CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms...The Next Phone Call

As the Phillie injury merry-go-round continues on its not so merry way, the pharm system has taken on added significance. Previously inconspicuous names like Elizardo Ramirez, Josh Hancock and Geoff Geary have suddenly taken on added importance to a fan base not often familiar with these potential diamonds in the rough. Yet, a regular reader of Phuture Phillie Phenoms may not have been surprised by the efforts of the three hurlers, not to mention the play of second baseman Chase Utley.

With recent injuries to third baseman David Bell and lefty Randy Wolf once again focusing on reinforcements from below, who may be the latest potential contributors to our Philadelphia heroes? Let's take a look…

With the recent call-up of Elizardo Ramirez from Single A Clearwater, I speculated that GM Ed Wade was sending a long overdue message to his minor league cavalry. His message was clear enough, "if you produce, you will not be overlooked". This has to be a welcome sound to such minor league veterans like Lou Collier, Jim Rushford and Jim Deschaine, not to mention young hurlers Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels.

These are but a few of the players who may soon become more than names on a scorecard at Citizens Bank Park. As the pharm system continues its offensive resurgence after almost two years of moribund mediocrity, these are among the players ripe for advancement.

Lou Collier has had many trials at the major-league level, but for various and sundry reasons has never succeeded. Yet, to study his season at Scranton Wilkes-Barre is to suggest that he is having a career year and may be worth a look at the third base position if Bell's injury proves chronic. A solid infielder, capable of playing multiple positions, he sports a .332 average and wonderful baseball instincts.

Although probably not a long-term solution to the revolving door at third base for the Phils, Collier might just supply a welcome dose of all around baseball talent until Bell or Placido Polanco proves healthy enough to man at the hot corner on a regular basis. Don't be surprised if Collier's name is mentioned soon.

Speaking of surprises, the names Rushford and Deschaine should be added to any list of welcome additions. Both are highly successful minor league hitters just waiting for a chance to display their wares at the major league level. Rushford is a career .300 hitter at the minor league level with the Milwaukee Brewers, and signed as a six-year free agent with the Phils over the winter.

True to form, he has been consistently at or over the .300 mark all season and currently is hitting .312. He could prove invaluable as a late game pinch hitter in Philadelphia after the recent failures of pricey free agent Shawn Wooten. Even more impressive is the hitting of Deschaine at Reading. Not only is he a player worth watching, but he has the background to suggest that his talent is not illusionary, but genuine.

Deschaine is an interesting case in perseverance, and may some day prove a real feather in the cap to a Phillie scout who signed him as a free agent. This is no Johnny Come Lately, but rather a player who once was a Top 20 talent in both the Cub and Blue Jay systems. Originally penciled in as a shortstop, he has wandered from second to third, and now resides full time in left field. It is here that his career has blossomed.

His .344 average is one of the best in the system, and he has played well in the outfield. With 25 RBI in 45 games, he is once again displaying the extra base skill that once made him a potential power threat in the Cubs and Blue Jays systems. Don't be surprised if the Phils soon promote Deschaine to Triple A Scranton, and this will be a sign that they are prepared to study his skills with a closer eye.

On the pitching side of the ledger, the whispers are soft, but getting louder. Gavin Floyd, who would just be finishing his junior year in college, may soon make his major league debut as a staring pitcher with the Phils. With recent injuries to Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf coupled with the failure of Hancock in Atlanta, the Phils are looking for a short-term solution to their staring pitching dearth.

It appears that they are giving serious consideration to promoting Floyd, if but for only a start or two. As previously mentioned, I speculated that the recall of Ramirez presented a significant shift in philosophy within the Phillie organization. Long known as a conservative organization, ill at ease with quick promotions of young farm hands, the Phils may be changing their ways. If so, it makes good sense to see what Floyd can do at the big league level.

Many long time Phillie watchers have felt that the team was keeping Floyd under wraps, so enamored of his talents and skill level were they. It was almost as if they felt if they ever truly set him free to throw all his pitches, or truly show his potential devastating stuff, that he might either injure himself, or fail completely.

Yet this is a youngster who often appears as a man among boys when he is on his game, and history shows that real talent is seldom deterred by early failure at the big league level. Expect to see Floyd on the hill with the Phils soon, if not within the next few weeks, then certainly within the next few months.

If Floyd makes his big league debut soon, can lefty phenom Cole Hamels be far behind? Not if his first four starts at Clearwater are any indication! Again, much like Floyd, Hamels appears as a man among boys, not so much for his 1-0 record and 1.13 ERA, but for his 24 strikeouts in but 16 innings of pitching. Remember, this league that Hamels is now dominating is the very same league from which Ramirez was recalled.

Along with Floyd and Hamels, other young hurlers on the upswing include Nate Cabrera, CJ Woodrow and Clemente Doble of Lakewood, Yoel Hernandez and Dan Giese of SWB, and Alfredo Simon with Clearwater. All had success this week, with the highlights being the six shutout innings by Doble in his first win of the year, and the first professional win by Cabrera, a diamond in the rough from the 2003 amateur draft.

Keep an eye on Hernandez, recently promoted to SWB. A pitcher who has moved slowly and steadily through the system, his career closely resembles that of Geoff Geary, a recently promoted Phillie hurler. Much like Geary did, Hernandez started his professional career as a starting pitcher, then was moved to long relief, and currently is being groomed as a closer at the minor league level.

Hernandez never has been blessed with a golden arm, but again like Geary, has always displayed a solid understanding of the art of hurling, and has success at every level. It will not surprise me if Hernandez becomes a candidate for a September call-up to Philadelphia if he has Triple A success. At any rate, remember the name… Yoel Hernandez.

Other players who had significantly noticeable weeks include burgeoning minor league stars Chris Roberson and Jake Blalock, as well as minor league bell weathers Ryan Howard, Anderson Machado, Jorge Padilla, Ryan Barthelemy, Javon Moran and Randy Ruiz.

Although there is still more than three months worth of baseball to play, Roberson and Blalock are clear front-runners for the title of Philadelphia Phillie Minor League Player of the Year. One is a highly rated farm hand, while the other has emerged from the shadows as a player to watch in the future.

Of further significance is that both are young outfielders and seem to have a future in Philadelphia. Along with Michael Bourn, Padilla and Moran, the Phils now have depth at a position that appeared almost barren as recently as one year ago today.

Roberson has long been known for his solid athletic skills, and low minor league batting average. Still, Assistant GM Mike Arbuckle continued to insist that one day Roberson would put it all together, and that day appears to have come. With a .321 average that is on the rise, and eight home runs in the past six weeks, he is definitely a worthy candidate for player of the year honors. He is also a candidate for promotion to Reading in Double A.

Equally worthy of player of the year consideration is Blalock, the booming power hitter deluxe currently playing with the Lakewood BlueClaws. With an impressive baseball pedigree, Blalock was expected to someday make it to Philadelphia. Yet, he has exceeded all expectations as his nine home runs and 40 RBI in 52 games attests. Add to that a solid .292 batting average and a .505 slugging average, and comparisons to a young Greg Luzinski appear more than just a pipedream to Phillie scouts and coaches alike.

In a season of unrest and constant change at the major league level, it is comforting to know that a solid replacement is no more than a phone call away. Although stability and good health is always a key to major league team success, it will not surprise anyone of Lou Collier, Jim Rushford, Jim Deschaine, Gavin Floyd or Yoel Hernandez soon make their marks at Citizens Bank Park, much as they have in their prospective minor league clubs.

Be it Collier or Rushford, Deschaine or Machado, Floyd or Hamels stay with Phuture Phillie Phenoms throughout the summer for the latest in weekly minor league news and updates!

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

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