have been for extra bases.
Though Franco is beginning to snap out of it, former first-round draft pick Anthony Hewitt is going deeper and deeper into the abyss.
Now 25, Hewitt may be at the end of the road. He’s just 6 for 48 this season (.125) with zero extra-base hits and 22 strikeouts. For a first-rounder in the 2008 draft, Hewitt was drafted ahead of Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, Lance Lynn of the Cardinals, Danny Espinosa of the Nationals and Craig Kimbrel from the Braves.
Just ahead of Hewitt in the ’08 draft was Buster Posey, Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis. Of the 23 players taken ahead of Hewitt, only two have not appeared in the majors, though one of those guys -- Allan Dykstra for the Mets -- is knocking on the door.
For starters, Hewitt was drafted as a high-risk/high-reward type. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hewitt attended boarding school in Salisbury, Conn., and was just 19 when he started his pro career with a $1.3 million signing bonus in tow.
Hewitt had power, speed and was viewed as the Phillies’ third baseman of the future when he was drafted.
But after two pro seasons Hewitt was moved from third base to the outfield. And though he always showed flashes of power throughout his time in the minors, Hewitt inexplicably has scratched out just six singles this year.
As a result, Hewitt’s name rarely shows up on Reading’s lineup card. Interestingly, outfielder Zach Collier, also drafted by the Phillies in the first round in ’08 is getting some playing time for Reading. After going 1 for 3 with a double on Saturday night, Collier is batting .169.