On the eve of the minor league season opener, I felt a little preview was in order. Check back tomorrow for a full update on our 2006 Draft and Follows, but for now, let’s take a look at the upcoming season for each of the Phillies full season affiliates.
Lakewood, South Atlantic League: Lakewood, the defending SAL champions, open their season tomorrow night with a 3 game series at home against Greensboro. The 2006 team was built on pitching, and the 2007 team figures to be much of the same, with a rotation featuring first round pick Kyle Drabek, Edgar Garcia, and a bunch of live arms in Carlos Monasterios, Darren Byrd, Jarrod Freeman, Michael Dubee, Andrew Cruse, and Alex Concepcion. Up the middle, the Phillies feature Adrian Cardenas at 2B and Jason Donald at SS, a tandem which is likely to climb the organizational ladder together. The outfield will most likely be a four man rotation, with Quintin Berry and Gus Milner being to the two prospects to keep your eye on. CJ Henry, acquired in the Bobby Abreu trade, will shift from SS to 3B this season, and though he has been disappointing, he’s still young, and could still turn into a decent prospect.
Clearwater, Florida State League: The Threshers are coming off a somewhat disappointing season, having gone 67-72 in 2006 and finishing 5th in the FSL West division. This season, however, they figure to be a bit better, and will be backed by arguably the strongest pitching rotation in the minors. The starting rotation will feature Carlos Carrasco, Josh Outman, Drew Carpenter, Dan Brauer, and Pat Overholt, meaning you will see a legitimate prospect pitching every evening for Clearwater. In the bullpen, Brett Harker is the logical choice to close out games, and he’ll be supported by Will Savage and Mike Zagurski in the late innings. On the offensive side, the team could again struggle to score runs, with Brad Harman and Jeremy Slayden the only real offensive forces, unless Welinson Baez finally steps forward and displays the tools he shows in practice. Lou Marson figures to be the every day catcher, and is responsible for handling a very talented pitching staff.
Reading, Eastern League: The Reading Phillies finished 71-69, good for 3rd place in the Southern division of the Eastern League. The 2007 team is going to lack in position player prospects, as really only Mike Costanzo and Javon Moran can still be considered legitimate prospects. There are plenty of minor league veterans, guys like Juan Tejeda and Joe Thurston, so they could still score some runs, but not a whole lot to get excited about, prospects wise. On the pitching side, things are a bit brighter, as the rotation should be fronted by Matt Maloney, Kyle Kendrick and Julio De La Cruz, being rounded out by Tim McClaskey and free agent pickup Landon Jacobsen. The bullpen will likely be led by minor league veteran Chris Key, who saved 20 games for Reading last season. He’ll be joined by Nick Evangelista, Nate Johnson and new acquisitions Heath Totten and Anderson Garcia. Of the bunch, Garcia and Evangelista are worth watching, but both will need to really show a solid performance to still be on the prospect radar at this time next year.
Ottawa, International League: The Phillies first and last season in Ottawa begins Friday night against Rochester. The Ottawa roster figures to be in a state of flux for much of the season, as guys like Joe Bisenius, Zach Segovia, James Happ, Eude Brito and Fabio Castro move between Ottawa and Philadelphia on a need or merit basis. The rotation figures to be Brian Mazone, Happ, Segovia, Brito and Castro, but Segovia’s first start of the season is likely to come in Philadelphia, and he’ll most likely head to Ottawa once Freddy Garcia comes off the disabled list. Joe Bisenius could join him when Jon Lieber returns, unless another move is made. Happ will likely make his major league debut this season, and Brito might see a spot start here or there, or could eventually be used in the bullpen, depending how things shake out. On the offensive side, the only real prospect is Jason Jaramillo, who might make his big league debut in September, or possibly sooner depending on the health of Barajas and Ruiz. The rest of the lineup is filled with minor league veterans like Brennan King, Ron Calloway, Carlos Leon and Gary Burnham. Yoel Hernandez will likely close out games while Bisenius is in Philadelphia, and if he’s to regain prospect status, he needs to do it quickly. Brian Sanches is another possibility to close games, and he’ll be joined in the pen by minor league vets in Kane Davis, Jim Crowell and John Ennis.
It should be a fun season, make sure to check back daily for game recaps, prospect analysis and other features as the season unfolds.