Batavia Struggles To Find Bright Spots In Season

The Batavia Muck Dogs are the recipients of most of the Phillies higher draft picks every summer. This summer was no exception and like summers in the past, some of the picks showed why they were drafted so high and others found professional ball to be a pretty good challenge. Overall, the Muck Dogs struggled, finishing at 28-44 on the season, but there were at least a few bright spots under the New York summer sun, although they weren't always easy to find.

With Tim Moss being the highest of the Phillies draft picks this summer, Batavia fans waited for the young University of Texas product to sign with the Phillies and begin his professional career with the Muck Dogs. It took a little while, but eventually, Moss was in town, but the excitement quickly faded.

Drafted with their first pick – which didn't come until the third round – Moss had one of the more disappointing summers of any of the Phillies draft picks not only this season, but in recent memory. The Phillies hoped Moss would be a quick mover and would become the perfect leadoff type hitter. That didn't happen at Batavia. Moss struggled, hitting just .153 in 40 games. His OBP was just .223, enabling him to swipe just five bases in five attempts. Defensively, Moss made seven errors and appears to need a lot of work.

The Phillies concentrated on getting speed demons in the early rounds of the 2003 draft and it showed at Batavia. In 72 games, the Muck Dogs combined for 102 stolen bases. Javon Moran led the way with 27 steals and had a great summer. Moran hit .282 for Batavia and figures to be able to steal even more bases down the road. The Phillies discovered that Moran is a pure speed guy on the bases, who hasn't mastered the art of stealing bases. That lack of knowledge cost Moran, who was thrown out attempting to steal 10 times, but the Phillies know that he can learn to be a more effective thief with some work.

Michael Bourn was second on Batavia with 20 stolen bases and was thrown out just five times. Bourn hit .281 with a .406 OBP. The Phillies hope that Bourn will become more of a gap hitter, since only one of his 32 hits were for extra bases. Of course, just getting on base is like an extra base hit with Bourn's speed, but the Phillies hope to work with him to be able to develop a little extra base prowess in the near future.

Batavia didn't feature much power. Jake Blalock led the Dogs with five homeruns. Kiel Fisher may have been the best all-around hitter, hitting .333 in 90 at bats. Fisher arrived halfway through the New York-Penn League season after starting the summer in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .323.

Pitching wise, there were some ups and downs as well for Batavia. Victor Menocal and Zach Minor both started the season with Lakewood, but finished at Batavia. While both struggled at times with Lakewood, they were both solid at Batavia. Menocal was 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA in five starts, while Minor went 0-2, 1.32 with 1 save at Batavia in 14 appearances.

2002 draft pick Darin Naatjes enjoyed a good summer on the Batavia mound. Starting 7 games, Naatjes was 1-3, but had a solid 3.62 ERA, striking out 24 in 27 innings of work. Chris Woodrow made five starts and eleven relief appearances, going 2-2, 3.00 with one save. Justin Libey made half of his 16 appearances out of the bullpen and was impressive with a 3.10 ERA and one save. Libey struck out a team high 57 hitters in 61 innings of work.

Actuall, the bullpen was generally solid for Batavia. Chris Rupert had a team high three saves in 17 appearances with a 3.38 ERA. Brad Overton went 2-1, 3.19 with two saves in 19 appearances. The young right-hander did struggle with his control a little, walking 19 in 42 innings. Matt Padilla walked 21 in 42 innings, but somehow managed just a 2.76 ERA with two saves for Batavia. If Overton and Padilla get their control going, they could both become strong, dominant pitchers down the road. Caleb McConnell didn't have overpowering numbers 0-2, 4.08, but some of the Phillies brass think he may have more potential than a lot of the pitchers on the Batavia staff.

The biggest disappointment of the summer in Batavia – besides Moss – was probably pitcher Jean Machi. The Phillies had high hopes for Machi, but they were dashed somewhat when the young pitcher not only had some problems on the field (2-4, 4.78 in 8 starts) but ran into disciplinary problems off the field. The Phillies had finally had enough and sent him home in early August because they didn't know what else to do with him. There is still hope that Machi will get his head together and return to prospect status with the Phillies. Joe Diefenderfer showed himself to be a tough kid, who handled a bad season well. Diefenderfer went 6-7, 5.04 in 12 starts, but reports are that he handled it well and was very receptive to help from the coaching staff. Diefenderfer has decent control, but sometimes left the ball out over the strike zone and was hit for eight homeruns this summer. Still, the Phillies think Diefenderfer can rebound. They'll work with him on developing his change and curve. At times, Diefenderfer didn't have enough movement on his curve, resulting in long balls.

So, the Dogs didn't have much bite this summer. They're still generally happy with what they saw from a lot of their players and figure that there are at least a few players who can easily move up the ladder for 2004. While concern is there over players like Machi and Moss, the Phillies believe that 2003 was just a glimpse of things to come for some of the other players. Blalock and Fisher may have especially put themselves in position for bigger seasons and likely assignments to Lakewood or Clearwater next year.

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