Phillies Minor League Focus

The season has gone through its first month and some players are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. With that in mind, it's time for our first full look at the farm system in our first Phillies Focus on the Minors article.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Lots of changes at the Triple-A level. If you were listening to the Phillies game Friday night, you might have thought you were listening to an IronPigs game. Vance Worley threw six shutout innings and was relieved by Mike Stutes. And on Saturday, John Mayberry homered to tie the game and Dane Sardinha picked up a key walk that led to the go-ahead run. So far, things have played out well for former IronPigs who are playing in Philadelphia these days.

Mayberry has turned into a nice bat off the bench and figures to see more playing time with Raul Ibanez mired in an 0-for-30 slump that has dropped his average to .161 on the season. While admitting that Mayberry may play a more prominent role with the club, manager Charlie Manuel isn't going to give up on Ibanez. "I had written Julio Franco off three times, and he played another 15 years, so I don't know," Manuel said. "I'm serious. He proved me wrong all three times. All three times he said, 'I can still hit. I can play.' You might want to check to see if he's not playing in Mexico or Japan or Korea or something."

Most of the discussion around Lehigh Valley is the difference that Ryne Sandberg has made as manager - or Boss Hogg as they refer to the 'Pigs manager's job - and his players are loving the change. The atmosphere is much different from the days of Dave Huppert. Sandberg is much more involved with the players on both a group and individual basis and has stressed fundamentals. The team is also running more with a total of 20 stolen bases in 25 attempts, ahead of last year's club that attempted 18 steals over the same time frame, with just 13 of those attempts being successful.

Keep an eye on Delwyn Young; his contract has an out clause if he's not added to the Major League roster by June 1. One theory is that Tagg Bozied, who is on the DL with a mysterious, unannounced injury, may be hanging around in case Young decides to bolt. If that were to happen, Ronnie Belliard could shift to second, Jeff Larish move to third and Bozied take over at first. Young's status is truly worth watching, since he is hitting just .165 in 22 games with Lehigh Valley this season.

Pitcher Chance Chapman made a temporary stop at Lehigh Valley to give the IronPigs an extra arm for one night. This past week, he was again promoted, but this time, it figures to be for a longer stay. Chapman threw four shutout innings of relief in a "bullpen" game on Friday night when Brian Gordon made an emergency start in place of Worley who was called up earlier in the day.

Reading Phillies

Matt Rizzotti is in a 2-for-22 (.091) slump that has dropped his average to .333 on the year. Rizzotti also hasn't homered in two weeks. The talk in the early going was that Rizzotti was very close to being moved up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but his recent slump may have slowed the move upward. Meanwhile, Cody Overbeck, who moved from third to first base this season, is also hitting .333, but with six home runs. 

Speaking of home runs, Reading leads the entire organization - including the big league club - in home runs with 25. The surprising Tuffy Gosewisch is second on the club with four home runs, trailing just Overbeck. Gosewisch is also hitting .295 and is fourth on the club with 10 RBI. Through six previous seasons, Gosewisch's high in home runs has been nine, which he accomplished twice (2006, 2010). The Phillies have always loved Gosewisch's defensive skills and his ability to handle pitchers, but his bat has been suspect. If he can turn that around, he'll become a much more interesting prospect for the Phillies.

Second baseman Harold Garcia will miss some time after being placed on the DL with a torn ACL. Garcia was off to a good start and is one of the few middle infield prospects in the upper levels of the minor league system.

So, why was Josh Zeid pulled after five innings of no-hit ball on Friday night? The move seemed a little strange, but Mike Cisco and Phillippe Aumont covered the remaining innings and at least kept the shutout intact. Turns out Zeid had been battling some back stiffness for a few days and manager Mark Parent and pitching coach Bob Milacki weren't taking any chances.

Pitching has been the big story in Reading. Their staff went 23 2/3 innings without allowing a run before J.C. Ramirez allowed a run in the fifth inning of Saturday night's game.

Clearwater Threshers

With two more hits in Saturday's 5-1 win over Tampa, Joe Savery now has 13 multi-hit games out of 21 games played. The converted pitcher is now hitting .450 on the season. Savery has started 12 games at first base and has committed just one error this season, helping to answer the question of how he would be able to handle the defensive side of the game. Another player facing a conversion, Jon Singleton, who moved from first base to left field, also had two hits on Saturday, helping to up his average to .304 on the season.

Clearwater has a couple of rehabbing players on their roster in Domonic Brown and Brian Bocock. Brown started off with a home run in each of his first two games and is hitting .400 with Clearwater. Bocock played in his first game Saturday night and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Ironically, both players are rehabbing from broken hands, Bocock broke his left hand in camp, while Brown broke his right hand at just about the same time.

The Threshers are stacked with good pitching prospects. Jarred Cosart has just a 2-3 record, but a 3.81 ERA. Jonathan Pettibone and Julio Rodriguez share the team lead with three wins each. Pettibone has been especially impressive this season, posting a 1.55 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and opponents are hitting just .208 against him. Rodriguez has a 2.89 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, while keeping hitters limited to just a .206 average against. Tyler Cloyd made his fourth start of the season Saturday against Tampa and notched his first win lowering his ERA to 2.74 for Clearwater.

In the bullpen, Justin Friend continues to baffle hitters and has converted all seven of his save opportunities this season. Friend has a 0.93 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP this season. This is Friend's first season with the Phillies and he has been a nice addition. He's also someone who could progress up the ladder pretty quickly, considering that he already has 45 games at Double-A under his belt while he was in the Oakland A's organization.

Lakewood BlueClaws

Just ten days ago, Lakewood found themselves at the bottom of all of minor league baseball in batting average. Since then, they have had run outputs of 18, 12, 11 and 13 and have notched 77 runs in ten games, a far cry from the 27 runs they scored in the season's first 12 games. The offensive turnaround has boosted the BlueClaws team batting average from .179 to .236.

The juggernaut has been led by Anthony Hewitt, who has hit .333 (16-for-48) over the last ten days. Even with the nice offensive production for Hewitt, there is an obvious hole in his game; during the same span, he has struck out 15 times, while not drawing a walk. The high strikeout numbers, combined with the low walk numbers have been a major criticism of Hewitt throughout his minor league career. After Hewitt, a couple of lesser known players have done a nice job, with Jeremy Barnes hitting .318 (14-for-44) and Edgar Duran hitting .317 (13-for-41) since April 19.

Barnes was an 11th round pick in the 2009 Draft and is spending his second season at Lakewood, while Duran came out of the Phillies Venezuelan Academy and is in his first full-season league.

Much of the early season problem in Lakewood has come from young players adapting to their first full-season league. One player who has adapted quickly is first baseman Geancarlo Mendez, a product of the Phillies Dominican Academy. Mendez, like Duran, is in his first full-season league and has been fairly consistent from opening day on. Mendez is a 21 year-old, right-hand hitting prospect who played primarily in the Gulf Coast League last season, hitting .264 with the GCL Phillies.

On the mound, David Buchanan (3-0, 1.82) has been consistent. The Phillies took Buchanan in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft and he pitched well enough at Williamsport last season to earn a promotion to Lakewood and to be in their starting rotation. Buchanan turns 22 in May and had some control issues last season with the CrossCutters, but has shown much better command this season with Lakewood.

Lakewood has just four save opportunities on the season and they've converted three of them. Eric Pettis (0-1, 0.71) has two of the saves and has held opponents to just a .171 average in his nine relief appearances this season.

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