Gulf Coast League Preview

The short-season leagues open today, with the GCL Phillies taking on the GCL Tigers. The young Phillies feature a mix of players from this year's draft, players returning to the Gulf Coast League for more seasoning and international players looking to make their mark.

Perhaps the most interesting player on the GCL roster is Adrian Cardenas. The high school shortstop has been compared favorably to Chase Utley by both the scouts and in his own analysis of his game. To further the comparison, Cardenas may wind up at second base because of concerns about his ability to handle the rigors of shortstop. Scouts aren't sure that he'll have the range to stay at short on a long-term basis.

Another player to watch is Jermaine Williams. The Phillies found Williams in the 7th round of the 2005 Draft and after a horrible start to his professional career (0-for-28), Williams rebounded and was hitting .250 for the GCL Phillies when he tore up his knee and missed the rest of the season. The surgery on his knee went well, as did the off-season rehab, and he's back in the Gulf Coast League looking to pick up where he left off, which was with a 24-for-68 (.353) streak.

T.J. Warren was this year's 8th round pick for the Phillies and will be Williams' outfield mate. The 17 year old high schooler was brought in to Citizens Bank Park for a pre-draft workout and impressed the Phillies. He's got good speed, but will need a little work at the plate. He can sometimes try to be too aggressive swinging the bat and gets himself into trouble.

On the mound, Jarrod Freeman is the highest drafted pitcher from this year's draft to wind up in the Gulf Coast League. Freeman, who was drafted out of high school, already has a good curve with a fastball and change-up that are developing quickly. Once he fills out, it figures that he'll add some velocity and could become a strong pitching prospect in the organization.

The GCL Phillies also feature 16 year old right-hander Heitor Correa, who will make his professioonal debut in the Phillies organization this summer. The Phillies think enough of Correa to bring him to the states at a young age to give him the kind of instruction that they want him to have right from the start. Correa is a 6' 3", 200 pound righty with a nice array of pitches, but obviously needs some work before he can move along through the system. The Phillies believe though that he will catch on quickly and won't be hanging around the lower levels for too long.

Catcher Matt Reed, who signed with the Phillies as an undrafted free agent, found his way onto the GCL roster after his career at Warner Southern College. The 23 year old Reed is the second oldest player on the team, being beaten out by 24 year old pitcher Tyler Gooch.

Gooch was the Phillies Mr.Irrelevant of the 2005 Draft, being selected in the 50th round with their last pick. He pitched in just five games last season for the GCL Phillies, but was impressive. If he stays healthy and pitches well, he could be moved at least to Batavia before long.

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