May 132013

Lakewood Blueclaws logoTop 30 lists are very fluid.  Injuries and fluctuations in performance can change things quickly as new information is gathered.  Nearing Memorial Day, we’re getting close to the point where statistics are no longer immediately written off as small samples.  That’s the time for starting to get excited about players off to starts, while on the flipside, players that are struggling have a lot of work to do to get out of the holes they’ve dug themselves.  Of course, that includes players in the pre-season top 30 list, and those that aren’t playing well could soon find themselves off the list.  Here are the players not on the pre-season list that could be taking their spots.  All stats are through Saturday’s games.

Low-A 1B Art Charles, 22 (107 PA, .272 BA, .346 OBP, .478 SLG, 15 R, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 23.4 K%, 10.3 BB%)

The Phillies acquired Charles in the spring training trade that sent Michael Schwimer to Toronto, and he reached full-season ball for the first time in 2013.  At 6’6 and 220 pounds he has some raw power, but he has a lot of trouble making contact with a strikeout rate in nearly 30% of his career plate appearances.  He’s an okay defender at first base, but he doesn’t have the athleticism to play any other position.

This year, he is putting bat on ball a little more often.  His .272 average is nearly 30 points higher than his career mark, and his lower strikeout rate plus a BABIP in line with the rest of his career indicates that it might not just be about luck.  At 22 years old in his third professional season, he’s too old for this level, but his transition from short-season ball to full has been smooth so far.

Low-A C Chace Numata, 20 (92 PA, .310 BA, .359 OBP, .452 SLG, 5 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 6.5%, 15.2 K%)

Numata was drafted in the 14th round of the 2010 draft after playing shortstop in high school.  The Phillies thought he could work behind the plate though, and he’s been making the transition ever since.  His progress has been slow though.  He’s a raw player, and a hamate injury cost him most of the 2011 season.  He won’t turn 21 until later in the season, so he’s not any older than most players in the South Atlantic League.

His offense in 2013 has come out of nowhere.  In 84 games before 2013, Numata batted just .224 with no patience or power.  This year, the balls have been dropping in a little bit more, and he hasn’t just been a singles hitter.  He has to become a little more patient still, but strikeouts aren’t a problem either.  Behind the plate, he has a lot of work to do still, particularly when it comes to blocking pitches and keeping balls in front of him, but his caught stealing percentage has improved to 31% on the season.

High-A RF Cameron Perkins, 22 (141 PA, .361 BA, .386 OBP, .579 SLG, 21 R, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 3.5 BB%, 11.3 K%)

Perkins was a pretty solid player coming out of Purdue in last year’s draft, and he hasn’t skipped a beat moving right to Clearwater to start his first full season.  His pro debut last year with Williamsport was solid, but the advertised power from the 6’5, 195 pound third baseman wasn’t there.  He did bat over .300 though and show he wouldn’t be lost having to swing a wood bat.

Moving to right field to accommodate Maikel Franco at the hot corner, Perkins has continued to show he can put bat on ball consistently and is one of the leading hitters in minor league baseball so far.  The power has improved too, mostly in the form of doubles in the Florida State League though.  He was never a patient hitter as an amateur, and that’s continued with a pretty low professional walk rate.  When he reaches double-A, perhaps as early as this summer, pitchers are going to be able to exploit his aggressiveness.

High-A RHP Gabriel Arias, 23 (36 IP, 1.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 19.0 K%, 6.3 BB%) 

Arias once signed for $100,000, and a six digit bonus usually indicates a Latin American talent to keep an eye on.  Things never really panned out for him though, and he pitched in the Dominican Summer League for parts of four seasons before finally playing stateside in 2011.  Between Williamsport and Lakewood in 2011 and 2012, he pitched to a 3.47 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 132.1 innings, mostly in relief.

At the end of 2012, he started getting innings in the rotation, and he’s back there this season with Clearwater.  His stats have actually been better as a starter than a reliever, and he’s going to have to move quickly to make up for all the years he spent pitching in the Dominican.  Scouting wise, not much is known about Arias.  His below average strikeout rate but good walk rate would indicate his stuff isn’t overwhelming but throws a lot of strikes.  At 6’2 and 185 pounds, he’s big enough that he shouldn’t have problems with durability.

Double-A LHP Mauricio Robles, 24 (19 IP, 1.42 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 37.0 K%, 11.0 BB%)

This is Robles’ first year in the organization after signing as a minor league free agent from Seattle.  Just two years ago, he was actually the team’s #6 prospect according to Baseball America, but elbow injuries and poor performances have knocked him off.  He spent most of his career in the rotation, but at 24 and now in relief, he still has a chance to reach the majors.

Robles has pitched in triple-A before, so it’s not too surprising that he’s having success at Reading.  When he was healthy, his fastball sat in the 91-95 MPH range, and it’s not unreasonable to believe it could be back there now pitching in short bursts out of the bullpen.  He complements it with a changeup, once considered the best in the Seattle organization.  This season, his strikeout rate is through the roof, and his walk rate is much lower than it has been in a long time.  Thanks to his changeup, he’s actually been better against righties this season.  With the way the Phillies’ bullpen has performed so far this year, anyone pitching well in the upper levels of the system could get a shot.

Double-A RHP Seth Rosin, 24 (39.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 17.7 K%, 3.2 BB%)

Rosin was picked up in last summer’s Hunter Pence trade, and his transition to the upper levels of the minors has been very good so far.  Thanks to an improvement in fastball velocity in 2012 while still with the Giants, he could possibly be a number five starter, but middle relief seems like a much more likely outcome.  He first moved to the rotation last year with the Giants, and the Phillies have kept him there.

Despite the improvement in his fastball, his stuff is still average at best which limits his upside.  His breaking ball and changeup are only average pitches despite his great command.  For a 6’6, 250 pound pitcher, Rosin’s report has a couple anomalies.  He can really command his fastball when it’s unusual for bigger pitchers to have their mechanics straightened out, and his groundball rate is really unimpressive.  He’s already allowed six home runs in less than 40 innings.

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!