Phils Having Hot Summer In Venezuela

The roster is filled with names that the average fan isn't at all familiar with. Many of them will never become known entities, but some will become the prospects of tomorrow for the Phillies. For now, they're battling to win a crown in the Venezuelan Summer League.

Just as the Phillies are chasing the Reds in the wild-card race in Major League Baseball, the Phillies and Reds are battling in the Venezuelan Summer League. The difference is that their battle is at the top of the standings, not for the also-ran distinction. The VSL Phillies are 20-10 through the first half of the season.

Like the rest of the Phillies organization, the VSL squad doesn't bring much power to the field. They've hit just 7 homeruns, but do have a team batting average of .278 on the season, good enough for second in the league. Infielder Jaime Morales - who has played most of his time at shortstop - leads the team in hitting with a .359 average and also leads the club with 10 stolen bases. Morales is in his third season in the VSL and will likely be brought to the states next season, since players can only compete in the league for three years. Through his first two seasons, Morales hit .274 and split his time between third base (44 games), second base (31 games) and shortstop (22 games). The 22 year old has also played one game each at first base and in the outfield.

The pitching has been strong for the Phillies, with the staff putting together a 2.84 ERA.

Darwin Medina leads the team with four wins and has a 2.42 ERA with 10 of his 11 appearances coming out of the bullpen. Medina has struck out 33 hitters in 26 innings. Medina is a 19 year old right-hander who seems to be putting it all together after pitching for the Cubs in the Dominican Summer League and getting pounded in two games with the Phillies VSL team last season.

Medina's bullpen mate Berman Espinoza leads the club with three saves and has a nice 2.38 ERA this season. Espinosa, who is just 18, is playing in his first VSL season and is a right-hander.

The Phillies also have a couple of left-handed relievers on their staff to remember. Juan Colmanarez (0-0, 2.45) and Carlos Medrano (1-0, 3.86) have both pitched well out of the bullpen.

Among the starters, the big guns are both left-handers. Sergio Esaclona (2-1, 0.70) has pitched in seven games - six as a starter - and opponents are hitting just .204 against him. He's also struck out 37 hitters in 38 2/3 innings of work this season. The 21 year old is also in his third VSL season and is due for a trip to the states next season, especially since he pitched well the last two years, posting a combined 2.72 ERA. Opposing hitters have a tough time figuring Escalona out and hit just .226 against him in 2004 and .203 last season.

Moises Melendez (3-1, 2.82) has 42 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings over seven starts. Melendez is also in his third VSL season and had a 504, 2.60 mark coming into this season. In his first two seasons, opponents hit just .185 agains Melendez, but are "feasting" this season with a .259 average against the 19 year old.


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