CD's...Connect The Dots

CD gives <i>PhillyBaseballNews.com</i> users a look at the Phillies with his own unique style. In this installment, CD takes a look at why the Phillies minor league teams are struggling and where have all the good bats gone?

A cursory look at our minor league record two weeks into the season indicates something is terribly wrong. An organization that has consistently won with regularity, while producing a steady stream of prospects lto the Phils, is off to a very slow start....with a combined record among the 4 clubs[SWB, Reading, Clearwater, Lakewood] of 15-26 including a recent streak of 12 losses in 13 games. Now, an organizations primary resposibility is not to win games..but to produce talent for the parent club.....and the Gavin Floyds, Taylor Buchholtzs, Ryan Madsons and Zack Segovias seem to be on track to help the Phils in the not too distant future. However, a growing concern among Phillie minor league faithful is the paucity of hitting prospects being produced in the system. In fact, a case can be made that some of the more outstanding hitting prospects like Eric Valent, Jorge Padilla, Carlos Rodriguez and Tery Jones seem to be regressing, and not moving forward. So, why do the 2003 version of the Philies minor leaguers seem particularly weak in the hitting department? Three theories come to mind quickly. First, the weather has been particularly bad in the East this April, and cold wet weather is much harder on hitters than pitchers. This could account for the high number[18 at last count] of sub .200 hitters in the organization. Second, although our draft and sign percentage is very high[one of the 2-3 best in baseball consistently] and has produced some outstanding pitcher prospects[Floyd, Hamels, Segovia, Matheson to name some recent ones] it has not done as good a job of signing solid hitting prospects...or helping the ones we do sign to improve. Since 1997 we have drafted but not signed 3 solid hitting prospects, 3rd baseman Lance Niekro, SS Tommy Whiteman and OFer Jason Cooper.....all whom are flourishing in other organizations, and will all play in the big leagues. A 4th prospect, OFer Steve Doetsch did not sign in the fall and is currently doing well at a Florida JC. We still have a chance to sign him....he would help our weak minor league OF group plenty! And, last but not least....the lack of hitting prospects coming out of our improved Latin American signing program. We are justifiably proud of bringing in many new prospects to the Phillies organization from the Latin and South American countires....but, again, most of them are pitchers. Elizardo Ramirez, Jean Machi and Robinson Tejada all have demostrated potential and are worth watching....but all are pitchers. So......where do we go from here? Well, with May around the corner and the weather warming up, we can hope that hitters like Chase Utley, Travis Chapman, Anderson Machado, Eric Valent, Ryan Howard and Juan Richardson start to hit with authority. In June, when the short season clubs get into action we can begin to follow such hitting prospects Jake Blalock, Kiel Fisher and Wilmington Baez. We can hope that the Phils are ableto convince Doetsch to sign rather than reenter the draft. And, although we do not have a 1st or 2nd round pick in the June draft, we can focus our sights on bringing in some solid college or high school hitting prospects. However, if none of these things turn things around....Arbuckle, Wolover and Co. may have to reexamine the way we go about coaching our hitters in the minor leagues. We have a solid minor league system, one to be proud of. However, it is a fact that the hitters produced have not kept up with the solid pitchers produced...and this is beginning to catch up with the organization. Lets hope the problem is solved quickly.

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