With Gabe Kapler drawing so much of the attention through the first two weeks of Phillies’ baseball, it has become easy to forget about the club’s farm teams not located in Philadelphia. While not every affiliate has begun their season yet, their is still certainly some noteworthy action going down on the farm.
AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 2-3
The Iron Pigs were set to begin their regular season on April 6, when they would take on the Pawtucket Red Sox, sans a handful of contributors from a season ago. The club won 80 games last year for skipper Dusty Wathan, who lost out in the Phillies’ managerial search to Gabe Kapler, but was chosen as the big league third base coach, a likely nod to the coach in order to keep him within the system. The Iron Pigs are also without the services of shortstop J.P. Crawford, catcher Jorge Alfaro, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, infielder Scott Kingery, and outfielders Nick Williams and Pedro Florimon, who all began the season with the Major League club.
I mentioned “were set” in reference to the start of the season because the Iron Pigs and PawSox were snowed, yes snowed, out on opening day. The two teams would begin their seasons the next day, as the Iron Pigs jumped out to a 1-0 start with a 3-1 victory. The Pigs have won just once since Opening Day, however, and now sit 2-3 with a four game series with the Louisville Bats looming.
MLB hopefuls Jesmuel Valentine and Dylan Cozens have struggled out of the shoot, combining for just two hits in 27 at bats. Cozens has already struckout ten times this season. On the opposite end, newcomer Alexi Amerista has been spectacular to begin the year, recording four hits in 13 at bats, driving in two runs. Young outfielder Danny Ortiz has been equally impressive, picking up six hits in 16 at bats, driving in a team high four runs to open the year.
Taking into account a small sample size, the newest Iron Pigs starting pitcher, Enyel De Los Santos was solid in his first start for the club, tossing five innings of one run ball, striking out seven. De Los Santos was the return haul for Freddy Galvis in a deal with San Diego this offseason.
Likewise, Cole Irvin was dominant in his first start of the year. Despite giving up two runs over five innings, Irvin struckout ten hitters in the first AAA start of his career. Irvin has shot up the Phillies’ ranks, advancing from short A Williamsport to AAA Lehigh Valley in just his third professional season.
AA Reading Fightin Phils 3-4
The Fightin Phils have been a product of the big league club hand picking talent away from Reading over the last few season. After winning back-to-back division titles in 2015 and 2016, the Fightin Phils finished just four games over .500, 72-68, in 2017.
This season, the team dropped its first three against the Erie Seawolves before taking the series finale. They then went on to win two of three against the Portland Sea Dogs earlier this week.
23-year-old shortstop Malquin Canelo has been on absolute tear to begin the season, recording eight hits in his first 20 at bats, driving in four runs. No to be outdone, first baseman Zach Green appears to have figured things out early in 2018. He has eight hits in 22 at bats and has driven in six runs of his own.Former nuber one overall pick, Cornelius Randolph, has slowly, but steadily come into his own in the minors. He’s hit a solid .280 to begin the year, but continues to struggle with the punch out, striking out nine times in his first 25 at bats.
Starting pitching has been an issue for the Fightin Phils, who sport a rotation of young, highly touted prospects, early in the season. Ranger Suarez, in particular, has struggled with the advancement in the early going. He’s made two starts, pitching just nine innings combined. Suarez has allowed nine runs on 15 hits in the early going. The 22-year-old pitched extremely well in Single A, between Lakewood and Clearwater last season, posting a 2.27 ERA in 22 starts. JoJo Romero was also ineffective in his first start of 2018, lasting just four innings while giving up six runs. He surrendered seven hits over the four innings.
The outlier has been Harold Arauz, who, through two starts, is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA over 11 innings pitched. He’s struckout 14 while surrendering just nine hits over that span.
Advanced A Clearwater Threshers 1-6
The Threshers are off to a very slow start to begin the season, as Clearwater dropped three of four in Dunedin to begin the season. They followed that series up by getting swept by the Jupiter Hammerheads in a three game series.
Much like most of the Phillies’ farm system, turnover has affected the Threshers greatly in 2018. Just as the Iron Pigs lose to the Phillies, and the Fightin Phils lose to the Iron Pigs, the Threshers lose to the Fightin Phils.
A handful of big names began the season with the Threshers this season, including a pair of first round picks. 2016 number one overall pick, Mickey Moniak, has not been particularly impressive in the first seven games of the year. The third year pro has three hits in 23 at bats and has struckout eight times thus far. 2017 first round pick, Adam Haseley, has fared slightly better, hitting .208 in 24 at bats. He has driven in five runs, however, and only struckout twice this season. The pair are still expected to produce big things for the Phillies in the future. The catcher of the future, along with Jorge Alfaro, has exploded into 2018. Edgar Cabral has seven hits in 18 at bats, hitting .389 to begin the year. He also has two homeruns, 5 RBIs, and a .450 on base percentage.
The name to watch in Clearwater in the rotation in Adonis Medina. Yes, I understand that Sixto Sanchez is set to begin his 2018 season shortly, but you all know who, and what, Sanchez is. Medina is much more important to the growth of the rotation PAST Sanchez. The 21-year-old has good stuff at a young age, and he proved it in his initial start of 2018. Medina blanked the Blue Jays over 5.1 innings, striking out five hitters and walking just one. He posted a .301 ERA in Laekwood last year in his second full season as a professional.
Single A Lakewood Blue Claws 3-4
The Blue Claws season has been marred with rain delays and double headers early in 2018. Lakewood has already played two double headers less than a full week into their regular season.
The offense has struggled early in the season, as just one hitter is currently above .300, but 10 hitters are sitting at .250 or lower. That one plus-.300 is Josh Stephen, a 20-year-old outfielder who is now in his third professional season. Stephen has advanced in each of his last three seasons, rising from rookie ball in 2016 to Single A this year. He has six hits in 16 at bats, including a homerun, and has an additional three walks, posting a .474 on base percentage early in the season.
Over two starts, 21-year-old Ramon Rosso has been electric. In 9.2 innings pitched, Rosso has struckout 16 hitters while allowing just seven hits. In just his second professional season, Rosso has emerged from rookie ball to Lakewood while appearing in just 17 games. David Parkinson and Will Stewart were each masterful in their first starts of the season, going five innings a piece and striking out a combined 14 hitters.
The rookie league team, as well as the short season A team, the Williamsport Crosscutters, have yet to begin their seasons. We’ll check back in as their seasons begin shortly.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports