Results tagged ‘ Philadelphia Phillies ’

AFL report: Phillies, plus Star of the Day

We’ve started rolling out our AFL team overviews. We have choices, too — the written word. Yesterday, the Phillies report went up. And you can watch the accompanying video report:

And if you missed it from earlier in the week, you can read the Twins report as well. I linked to that video yesterday, but here it is again.

Many more to come… And here’s the Star of the Day from Wednesday’s action:

While Kyle Kaminska (Pirates) should be applauded for his five scoreless innings of work for Scottsdale, it’s hard not to give the Star to Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays. While going 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and 2 SB sounds ok, but maybe not exceptional for the hitting haven that is the AFL. But then consider that one of his steals was of home, then you take notice, right? It was part of a double-steal, but as Pillar explained in the recap, he did it on his own (take note,  young baserunners, that secondary lead is important!)

“[Later in the inning], we had a left-handed hitter (Andy Wilkins) up, so the third baseman (Cody Asche) was playing off the bag a lot. I had a huge lead for my normal secondary lead, and when I saw the catcher (Mike Zunino) throw down [to second base], I was able to walk in. It was just something I did on my own, I just got a good read. At that point we still needed runs, so I capitalized on it.”

He’s been capitalizing all year. Pillar was the Midwest League MVP, got promoted to the Florida State League and kept on raking. The 32nd round pick in 2011 hit a combined .323/.374/.439 with 91 RBIs (his most surprising stat!) and 51 steals.

Saver-ing the moment

September is always a great time of year, not just to see top prospects (congrats to Jarrod Parker, by the way, for getting the call) but also to see stories of guys who have persevered to get there. Not everyone can make a bee-line to the big leagues and it’s hard not to like stories of Minor League vets who stuck with it (I’m talking to you Val Pascucci) and guys who were willing to do and try anything to get there (I’m speaking from an on-the-field, strictly legal standpoint).

This brings me to the subject of this post: The Phillies’ Joe Savery. Once upon a time, Savery was a two-way star out of Rice University. A good college hitter, most saw him as a left-handed pitcher as a pro and that’s exactly what the Phillies drafted him as in the first round of the 2007 Draft. I first interacted with him when he was a Draft prospect and I did a story on he and Sean Doolittle as the top two-way players in the class. Here’s the Draft Report I did on him (notice how I only had a breakdown on him as a pitcher).

Savery had been working his way back from shoulder surgery that season and the Phillies felt he was advanced enough to

Savery (left) with fellow journal writers Ricky Romero and Andrew McCutchen

go to the Arizona Fall League that autumn. I was impressed with Savery and asked him to write a journal for us during his time in Arizona. Here’s his last entry. I highly recommend you go back and read them. The guy’s pretty smart. Check out the picture on the right. That comes courtesy of Lisa Winston (Read her stuff at Queen of Diamonds) from a dinner at Don and Charlie’s with the 2007 AFL journal writers.

He threw well in the Fall League and seemed like the type of college lefty, now healthy, who’d move fast. It didn’t exactly work out that way. While he did move up the ladder — he was in Triple-A by 2009 — his stuff never came all the way back following that shoulder surgery.  Savery was a smart pitcher and did things like add a cutter, but after a 2010 season that saw him go 1-12 with a 4.66 ERA and spend time both starting and relieving, he realized he wasn’t going to cut it. At least that’s what he told me in this story during instructs in 2010.

Savery got some opportunities to DH in 2010 and it got him thinking. So he went to instructs to work on his hitting. He was, after all, a pretty good hitter back in the day. In 2011, he went down to the Florida State League to hit every day. Back at first base, DHing some and even playing some left field, Savery broke out of the gate like he had never stopped hitting, with a .450 average after April. That dropped to .235 in May and .175 in 10 June games. He went up to Double-A Reading in mid-June and got 35 more at-bats there (he hit .200).

As is often the case with my job, I can’t always track what every player is doing every day. I knew, obviously, that Savery was giving hitting a try and that he was on fire in the season’s first month. Then I sort of lost track. Evidently, shortly after he moved up to Double-A, he was throwing out of the pen, making his first appearance for Reading on Jun 27. After allowing just one run and striking out 14 in nine innings (lefties hit just .125 against him), he was back up in Triple-A pitching out of Lehigh Valley’s bullpen.

Yes, he got to swing the bat a few times, going 2-for-5. But he was now pitching too well as a lefty reliever to worry about hitting. Savery posted a 1.80 ERA with four relief wins and two saves in 18 appearances. He struck out 26 over 25 innings, not too bad for a guy who was a complete finesse guy last time he pitched in Triple-A. He held left-handed hitters to a .192 batting average against and then had three scoreless playoff appearances.

To cap all of this off, there he was on Tuesday afternoon, pitching against the Washington Nationals in Philadelphia. He faced two batters, allowing a single to Chris Marrero and a sacrifice bunt to Brian Bixler. Sure, you could argue that he faced duos like that all the time in Triple-A, but not in front of 44,000 people for a team headed to the MLB playoffs.

Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to catch up with Savery soon and find out what happened. Did he have some kind of Jim “The Rookie’ Morris return of velocity to his arm in his time away? Did he realize that he wouldn’t make it as a hitter and decided to give relieving another shot and it paid off?

Whatever the reason, it’s got to be one of my favorite September callup stories of the year.

 

On the back fields with… Jesse Biddle

We head to the back fields of Spring Training to chat with Phillies first-round pick Jesse Biddle. The Eastern PA high school product is a big, strong left-hander who clearly has a maturity that belies his years.

He’s also a great poster boy for why it’s good to sign early. The No. 27 overall pick last June signed very quickly after being taken by his hometown team and he got 43 2/3 innings of professional work under his belt before the 2010 season ended. That served as a great springboard to earning a spot with full-season Lakewood to begin this season.

He’s made two starts as of this post, with mixed results. On April 17, he was part of a pretty good South Atlantic League matchup, facing No. 1 pick Bryce Harper. Hagerstown knocked Biddle around a bit and Harper went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the game.

When I caught up with Biddle, he was getting ready for what will be a very long first full season. We spoke about how to prepare for a 140-game season and what it’s like to put on a uniform for the team he grew up watching. Check out the edited, shorter version of our chat right here.

And for those of you with a little more time on your hands, here’s the long version. After this, I’ve got just one more first-round pick conversation from my time down in Florida.

OMG: Philadelphia Phillies

In case you missed it, here’s the Top 10 Prospects for the Philadelphia Phillies. And here’s OMG (One More Guy) from their system:

Scott Mathieson, RHP: Now 27, Mathieson doesn’t fit the typical description of a prospect, but since he still has rookie eligibility, he officially counts by my standards. And his perseverance deserves some attention.

Scott Mathieson should see time in the big leagues as a reliever in 2011.

Typically, when a guy has two Tommy John surgeries, you’re not writing much of anything about him. But once a solid starting pitching prospect who was a Futures Game participant (He’s Canadian) back in 2005, he’s reinvented himself as a reliever. After being in that Futures Game in ’05, he had a big year in 2006 and made it to the big leagues. But he had his first surgery in September of that year and missed all but eight innings of the 2007 season. He didn’t pitch at all in 2008 and managed 32 1/3 IP in ’09  (Surgery No. 2 came in 2008).

In 2009, he came back as a reliever and it seemed to suit him well. Last year, he was Lehigh Valley’s closer, leading the organization, and finishing second in the International League, with 26 saves. As a reliever, he’s struck out 11.6 per nine innings. His two big-league stints in 2010 didn’t go so well, but he had a solid spring. He didn’t make the 25-man when camp broke, so you might see him closing again in Lehigh Valley, at least until he gets another shot. Considering most probably thought he was done, he’s far exceeded expectations.

Minor League outfield swap

At first glance, the Greg Golson-for-John Mayberry trade is one that might be tough to figure out. Two first-round picks, Golson in 2004 out of high school and Mayberry the following year out of Stanford. One a power guy with a little speed, the other with great speed and some developing power. Neither having fully lived up to expectations, but still with potential. Both on the 40-man roster.

The question is: What was the point, really?

Depending on who I talked to, I got a variety of answers. The most common theme was that this was a “change of scenery” trade. The idea behind it is that perhaps both young players will benefit from a fresh start, a chance to learn from different coaches. Sometimes a trade ignites just the right parts of a previously incomplete player and he takes off. Golson is just 23; Mayberry 25. As one scout put it to me: Neither player is an uber-prospect right now, but both can still be pretty good players.

The knock on Mayberry, another scout told me, is that he’s been an underachiever. Everything points to the fact that he should be a prolific power hitter. But he’s been too laid back and relying solely on his talent. That being said, he’s a guy with some pop at a more advanced level of the Minors who might be able to help soon.

Golson, for his part, is a great kid with tremendous athletic ability. He’s made great strides defensively and could play center field in the big leagues right now. Offensively, he still needs some work. He can do many things well, but the hitting end hasn’t come easily. He did hit for average in Double-A, perhaps a good sign, but he does need to find a greatre level of consistency.

In the end, this trade may not seem like much to most fans. And it may never materialize into anything monumental. But it could also end up being good for both teams, as one executive told me, with both guys figuring things out with their new organizations.

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