CD's Connect the Dots... Scott Free

The names roll off the lips of every Phillie minor league aficionado. Ezequiel Astacio. Taylor Buchholz. Josh Hancock. Bobby Korecki. Elizardo Ramirez. Alfredo Simon. All young minor league hurlers with major league potential. All gone in less than two seasons, causing consternation and frustation to Phillie fandom. Yet, the cupboard is hardly bare when it comes to minor league hurlers, especially if two youngsters - the M & M boys - come through, the team may actually escape Scott Free.

The two hurlers in question have much in common. Their names to begin with. Both have the first name of Scott, and both have a last name beginning with the letter M. They are both right handed, and both hail from countries other than the United States. Scott Mathieson is from north of the border in British Columbia, Canada while Scott Mitchinson is from the land down under, Australia.

If they both make it to Citizens Bank Park, and the smart money says they will, a revival of the term M & M boys is sure to take place. Better still, it will be a continuing testament to the Phillies ability to spot pitching talent wherever they can find it, and cultivate that talent at the minor league level.

Scott Mathieson is the older and more experienced of the two. Drafted and signed in 2002, he was part of the much ballyhooed high school group that came on board after that draft. Besides Mathieson, such high school stars as Cole Hamels, Zack Segovia, Kiel Fisher and Jake Blalock made their debuts from the Class of 2002. It is still whispered in many circles that this draft class has the potential to be the best Phillie draft of the past dozen years, even surpassing the 1998 class that saw Pat Burrell, Ryan Madson and Eric Valent rise to solid big league careers.

Minor league statistics are a sometimes strange breed. Many players can put up quite impressive numbers but fail to display the qualities necessary for big league success. Others, due to circumstances beyond their control, might put up quite pedestrain numbers at the minor league level but still show skills above and beyond their numbers. Mathieson is Exhibit A of the latter.

To the casual glance, Mathieson's numbers in his first two professional seasons hardly should have put anyone on notice of his vast potential. His rookie numbers in the Gulf Coast League were an 0-2 record and 5.40 ERA and he hardly seemed to take a quantum leap forward in 2003 at Batavia with a 2-7 record and an even higher ERA of 5.52.

Still, whispers were of a tremendously talented youngster with a strong mound presence who was burdened with a weak lineup and several bad breaks. Scouts who saw him pitch spoke not of the numbers but of the crackling fastball, solid curve and changeup, and of the mysterious but oh so real "mound presence." Plainly spoken, Mathieson just looked like a pitcher who knew what he was doing, even at the age of 19.

To their credit, the Phillies saw this talent and decided to offer Mathieson a late season challenge with a leap to Lakewood for some "on the job" training. He pitched in two games, totaling 7 innings, and they still talk about his final appearance that season. Called into a late game save situation, with a one run lead and two innings to play, Mathieson was merely lights out, striking out five of the six hitters he faced. It was stunningly impressive and merely stamped an exclamation mark on Mathieson as a Top 20 Phillie prospect.

Finally, in 2004, playing with a very solid team in Lakewood, he began to put up the numbers that most Phillie organziational types expected all along. His record of 8-9 in 25 games belied the impressive way he threw the ball, and in 131 innings pitched, he struck out 112 hitters, while walking but 50. He lowered his ERA to 4.32, still much too high, but an improvement on his first two seasons.

As always, Mathieson displayed composure on the hill that told one and all that here was a player quite comfortable with his surroundings. The Phillies are very happy with his progress and will continue their normal philosophy of one step forward at a time. This means he will pitch in Clearwater in 2005, and while a promotion to Reading in Double A is not out of the realm of possibility, it seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, he remains on track for a major league debut sometime in 2008, and along with Mitchinson, might give Phillie fans plenty of reason to cheer the M & M boys for years to come. The Phillies project him as a starting pitcher, and with Gavin Floyd, Hamels and Madson already in tow, the team may indeed survive their loss of so many young hurlers and escape...Scott Free.

The other Scott M...Mitchinson, is an even more fascinating study. His debut certainly evoked comparisons to some of the greatest first season performances in recent memory, and made minor league gurus expectant with anticipation of a sophomore campaign that promises to be as closely monitored as any in the system.

That Mitchinson was even discovered is due to the Phillies ever expanding reach into the Austalian market. It is a large and mostly untapped resource and the Phils are determined to become the Aussies "team of choice" when it comes to signing professional contracts. In fact, no less than six Austalians are currently under contract to the Phils, with Mitchinson being the most successful, and most talented.

The younger of the M & M Scotts, Mitchinson burst on to the Gulf Coast league scene with little fanfare...until he began to dazzle opponents with his pitching "stuff" and brilliant control. As one of the lesser components of a Young Guns III group that included more highly rated hurlers like Carlos Carrasco, Maximino DelaCruz, Lenin Gaza, Roberto Mendoza, Kelvin Pichardo and Andy Barb, Mitchinson was clearly the star.

His numbers fairly leap off the charts... a 7-0 record in merely 10 starts, with a microscopic ERA of 1.75. In 62 innings, he allowed only 40 hits while striking out 60, almost one per inning. Yet, impressive as these numbers are, they pale in comparison to this stunner... in 62 innings of pitching, Mitchinson walked one, count it, one opposing hitter.

This amazing statisitc almost boggles the mind. Admittedly, it is a rookie league where anxious young hitters hope to impress with their bat, not their batting eye. Still, it seems almost am impossible occurance to imagine merely one batter walked in an entire season. Given the often windy conditions, high scores, and questionable umpiring that is often seen in the lower minors, this number may grow in legend as he progresses up the minor league ladder.

Mitchinson, unlike his counterpart Scott, does not dazzle with a 94 MPH fastball but rather with an ability to put his pitches precisely where he wants them. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine have been doing this for years, and it is a skill that can get you to the big leagues, provided you are consistent in this approach.

In fact, herein lies Mitchinson's greatest challenge as he moves up the system. It appears that his fastball will never top out at more than about 90-91 MPH so he must continue to hit his spots, and rely on his pinpoint control to join his Scott partner in the City of Brotherly Love. Truth be told, it's a long way from the dirt and wind swept fields of the Gulf Coast League to the manicured and soft green grasses of Citizens Bank Park so no one should project an M & M two-some in the Phillie rotation any time soon.

Much like with Mathieson, the Phillie minor league brass will be content to move Mitchinson up one step at a time, though a solid spring might allow him to leap to a full season at Lakewood rather than a summer season in Batavia. Or, as with youngsters like Kyle Kendrick, another prized Phillie prospect, the team may allow Mitchinson to open the campaign in Lakewood and see how he produces.

If he shows that he is up to the task, then he could pitch the entire season in Lakewood. If, however, he shows that the jump was a bit much for him, he will move back to Batavia when the New York - Penn league opens in late June. Either way, he will be part of the starting rotation as the Phils hope to stretch him out and get as many innings as possible out of this potential gem in the rough. If he continues his rise, a late 2008 appearance in Philadelphia is not out of the question.

Mathieson and Mitchinson. Two Scotts. Two righties. Two hurlers with as much potential as any Phillie minor leaguers not named Floyd and Hamels. And two youngsters that evoke thoughts of a future filled with a sportswriter's absolute dream. "M & M Boys are a Tasty Treat!" could well fill the headlines in future Philadelphia newspapers. "Two Scotts tie opponents in knots" may well be another future philler.

Yet, those are headlines for another day. It is what they do and how they progress in 2005 that is of paramount importance to a Phillie brass that is quite keen to such things. Even more important to the Phillie braintrust, whose job it is to decide such matters, the success of Mathieson and Mitchinson may well cause minor league watchers to forget the names Astacio, Buchholz, Hancock, Korecki, Ramirez and Simon.

Yes, in a strange and very real sense, if the M & M boys continue their climb through the minor leagues and one day attain major league success they may well allow the Phillie management who surrendered so much pitching talent to escape...Scott Free!

Columnist's Note: Please send comments or questions to and I will respond. Thank you! CD from the Left Coast

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