The Phillies have had two of their minor league prospects chosen to play in the Futures Game, to be played at US Cellular Field in Chicago during the All-Star Break. Gavin Floyd (Clearwater) has been chosen as one of the United States team pitchers for this year's game. Floyd is 6-4, 2.82 this season with Clearwater and has struck out 73 hitters in 83 innings. Ryan Howard (Clearwater) was also chosen as a first baseman for the Futures Game roster. Howard has 13 homeruns and is hitting .294 for the Clearwater Phillies and is generally thought of as one of the best pure power hitters in the Phillies minor league system.
South Atlantic League All-Stars
Jeremy Isenhower and G.G. Sato were chosen to represent the Lakewood BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League classic. Ironically, Isenhower was a college teammate of Howard's at Southwest Missouri State. The young second baseman is hitting .280 with three homeruns, while playing solid defense for Lakewood. Isenhower has shown increasing range and has made just six errors on the season. Sato has surprising speed for a catcher and has stolen 11 bases and is hitting .270 this season. Sato signed as a free agent with the Phillies in December of 2000 and started his pro career the following season at Batavia. Sato has also played in the Florida Instructional League and with the Gulf Coast Phillies.
Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons (38-37)
As with most teams in the northeast, Scranton has been hampered by bad weather. Twice, they had double-headers rained out in the past week.
Just when it seemed that Travis Chapman couldn't get any hotter after going 30-60, he went 9-16 (.563) over the past week. The young third baseman is on fire and shows no signs of slowing down. Juan Sosa returned from the inactive list and is struggling, going 3-20 (.150) since his return. The Red Barons and Phillies both hope that Sosa can pull things together and have a productive season. Another guy who's struggling is Chase Utley, who went 3-22 (.136) this past week.
On the mound, Dan Giese seems to be getting used to pitching at the AAA level. Giese looked a little timid his first few times out, but is gathering some momentum. His season stats at Scranton now stand at 2-0, 4.38. Josh Hancock is throwing well, but only went 1-1 this past week to show for it. Hancock put up a 1.80 ERA over the past week. Meanwhile, the Wayne Gomes watch is officially on. Gomesie has notched 12 saves and has a 2.45 ERA. Will he be in Philly soon? Don't count out the idea. If Carlos Silva or Hector Mercado continue to struggle, Gomes could get a return ticket to the majors. It's still a little far fetched to think that Gomes could take over for Jose Mesa if he stumbles, but it's not completely out of the question.
Reading Phillies (35-37)
The Reading Phillies have seen their share of stormy weather and it hasn't all been rain. On the field, things aren't going as smoothly as Reading would have hoped.
At 27, Uriel Casillas is a little old for the Eastern League. He's making every effort though to return to AAA as soon as possible. Hitting .385 (5-13) this past week has driven Casillas average to .303 for the year. Casillas is primarily a middle infielder, but he can also play third base. Second and third at Scranton are blocked by Utley and Chapman and Sosa is playing short along with Jason Knupfer. Knupfer's .203 average isn't blocking Casillas, but the Phillies feel that Sosa – although he's also 27 – may have a little more of a prospect label attached to him. Casillas doesn't see too much time at short at Reading because of Andy Machado, who is only hitting .218. In fact, Casillas moves around the Reading infield a lot and has even played one game in the outfield. Juan Richardson (15-34-.270) plays third and Brian Hitchcox (5-21-.284) handles second for Reading.
It looks more and more like Bud Smith may be done for the season. Smith has never been one-hundred percent healthy since he came over to the Phillies in the Scott Rolen trade. There was hope that the injury problems were behind him, but it's not so. How long will the Phillies stick with Brad Pautz? Pautz is 26 and struggling through the worst season of his professional career with a 10.91 ERA. It's Pautz' second full season at Reading, so it's not a matter of adjusting to a new league, either. Pautz was 4-6, 3.06 last season for Reading, but he is falling fast and the Phillies don't know why. Meanwhile, Ryan Hutchison is now just one save behind team leader Frank Brooks. Hutchison dazzled the gang at Clearwater and has been impressive since his promotion to AA. Hutchison's ERA is 2.51 at Reading. Brooks has continued to be effective, with four saves and a 2.18 ERA on the season. Each night, it's just a matter of which one to go to.
Clearwater Phillies (37-31)
The offensive drought continues in Clearwater. Each night is a struggle for pitchers to hold their opponents as lifeless as the Clearwater offense. Danny Gonzalez has upped his average to .284 and Ryan Howard is still swinging well, but that's about it. If you're thinking that maybe there might be help coming from Lakewood, don't count on it (we'll talk about that later).
The Clearwater Phillies are lucky to be blessed with the pitching staff that they have been. We all know about Ezequiel Astacio, Keith Bucktrot, Gavin Floyd and Elizardo Ramirez. Don't forget Taft Cable (1-2, 3.60), Eude Brito (0-1, 3.00), Layne Dawson (6-3, 3.24), Bobby Korecky (2-2, 2.32, 13 saves) and Matt Squires (0-0, 2.08). These guys can flat out pitch.
Lakewood BlueClaws (21-46)
The BlueClaws are like Clearwater only without the pitching. That's not to say that they don't have any pitching, but it's not in the class of Clearwater.
We all know about the growing legend of Cole Hamels (2-0, 0.72), but continues with Francisco Butto (7-3, 1.58, 2 CG), Lee Gwaltney (3-4, 3.96) and Matt Sweeney (1-6, 3.81) as starters. From the bullpen, Beau Richardson (5-4, 3.14) has been strong for Lakewood all season.
Karl Nonemaker, a 20th round pick in the 2002 Draft arrived in Lakewood and has found a home. Nonemaker is hitting .297 with four stolen bases in his first 19 games. Matt Hopper, the Phillies tenth round pick in the 2003 Draft is also at Lakewood and is hitting .200 through just three games and ten at bats.
Batavia Muck Dogs (2-4)
Things are just getting underway in Batavia. Justin Foust, a 24th round pick in this year's draft is the big news. Foust is hitting .400 (8-20) in the early going. Another 2003 draftee, Joseph Brunink (15th round) is hitting .294 in the early going.
On the mound, Darin Naatjes (14th round, 2002) has struck out 11 in 11 innings of work, while walking just one. Naatjes lost the season opener for his only decision on the year in two starts and has his ERA at 2.45 for the Dogs.
Gulf Coast Phillies
Nothing is happening on the Gulf Coast. The GCL Phillies have yet to play a game because of torrential rains.