(Kyle Drabek, courtesy of Blueclaws.com)
Lakewood’s defense of their Sally League title has gotten off to a somewhat slow start, as the Blueclaws sit at just 7-7, 4.5 games behind front running West Virginia in the Northern Division of the SAL. The two biggest culprits to date are the bullpen and the weather, the latter of which the Blueclaws obviously can’t control. Garrett Hill and Michael Dubee have been a bit shaky in the pen, and Andrew Cruse is looking to get back on track after a rough outing last week.
The one bright spot in the pen thus far is Ben Pfinsgraff, personal favorite of mine. Pfinsgraff has average stuff, but excellent command, and he’s still generating a ton of swings and misses. In 14.2 innings spanning 5 appearances, he’s allowed 1 ER on 8 hits and 3 walks, and compliments that with 17 strikeouts, an impressive tally. While I’m a tad disappointed he’s been sent to the pen already, it has been in favor of younger, more high ceiling arms, and it’s simply a case of the Phillies having “too many” good pitching prospects and not enough starting rotation slots for them at Lakewood and Clearwater. If both Darren Byrd and Jarrod Freeman continue to struggle in the rotation, Pfinsgraff might get another shot at starting this season. If not, he’s likely going to be on the fast track toward Reading, where he could possibly provide a quality arm for the bullpen in late 2009.
On the offensive side of things, the big surprise thus far is Gus Milner. Milner, who is a tad old for the Sally League, is taking to his first full season as a pro, hitting .345/.400/.527 in 55 AB, with 7 extra base hits and 3 stolen bases. He could stand to draw a few more walks, as he only has 5, but he hasn’t struck out a ton (10), so we’ll wait until the sample size is a bit larger before drawing too many conclusions. First round pick Adrian Cardenas hasn’t really taken off yet, but his time will come. Jason Donald has been a nice surprise so far as well, hitting .316 in 57 AB. Thought of as mainly a glove guy with average offensive tools, he’s holding his own so far. CJ Henry and Quintin Berry have tailed off a bit as the season has begun to unfold, but we’ll give them a few more weeks before making any kind of judgment. Pitching-wise, Kyle Drabek has been solid in his first taste of full season ball, with a 15:3 strikeout to walk ratio in 12 innings. He has allowed a hit per inning and 2 home runs, but you’d expect him to need a bit of adjustment time in the transition from “thrower” to pitcher. Edgar Garcia leads the starters with a 2.95 ERA in 18.1 innings, but he’s been a bit shaky in his last two starts.
Lakewood takes their show on the road this week with three games at Delmarva, followed by a three game series at Lake County. Freeman and Byrd continue to bear watching, as Freeman has lowered his ERA to 4.11, but still has control issues to sort out, and Byrd really hasn’t found his stride yet. As the weather warms up, Cardenas should also begin to warm up, and the continued strong play of Gus Milner will be interesting to watch. Check back next week to see if Lakewood has made up any ground on West Virginia, who play four games on the road against Lexington.