CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms... Comings and Goings

The status quo was not the pattern of the week in a Phillie Pharm system that saw several changes, from promotions, demotions, trades and debuts. Some of the players involved have become familiar to regular readers of Phuture Phillie Phenoms. Others names are just now becoming well known, while others are new names, with new hopes and dreams. Let's examine the comings and goings of the week and see just how it affects the minor league system, and ultimately, the major league club.

It was a foregone conclusion among veteran Phillie-watchers that General Manager Ed Wade would make a trade or two before the major league deadline of July 31, 2004. True to form, as this article was being written, he had pulled off not one but two trades, for relievers Felix Rodriguez and Todd Jones. No evaluation of these two players is deemed necessary here as there will be plenty of space for those discussions in other articles.

However, the Phils moves did cause a ripple effect in the pharm system, as minor league outfielder Brad Correll was acquired from Cincinnati and minor leaguers Josh Hancock, Anderson Machado and Alfredo Simon were dealt to the Reds and San Francisco Giants, respectively. Rumors of another move before the deadline could have further influenced the final month of the minor league season, but no other deals were made.

This much we know. Correll is a former late round draft pick, who has displayed a decent average but not much power during his two plus seasons in the Red's farm system. It is highly unlikely that he even makes a dent in the pecking order of Phillie outfield prospects like Jorge Padilla, Chris Roberson, Jake Blalock, Javon Moran, Michael Bourn or Greg Golson.

Changes are, we will see Correll take up residence in Clearwater, with Mike Schmidt's Threshers, and his ultimate advancement will be left entirely in the hands of how he plays. Much like probable teammate Mike Floyd, he will be given an opportunity to play on a regular basis, and if he shows improvement, he might start the 2005 season at Reading. If nothing else, it is always interesting to watch a new player perform and see if a change of scenery can do wonders for the player.

By the way, Correll's '04 numbers were a solid but none too spectacular .285 average with 9 homeruns and 63 RBI in 101 games. At first glance, these numbers are quite respectable, but for a 23 year old in Single A baseball, they are highly suspect. If he can reproduce these numbers next year at Reading, then we may have a player worth keeping tabs on.

In point of fact, it was not the player brought in that deserves special mention, but rather the players traded away. Each has their story, and each loss causes this writer a tinge of uneasiness, not so much for what they have produced to this point, but for what they might produce in the future. If nothing else, a closer examination of all three is warranted.

Hancock has been a fringe major league pitcher to this point, and his appearances in Philadelphia earlier in the year were disappointing. However, he has always had solid stuff, and in his final minor league start at Scranton two weeks ago, he pitched his best game in the organization, a near dominating 10 strikeout complete game. In fact, he was on the cusp of a 1-0 shutout entering the ninth inning, when a defensive mistake hurt him, and he surrendered 3 runs, ultimately losing 3-2.

Nevertheless, the performance was quite impressive, and no doubt was the reason Hancock was recalled this week by the Phils when injuries decimated their bullpen. In two relief stints this week, Hancock threw scoreless baseball. Cincinnati has already indicated that Hancock will be given every opportunity to succeed as a starting pitcher with the Reds, so his progress will be well documented here.

Perhaps no player is more a poster child for an often failing Phillie minor league system than Anderson Machado. Long time Phillie minor league phanatics are well aware of Machado, who was often compared to former Red's shortstop great, Davy Concepcion. Truth be told, Machado had the cat like reflexes of Concepcion, and visions of him at Citizens Bank Park someday seemed more than just a pipedream.

Yet, despite this talent, he seemed to regress as a hitter, and although his on base percentage remained high, due to a high walk total, his average remained disappointing. Ultimately, the player must be held accountable for his improvement, but many Phillie phans have justifiable reason to ask why so many minor league players like Machado seem to reach a certain level of performance and then flatten out.

If nothing else, this does not portend well for mega prospect hitters like Ryan Howard, Blalock and Bourn. It is hoped that the philosophy of relatively new hitting coach, Charlie Manuel, will make for positive results within the organization. Certainly, the failed work of Machado stands as a not so glowing testament to a minor league system that seems to let far too much talent fall by the wayside.

In an irony of sorts, Machado will now get to display his "Concepcion-like" talents with the same team that Davy played with, the Cincinnati Reds. A word to the wise may be sufficient here… do not be surprised if Machado replaces Barry Larkin as the regular shortstop in 2005. The guess here is that this change of scenery will do wonders for Machado's well-being, and make signing Jimmy Rollins to a long term contract even more important than before.

As much as Machado and Hancock will be missed, perhaps the greatest loss in all this trade activity is the departure of Alfredo Simon, he of the electric fastball and three straight complete game victories. In fact, even though Ricky Ledee is an obvious upgrade for the SF Giants at the big league level, Giants GM Brian Sabean was mostly waxing enthusiastic over the acquisition of Simon. Yes, friends, no less an authority than the well-respected Sabean understood the potential of Simon.

The loss of Simon is troubling on two fronts. The first one is that in talent and performance, he may well have ranked as the third top pitching prospect in the organization, just behind lefty Cole Hamels and righty Gavin Floyd. Indeed, Simon, who possessed one of the top fastballs in the organization seemed just to be hitting his stride, both mentally and physically.

Originally signed as a 6'4", 180-pound hurler, Simon has grown to 6'5" and a very imposing 240 pounds. Perhaps it was not mere coincidence that he has dominated Florida State League hitters over the past three starts. It seemed that the light bulb had clicked on and he was advancing from thrower to pitcher.

Sabean is convinced that Simon is major league bound someday, and he projects well as either a middle of the rotation starter, or a potential closer with his 95 MPH fastball. This much is known… GM Ed Wade certainly rolled the dice on these moves and if they should fail, he should and will be held responsible. This statement leads to the second reason that the loss of Simon is so troubling.

Little more than one year ago today, the names Phillies and top notch minor league pitching were synonomous. In fact, the gifted Hamels and Floyd were merely the tip of the ice berg in an organization seemingly teeming with prospects. However, this is no longer the case. Trades of pitchers Taylor Buchholtz, Ezequiel Astacio, Brandon Duckworth, Hancock and Simon, plus injuries to former top minor league prospects like Bud Smith and Eric Junge, and the mysterious disappearance of Jean Machi from the rosters of the minor league teams has left the organization painfully thin in young hurling talent.

Not only that, but with the announcement this week that thirteenth round draft pick, high school lefty James Adkins, has declined to sign with the Phils, this leaves the team with the embarrassing first of having not signed one high school hurler from this draft. This may seem insignificant now, but in five years from now, this seeming short-sighted approach may come back to haunt the Phils. Time will tell.

Now that the good-byes have all been said, and the potential of the departed players has been examined, it is best to turn the page and report some good news filtering from the Phillie camps this week. And, make no mistake, there was more than ample good news to talk about.

Perhaps the most significant announcement came Friday when the Phils promoted their top two minor leaguer performers, pitcher Floyd, and slugging first baseman Ryan Howard from Double A reading to SWB in Triple A. Both moves were well deserved, and make for the very real possibility that one or both of the players could make their major league debuts in Philadelphia come September. If nothing else, this makes their 2005 big league debuts almost guaranteed.

Neither move was totally unexpected, as Floyd has been pitching well all year, and his latest stint of 8.2 innings pitched in a 7-2 win, showed that he too was advancing from thrower to hurler. Certainly the most advanced of Phillie minor league hurler prospects, the thought of Floyd and young Ryan Madson in the Phillie rotation next year is certainly an appealing one!

As for Howard, if his 37 home runs don't get your attention, then certainly the 102 RBI may. If his solid .297 batting average isn't impressive enough, then his .647 slugging average is. It will be quite interesting to see how Howard performs against the often-skilled pitchers that frequent Triple A baseball. More than one scout has speculated that Howard may have trouble with the off speed pitches that will become the norm at the higher level of competition.

However, this is a move that had to be made, and if the Phils are to finally find out what they have in this slugger, now is the time to do it. If he does well, he either learns to play left field and plants himself firmly in the Phillie Phuture, or he becomes an even more valuable trading chip on a team that doesn't have many.

Also, the much-anticipated professional debut of second round draft pick, Jason Jaramillo, finally took place this week. The strapping young catcher, a collegiate All-American and heir apparent to Mike Lieberthal, Jaramillo is easily the most advanced draft pick signed by the Phils this summer. So far, he has played two games, going 2-4 in a warm up exercise at the rookie league GCL, and then 1-4 at Batavia, a spot he will probably keep through the rest of the year.

Expect the Phils to move Jaramillo swiftly along, and it would be a minor disappointment if he didn't finish the 2005 season at Reading, though he may begin next season either at Lakewood or Clearwater. Though known as a relatively conservative team in regards to minor league promotions, the Phils have shown with players like Jaramillo that they will advance them quickly. Witness the advancement of fellow college All-Americans like Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and Eric Valent.

With the promotion of Howard and Floyd to SWB, a domino effect of player movement is expected and already the Phils have announced the promotion of pitcher Lee Gwaltney from Clearwater to Reading. Although Gwaltney's 2-10 record is nothing to write home about, he has shown solid pitching fundamentals, and the promotion is seen as a reward for a hurler who has leaped past more heralded teammates like Nick Bourgeois and Francisco Butto.

Also expected is the promotion of third baseman Juan Richardson to SWB once he shows his throwing arm is fully recovered from off season surgery. Slowly rebounding into shape, he had a two homerun game this week, and has seen his average rise from the low .100's to a season high of .207.

Not so encouraging is the continued struggles of the other Phillie third base prospect, Terry Jones. His season has also been marred by injury and although he is now fully healthy and playing third base on a daily basis, his .157 average shows the rustiness of too much inactivity.

Not so, first baseman Ryan Barthelemy of the Threshers, he of the .309 average and solid power numbers. He would seem a good candidate to replace Howard at Reading. Another candidate for promotion is center fielder, Chris Roberson. Still sporting a .307 average after two weeks on the injured list, it would make sense to move him to Reading and promote hot shot, Michael Bourn from Lakewood to Clearwater.

In that way, Roberson, Bourn, Javon Moran and rookie Greg Golson would all be manning center field spots within the organization. Since this position remains a headache in Philadelphia, it behooves the Phils to make the correct choice when it comes to the next player to man the middle outfield spot at Citizens Bank Park.

Finally, the news on the young front is a positive one. The GCL Phils are playing exceptional ball right now and after a 5-13 start, have seen their record rise to 17-17 with 12 wins in their past 16 games. Better yet, they are developing a kiddie corp of hurlers that will be worth monitoring in the years to come.

At the head of the class is Canadian righty, Scott Mitchinson, he of the 5-0 record and astounding one base on balls in 35 innings of pitching. He is joined by young flame throwers like Carlos Carrasco (3-3), Maximino DeLaCruz (2-3), Kelvin Pichardo, and Lenin Gazo in what is quietly becoming a very solid rotation. Add to this, reliever Andy Barb has 33 strikeouts in 17 innings of work and this is a team that seems to be coming together as July turns to August.

Equally promising are the continued efforts of young top draft picks like Golson, and catchers Louis Marson and Charles Cresswell. Golson has shown solid baseball instincts, a decent bat (.277) and great speed (8 stolen bases) to go along with his great glove in center field. Marson has hit two homeruns and Cresswell has made the adjustment from aluminum to wooden bats with nary a hitch. Undoubtedly, Lakewood and GCL are the two crown jewels of the Phillie Pharm system this year.

If the saying the more things change, the more they stay the same has any relevance in fact, then August promises to be an exiting month down on the Phillie Pharm. As always, Phuture Phillie Phenoms will be right to there to report the comings, goings and latest happening within the organization. Stay with us and enjoy the ride!

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

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