CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms... Hits and Misses

As I close the pages on this year's of Phuture Phillie Phenoms, let's tidy up some loose ends. As the late season performances of pitcher Gavin Floyd and first baseman Ryan Howard at the big league level have shown, the Phillie minor league cupboard is hardly bare. Both can be expected to contribute even more next season. Yet for both of these hits, there were still plenty of misses this season. Just who were the PPP "hits and misses in 2004? Let's examine...

Lost in the rubble of another disappointing season of unfulfilled expectations at the major league level was the performance of several players groomed in the minor leagues.  Certainly Ryan Madson more than fulfilled his immense potential, and reliever Geoff Geary has performed well of late.  As mentioned, Floyd and Howard both made late season appearances with the Phils and showed that they well be future stars in the making.

Floyd has shown outstanding poise and a Grade A curveball.  Concerns about his fastball seem highly overrated as a pitcher can consistently win at the major league level with a 91 MPH fastball, a great curve, and a knee buckling changeup.  Floyd possesses all three.  As for Howard, it still says here that the Phils must attempt to get him comfortable in left field, not so much to replace Pat Burrell as to give the Phils the flexibility to use Howard wherever he is needed.

Clearly, the charge in his bat makes him a special talent; one the Phils must not waste.  It seems inconceivable that they could ever get equal value for a player that has 35-40 home run potential written all over him. One more interesting note on Howard.  Throughout his minor league career, his performance was always undervalued because he was considered too old for his league, as if this was his fault.

Yet, with his leap from Double A at Reading, all the way to a major league trial in September with the Phils, suddenly at 24 he seems right on schedule.  Frankly, this writer feels the Phils brain trust is out of their minds if they don't do everything humanly possible to assure that Howard is successful as a Phillie.  We just may not see his like as a power hitter in this system for ten years.

 

So, despite the Phils trading deadline swap of six top minor league prospects, the minor league system still seems fully capable of providing the Phightins with more than just mediocre talent when called on.  Still, the system did take a step backwards this year due mainly to injuries or poor performance by several players counted on to make major inroads towards the big leagues.

Who were these players, and what caused them to "miss" this year?  Of course, at the top of the list is arguably the Phils top minor league prospect, lefty Cole Hamels.  More than one baseball scout actually felt Hamels might be in Philadelphia before the end of 2004, yet he spent almost the whole year on the disabled list.

By most accounts, Hamels elbow injuries are minor and he is expected to begin next season at Clearwater.  If he does well, he could be in Reading by July and from there, it will be up to him.  Remember both Floyd and Howard were in Reading in July this year, and they are now solid contributors in Philadelphia.  Hamels could well do the same thing next year.

A trio of third baseman made the "miss" list this season due to injuries.  Ironically, the hot corner was thought to be among the Phils deepest positions organization wise in no small part because of prospects Juan Richardson, Terry Jones and Kiel Fisher.  Instead all three suffered injuries that made their '04 seasons disappointing.

Richardson possesses power similar to Howard, but had off-season shoulder surgery and didn't make it back until mid-July.  It took him nearly a month to regain his stroke, though his hitting did pick up at Reading during the final weeks of the season.

Better yet, his power numbers began to grow, giving hope that he will have a strong season at Scranton Wilkes-Barre in '05 and be ready to assume a major league role late next season.  It should be noted that while his hitting seems major league ready, his defense is mediocre at best, and it is something he will need to work on.


Jones suffered a broken foot in spring training, and Fisher hurt his back at the same time.  While Jones did make it back in August, his year was almost a total washout.  Though the Phils seem reluctant to admit it, next year will be crucial for Jones.  His talent has never quite transformed itself into consistent play while on the field and Fisher will pass him if he doesn't have a strong year next season.

The sweet swing of Fisher was sorely missed this season, and it is hoped that his back problems are not a recurring issue.  He missed the entire 2004 year and was considered a definite "miss" on the Phuture Phillie Phenom chart this season. When healthy he is probably a Top 15 prospect talent with the Phils.

 

Two pitchers who "missed" this year were righty Zack Segovia and lefty Nick Bourgeois.  Segovia suffered a serious arm injury late in 2003 and missed the entire '04 year while rehabbing. The reports on him are good, and it appears that he will pitch in the Phil's Florida Instructional League in October.

This is good news as with the loss in the past year of such Phillie pitching prospects as Taylor Buchholz, Elizardo Ramirez, Joe Wilson, Josh Hancock, Ezequiel Astacio and Alfredo Simon; a return to health from Segovia would be welcome indeed.

While it is true that left-handed pitchers often take longer to develop, the mysterious inconsistency of Bourgeois has frankly confounded the Phillie minor league brass.  Equipped with four solid pitches and a towering presence on the mound, Bourgeois has been maddeningly inconsistent in his three years in the system.

 

Drafted in 2002, the same year as Hamels was selected, many baseball scouts felt the Phils had picked not one, but two top notch lefty pitching prospects.  While this may ultimately prove the case, the fact remains that on the Phils list of 2004 "misses", both Hamels and Bourgeois are prominently on the list.

 

However, if Hamels, Bourgeois, Segovia, Richardson, Jones and Fisher made the Phils "miss" list this season, there were several players who correspondingly made the "hit" list.  These were players who stepped up and had superior minor league seasons, and now figure prominently in future Phillie plans.

Perhaps no player made greater strides this year than Reading catcher Carlos Ruiz.  Never considered much of a prospect until this year, Ruiz hit 17 home runs in 101 games at Double A and hit .284. Of even greater importance, he showed a strong arm and solid defensive instincts.  He will open the 2005 season at SWB at may get a late season call up with the Phils if he continues to excel.

In point of fact, catching has quite possibly become the deepest position in the Phillie organization. No less than six players, Micheal Hernandez, Ruiz, Chico Cortez, Jason Jaramillo, Louis Marson and Charles Cresswell have big league potential.

 

Two players with Scranton became major "hits" this year, infielder Pablo Ozuna and relief pitcher Dan Giese.  Ozuna showed outstanding range at shortstop and hit a steady .307.  A player with some major league experience, Ozuna may well vie for a utility infield spot with the Phils next spring.

Giese's solid year earned him a spot on the Arizona Fall League team, always an honor for a player.  His numbers were solid across the board, a 12-5 record, 3 saves, and a 2.81 ERA.  If he does well in Arizona, he may make the 40 man roster and get an invitation to the Phillie spring training camp next February.

Two outfielders became major "hits" this season, centerfielder Chris Roberson in Clearwater and centerfielder Michael Bourn at Lakewood.  No player had a better half season than Roberson did at Clearwater…. a .307 average, 9 home runs, 38 RBI and 96 hits in 83 games.  Unfortunately he was injured and missed the final two months.

Nevertheless, he is a player to watch at Reading next year, and might soon be on the fast track to Philadelphia. He, like Giese, has been invited to participate in the Arizona Instructional League in October.

No player not named Ryan Howard had a better minor league season with the Phils than Bourn.  He was a major "hit" in more ways than can be counted.  In only 109 games, he hit .317, scored 92 runs, stole 57 bases and found time to accumulate 14 triples.  He also walked 85 times and was a top-notch defensive whiz in center field.

 

Bourn will undoubtedly be in the Phil's top 5 lists of prospects, and may soon join Roberson in the Reading outfield.  Clearly, he appears to have designs on becoming the future Phillie center fielder and lead off hitter.

One more player deserves special mention as a "hit" for 2004.  Young pitcher Nate Cabrera, a mid level draft choice in 2003, showed excellent progress in his second professional season.  Not only did he fashion a 6-4 record with 2 shutouts, but also his 2.82 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 131 innings pitched showed the solid stuff he possessed.

 

Clearly, Ruiz, Ozuna, Giese, Roberson, Bourn and Cabrera were major surprise "hits" this season.  All are players worth following both this winter as well as next season, and for years to come.

Speaking of next season, I hope you will continue to follow Phuture Phillie Phenoms as it makes an occasional off-season appearance to update the winter play of some of the finer Phillie prospects.  Of course, watch for the weekly return of Phuture Phillie Phenoms next spring when all players report to Clearwater.

As always, it has been my pleasure making these weekly reports and hope they have contributed to your greater understanding and appreciation of the Phillie Pharm system.  Please take care, stay safe and as always, Go Phillies, even the Phuture kind!  

 

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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