CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms...September Sightings

The ocean waters are not quite so warm. The breezes that would chase away the summer heat have a brisk bite instead of a refreshing cool. August has almost been replaced by September, and another summer of discontent has touched die-hard Phillie fans. And with September comes the usual speculation about final month call-ups, designed to not only audition the lucky recipients but satisfy the dissatisfied masses of fans left with another bitter taste of too many losses and too few victories.

Larry Bowa in what may soon be his final month as a major league manager touched on this very topic recently when he mentioned that as many as nine players were being discussed as possible September recalls. Although he failed to amplify on either the philosophy or names behind the comments, Phillie history indicates three things.

One, the Phils are not wont to make many recalls, so the number nine is only a Bowa pipe dream, and is likely to include only three or four real new players added to the roster. More than likely, names like Ryan Madson and Billy Wagner will be part of this list, and less likely are the chances of a player like Mark Smith or A.J. Hinch, guys with some major league experience but no current inclusion on the 40 man roster.

Two, the Phillies are always wary of starting too many players on their merry path to arbitration, which normally kicks in after three seasons in the big leagues. A month of auditioning could cost millions three years down the line, so don't expect to see more than one or two players making their maiden voyage to the big leagues.

Three, the Phils are unlikely to just reward players for solid minor league seasons, although this is a practice often used by other teams. Thus, it is unlikely that we will see players like Dan Giese, Greg Kubes or Jim Rushford, stout players all, but none with any long-term future in Philadelphia.

Yet, what if the September recall could be done differently, with no worries about salary constraints, arbitration dates or injury problems. What if a team could recall players "only" based on how they did this season, and it was a reward for solid play. Then let's suppose that Bowa and the Phils still felt that nine players deserved this reward. Who would they be? Why would they be so deserving?

Through the power of the written word, and the ability to speculate to my heart's desire, here would be my nine players, with a bit of reasoning behind each decision. Please feel free to let me know if your list would differ greatly from mine, since the decisions are only ours, and they are based on nothing but the reward given for a job well done!

Of course, any Phillie list of September call ups must begin with slugging first baseman Ryan Howard, now at Scranton in Triple A. His season was one for the ages, and it quite possible that he may be the only player in organized baseball that reaches 50 homeruns this year. His numbers are staggering… a combined total of 45 homeruns, 128 RBI and 91 runs scored in 129 total games.

It is quite possible that Phillie fans will one day look back on Howard's 2004 season with a combination of awe and mystique, wondering if indeed it really happened. In a storied history of such sluggers as Richie Allen, Greg Luzinski, Mike Schmidt and Pat Burrell, no Phillie minor leaguer has ever put up the power numbers of Howard. Yes, Phillie fanatics, he deserves, and will probably get a September recall.

Player number two is a somewhat obscure relief pitcher named Dan Giese. He has quietly put together a very solid season at Scranton, and recently won his twelfth game, a very high total for a relief pitcher. Along with his 12 wins, he has saved 3 games and has accumulated an impressive 3.07 ERA in 51 games. Chances are slim that he will actually get a call, but he is certainly most deserving of being one of the magic nine.

Gavin Floyd would be player number three, and his name would certainly come with an asterisk. If numbers are the sole barometer of a September reward, then Floyd's pedestrian numbers of 7-9 and 112 strike outs in 149 innings hardly qualifies. Yet, few would argue that there is a pitcher in the organization with better stuff and talent than this righty and Phillie fans await with anticipation his first start at Citizens Bank Park.

If Dan Giese has labored in anonymity this season at Scranton, he has a soul mate at Reading in the name of John Castellano. Quick now, name the hitter in the Phillie organization with the highest average. Yes, that player would be Castellano, a long time minor league player with major league numbers. This year, his .338 average and 18 home runs for a dismal Reading team have once again shown that pride and determination will carry a player long after his limited talent has seemingly stopped him.

No, you won't see Castellano in Phillie red this September, and the chances that he will return to the organization next year are maybe 50-50 at best. But, if we are rewarding only solid seasons, and not long-term futures, then Castellano makes the list in a heartbeat.

The final five players are all playing in Single A or Rookie League ball, so it is guaranteed that none of these players will soon grace the fields of CBP, but in a bit of good news for long suffering Phillie fans, all of them might some day. It is a well-known fact among Phillie minor league fanatics that the strength of the organization is at the bottom of the system, and although this may involve more patience than a Phillie fan should be asked to have, it will one day pay off.

Clearwater has had an absolutely abysmal season under the guidance of former Phillie great Mike Schmidt. Through little fault of his, Schmidt has been saddled with a team largely bereft of major league potential, and more than it's share of minor league fillers. Injuries to stalwarts like pitcher Cole Hamels and third baseman Terry Jones only amplified this problem for Schmidt.

Yet, through all the defeats and all the despair, one name stood out for consistency and competence throughout the long summer months. First baseman Ryan Barthelemy, after two dismal seasons in the minors, had a breakout year with the Threshers, and most deserves mention in the mythical nine.

His struggles have been well documented and chronicled. Drafted in the tenth round after an All-American career at Florida State in 2002, Barthelemy looked nothing like the strong-armed slugger of Seminole fame during his first two years in the organization. Then it was discovered that he had a sight deficiency, and laser surgery not only restored his vision, but revived his career.

Although he is a long shot to ever play first base in Philadelphia, Barthelemy is once again clearly on the path to the big leagues, probably as a trading chip to another team. In the pitcher friendly confines of the Florida State League, he has hit 13 homeruns, knocked in 73 runs and hit a solid .292 for the Threshers. Even more meaningful has been his consistency throughout the season. He won't make it to Philadelphia this September except on my list. He is well worthy of being included in my nine!

As solid a season as Barthelemy has had at Clearwater, teammate Chris Roberson has been even better, at least through the FSL All-Star game. As has been mentioned several times here at Phuture Phillies Phenoms, Roberson had a breakout first half with the Threshers, a half that culminated in his selection as the MVP of the FSL All-Star game.

Certainly, Roberson seemed to be neck and neck with Howard for Phillie minor league player of the year honors, when bad luck struck Roberson with a capital "L". Not only did Roberson remain at Clearwater when many Phillie faithful thought he deserved a promotion to Reading, but he then broke a bone in his leg, sadly ending his campaign.

Although his shortened season lasted only 83 games, he made good use of this half-season to the tune of a .307 average, 9 homeruns, 96 hits and 16 stolen bases. Add to this his lightening quick speed and solid glove in center field, and he is clearly deserving of a spot on this team. Happily for Phillie fans, he is recovering nicely from his injury and is expected to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League starting in October.

Players number seven and eight performed at Lakewood, easily the most exciting team in the organization in 2004. With a roster of at least a dozen major league prospects, none has shown brighter than outfielders Jake Blalock and Michael Bourne. It will be a major surprise if both players aren't in Philadelphia sometime in 2007. Yet, on my team, they would be there in September, both solid members of my magical nine.

Teammates on the field, they could not be more dissimilar in their talents and style. Blalock is a masher, probably the second best power hitter in the pharm system, next to Howard. Lean and lanky, his power stroke and quick wrists remind many of Pat Burrell in his minor league days. Blalock has hit 16 homeruns and knocked in 86 runs, although his .275 average has slipped during the dog days of August from a high of almost .300.

Nevertheless, he has had a memorable year, and would join Bourne in Philadelphia this September if my list were taken as gospel. Speaking of Bourne, he is clearly the runner up to Howard as the Minor League Player of the Year in the Phillie system, and better yet, his improvement has been pronounced and steady.

Due to injury, he has played in only 100 games, but what a wondrous century of games they have been! In those games he has scored 85 runs, stolen 51 bases, walked an amazing 81 times and still found time to hit 12 triples and fashion a .322 average. Oh, by the way, his .422 on base percentage leads the entire system. Though you won't see Bourne in Philadelphia this September, it is almost guaranteed that he will someday be the leader off hitter for the Phightin Phils.

Player number nine comes from the distant reaches of the Rookie League Gulf Coast League. Normally I would be reluctant to choose a player from a short season over a player who has toiled over the course of six months but in the case of pitcher Scott Mitchinson, his numbers are just too impressive to ignore.

It is with pleasure that I get a chance to once again talk about Mitchinson, and somewhat redeem myself for a mistake made a few columns ago. In offering profuse praise for Mitchinson in an earlier column, I mistakenly identified him as a Canadian. In fact, he hails from the far off shores of Australia, a fact his family was more than happy to remind me about. Sincere apologies to the Mitchinson family are in order, but no apologies necessary for my inclusion of him on my Phillie Nine.

In only 10 games of work, he has fashioned remarkable numbers. How about a 7-0 record and an ERA of 1.75? Or would the 60 strikeouts in 62 innings of work impress you more? Need more evidence that he deserves mention? How about this trivia-provoking question? Someday, Mitchinson will be asked to name the single solitary hitter that he walked in his inaugural season of work. Yes, the number one is the exact number of hitters Mitchinson walked this year.

Although Batavia was left out of my list, special mention might go to Sean Gamble, a June draftee, who has parlayed a solid rookie year into a .304 average, 6 triples and 70 hits in only 59 games players. The son of former Phillie, Oscar Gamble, Sean is a player to watch next season, and might even play himself onto next year's list.

So, frustrated Phillie fanatics, while Bowa speaks wistfully of nine new players gracing the fields of CBP come September, you can rest assured that whomever they may be, they certainly won't be the nine most deserving. If only the most deserving were served, we might soon be hearing the words emanate from GM Ed Wade's mouth…"On Howard and Giese, and Floyd should come too, now Blalock and Bourne, and Castellano to name but a few. On Mitchinson and Roberson, and Barthelemy next in line, only the most deserving, CD's magical nine!"

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

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories