The season opener for the VSL Phillies is today. The league started yesterday but with 7 teams in the league it was the Phillies that got the bye on day one. Last year the team was a disappointing 27-42, though it should be noted that 8 players from that team plus newly signed Venezuelan LHP Lino Martinez were present in minor league spring training and in line to make their GCL debuts this summer.
A roster has been posted on the minor league site here: http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ros&cid=661
A brief look at the roster shows 11 new players. 7 pitchers, 3 catchers, and 1 outfielder. 2 of the players are from Panama (OF Jorge Miranda, C Jose Mayorga) with the rest from Venezuela. The youngest signee is 16-year-old LHP Audrys Mora with 3 additional 17-year-old pitchers (Ronald Mendez, Luis Morales, and Jean Calanche). Mendez at 6’5″ and Morales at 6’3″ fit the mold of tall, projectable pitchers that the Phillie tend to like.
As for how good this team will be – it is hard to tell. The team is relatively young, though should have a handful of veterans around that are not really prospects but should provide some leadership and quality play. The biggest surprise is perhaps the return of LHP Ely Izturriaga this season. Last year he played extremely well, putting up a 2.08 ERA in 39 innings before getting a promotion to GCL and being somewhat overmatched there (5.74 ERA). On offense Luis Martinez is back in the outfield (.265, 2 HR) and Eduards Tolo (.284) is one of only 2 infielders listed on the roster. 2 catchers that showed some promise last year at age 17 (Enderson Villegas – .684 OPS, Willians Astudillo – .620 OPS) also return.
The graduates to minor league spring training are OF Bernardo Solarte, C Marco Davalillo, SS Nerio Rios, OF Rudney Balentien, OF Luis Unda, IF Carlos Perdomo, LHP Ervis Manzanillo, and RHP Juary Gomez. Solarte and Rios are the high profile signings in that group (along with Lino Martinez this past winter). Davalillo showed considerable offensive promise last year, hitting .336 with close to a .900 OPS. Balentien also put up huge numbers on offense (8 HR in 91 AB) but was a little older and was in his 3rd complex season (it is rare when prospects spend more than a year or two in the complex leagues.)
The roster with only 2 infielders is probably a work in progress. We will post some initial thoughts on the team after a couple of weeks along with a quick DSL preview when that season starts on May 29th.