Continued from Part 1: the Upper Levels…
Rotation: Clearwater’s rotation rivals Reading’s, and they may even have more depth. Brody Colvin returns after a poor season, and he needs to have a good year to get back on track. 2010 first rounder Jesse Biddle joins him and has to avoid the sophomore slump that Colvin went through the year before. After that, things get interesting. Lisalberto Bonilla, Garett Claypool, Perci Garner, Adam Morgan and Austin Wright are all starters. It’s not uncommon for teams in lower levels to use six man rotations to get guys innings and manage workloads, and that could happen here. If they were to do that, Claypool should be the one that goes to the bullpen. Bonilla showed an impressive changeup in spring training, and he has a pretty smooth delivery other than falling off the mound towards the first base dugout following through.
Bullpen: Whoever isn’t in the rotation will be a valuable member of the bullpen. If that’s Clayool, his strikeout stuff will bode well for relief work. Juan Sosa and Jordan Whatcott both have closing experience, and that role should go to Sosa. Frank Gailey, who was acquired from the Blue Jays for Ben Francisco, starts back in high-A after finishing 2011 in AA for Toronto. Hector Neris will likely be the team’s best middle reliever after striking out 72 batters in 59 innings across two levels last year. It doesn’t seem like the bullpen will be a strength, but fortunately the rotation should be very good.
Infield: Cameron Rupp moves up one level to catch for the Threshers this season, and he’ll have to avoid getting off to an incredibly slow start like last season. He’ll be backed up by Kyle Lafrenz and Bob Stumpo,two guys that pretty much define the term organizational player. Albert Cartwright missed all of 2011 after coming over from the Houston organization, and he could be a regular for the Threshers at 2B. Cody Asche is skipping over Lakewood, and it’ll be boom or bust for him after struggling at Williamsport in his pro debut. Jim Murphy is in his second season at Clearwater where he struggled in 2010. Harold Martinez is not on the roster, and if he’s injured, this is probably where he’ll report when healthy.
Outfield: This is another area where Clearwater appears weak. There are no real prospects, although Anthony Hewitt starts the year on the DL, and Zach Collier is suspended. That leaves Miguel Alvarez, Pete Lavin, D’Arby Myers and Brandon Tripp. Myers and Tripp are both FSL veterans, and Tripp will provide more offense between the two. Alvarez really isn’t anything more than a singles hitter, and Lavin is making a difficult jump from short-season ball to high-A. There isn’t much power here until Hewitt comes off the DL and manages to run into some fastballs. Players struggling to advance through Lakewood leaves the Threshers weak in the outfield this season.
Overall: The FSL is a pitcher’s league, and Clearwater has plenty of it in the rotation. They should provide plenty of innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to work very hard. The offense is lacking, especially without Martinez and Hewitt. College hitters like Rupp and Asche should be able to handle this level, and those two performing well could cause the offense to beat projections. While the pitching is interesting to prospect watchers, the lineup is probably equally uninteresting.
Around the FSL: Like their parent club, the Dunedin Blue Jays are now using a retro logo. Notable prospects around the league include Jed Bradley and Taylor Jungmann (Milwaukee/Brevard County), Matt Szczur(Cubs/Daytona), Jake Marisnick (Toronto/Dunedin), Nick Castellanos (Detroit/Lakeland), Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh/Bradenton), and Carlos Martinez (St. Louis/Palm Beach)
Rotation: The backbone of last year’s solid Williamsport team was its starting rotation, and three of those starters are bumped up to Lakewood for 2012. Mike Nesseth is now one year further removed from his Tommy John surgery, and he needs to start missing more bats. Lino Martinez was one of Williamsport’s best starters last year, and he’s a bit of a sleeper in the organization. He’s worth watching, but small lefties such as Martinez that need to rely precise location face an uphill battle. Ethan Stewart spent a majority of the season in the GCL last year but finished the year with Williamsport. He’s a big lefty with some velocity projection left, so he could be in a big year. Ervis Manzanillo and his very good stuff will return for another season, hoping to throw more strikes.
Bullpen: Ryan Duke will close out games after an excellent start to his pro career last season. He may not have a major league future, but he appears to be an effective minor league arm that’ll give his team quality innings. Setting him up are a couple pitchers that could have a future: Kenny Giles and Bryan Morgado. Giles was a 2011 draft pick that can throw in the high 90’s and is working on developing a breaking pitch to complement it. Morgado has always had very good stuff, but he’s been plagued by injuries and command problems throughout his career. At 23 years old, he needs to start developing quickly. Gabriel Arias, Colton Murray and Ryan Sasaki, pitching for the first time since 2009, will be some of the middle relievers. Colby Shreve is starting his third straight season with Lakewood.
Infield: Logan Moore and John Hill will be behind the plate. Neither can hit, so they better handle the pitchers well. The left side of the infield has the prospects to watch. Maikel Franco returns for his second chance with the BlueClaws after struggling there for a brief period last season. Tyler Greene jumps over Roman Quinn and Mitch Walding to make his full-season debut at shortstop. The at bats he was able to have in the GCL last year may have him more prepared to handle it than the other two who have not played a game yet. Lakewood has a second shortstop on the roster, Gustavo Gonzalez, who plays really good defense. Like Freddy Galvis with the big club, he’ll slide over to second base just to give him a chance to play. Slugger Christopher Duffy will play some first base, and Drew Hillman and Carlos Perdomo will back up all four infield spots.
Outfield: After being drafted in 2010, deep sleeper Gauntlett Eldemireis finally making his pro debut after wrist injuries cost him one and a half seasons. He has speed and power, but at 23 years old, he needs to get past low-A quickly to really get on the prospect radar. Aaron Altherr is in a make or break season with Lakewood. He can’t afford to struggle in a full-season league again. Kyrell Hudson will probably be the regular centerfielder thanks to his great athleticism, and Brian Pointer jumps up to Lakewood after a successful GCL campaign. Kelly Dugan may see some time at first base to be sure everyone gets at bats.
Overall: After a one year absence, this team could get Lakewood back to the playoffs. They have a lot of speed, depth, and a few hitters that will provide power. Both the rotation and bullpen have quality depth, and these elements should produce a well-rounded, competitive team. The danger is players jumping from the GCL right to Lakewood, Stewart, Greene and Pointer to name a few, struggling to make the adjustment and having to go down to Williamsport when their season starts.
Around the SAL: This seems to be an especially deep year for prospects in the South Atlantic League and low-A in general. Notable prospects include: Dylan Bundy (Baltimore/Delmarva), Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin(Washington/Hagerstown), Roughned Odor (Texas/Hickory), Josh Bell (Pittsburgh/West Virginia), Jose Campos, Mason Williams and Dante Bichette Jr. (Yankees/Charleston), and Blake Swihart (Boston/Greenville)
Top 30 Breakdown
This is where my top 30 Phillies prospects are starting this season.
Phillies: Freddy Galvis (6) Joe Savery (30)
Lehigh Valley: Philippe Aumont (4) Michael Schwimer (27)
Reading: Trevor May (1) Sebastian Valle (3) Jonathan Pettibone (5) Jiwan James (10) Julio Rodriguez (12) Leandro Castro (19) Cesar Hernandez (29)
Clearwater: Jesse Biddle (2) Brody Colvin (7) Lisalberto Bonilla (11) Austin Wright (14) Perci Garner (18) Adam Morgan (25)
Lakewood: Maikel Franco (8) Tyler Greene (13) Ethan Stewart (16) Aaron Altherr (17) Brian Pointer (20) Ervis Manzanillo (24)
Extended Spring Training: Carlos Tocci (15) Roman Quinn (21) Larry Greene (22) Kevin Walter (26) Harold Martinez (28)
DL: Justin De Fratus (9) Harold Garcia (23)
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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out! Scott also regularly updated the PSC 2011 Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more, and will be doing the same for the PSC 2012 Minor League Thread as well…