PBN Minor League Player of the Month

The Phillies minor league system had a varied month when it came to offense. Reading led all four affiliates with a .268 average, while Lehigh Valley was the lowest in the organization at .246 in the opening month. So, here are the leading candidates for the PBN Minor League Player of the Month...

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (9-11)

As a team, Lehigh Valley hit just .239 in the month of April, with Mike Cervenak leading the way with a .275 average for the opening month. Cervenak also hit two home runs and had 11 RBI for the IronPigs, amazingly similar to what he did last April with Lehigh Valley when he hit .278 with three home runs and nine RBI.

John Mayberry (five home runs) and Andy Tracy (four home runs) led the power parade for Lehigh Valley, who hit four more home runs this April than they did in April of 2008 (17-13). Lehigh Valley also hit 25 points higher this April than their .214 average from the first month of the 2008 season.

Reading Phillies (12-6)

The R-Phils averaged nearly four runs per game in April and their .268 team average, combined with a team 3.53 ERA helped lead Reading to a strong opening month of the season.

Michael Taylor, who split last season between Lakewood and Clearwater, is off to a fast start in his first season at Double-A ball. Having played in all 18 games this season, Taylor hit .338 with three home runs and 14 RBI - both team-highs - for the R-Phils and swiped five bases for Reading, second only to Quintin Berry's nine stolen bases. Berry has always been known for stealing bases, but his current .254 average and .356 on-base percentage don't give him as many chances as the Phillies would like.

Mike Spidale is hitting .333 and Brian Stavisky is chipping in with a .315 average. Kevin Nelson has just 21 at-bats, but is hitting .381 at Reading. Shortstop Ozzie Chavez is hitting .324 in the early going.

Clearwater Threshers (11-9)

While Reading is leading the Phillies minor league affiliates in hitting, Clearwater is right behind with a .267 average for April.

Derrick Mitchell and Dominic Brown shared the team lead in home runs with three each and Brown leads the club with 14 RBI. While Brown is having an all around strong start to the season - hitting .288 with a .372 on-base percentage and five stolen bases - Mitchell is struggling at the plate, except for his power. Mitchell is hitting just .196 and struck out 18 times in 15 games through the first month of the season.

The Threshers had three hitters at or above the .300 mark for the month of April, with third baseman Yonderman Rodriguez leading the way at .321 for the opening month. Tim Kennelly has played behind the plate, in the outfield and at first and third base for the Threshers, but it doesn't appear to have slowed his offense. The Australian product hit .318 in April. Fidel Hernandez hit an even .300 in April.

Lakewood BlueClaws (12-8)

Lakewood doesn't possess the most explosive offense and hit just six home runs as a team in April. Travis D'Arnaud, who hit two home runs in April, was the only player with more than one home run. D'Arnaud has 17 RBI and was the only Lakewood player with double-digit totals in RBI last month. The downside is that D'Arnaud opened the season by hitting just .230 in the first month.

Jesus Villegas has played second, third and short for Lakewood and hit an astounding .429 (18-for-42) in 12 games for Lakewood to open the season. The 22 year old Villegas is proving that he wants to earn his way back to Clearwater, where he played 48 games last season, hitting .280 for the Threshers.

First baseman Jim Murhpy is hitting .364 with a .478 on-base percentage, having played in 16 of Lakewood's first 20 games. Lakewood's third candidate for player of the month is Harold Garcia, who hit .308 in April for the 'Claws.

And the award goes to...

Reading's Michael Taylor. The outfield prospect - who was the ninth top prospect in the Phillies organization on the Philly Baseball News list of the Top 100 Phillies Prospects - continues to develop well and wasn't slowed at all by stepping up to Double-A for the Phillies. Taylor led the Phillies system in average, hits, total bases, doubles and RBI last season and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat in any of those categories. It will also be interesting to see if the Phillies leave him at Double-A all season or whether they look to make room for him in an already crowded Lehigh Valley outfield later in the season.

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