CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms...State of the System

I do not profess to know exactly what Mike Arbuckle thinks of the state of the Phillie pharm system, but I can take a guess. In an organization that often passes off PhillieSpeak as the official language, Arbuckle is a straight shooter. I don't always agree with his stance on things, I do respect him very much and think he is still the single most valuable member of the organization. With this in mind, let us pretend that Arbuckle is about to give his State of the System Message for this year...

"Phellow Phillie Phanatics, I thank you for coming tonight, and wish to convey my gratitude for your unwavering support of our six minor league teams this year. I know that it has not been a banner season at places like Clearwater and Reading, and Batavia has struggled also. Still, all in all, I feel that progress has been made and the strength of the Phillie future is being cultivated at the minor league level."

"Of course, we took some hits at the trading deadlines when we lost no less than six of our top thirty prospects, namely Elizardo Ramirez, Josh Hancock, Alfredo Simon, Anderson Machado, Javon Moran and Joe Wilson. And, frankly, it pains me to see Hancock doing well in the Cincinnati starting rotation, and I cringe a bit when I see Moran hitting .388 in his new residence and Ramirez and Simon pitching well."

Nevertheless, I am not here tonight to look back, but to look forward, to a future that I think is filled with promise and optimism. Oh, there are still tough times ahead, and phans at Scranton and Reading may not necessarily like what they see next season, but I promise, better times are coming in both places."

"What makes me so sure of this pronouncement? How can I stand here tonight and offer a glimpse of the future and promise success at all levels. First off, I can honestly say that our last three drafts have produced several fine prospects. Players like Cole Hamels, Jake Blalock, Kiel Fisher, Michael Bourn, Scott Mathieson, Greg Golson, Jason Jaramillo and AJ Happ are draft picks we can well be proud of."

"We have also made strong inroads in signing solid prospects from Latin America and Australia. Players like Carlos Carrasco, Maximino DeLaCruz, Lenin Gazo, Robert Mendoza, Mitchell Graham and our Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Scott Mitchinson are doing well, and should get better."

"I am also happy to announce that we have finally begun to understand the value of not only drafting, but signing late round flier picks, guys with a huge upside and little chance of signing. The past two seasons have seen us sign late round picks like pitcher Andy Barb in 2003 and outfielder Curt Miaso this year. Barb had a wonderful season in the Gulf Coast League, and Miaso, a top high school talent, will begin play next year."

" Oh I know that it is easy to make grandiose pronouncements about our players, and a rightfully skeptical public is justified in questioning the validity of these positive statements. So, without further delay, let me give you a organizational roadmap to what you will see in 2005 and what you can expect in the future."

"As mentioned, I am not sure that our top two minor league clubs, Scranton and Reading will have much to cheer about next season. At Scranton, they will basically be inheriting a mediocre group of players from Reading, and of course, I will attempt to load the team up with solid six-year veteran minor league players."

"Players like shortstop Danny Gonzalez and catcher Carlos Ruiz have earned promotions from Reading, and outfielder Jorge Padilla will no doubt return. I also envision a staff that may include prospects like Robinson Tejeda, Keith Bucktrot and Seung Lee as well as lefty Greg Kubes. It would also not surprise me to see a pitcher like Lee Gwaltney advance to Triple A by the middle of next year."

"However, the best news I can offer Scranton fans is that they are likely to see two of our three best prospects, slugger Ryan Howard and pitcher Gavin Floyd. Oh, I know they are currently in Philadelphia, and Floyd has even won a game. Still, it will surprise me if a decision isn't made that it is best served to start them at Triple A and see how they do."

"As for questions about Howard's future in Philadelphia, if he has one it will be at first base. I am convinced he does not have the prerequisite speed or instincts to play left field. I would also not be surprised if he was traded for major league talent. With Thome at first base, frankly, Howard's future with the Phils is quite problematical."

"Another pitcher to keep an eye on is reliever Matire Franco. He has advanced very well this year, and we think he has a future as a potential closer in the big leagues. Remember his name. I also think that third baseman Juan Richardson will finally make his debut at Scranton. He is a power hitter deluxe, along the same lines as Howard, and we like him a whole lot. I expect him to be the Phillie third baseman in 2006."

"The prospects at Reading for next year are quite bleak. As many of you know, Clearwater was almost bereft of prosect this season, partly due to injuries to pitcher Cole Hamels and third baseman Terry Jones. Nevertheless, first baseman Ryan Barthelemy and speedy outfielder Chris Roberson should make their Double A debuts at Reading next season, and there is always a chance that super prospect Hamels may get there."

"I also think you will enjoy the play of outfielder Mike Floyd, older brother of Gavin. Although not really a major league prospect, he came a long way this season, and might just be a player who develops late. Keep an eye on him in right field."

"If Clearwater fans suffered this season, they are certainly in for a treat next year. Our club at Lakewood this year was loaded with prospects and most of them will move up to Clearwater in 2005. Players like outfielders Michael Bourn and Jake Blalock, infielders like Bryan Hansen, Tim Moss, Carlos Rodriguez and Kiel Fisher, catcher Chico Cortez and pitchers like Nate Cabrera, Zac Cline and probably Hamels will form what should be an outstanding team."

"This club will undoubtedly have two or three of the best half dozen prospects in the entire organization, namely Bourn, Blalock and Hamels. Bourn may one day be the Phillie center fielder and Blalock reminds us a great deal of a young Pat Burrell. Hamels, of course, is being counted on to one day become a top of the rotation guy with the Phils."

"Fans at Lakewood should once again see a team with solid potential, and we remain committed to ensuring that our BlueClaw team is competitive as well as entertaining. I suspect that catcher Jason Jaramillo will begin the season in Lakewood, though he may soon be on the fast track to Philadelphia. As you no doubt know, he was our number two draft pick this season, and although he struggled with the bat at Batavia, we like what we see."

"In fact, the catcher position in general has become a very strong position in the organization. Not only do we like Ruiz, Cortez and Jaramillo, but youngsters like Michel Hernandez, Louis Marson and Charles Cresswell all may someday make it to the big leagues. Frankly, I don't see us drafting catchers for the next few years, as we attempt to reload with young pitching."

"Lakewood can also expect to see many of our more mature draft picks from 2004, players like outfielders Sean Gamble, Ryan Frith, infielders Samuel Orr and John Hardy, and pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Scott Mathieson Zack Segovia, AJ Happ, Joseph Bisenius, Andrew Baldwin and CJ Woodrow. This group struggled at Batavia, but we like what we see, and expect them to do well next year. Keep a special eye on Kendrick, we like him a whole lot. He reminds me of a young Jason Schmidt, and when he finally blossoms he might be very special."

"Once you begin talking about the short season clubs, Batavia and GCL, a lot of this becomes conjecture. Some youngsters will show they are ready for full season play, while others might have to repeat their seasons with the same club. One player that we think is ready to burst forward is third baseman Welinson Baez, a young player we signed from Latin America."

"Although the plan is to have Baez play at Batavia, he is good enough to make a major move next season. Spring will determine his residence but if I had to venture a guess, it would be Batavia. As with Clearwater, the fans at Batavia are in for a real treat next year as our highly successful youngsters from the GCL move up."

"The GCL team was a real nice story, a team that lost 13 of its first 17 games before rebounding to become the best team in the league. They finished with a 32-11 record, and dominated play in August. This was due in no small part by the young rotation of Carlos Carrasco, Kelvin Picardo, Maximino DeLaCruz, Lenin Gazo, Scott Mitchinson and the bullpen slants of Andy barb and Robert Mendoza."

"It is well worth noting that only Barb was drafted, as the rest were signed by our Latin American and Australian scouts. In my opinion, all seven are major league prospects, and Mitchinson may someday be very special. He was 7-0 this year and showed poise well beyond his years. Even more amazing, he may someday be a trivia question in Phillie Land. He walked only one batter all season, that's correct, only one. That one player may someday be the answer to a trivia question if Mitchinson makes it big! I expect to see several of these hurlers, as well as returning lefty Derek Griffith at Batavia."

"Offensively, Batavia should see top draft pick Greg Golson in the outfield as well as returning slugger Jason Crosland. Crosland was a bit of a disappointment this year, and may have to return to Batavia to work on his stroke. We still like him very much, and we absolutely love Golson and his work ethic. In fact, I think Batavia fans will enjoy watching youngsters like Golson, Crosland, catchers Marson and Cresswell and infielder Mitchell Graham, another Aussie import."

"We certainly don't know exactly what the lineup at GCL will look like next year, as we will no doubt form the team with many of our 2005 draft picks, and several players from our Latin program. We also continue to comb the land of Australia for more talent and this will continue to be a rich source of talent for the Phils in the future."

"All in all, I am very optimistic about the Phuture of Phillie Phenoms. We wish that Ramirez, Simon and Moran could have been a part of that future, but we take occasional hits to the system and move on. We think we have a solid foundation in catching, third basemen and good young hurlers. We like our center field prospects in Bourn, Roberson and Golson and expect Blalock, Richardson and Howard to all have productive power careers in the major leagues."

"We think we are a bit short in middle infielders, would like to add to our power base in corner outfielders and, of course, we are always in the market for good young pitching. Phillie fans are an intelligent sort, and they recognize talent when they see it. I am firmly convinced that the future of the Phils is in good hands, with a strong nucleus of young talent that should burst on to the major league scene by the year 2007."

"As always, I and my scouts are committed to bringing Phillie fans the best in young talent, and remain committed to achieving this goal. I thank you for your continued interest and support and loom forward to a decade of exciting, and winning baseball at both the major and minor league level." "On behalf of the entire Phillie organization, I want to bid you good night and have a wonderful off season, as we continue to work to make the year 2005 the best that it can be. Thank you, and good night, fans."

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

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