Checking In On Phillies Prospects In The AFL

Victor Arano, Elniery Garcia, Franklyn Kilome, Deivi Grullon
Reading Fighting Phils pitchers Victor Arano (31), Elniery Garcia (8), Franklyn Kilome (16) and catcher Deivi Grullon (23) during game against the Trenton Thunder at ARM & HAMMER Park on September 4, 2017 in Trenton, NJ. Trenton defeated Reading 3-2. (Tomasso DeRosa via AP)

Earlier this fall, the Phillies sent seven organizational players to the Arizona Fall League to continue to get at bats and innings on the mound after their respective seasons came to a close. The club sent three positional players, including outfielder and former first-round pick Cornelius Randolph, catcher Edgar Cabral and infielder Zach Green. They also sent four pitchers to the desert, including newly acquired relievers J.D. Hammer and Garrett Cleavinger, as well as righty Trevor Bettencourt and lefty Elniery Garcia.

So take a trip down to Arizona to see how the Phillies prospects are fairing alongside their young teammates on the Glendale Desert Dogs.

To this point, the most effective position player has been catcher Edgar Cabral. Cabral has appeared in ten games this fall, picking up 11 hits in 32 at bats, including one double. He’s driven in two for the Desert Dogs as well. He has added three walks to his fall, giving the young catcher an on base percentage of .417. While likely unsustainable throughout an entire professional season, this number is quite assuring for the 22-year-old. His strikeout rate is a bit concerning, as he’s punched out in 10 of his 32 at bats, leading to a strikeout rate of 31 percent. Cabral split the 2017 season between Single A Lakewood, where he appeared in 67 games, hitting .243, and Advanced A Clearwater, where he played an additional 24 games, finding his stroke as he hit .310. Cabral will likely begin the 2018 season back in Clearwater to get more experience at the Advanced A level. The two other catchers that suited up for the Threshers in 2017 hit .255 and .244, so Cabral should have the first crack at the starting job next season.

Next comes the outfielder Cornelius Randolph. Randolph has played in 13 fall games, getting 48 at bats. He hasn’t been all that effective, as he’s hit just .229, picking up 11 hits over that span. He’s also driven in five runs for the Desert Dogs. He has struckout in 12 of his 48 at bats, a .25 percent clip. That number is right around his career average. The 20-year-old battled injuries last season, which allowed him to play in just 68 total games. He remained healthy in 2017, however, and struggled to find consistency in Clearwater, hitting just .250. He did walk 55 times last season, though, a sign that his intelligence at the plate is not in question. The former first round pick will need a big year in Clearwater in 2018 to show signs of life in his professional career.

The final position player on the fall roster is infielder Zach Green. Green has struggled at the dish in 12 games this fall, hitting just .225 in 40 at bats. He has also been a liability via the punchout, having struckout 13 times in 40 at bats thus far. That means he striking out in nearly one third of his at bats. He does have one humerun and three RBI’s to his credit, however. Green spent the 2017 season in three different places. He played in four games in rookie ball in a quasi-prolonged rehab assignment to continue to get healthy in June before being promoted back to Clearwater for 38 games. There he hit .221 with five homeruns and 15 RBIs. He was promoted to Reading late in August for a final 15 games. There, he didn’t fare much better, hitting .222 and striking out 20 times in 45 at bats. I expect Green to be sent back to Clearwater for the beginning of 2018 in order to right the ship at the plate. He may be on his last good leg if he has any hopes of rising past AA.

Moving on to the pitchers in Arizona. We’ll start with Elniery Garcia. Garcia began the fall circuit as if he were shot out of a cannon. Through his first two appearances, Garcia had thrown seven shutout innings in which he struckout eight and allowed just five hits and six total baserunners. Things haven’t gone so well for Garcia recently, however, as he’s come crashing back down to Earth. Garcia has now thrown 14 innings, going 1-2 in four starts with a 5.79 ERA. He was hit around back on October 23, when he only was able to go three innings, getting hselled for five runs and six hits, striking out only one. The positive is that he’s struckout 13 over those 14 innings pitched. The splits on Garcia between left and right handed batters have been staggering. Garcia has been unhittable when facing lefties, striking out four over 5.2 innings while allowing just four hits. Against righties, he’s been more human, allowing nine runs in 8.1 innings pitched. Garcia was set to be part of the 40-man roster in 2017 before an 80 game suspension for PED’s fixed that. He’ll have to pitch extremely well in 2018 to get back in the good graces of the organization. I’d expect him to begin the season in Reading.

The next arms are a couple of guys that were acquired midway through the season.

J.D. Hammer came to the organization by way of a trade that sent reliever Pat Neshek to the Colorado Rockies. The hard-throwing reliever has pitched seven times this fall, throwing 8.1 innings with stellar results. He’s yet to allow a run and has given up just five baserunners over that stretch. He’s also punched out seven hitters. The strikeout is Hammer’s fast track to promotions as the seasons roll on. In 101.1 professional innings pitched, Hammer has struckout 137 hitters while walking just 27.He finished the year in Clearwater last season, appearing in 48 games for the Threshers. He had great success, converting 13 of 14 save opportunities, while posting a 1.87 ERA. I would be shocked if he was wasn’t given a promotion to Reading to begin 2018.

Following Hammer comes Garrett Cleavinger, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles as part of the Jeremy Hellickson deal. Cleavinger has fallen on hard times in Arizona, pitching in seven games, giving up seven earned runs and eight runs total. He’s allowed 12 hits through 7.1 innings pitched while striking out five batters. The positive to take away is that Cleavinger hasn’t walked a batter yet, so his control within the strike zone shouldn’t be in question. Cleavinger’s struggles stem from his failures in Reading last season. Since being acquired, Cleavinger pitched in 11 games, giving up 19 hits and nine earned runs. While the 23-year-old wasn’t sharp in 2017, I’d expect to see him back in Reading for the start of the 2018 season.

Finally, we have 21-year-old Trevor Bettencourt. I’d imagine that he can’t wait to get out of Arizona with the fall that he’s having. Bettencourt has allowed nine runs in four innings pitched this fall, allowing 12 basrunners in just five innings pitched. The 20.25 ERA he is sporting is worst on the Desert Dogs roster. The struggles may seem a bit misplaced for Bettencourt, who pitched extremely well in 2017 in both Lakewood and Clearwater. Despite getting a promotion in July, Bettencourt was actually better in the higher ranked Clearwater. He appeared in 16 games, throwing 23 innings. Bettencourt posted a 1.57 ERA in that time, allowing just 13 hits and 17 total baserunners. He also struckout 22 over those 23 innings. Since he didn’t have a full season in Clearwater in 2017, I’d expect him to begin the season with the Threshers in 2018.


Mandatory Photo Credit: Tomasso DeRosa via AP