Its been close to two weeks, so lets take a look at Lakewood’s progress since my last write-up. I wanted to write more before the fold, just so there was some text and it didn’t look like just a link. And I was struggling to think of what to write. But then it came to me. When looking at statistics, the common question is “when do we know if this means something” in terms of sample size and relevance. Eric Seidman, who writes at lots of places including Fangraphs and his new Phillies site, Brotherly Glove, had an excellent piece on Frangraphs two years ago which covers this very topic. His piece is actually a simplification (much needed) of a longer, more stats heavy article. Read it here. As you can see from his list, we’re still not in the stabilization range for the statistics that I think are important when looking at prospects. That said, we’re getting close in some cases, and its fun to look at where we stand. So lets get to it.
Its still a long road back to push for the first half title, as the team is 6 games back.
The offense is still struggling. Current ranks
OPS: 11th out of 14
BA: 12th out of 14
OB%: 14th out of 14
SLG%: 9th out of 14
SB: 4th out of 14
Interestingly (well, kind of) their team OPS is actually UP from the last time we spoke, as they were at just .655 10 days ago. So, improvement, yes? Still a ways to go.
The pitching is still the strength of the team, and the class of the SAL.
ERA: 1st of 14
WHIP: t1st of 14
K: 5th of 14
BB: 9th of 14
Now lets look at the team on an individual level
* From 2008 to 2010, Anthony Hewitt’s best season line was .223/.255/.395 in 247 PA at Williamsport in 2009. This year, he’s at .247/.305/.464 in 105 PA in a repeat of Lakewood. Yes, he’s striking out a ton (38 times in 105 PA, 36%) but he’s drawn 5 walks in those 105 PA (4.7%), and while that may not seem significant, last year he drew a total of 13 walks in 465 PA, a rate of just 2.8%. Its improvement. Very small improvement. But more importantly, he’s actually hitting for power this year, with a .217 ISO. That is actual reason for excitement. He is 22. He is repeating a level. But this is encouraging. Everyone focuses on the ideal developmental path, one level per year, in AA by 22, etc etc. And while that is normal, Hewitt is obviously a project, and the Phillies knew this when they drafted him. I’m sure they hoped he’d be in Clearwater by now. But with any long term project, you have to focus on the short term. Hewitt will have to be put on the 40 man roster after this year, or be subjected to the Rule 5 draft, as he was 19 when drafted, but I don’t envision anyone taking him, considering his rawness, so the Phillies shouldn’t have to worry about this. Still, if he maintain’s his power and can keep his walk rate at 5%, he’s not finished as a semi-interesting prospect.
* The trio of Aaron Altherr, Domingo Santana, and Cameron Rupp have been major disappointments. I didn’t fully jump on the Altherr bandwagon this winter, as I had reservations, and they’ve come to fruition thus far. That said, I was bullish on Cameron Rupp, and it appears he’s having trouble adjusting to pro pitching. He has, however, thrown out 32% of would be base stealers, and that’s definitely a positive. Altherr has been abysmal against LHP, hitting just .133/.222/.356 in 15 AB, which is odd, because he’s righthanded. Still, he’s batting just .203/.272/.284 against righties in 74 AB. In total, its just 89 AB, so its not statistically significant, but it’s starting to become slightly concerning. In 77 plate appearances, Domingo Santana has struck out 27 times (35% of the time) while drawing just 4 walks. Discouraging, but again, he’s so young, you have no choice but to be patient. Given his age, he could still be in extended spring training waiting to get his first taste of the GCL. Still. Concerning.
* The best hitter on the squad (outside of minor league vet Jim Murphy) is Geancarlo Mendez, an under the radar signing out of the Dominican Republic in December 2007. Mendez couldn’t have gotten more than $25K to sign, as he received very little attention, and spent a bunch of time in the DSL before coming to the US last year. Andy mentioned him in his 2008 and 2009 DSL wrap-ups, but he wasn’t a highly touted guy. He’ll play the entire 2011 season at age 21, and so far he’s off to a nice start, hitting .308/.372/.436 in 87 PA. His 8 walks and 12 strikeouts are good, and though he doesn’t have a home run, he has 8 extra base hits and he’s 6 for 6 in stolen bases. He’s playing 3B after spending time at 1B, 2B and LF the last 3 seasons. At 6’2/170 he has the frame for the infield, but he’s probably maxed out physically, which raises questions about his long term power potential. Still, a name to watch.
Now, the pitchers
* David Buchanan leads the staff in both innings (40.2) and ERA (1.74), and has shown great control, with just 6 walks allowed in his 40.2 innings. As a 21 year old, he should be pitching well, and he certainly is. I would like to see him missing more bats, as he has just 26 strikeouts thus far. He’s yet to allow a home run, but isn’t a big groundball guy (0.93 GO to AO) so that is something to monitor.
* Garrett Claypool, another college righty, leads the staff in strikeouts with 29 in just 23 IP. He’s been a bit uneven thus far, but in his last two outings he’s gone 10 innings, 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB and 10 K. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher (0.29 GO to AO), which could cause problems at the next level. He hides the ball well, and that deception should help him, but he’s going to have to miss a lot of bats and limit his walks to be successful.
* After a good debut, Jesse Biddle posted 3 below average starts, but he rebounded nicely last time out, going 5 innings, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 2 BB while striking out 4. In his previous 2 starts he racked up tons of groundballs, but kept the ball mostly in the air last time out. Its a small sample, so we’ll wait and see how it shakes out. I’ve expressed my optimism on Biddle before, and that remains.
Thats it for this report. Hopefully as the weather warms up, the performances of the Lakewood team do as well.