Hard to believe it’s a month since that we were gearing up for our annual pilgrimage to Clearwater Beach, and in nine days we’ll be heading back already! I made mention of a book that is available online and in Diamond Outfitters at the Stadium, and for the bargain price of $15 Steve Potter’s compendium has been a handy guide to the minor league call- ups who don’t appear in the official program.
Potter’s pearls are complemented and updated through his Facebook page for A Fan’s View. Each spring, when I stop into Diamond Outfitters, I also pick up a set of Clearwater Thresher’s cards which provide a nice collection of rising stars in the system, many of whom we encounter in the Arizona Fall League during the preceding October/November. Here is a sample from this year’s pack:
Aaron Brown is emblematic of a player determined to do whatever it takes in order to pursue his dream of playing major league baseball. A third round draft pick in 2014, Brown was the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2014 at Pepperdine where he went 13-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 57 strikeouts over 64 innings, and led the NCAA in victories. Someone in the Phils’ organization thought he had a higher upside as an outfielder, though he struggled with the bat at Clearwater and more so in Reading. Two stints in the Fall League didn’t change anyone’s mind about his offense, so in 2017 the Phils approached him to return to pitching. He went back to Clearwater to re-invent himself, and appeared for an unprecedented third time in the Fall League last year as a lefty out of the bullpen. This will be a pivotal year for Brown, as he battled control issues at Reading after being promoted rom Clearwater.
Drafted in the 17th round in 2017 out of Dallas Baptist University, Austin Listi began baseball life with the Clearwater Threshers as a utility infielder/outfielder. By midseason Austin earned his promotion to Reading, and hit a combined .312/.915 OPS with 18 HRs, and 84 RBIs to earn the 2018 Paul Owens Award as the minor league position player who had the best season in the organization. He was the lone Phils’ representative to the Fall League Fall Stars game, and almost earned MVP honors after homering and driving in four runs.
Darick Hall was a classmate of Austin Listi in college, and is a feast or famine long ball hitter who needs to make contact more often in order to have a chance to make it at first base. His Fall League performance mirrored what he did in the minors, putting up a .238/.730 while homering four times and whiffing 23 times in 63 ABs. While he’ll have little trouble making it to the Iron Pigs, he doesn’t project as major league material at this point as he doesn’t have the athleticism to be anywhere but 1B which Rhys Hoskins has secured.
With a great glove and a great name, Arquimedes just didn’t hit enough to make it beyond Clearwater last year. His speed was wasted with a .304 OBP, as he only stole 6 bases in 10 attempts. His Fall League performance was mediocre and his spring hasn’t opened any eyes. The system is littered with good glove no bat shortstops, so it looks like Gamby is destined to be a career minor leaguer.
I previously blogged about Luke Williams as the pride of Park Ridge baseball. Nice kid, but has to figure out how to get on base other than walking and being hit by pitches if he’s going to make it as a corner infielder or outfielder, positions that hit with power.
The Mick was a spring training non-roster invitee this year after having spent the entire season with the Threshers. As the first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Moniak had alot of pressure on him and he has struggled considerably to live up to his billing fresh out of high school. After a rough first half last year he improved considerably, putting up a slash line of .333/.856 over the last 32 games of 2018. He’ll begin the 2019 season in Reading, and I expect to see him in the Fall League this year to show that he can handle tougher pitching than what he showed he was capable of during spring training.
A first round draft pick the year after The Mick, Haselely has breezed through the system much faster than Moniak and was promoted to Reading on July 10. A non-roster invitee to spring training as well, Haseley has performed impressively both in the outfield and at the plate.
Although Edgar was in the Fall League in 2017, and invited to spring training in 2018, he has stalled in Clearwater. Deivy Grullón, who was Reading’s star catcher last year and a spring training non-roster invitee this year, is ahead of Edgar on the depth chart. Cabral will likely advance to Reading as Grullón moves on to the Iron Pigs.
No one is going to confuse Jose Pujols with Albert Pujols anytime soon, although he did have a nice year at Clearwater in 2018 at .301/.887 with 18 HRs and 58 RBIs after struggling with .194/.552 in the same number of games at Clearwater the preceding year. His bounce back in 2018 earned him a promotion to Reading on August 3, and he seems to have turned the corner. Steve Potter has a nice interview with Jose in A Fan’s View (p. 145), which details how much he has worked on the mental side of his game. His manager in Clearwater, Shawn Williams, who had coached him at three different levels, never wavered in his enthusiasm for Jose’s skill set.
In addition to being a father figure for Pujols, Shawn Williams is working his way up the managerial chain. He managed the Lakewood Blue Claws before advancing to the Threshers. He also had a gig as Manager of the Glendale Desert Dogs during the 2017 Arizona Fall League games.
Rounding out the key players in last year’s card set for the Threshers is pitcher Sixto Sanchez. Slated to pitch in last year’s Arizona Fall League, Sanchez was shut down so that he strained arm could recover. Despite this, he became the center piece in the trade that brought J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins to the Phillies, so clearly the baseball world still considers him to have a significant upside.
Aaron Fultz, the pitching coach for the Threshers who served in the same capacity for the Scottsdale Scorpions in last year’s Fall League, is among those who see an extraordinary talent in Sanchez. Many young boys fantasize about having the talent to pitch competitively, among them our grandson, Carson, with his temporary henna pigment making a statement about his blazing right arm on Clearwater Beach.
Warming him up today, I was impressed with his accuracy as well as his speed although he was going easy on me. I’m enjoying the vicarious moments, seeing him maturing into a coachable athlete. Tomorrow we’ll head over to Spectrum Field and see what he measures on the radar gun.