In case you didn't realize it, the Reading Fightin Phils are really good. Reading has won 14 of their last 15 games and are a perfect 8-0 at home in the month of August. They try to extend both streaks tonight against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who Reading has pretty much eliminated from the playoff race with wins each of the past two nights.
The Fightins have a 4 1/2 game lead over second-place Binghamton, 8 1/2 over the Trenton Thunder. Reading hosts Binghamton for four games beginning August 31st, while Reading and Trenton have finished their season series. The top two teams in each division make the playoffs, meaning that Reading would actually have to fall below Trenton to miss the playoffs.
To open the season, it was supposed to be Reading's Rock Star Rotation that was going to lead them. Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Zach Eflin, Tom Windle and Ben Lively comprised possibly the best rotation in all of Double-A baseball. Nola is now in Philadelphia, Biddle is at Lehigh Valley, Windle is working out of the bullpen and Lively is on the DL. Eflin is the only remaining starter and has lived up to the hype.
While the pitching has remained strong, the offense is now garnering a lot of attention. Andrew Knapp is simply amazing. The 23-year old switch-hitting catcher opened the year at Clearwater, but has now played 41 games with Reading, during which he has assembled a slash line of 8-45-.409/.458/.704 with the Fightins. He's also third on the team in doubles with 19 and has made just one error in 37 games behind the plate in his time at Double-A.
Brock Stassi was supposed to have slowed way down by now, but the first base prospect is garnering some attention as the Eastern League's MVP, hitting 11-78-.308/.397/.459 this season with Reading. It's somewhat of a breakout season for the 26-year old. Others like Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Cam Perkins are playing well.
Needless to say, there are a number of players who could be considered for moves up to the Triple-A level, but are still hanging around Reading. The Phillies have made a conscious decision to keep the team together and give them a shot at winning not only the division, but possibly, an Eastern Leeague Championship.
With Lehigh Valley not in any battle for a playoff spot, there's no need for reinforcements at the Triple-A level, hence the decision to let these guys go for the gusto at the Double-A level. Their run for the playoffs could also disrupt some plans for guys to come up to the majors. It's highly doubtful that the Phillies will pull any of these guys away for a September call-up to the majors. The only Reading player who is on the Phillies 40-man roster is lefty Joely Rodriguez, who has found his groove lately and is pitching well in the revamed Reading rotation. Because the minor league season ends late this year - Reading's last game isn't until September 7 - the playoffs will stretch pretty deep into September. It's unlikely that the Phillies would add players like Knapp to the 40-man roster, which would necessitate using an option on them next Spring if they don'nt make the club out of spring training.