Over the past week, the Williamsport Crosscutters and GCL Phillies started their seasons. With two new affiliates playing, there are dozens more players to follow. These rosters are a mix of players probably not familiar to most fans, even ones who closely follow the minor leagues. There are a lot of recent draft picks and also some Latin American signings that frequently don’t get much attention in the media. Since both teams have already started playing, a preview seems kind of pointless, but I’ll do it anyway.
2010 Recap: In their 4th season as a Phillies affiliate, the Crosscutters had their best season which saw them miss out on the playoffs of the last day of the season. Due to their loss to rival State College and Jamestown’s come from behind win against Mahoning Valley, Jamestown won the wild card by half a game due to playing one fewer game during the season. Williamsport won with pitching last year with a staff that was 6th in the league (out of 14) in ERA, 3rd in WHIP and 3rd in strikeouts. Their rotation was led by current BlueClaws Mario Hollands and David Buchanan and were also joined by FSL All-Star Julio Rodriguez. Their bullpen was very good with Juan Sosa, Eric Pettis, Chase Johnson and Jake Borup combining for 30 saves. Offensively, Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Altherr improved their prospect stock with good seasons while high draft picks Kelly Dugan, Kyrell Hudson and Cameron Rupp disappointed.
The Crosscutters have already made one turn through the rotation, and two of their better prospects haven’t even pitched yet. Percival Garner came down with an illness just before the season started, but he’s expected to begin pitching soon. Kevin Walter, the team’s #29 prospect according to Baseball America, is on the DL, but there’s no timetable on the return. Walter was an overslot signee in the last draft, and he pitched a couple innings in the GCL last year. Leonel Bastidas got the Opening Day start for Williamsport, and that’s a bit aggressive. He turns 22 over the weekend, but this is the first time he’s pitched in the U.S. He’s joined in the rotation by fellow Venezuelan Lino Martinez, a young lefty who has U.S. experience. He posted a nice K:BB ratio in 34.2 IP with the GCL squad last year, mostly as a reliever. Three recent draft picks who are somewhat interesting projects have also made starts. Mike Nesseth missed all of 2010 with an injury, but he showed strikeout stuff at Nebraska. Cody Fick and Gregory Herbst are 2011 picks that just recently returned to pitching.
Those five are in the rotation now, but with Austin Wright and Adam Morgan drafted in the top 10 rounds, the rotation could look very different by the end of the year. Obviously those that don’t start will battle for innings in the bullpen. In addition to the 2011 draftees that I’ve already detailed, Bryan Morgado will join the bullpen when he’s off the DL. He was a high draft pick last year but battled injury and command problems in college. Statistically, Gabriel Arias is one of the more intriguing relievers. Like Bastidas, he’s new to the U.S., but in the last two years in the Dominican Summer League, he posted a total of 133 strikeouts to just 15 walks. Juary Gomez is another pitcher that had a very good season with the 2010 GCL Phillies.
Two switch hitting catchers will handle duties behind the plate for now. Francisco Diaz is a small player that probably won’t be much of a hitter although he did make some good contact in his second year with the GCL Phillies in 2010. Bob Stumpo, a local product from Wilmington and West Chester University, will spend his second year with the Crosscutters. Once Zach Wright, the team’s 6th rounder signs, he’ll likely report to Williamsport and take over as the starter.
Williamsport will be mixing and matching in the infield for much of the year. Harold Martinez, the first college position player off the board for the Phillies, should see a lot of time at 3B, but he’ll be completing for at bats with Maikel Franco, an 18 year old Dominican to keep an eye on. His 2010 season in the GCL wasn’t good at all, but to assign him to start at this level at 18 years old shows they have confidence in him. Another college 3B, Cody Asche, has been playing 2B so far, but it remains to be seen if he can stay there or if it’s just temporary. Taylor Black will join him in the middle infield, and they’ll use a combination of older players at 1B.
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