Going into the 2014 season, there was hope, promise, and some sort of optimism that we could see some great performances and talented players in Reading.
Though the All-Star Game is far past the midway point of the Eastern League season, I figured it was as good a time as any to recap the first “half” of the season (if we can really call it that), and take a look back while looking ahead to the team’s final 49 games.
While the outstanding performances have been few and far between, some great things did happen this year. But, for the most part, the story of the 2014 Reading club has been written over the past month: it’s a flawed team that doesn’t have a ton of talent, and they have scuffled to a 38-55 record.
It seems like just yesterday that we recapped a mid-June week, as the Fightins were hovering at .500 with a 33-33 record. Since then, the team has gone 5-22, plummeting to the bottom of the standings. The team did have four All-Stars, with Carlos Alonso, Albert Cartwright, Hoby Milner, and Colton Murray representing at the game last night.
Murray and Alonso have had solid years, while Milner and Cartwright seemed to be All-Stars based on need more than merit.
So, placing that aside…
What’s gone right
Ken Giles rocketed through the minors, and has carried his stellar performance straight to Philadelphia. He pitched in 13 games in AA this year, striking out 29 in 15 innings, posting a 1.20 ERA. With Jonathan Papelbon on the trade block, you’re likely looking at your future closer. Just remember where he started the year and how far he’s come.
The aforementioned Murray has pitched well too, with a 2.08 ERA in 19 appearances. He began the year in Clearwater, and pitched well enough to get the call-up to Reading back in May.
As I wrote back then:
“Murray struck out 17 in 17.2 innings for Clearwater, and has made a couple of scoreless appearances thus far for the Fightins. If he can keep that strikeout rate that he had in Clearwater (8.66 K/9) while reducing the walk rate, there’s a chance that he’ll turn some heads. Velocity has always been the concern with Murray, but if he can locate his stuff, the confidence could grow.”
The Reading numbers are strong: 8.6 K/9, 3.12 BB/9 (nice to see a lower number here). The .256 BABIP in AA is a bit of a concern, but give Murray some credit: he has pitched well at both levels this year. The Phillies’ bullpen has seemingly turned from scar to strength just over the last few months, and it’s nice to know there is potentially more talent beyond the Majors.
Tyler Knigge also pitched well before earning the call to Lehigh Valley, and we’ll keep an eye on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who has made five appearances thus far and has 12 strikeouts in 7 innings in Reading.
Offensively, Cam Perkins was a pleasant surprise, hitting .342/.408/.495 before getting a promotion to LHV. Obviously, if he were still around, he would have been an All-Star, so we’re going to go ahead and call him one. Sadly, he’s hit just .202/.246/.294 in AAA.
Jake Fox has been a nice stopgap at first base, posting big-time power numbers (.613 SLG) in his short time in Reading. We’ll continue to monitor Fox. I guess you never know when you’re going to find the next Jose Bautista or Brandon Moss, eh? Though it seems highly unlikely, he could be a trade chip if some team is desperate and willing to take a chance hoping that he could somehow carry this over to a Major League roster.
We’ll put Aaron Altherr in the “good” category too, as he makes it by a hair. The big month of June has been followed with a decent enough July, and he’s even had his cup of coffee with the Phils, too. He’s trying to finish strong and put himself in the discussion for the Major League roster in 2015.
What’s gone wrong
Biddle, Biddle, Biddle. He was #2 on our Reader Top 30, and, although I suppose I wasn’t part of this website back in the spring, I certainly had him #2 on my sheet as well. It’s been a rough year for Jesse, as he’s gone 3-9 with a 5.03 ERA. Just when it seemed like he had turned things around, the concussion issues popped up, and he has been shut down for now.
A mental break is probably the best thing for Biddle right now. He’s still just 22. He has youth on his side. His performance this year has been mediocre, but there is simply no way we can write him off. Biddle still projects as a decent #3 starter in the Majors, maybe a #2 if you can stretch the projection a bit. We’re not sure when we’ll see him back in the rotation, but hopefully he gets a chance to pitch again in 2014.
The Anthony Hewitt Experience will not be coming to a Major League stadium near you. The project came to an end with his release, and it was something that was long overdue. He struggled in Reading. He struggled in Clearwater. He was not going to be a Major League player. The Phillies finally cut their losses here and released Hewitt last month.
What else has gone wrong? Injuries in general. Biddle’s issues are well documented, but Kelly Dugan was out for about two months longer than anyone expected (he’s back now) and Tommy Joseph was dealing with a wrist issue that kept him out for a while too. Joseph should be back in the lineup very soon, as he has been rehabbing in the GCL.
Other disappointments include the rest of the rotation, as Severino Gonzalez and Perci Garner have struggled a bit. Milner, who pitched in last night’s All-Star Game, has had a relatively average 2014 campaign.
So, what’s left for Reading in these final 49 games, and what should we be looking for?
The return of Biddle will be a big storyline, and the team hopes that he come back healthy at some point and at least pitch in a few more games. Any sort of promotion seems out of the question, however.
Plenty of people will be watching Joseph and Dugan as well, as they try to hit their way back to prominence in the organization.
Outside of that, however, it’s hard not to look to 2015 and get excited. Aaron Nola could be around, and J.P. Crawford could start the year in Reading as well. Winning just 5 of their last 27 games says a lot about the current state of the ball club, though.
The hope here is that they are at least competitive over these next 49 games. Unfortunately, the first 93 haven’t been very fun.