The Reading Report, Week 1

The Reading Phillies are coming off a 71-69 campaign in 2006, and with a handful of quality pitching prospects, are hoping to improve on that record in 2007. The composition of the R-Phillies is largely made up of minor league veterans and non-prospects, so my attention to the team might be a bit less this season than that of Lakewood and Clearwater, which contain many more actual prospects. Nevertheless, Reading will feature some interesting pitching, as well as Mike Costanzo’s bat at 3B, and should have some new arrivals from Clearwater at some point during the season. Reading continues to sit near the top of the Eastern League in terms of attendance, which speaks to the quality atmosphere at games. While they should be able to maintain their performance of last season and possibly improve on it, winning the league will be tough, as many teams like Akron, Binghamton and New Britain will again be filled with promising prospects.

The lineup for the R-Phillies will consist of two real prospects in Javon Moran, a former Phillie farmhand reacquired in the Jeff Conine trade. Moran, now 24, will be on the old side to be considered a bona-fide prospect at AA, but he brings a lot of speed, good contact skills, and solid center field defense, and with a big season, could bring his prospect status up a bit. The other main draw in the lineup is 3rd baseman Mike Costanzo. Costanzo, who had a so-so 2006 campaign at Clearwater, is now thrust into the middle of the Reading lineup and into the spotlight of 6,000+ fans every night. There were reports that Costanzo was “taking AB’s off” last season, but he shouldn’t have to worry about a lack of atmosphere this season. Juan Tejeda, a fringe player, will play 1st, and newly acquired Michael Garciappara will likely see time at 2B, trying to resurrect his career. The pitching rotation features free agent pickups Landon Jacobsen and Heath Totten, and they will be joined by legit prospects Kyle Kendrick and Matt Maloney. Anderson Garcia, picked up off waivers from the Mets, will likely get the majority of the save opportunities early, and at age 25, he’ll need a big season to be considered prospect material heading into next year.

Reading opened at home with a three game sweep of Harrisburg, with Jacobsen, Maloney and Key picking up wins and Anderson Garcia netting 2 saves in as many tries. Mike Costanzo started off on the right foot, homering in his first two AA games. After dropping the first two games of the series to Bowie, the R-Phillies managed to salvage a game behind the second strong performance of the season from Landon Jacobsen. Javon Moran has been the story so far offensively, with a line of .417/.462/.625, adding 5 doubles and 4 stolen bases. Costanzo, after the hot start, has cooled significantly, hitting only .167 in 24 AB, but more troubling, with 0 walks and 12 strikeouts. Garcia is 3 for 3 in saves, with a 2.25 ERA in 4 games, the only runs given up in a non-save situation. Kendrick and Maloney both had respectable debuts. The progress of Moran will be interesting to watch, as he could work himself into a midseason promotion to Ottawa, and Kendrick, who will have to be added to the 40 man at the end of the season, could emerge as the ace of the staff. Reading finishes out their week with a four game series in Altoona, where they’ll run into one of the best prospects in the game, CF Andrew McCutchen.