With the beginning of July we are now over half of the way through the 2012 VSL season. It has been a strange season for the Phillies entry who have dominated the league going 28-14. The team has a 2.41 ERA overall and a .779 OPS. They are in first place by 1.5 games. With all that, however, it is difficult to determine whether the team has any real prospects. The offense is certainly young, though the best performances have come from older players. The pitching has dominated though also led by strong performances from the older players. In spite of these dominant performances it is very possible that the Phillies have a better group of older players than the other teams in the 4-team league.
There are a half dozen new names on the roster since the beginning of the season. The most interesting names are OF Freddy Zorilla and 2B Lucas Rojo. Zorilla is a big 6’4″ 195 pound RF who is off to a 10-27 start with some power (5 XBH) and patience (5 BB). His OPS is a robust 1107 at the moment. Rojo is interesting because he is our first new signing from Brazil in a while. He may not be much of a prospect (he is a pint sized 5’6″ 2B), but it is always interesting when the Phillies expand into additional countries to sign prospects. Rojo started out 4-8 which is another good sign.
Four pitchers have also been added since the season began. Ranger Suarez is a 6’0″ LHP who is still only 16 and started out with 5 shutout innings. Jesus Chavez is a taller LHP (6’3″, 175) from Mexico. Gabriel Bermudez and Manuel Gonzalez are two somewhat older pitchers that also signed recently.
Offensive Highlights – As we noted earlier, the offense is led by older players. 3B Deiber Olivera (age 19) is hitting .422. Wilson Garcia (C/IB, age 19) is hitting .361 with a .917 OPS. 1B/3B Francisco Herrera (age 18) is hitting .360 with 3 HR and a .974 OPS. Wilmer Oberto (OF) leads the team with 4 HR and 21 BB to also have a 900+ OPS. Among the younger players the aforementioned Zorilla is off to a nice start and 16-year-old OF Enger Jimenez has a .661 OPS at a really young age. 17-year-old William Cuicas has held down the starting SS job but is hitting only .213.
It is hard to know if there are any prospects within this group however as there are major doubts about the quality of competition in the VSL this year. Zorilla has shown the most among the younger offensive prospects, but until we see him against better competition it is hard to assume he is a good prospect. All of the players playing really well are on the old side. In the VSL one can be considered old at age 19 or even at age 18 if they are repeating the league. While the older players have made dramatic improvements since last year, the improvement among multiple players across the board is also a sign that the competition is more limited this year.
Pitching highlights – The pitching staff has absolutely dominated the league. The top starter is 19-year-old Severino Gonzalez who is 3-3 with a 2.44 ERA (62.2 IP, 44 H, 4 BB, 57 K). His stats are so good that one wonders why he is still in the VSL. He should get some points because he is from Panama and may have started out behind some other VSL prospects, but it is also possible that he is an extreme control pitcher who may not have the stuff to get more advanced hitters out (think someone like Elizardo Ramirez). LHP Douglas Parada is also dominating at age 19 with a 4-0 record and a microscopic 1.02 ERA (44 IP, 25 H, 5 Bb, 41 K). 21-year-old Moises Rivas also pitched very well, though it looks like the Phillies were just getting him innings before bringing him to GCL (and briefly to Clearwater).
Among the younger pitchers Sergio Velis showed enough promise to think his bonus was well spent, though on the down side he has disappeared from the box scores after his first 4 starts. Ranger Suarez is still 16 and has made his debut with 5 shutout innings. Ricardo Pinto is still 18 and has pitched decently at the back end of the rotation and from the bullpen (4-2, 2.39 ERA, 37.2 IP, 34 H, 12 BB, 23 K). Finally, Yeisson Fernandez is a tall 18-year-old LHP that has had a rough start but has enough promise that the Phillies are pitching him out of the starting rotation when possible. Other than Velis, however, it is hard to tell if any of these arms are real prospects. Given the quality of the league this year we really need to see some of these pitcher in GCL to have a better impression of how good they are.
One minor note – I noticed the manager this year is Trino Aguillar who put up some impressive numbers on one of the Phillies’ early VSL squads at age 17 and made it over to GCL by age 19. Unfortunately his career stalled from there, but it is good to see him back with the Phillies.
Next up we will take a midseason look at the DSL Phillies.