Minor League Report - April 23, 2004

Some prospects are really starting to solidify themselves nicely in the Phillies farm system. Jorge Padilla, Jeff Phelps and Francisco Butto are all profiled in today's look at the minor league system. Plus, the amount of speed on the Lakewood roster is downright scary.

AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons: This time last year, Jorge Padilla didn't think the Phillies were doing him any favors by keeping him at AA instead of the promotion that Padilla hoped for. Granted, Padilla had hit just .256 at Reading in 2002, well under his career .278 average coming into the season, but still, Padilla thought he was ready for AAA. Padilla played at Reading last season and battled injuries, but hit .295 in 46 games. This spring, his promotion finally came.

In the early going, Padilla has been solid. Padilla is hitting .282 for Scranton and is looking comfortable at the plate. Padilla, who turns 25 in August, was a third round product of the productive 1998 Draft. That's the same draft that brought Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels and a host of other prospects to the Phillies. The Phillies don't figure to make room in the starting outfield for Padilla, but a future utility role wouldn't be out of the question.

AA Reading Phillies: The R-Phils enjoyed a day off Thursday. Actually, it was their second day off in this week. The Phils start a weekend series in Trenton Friday night.

Look for third baseman Jeff Phelps to start to get some press. A 36th round pick in the 2001 Draft, Phelps has been viewed as a nice, solid player in the organization. With his promotion to AA, Phelps is showing that there may be more in store for him as a prospect. Through the R-Phils first 12 games, Phelps is hitting .343 and has 2 homeruns. He entered the season with a .266 average and 14 homeruns in his first three minor league seasons. Without a strong third base prospect ahead of him, Phelps is becoming someone to watch for the future. Phelps' timing is just about right, too since David Bell is in the second year of a four-year deal. That could give Phelps either a season in the majors as a utility player or an extra season of AAA training – not unlike Chase Utley - before taking over full-time at third when Bell's contract is up.

A Clearwater Threshers: Francisco Butto probably isn't sure what he is these days. After a season and a half as a reliever, the Phillies moved Butto into the starting rotation in the Gulf Coast League in 2002. He spent a season and a half as a starter and is back in the bullpen for Clearwater this season. Butto has succeeded at whatever the Phillies have thrown at him and he's doing the same this season. Butto recorded his first save of the year Thursday night in Clearwater's 3-0 win over Dunedin. His season ERA stands at 3.52 and reports are that he is throwing better than he has in past seasons.

Clearwater used three pitchers in shutting out Dunedin. Layne Dawson (1-0, 2.25) threw seven shutout innings, allowing eight hits, no walks and striking out eight. Dawson has now walked just one batter in 16 innings, while striking out 12. Opponents are hitting just .167 off Dawson. Cary Hiles, rehabbing from an injury, pitched a shutout inning. Hiles has now pitched 9.1 innings over six games with a 1.93 ERA as he works his way back.

A Lakewood BlueClaws: The BlueClaws are averaging 3 stolen base attempts per game this season. They're averaging almost 2 successful steals (35-39) per game. Michael Bourn leads the way with 14 steals in 14 attempts. Javon Moran has 9 steals in 9 attempts and Carlos Rodriguez has 5 steals in 5 attempts. The scary part of it is that Rodriguez has just a .196 OBP and Tim Moss – possibly the fastest runner on the team – has 2 stolen bases in 3 attempts with just a .296 OBP. If Rodriguez and Moss start getting on base more, the sky is the limit for Lakewood. The BlueClaws even have a speedy catcher. Tim Gradoville is 3-for-4 in stolen base tries and has swiped 27 bases in his first two minor league seasons coming into 2004.

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