The Phoenix Desert Dogs should be a team filled with decent power and pretty much speed in the lineup. Besides Ryan Howard, who would have likely set the Eastern League all-time record for homeruns had he not been promoted to Scranton, will be joined by John Baker of the Oakland A's and Mark Teahen of theRoyals on the roster. Baker had 15 homeruns for AA Midland before being promoted to AAA. Teahen, a former Midland teammate of Baker's, has a combined total of 13 homeruns this season, with much of his playing time coming in AAA.
Chris Roberson, who is currently nursing an injury, but should be ready for the AFL season, has had somewhat of a breakout season at Clearwater hitting .307 with nine homeruns and 16 stolen bases. He'll be joined by Jeremy Hermida of the Marlins from their class A Jupiter team. Hermida has stolen 10 bases and is hitting .289 this season. Also on the team is the Marlins' Eric Reed, who has stolen 24 bases in 30 attempts with the AA Carolina Mudcats.
Gavin Floyd is the marquee name on the pitching staff, but 2004 first round pick Huston Street (Oakland), who is already at AA Midland, is also on the staff. The Angels, who have seven spots on the roster have yet to name their players, but will be sending three pitchers, a catcher, an infielder and two outfielders to complete the roster. Dean Treanor of the Marlins will be the manager and Erik Bennett (Angels) will be the pitching coach.
Here is a look at the six players the Phillies are sending to the AFL:
Keith Bucktrot spent some time on the DL and hasn't had the type of season that the Phillies had hoped for. Bucktrot has gone 4-6, 4.79 at AA Reading this season after going a combined 10-8, 3.11 at Clearwater and Reading last season. While Bucktrot hasn't had a stellar season, the Phillies still rank him high on their list of pitching prospects. Bucktrot came into the season as the number five prospect in the Phillies organization on the PhillyBaseballNews.com list of Top 50 Prospects.
Gavin Floyd could be in Philadelphia by some scouts estimates. However, the Phillies are being cautious and have kept Floyd in the minors, moving him from AA Reading to AAA Scranton at the end of July. While Floyd hasn't been as dominating as he was at lower stops along the ladder, he has still been strong, going a combined 7-8, 2.61 at Reading and Scranton. He has struck out 103 hitters in 138 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see if Floyd gets a September call-up. The Phillies may want him to rest a little before the AFL season, so even if he does join the club, he may not pitch too often.
Buzz Hannahan is the kind of player that every organization loves to have. He can play a bunch of positions – he's played second, third, short and outfield for AAA Scranton this season – and has gotten even more playing time with the trade of Anderson Machado last month. The 28 year old Hannahan was a 31st round pick of the Phillies in the '98 Draft. Hannahan came into the season as a career .253 hitter in the minors, but has hit .287 this season for AAA Scranton. Since Hannahan hasn't been an everyday player, the Phillies will look for him to get some at bats in the AFL and will likely at least consider him for a spot on the bench with the 2005 Phillies, especially if Tomas Perez goes into free agency and signs elsewhere.
Ryan Howard would have set the Eastern League homerun record for a season had he not been promoted to AAA Scranton. He zoomed past Greg Luzinski's Reading record early in the year and has drawn comparisons to Willie Stargell for his pure, raw power. The big question is; Will Ryan Howard play any outfield in the AFL? That appears to be his best bet of making it to the majors, since he's blocked by Jim Thome at first base. The Phillies have said they won't change his position and appear prepared to trade him to the highest bidder at some point.
Chris Roberson really has had a breakout season. Few people knew who Roberson was coming into the season. Roberson truly had a pretty undistinguished minor league career coming into 2004. In three seasons, Roberson had hit just .247 with four homeruns. His claim to fame was stealing 59 bases for Lakewood in 2003, which was the most steals by a Phillies minor leaguer in a decade and led the South Atlantic League. In his three seasons, Roberson had stolen 82 bases, but had struck out 189 times, including an alarming 102 times at Lakewood. This season at Clearwater, Roberson's stolen bases are down (16) but he is hitting .307 and has hit nine homeruns, five more than he had in his entire minor league career.
Carlos Ruiz ironically stepped up just when the Phillies were drafting a bunch of catchers in the 2004 Draft. Needing to fill a weak spot in the organization, the Phillies looked for catchers early and often in the draft, but Ruiz was undaunted. The Phillies signed Ruiz as an amateur free agent in December of 1998 and he had been adequate offensively and above average behind the plate. After bouncing between Clearwater and Reading in 2003 and missing time with a knee injury, Ruiz was settled into AA Reading this season and has produced, hitting .278 with 12 homeruns. He has good plate discipline and figures to project at least as a very capable backup catcher in the majors.
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