Minor League Report - August 20, 2004

The first stop is AAA Scranton, where Ryan Howard is putting up strong numbers and Jeremy Wedel has worn out his welcome. In Reading, could there be a Reading Phillie in the majors this September? Plus, news from the injury front. Clearwater's Terry Jones is starting to turn it on and could there be a major position change for Juan Richardson. Lakewood has a couple of overlooked players, while Batavia and the Gulf Coast League continue to develop players from the 2004 Draft.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons: The Red Barons have gotten some needed help from players like Ryan Howard and Gavin Floyd, but they're still trailing Buffalo by 8 ½ games in the North Division of the International League. The problem isn't as much Scranton as it is Buffal. The Bisons are basically running away with things while everyone else tries to catch up. The Barons are 9-8 in August.

Speaking of Ryan Howard, he's adjusting well to AAA pitching. In 18 games, Howard has 7 homeruns and 21 RBI. He has had two multi-homerun games in the past week, twice hitting two homeruns in a game. As for strikeouts, Howard is striking out at about the same rate that he was at AA Reading, with a slight improvement. With Reading, Howard whiffed once every 2.9 at bats. In Scranton, he's struck out once every 3.4 at bats.

The Phillies released pitcher Jeremy Wedel. Wedel, who is recovering from an injury, was pronounced fit enough to pitch and the Phillies wanted him to start at AA Reading before moving along to Scranton. Wedel didn't feel he was ready to pitch in games and refused to report. The Phillies then told him to either report or be released and he chose the latter.

Reading Phillies: Should John Castellano get a call-up in September? The 27 year old veteran minor leaguer has toiled all season at Reading and has been awesome. He was an Eastern League All-Star and is hitting .354 with 15 homeruns and 61 RBI. Castellano hasn't gotten much of a shot and has never really been considered a strong prospect, but it might be interesting to see what he would do with a chance in September. The problem would be finding a spot for him on the Phillies 40 man roster.

While Reading's Matt Squires had good news after shoulder surger – the damage to his shoulder wasn't as bad as originally thought – Layne Dawson didn't have the same outcome. Dawson has a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum. While Squires is out for this season, but should be able to return for 2005, Dawson will likely miss most, if not all of next season and possibly beyond. Dawson was 3-2, 6.85 at Reading and 1-4, 3.43 at Clearwater.

Clearwater Threshers: Terry Jones is starting to return to form. After missing much of the season with a heel injury, Jones struggled when he first returned to Clearwater. Now, he's lifted his average to .223 and has four homeruns in 36 games. Jones is the leading contender for the third baseman of the future title in the Phillies organization. There was some talk that if he hadn't started to turn things around, Jake Blalock might have been moved back to third base next season. Fortunately for Jones, things are coming together and it will be interesting to see how he progresses next season when he's completely healthy.

You have to wonder how long the Phillies will keep Vince Vukovich around. Sure, he's the son of long-time third base coach John Vukovich, but the younger "Vuke" hasn't shown much in his professional career. Vukovich came into the season as a career .242 hitter in the minors, but had at least shown some mild progress each season. This season – his second with Clearwater – he's dropped to .167 on the season. He has shown above average defensive skills in the outfield, though.

Could Juan Richardson have pitching in his future? Offensively, Richardson has been a big disappointment, but four times this season, he's been used as an emergency reliever. In 4 1/3 innings, Richardson has allowed just one run, has issued no walks and has struck out two. At one time, Richardson was a highly touted third base prospect, but he's hitting just .220 and hasn't shown any of the potential power that the Phillies thought would continue to develop after he hit 55 homeruns in the last three seasons. This season, Richardson has just four homeruns and 12 RBI.

Lakewood BlueClaws: Nobody will confuse outfielder Chris Klemm with a great prospect in the organization, but Klemm has quietly put up decent numbers at Lakewood. Klemm hit .336 in the Gulf Coast League last season, his first in pro ball. While he hasn't put up those kind of numbers at Lakewood, he has been pretty consistent, hitting .274 for the BlueClaws. The converted catcher has also done a nice job defensively playing outfield.

Dan Hodges is a lefty reliever who is sometimes overlooked among pitching prospects. Hodges has a 3.34 ERA with 7 saves for Lakewood. Hodges is one of those "high ceiling" players that the Phillies love to project and he could figure prominently in their bullpen of the future. Hodges lasted until the 26th round of the 2003 Draft and isn't known for blowing people away. For now though, he seems like he can easily be tough enough on left-handed hitters and could develop into something more.

Batavia MuckDogs: Sean Gamble continues to be a shining star from the 2004 Draft. Gamble has played well in the outfield and leads Batavia in hitting at .284. Gamble was the Phillies sixth round pick out of Auburn this past June. Gamble won't hit many homeruns, but he has a short, quick stroke. He also has decent speed, but hasn't picked up the knack for stealing bases, but can turn it on defensively when needed. His defensive instincts are strong and he hasn't made an error this season at Batavia.

Left-hander James Happ continues to be impressive. Happ is 0-2, but has a 2.38 ERA in eight starts for Batavia. In 22 2/3 innings, Happ has struck out 25 and walked 12, which the Phillies believe he'll cut down on eventually. The Phillies are being careful not to pile up too many innings on Happ's arm this season, since he already threw 94 innings at Northwestern this season and threw ten complete games in his final two college seasons. The Phillies just want to keep him active, without overtaxing a good arm.

Gulf Coast League Phillies: Greg Golson hit his first professional homerun this past week. The Phillies believe that Golson will develop some power, but won't ever be a major league homerun hitter that will put a big scare into opposing pitchers. Golson is hitting .289 and has stolen 12 bases while only being thrown out two times. He could have a relatively quick road to the majors, depending on how quickly he develops some plate discipline. In 149 at bats, Golson has ten walks and 46 strikeouts this season. The Phillies are continuing to stress more discipline and hope he can pick up a better idea of the strike zone.

Clemente Doble has been awesome. In 11 games, Doble has three saves and a 1.50 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 18 innings. His control has been very good and he has issued just four walks. Opponents are hitting just .209 off him. The 22 year old originally signed with the Phillies in October of 2000 and pitched in the Dominican Summer League for two seasons before coming to the states in 2003. He was in the GCL last season and started one game for Clearwater.

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