CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms ...A Week to Remember

Some weeks are just better than others. Sometimes, it just seems that no matter how hard you try, it's one step forward and two steps backward. Then, other weeks just seem to pass with one fortuitous event after the next. Regardless of how many trees you fall out of, you always land on your feet. This week, Phillie fans, was one of those weeks. From a solid homestand for the big club to several momentous events in the minor leagues, this has been a Week to Remember for Phaithful Phanatics.

As has been duly noted on more than one occasion, our Phillie pharm clubs have taken more than their share of knocks this season. The criticisms have ranged from too few hitting prospects, to too many injuries. Through it all, I have maintained that when the dust settled, this group would more than represent themselves in solid fashion, and that the Charlie Manuel School of Hitting Philosophy would eventually take hold.

Don't look now, but if this week is any indication, and I think it is, then Manuel's hard work and patience is showing signs of fruition. Oh, there will undoubtedly be some glitches along the way, and the list of sub .200 hitters in the organization is still too long, but I think the corner has been turned and we can look forward to reading about hitters like Jake Blalock, Ryan Howard, Javon Moran and Chris Roberson with stunning regularity.

While we are at it, it should be duly noted that our two top pitching prospects, Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd put on a display of hurling that left long time Phillie watchers searching the record books for a combined effort to match theirs. Yes, phans, in a week where hitting was the name of that tune, several pitchers had memorable moments, also. Let's take a closer look at the week that was…

Most minor league analysts thought that the Lakewood Blue Claws [18-22] , the lowest of the full season Class A clubs, would have an exciting offense. Filled with young prospects, the club seemed capable of scoring runs in bunches. Yet few phans could have predicted the offensive onslaught of the past few days. In an amazing two-day period, the Blue Claws scored a total of 26, count em, 26 runs!

The hitting heroes were numerous, but here are a few of the more noteworthy characters. Blalock, in a power display unmatched since the days of Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, hit 3 home runs, got five hits and knocked in six runs on Thursday night, then followed it up with another homerun, two RBI game the following evening.

This prodigious display of power only adds to the burgeoning belief that he may soon the best power hitter in the minor league system. Blalock, a high school teammate of Hamels, raised his average to .276 with the onslaught, and is a player to watch this summer. Truth be told, he is only one of many Claw sluggers who are enjoying an offensive revival this year.

Speedy Javon Moran, a player we have watched closely, saw his average rise to .304 with an impressive week, highlighted by a four hit game on Friday. Along with teammate Michael Bourn, Moran is a player who may one day challenge for the leadoff hitter spot in a Phillie lineup that already features such young sluggers as Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and Marlon Byrd.

Along with the aforementioned Blalock and Moran, other Claw hitters of note were Bryan Hansen who now has five home runs to go along with his rising .269 average, Chris Klemm, solid at .304, and catcher Chico Cortez at .290. Not to be outdone by this rising storm of offensive prowess, infielder Marc Tugwell has been a consistent threat all season, and still sits at .297.

While the pitching has been inconsistent of late, one name to watch is young right-hander Paco Reyes, 3-0 and still unscored on in 14 innings of work. With a fastball in the low 90's, and outstanding control, Reyes may be a name to watch as this season continues to unfold.

While Clearwater [15-29] continues to struggle to win games one hitter has suddenly emerged as an exciting prospect. Outfielder Chris Roberson has long been noted for his athletic ability and blazing speed. Indeed, the rangy 6'2" right-hand hitter stole 59 bases last year at Lakewood. Yet, the Phils always hoped that his bat would eventually catch up with his speed, and this year it seems to have occurred.

Ironically the steals are down but the power and average are up. In the past few weeks Roberson has hit five homeruns in the pitcher haven known as the Florida State League. Along with the sudden power, he has emerged as a solid hitter, and his average is now at .294 and climbing. If his numbers remain consistent, watch for Roberson to emerge as a Top Twenty prospect in the organization by year's end.

Along with Roberson, first baseman Ryan Barthelemy continues to justify the Phil's patience in him with a .318 average and good RBI numbers. He has been above .300 all year, and if his average and power numbers remain strong, he could still have a future in the big leagues after an All-American career at Florida State.

Even with the hitting exploits of Roberson and Barthelemy, the big news in Clearwater this week was the return to action of mega prospect, lefty Cole Hamels. While the hope was that Hamels would pitch pain-free - and he did! - no one could have foreseen the dominance of his performance. In three innings of work, he retired all nine hitters, six of them via the strikeout route.

The Phils are being extremely cautious with his valuable left arm, but look for his numbers to increase as his pitch count and innings pitched is allowed to expand as he slowly returns to baseball shape. Hamels will probably remain at Clearwater all season, but it will still not be a surprise if he is in the Phillie rotation sometime in 2006. Yes, he is that good!

As strong as Hamel's performance was, the star of the staff in the early going is still Elizardo "The Lizard" Ramirez, he of the pinpoint control and easy motion. In a return trip to Clearwater, Ramirez is off to a 5-1 start, with a 2.44 ERA. If these numbers continue, he may soon earn a promotion to Reading in Double A.

Unfortunately, the news is not all good at Clearwater, Still considered the weakest club in the system; they continue to make do without third baseman Terry Jones, sidelined with a foot injury. As if the loss of Jones wasn't tough enough, pitchers Nick Bourgeois (1-4) and Alfredo Simon (1-6) are struggling badly. Both are highly regarded Phillie pitching prospects, and their struggles remain a source of frustration with the Phils minor league staff.

Not to be outdone by the hitless effort of Hamels, the Phils other pitching mega prospect, Gavin Floyd, tossed eight innings of no hit ball in a banner effort this week. Unfortunately for Floyd, he was on a pitch count, and this philosophy, coupled with a 0-0 score, kept him from not only a no-hitter, but also a victory.

Yet his effort, along with Hamels brilliance, gives the Phils a belief that they soon will have two young starting pitchers that may bring back memories of the days of Bunning-Short, Carlton-Denny and Schilling-Mulholland. Other Reading pitchers on the rise include starters Keith Bucktrot (3-1), Frank Perez (3-3), and Rob Tejeda (3-4) and a new bullpen tandem of Yoel Hernandez and Matire Franco.

Hitting stalwarts this week for Reading (17-23)] include Jim Deschaine at .314 and climbing, John Castellano, red-hot at .440, and young slugger Ryan Howard, now with 12 home runs and 29 RBI. On the negative side of the ledger, shortstop prospect Danny Gonzalez is down to .212 and is scuffling on a daily basis.

The news out of Scranton (22-18), the Phils Triple A club is mixed. With the promotions of Chase Utley, Geoff Geary, Jim Crowell and Josh Hancock, the team was woefully thin in players for a few days. Nevertheless, the goal of a Triple A team is to provide the parent club with solid talent, and the success of Utley and Geary makes this point abundantly clear.

Perhaps the most noteworthy item at SWB is the return to action of shortstop Anderson Machado, after an appendicitis operation. Still rounding into shape, Machado's average is climbing at .217, and his speed and defense remain as stellar as ever.

On the pitching front, performances were up and down. While lefty Greg Kubes continues to look like a solid situational lefty prospect for the Phils at 3-1, 1.66 ERA, righty Dave Coggin suffered a dismal outing this week and saw his ERA climb to over 5.00. Still regaining his arm strength, Coggin may not see action in Philadelphia all season. He and another recuperating righty, Eric Junge, hope to pitch well enough at Scranton this summer to possibly receive a call-up to Philadelphia when the rosters are expanded in September.

As duly noted earlier, some weeks are just better than others. For Phillie Phanatics, looking for hopeful signs from a pharm system that has sputtered in 2004, 11 innings of no-hit ball from the top two pitching prospects, and a three homerun performance from a young slugger offer firm evidence that this was truly a Week to Remember.

Columnist's Note: Please send comments or suggestions to and I will respond. Thanks! Allen Ariza aka CD from the Left Coast

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