July's Hot Hands

As the weather got hotter, so did some of the Phillies prospects. The success stories include a couple of the very young players on the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team that put together good months to start their careers.

Let's start our look at the hottest hitters in the organization from the bottom up.

Gulf Coast League Phillies: The GCL Phillies haven't provided a whole lot of offense, but there have been a couple of players who have stood out above the rest. The first is shortstop Adrian Cardenas. The 18 year old was a supplemental pick out of Florida's Monsignor Pace High School and he seems to have just picked up right where he left off at Pace. In his first full month as a pro, Cardenas hit a team-high .378 and also led the club with 13 RBI for the month. Cardenas adds speed and excitement to the GCL offense, which can use both; he stole 6 bases and compiled a .418 OBP for the month. The down side to Cardenas at this point is his defense; he made 8 errors last month.

Outfielder D'Arby Myers hit .328 in 16 games for the GCL Phillies. Myers was a high school player chosen in the fourth-round. His success is huge for the Phillies, since they were never guaranteed of being able to sign him since he had figured on going to USC. In fact, there were some around baseball that thought the Phillies might have wasted a pretty high pick, but it's turned out pretty well for the Phillies. While Myers hit just one homerun in July, the Phillies believe his power numbers should develop pretty well once he adjusts to hitting with a wooden bat. Like Cardenas, he has good speed and stole four bases without being caught.

Batavia MuckDogs: There isn't much offense for the 'Dogs this summer. As a team, they hit just .218 in July and struck out 203 times in 856 at bats for the month. Outfielder Quintin Berry hit .263 and shortstop Jason Donald hit .256 to pace the regulars. More noteworthy than those numbers were the team-high four homeruns by third baseman / DH Jacob Dempsey, who hit at just a .250 pace and the three homeruns by first baseman Charlie Yarbrough, who managed just a .143 average in July. Of his ten hits in the month, seven were for extra bases (3 HR, 4 Doubles). The speed is coming from infielder Zachary Penprase, who stole 8 bases and Berry, who stole 6.

Lakewood BlueClaws: Welinson Baez led the BlueClaws with a .316 average in July. While his average was nice, most of the other numbers aren't very impressive for Baez, who is hitting just .222 on the season at Lakewood. The third base prospect just turned 22, but is a little behind where the Phillies had hoped he would be at this point. Baez needs to develop a lot more plate discipline if he's going to succeed. He struck out 28 times last month, while walking just six times. On the season, he's already struck out 127 times in just 333 at bats for Lakewood.

Jeremy Slayden continues to hit the ball well for Lakewood and hit .302 in July. Slayden - who just turned 24 at the end of July - is hitting .293 on the season with 7 homeruns and 56 RBI. Slayden came into July hitting .281 and upped that with his performance. He also showed a lot of progress in other areas, hitting four of his homeruns and picking up half of his RBI just last month. Defensively, Slayden is strong, committing just one error in 16 games in left field last month.

Second baseman Avelino Asprilla hit .308 last month to hike his season average at Lakewood to .255. He's also spent some time at Clearwater and hit .293 for the Threshers during his time there in April. There is obviously some offensive potential there for Asprilla, but he's struggling to show it consistently for the BlueClaws.

Clearwater Threshers: As a team, the Threshers hit .281 in July, second in the organization to only the Reading Phillies who hit .289 last month.

At 28, Branden Florence is old for the Florida State League and isn't considered to be a true prospect. Still, he had a big month for Clearwater and hit .389 in 28 games with Clearwater. Florence, who serves as a part-time outfielder and is more of a designated hitter for Clearwater is hitting .329 on the season.

J.J. Johnson hit .310 in 21 games with Clearwater in July, continuing his solid season. Johnson spent some time with the AA Reading Phillies back in May and is looking more and more like he could handle AA pitching on a regular basis, but the Phillies are likely to keep him at Clearwater for the rest of the season, since he hit just .100 in his 9 games at AA earlier in the year.

Newcomer Hector Made, who has been playing at shortstop for Clearwater since coming over from the Yankees in the Sal Fasano trade, hit .389 in his first five games with Clearwater.

Greg Golson arrived in Clearwater with just ten days left in July, but certainly has made the most of his time there. In his first eight games with Clearwater, Golson hit .210 with 2 homeruns. In August, Golson is hitting .500 (8-for-16) for the Threshers, pushing his average at High-A ball to .378 on the season. After the start that Golson had at Lakewood this season, his turn around has been nothing short of spectacular. He came into June hitting .193 and proceeded to hit .270 during the month of June to raise his average at Lakewood to .219. He was struggling through July, but the Phillies gave him a promotion and he hasn't looked back.

Reading Phillies: To be honest, many of the hottest hitters at Reading aren't true prospects. They're more of the journeyman minor leaguer type players, who are expected to hit well at AA. Still, some of the real prospects have put up solid numbers for the R-Phils.

Carlos Leon, who has played at second, third, short and in left field for Reading, hit .337 with a .439 OBP in July. Leon, had more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) last month. Leon has kept that pace during the season, walking 37 times, while striking out 35 times (one strikeout was at AAA Scranton). It would be nice to see Leon, who hit .400 (4-for-10) in three games with Scranton earlier this season, get another shot at AAA before the season is over, but that's probably a bit of a long shot.

Third base prospect Jesus Merchan hit .337 in July. He's got a decent bat, but lacks any real power potential to get much serious consideration as a true third base prospect for the Phillies. On the season, Merchan is hitting .283 at Reading and  hit .333 in four games at Clearwater in late June and early July.

Wilmington, Delaware product Pedro Swann came to the Phillies organization from the Mexican League in early July and hit .365 at AA Reading. At 35, Swann is simply there to fill a hole, but deserves a mention. Others who deserve mentions are Gary Burnham, who led the R-Phils with six homeruns while hitting .327 last month, Outfielder Joey Hammond (.348) and 26 year old outfielder Gary Harris (.325). The Phillies got Harris from the Seattle Mariners organization. Obviously, Pat Gillick saw something in him that he liked during his days in Seattle, but Harris projects at best, as a utility outfielder in the majors.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons: Michael Bourn and Carlos Ruiz continue to be the ones to watch at Scranton. Ruiz had another huge month, hitting .353 with 4 homeruns in 19 games, while Bourn hit .330 in 24 games. Truth be told, Ruiz should probably  be in Philadelphia and it's anybody's guess why he's not. You would think that the Phillies would have to figure on a major September audition for Ruiz and a likely spot on their roster - possibly as the number one catcher - next season. Bourn saw a couple of days in the majors, but was there just pending another potential deal. Had the Phillies dealt Aaron Rowand or Pat Burrell, they would have toyed with the idea of putting Bourn in the lineup and just seeing what would happen. He probably will do well to have another month at AAA and then arrive in the majors in September, possibly getting some decent playing time. By the way, Bourn also led the Red Barons in stolen bases last month with 12, just one ahead of Chris Roberson.

Journeyman Jim Rushford hit .343 in 27 games for Scranton.


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