2011 VSL Phillies June Update (aka Should We Pay Attention to Herlis Rodriguez?)

The Phillies’ VSL season is now 30 games old, enough to get a feel for who might be a prospect on this rookie level team.  Overall the Phillies are 12-18 and are in 5th place out of 6 teams in the VSL.  While the team’s record is mediocre, there have been some bright spots for prospects particularly on the offensive side.  The team’s offense averages only 18.0 years old in age and is considerably younger than the rest of the league.  More importantly, they are getting significant contributions from several of the younger players.

The team’s pitching is not as good, unfortunately.  The pitching staff is older than the league average (19.3 years) and the best performances are generally coming from the older pitchers age 20 and 21 years old.  These pitchers are not likely to be great prospects, though I would also note that the Phillies have started moving some older foreign prospects directly to Williamsport rather than GCL.  Note opening day starter Leonel Bastides along with Gabirel Arias, Pedro Lora, Hector Neris, and Witer Jimenez.  This is an atypical 5 players that have essentially skipped GCL for the Phillies.  This is most likely an acknowledgement of how crowded the GCL roster can get and a recognition of the ability to get a pitcher regular starts in the VSL or DSL while they learn English and other skills necessary to ease the transition to the United States.

Getting back to the VSL team, the one player that has impressed the most in the early going has been 17-year-old CF Herlis Rodriguez.  A left-handed hitter (6’0″, 157) his debut in the VSL has probably been the most impressive foreign debut for a position player since Sebastian Valle’s debut in the DSL in 2006 (.802 OPS for a 16/17-year-old catcher).  Rodriguez made a late debut, but ever since he signed he has been playing CF and batting leadoff.  The Phillies would not have given him such a prominent lineup position at such a young age if they did not feel highly about him.  Rodriguez has hit .395 so far with 1 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR and only 4Ks.  His OPS is a small sample size 1.176 so far.  The only thing he has not done well is steal bases (0-4), but he most likely has enough speed to play CF so hopefully time will solve that problem.

Other young players have also impressed.  Number two on my list is Colombian SS Jair Morelos.  A small shortstop at 5’11”, 150, Morelos handles the bat well and is hitting .330 with a little patience (10 BB vs 4 K).  He also leads the team with 6 SB and has a healthy .799 OPS for a shortstop.  Moving around the infield, 17 year old Francisco Herrera has also impressed at 3B.  His average is down to .257 but he has shown some power with 6 XBH along with a little patience (10 BB) to post a .710 OPS.  Finally, two young C/1B are worth watching.  Wilson Garcia (age 17) is hitting .306 with 1 HR and a .751 OPS while Frank Rivas (age 18) is hitting .295 with a .674 OPS).

Most of the rest of the offense consists of young players struggling (like 16-year-old OF Alejandro Garcia) or older players that may no longer be prospects.  Among the older players 19-year-old Willians Astudillo has played all over the infield and is hitting .323.  Albertin Chavez has started at 2B for the most part and is hitting .319 with an .807 OPS.  Astudillo and Chavez unfortunately may find themselves behind the new class of middle infielders from the latest draft.

The pitching staff appears to have fewer prospects than the offense, though we also note that sometimes it takes a little longer for a pitching prospect to mature and put it all together.  This is typified by a prospect like Leonel Bastidas who was the opening day Williamsport starter.  He signed late and then had three years in the VSL at age 19-21.  Last year he had a 3.82 ERA and gave up more hits than innings (though with good command).  Now he is suddenly on the edge of the prospect radar by pitching 6 good innings against college players at Williamsport.  He may never be a top prospect but is an example of a player that might develop a little later and run into a numbers game getting playing time in the United States.

With that caveat about older players, I still feel that the better prospects are the younger pitchers that get regular playing time, ideally in the starting rotation.  The two that fit that definition this year are new signee Keivi Rojas (age 18) and 2nd year pitcher Ronald Mendez (also 18).  Rojas is only 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA (25 IP, 32 H, 9 BB, 15 K) but is holding his own at a young age.  Mendez’ season has been a little rougher (0-3, 6.08 ERA, 23.2 IP, 27 H, 14 BB, 11 K, more BB than Ks for 2 years) but he possesses the type of projectible pitching frame that the Phillies value (6’5″, 211).  Rojas and Mendez have not pitched especially well, but the Phillies are keeping them in the rotation for a reason.

Several other younger pitchers are getting regular playing time, though mostly in relief roles.  The only young lefthander is 18-year-old Audrys Mora who has pitched well in relief (2-0, 2.18 ERA, 20.2 IP, 15 H, 11 BB, 15 K).  Severiano Gonzalez (age 18) has the best command (0-1, 2.75 ERA, 19.2 IP, 21 H, 2 BB, 16 K) while Jorge Guzman (age 19) has posted the best raw stats (1-1, 1.20 ERA, 15 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 14 K).  Finally Jean Calanche has been given a couple of starts though he has struggled like Mendez and Rojas (5.56 ERA).

Among the older pitcher two have been mainstays in the starting rotation.  Moises Rivas (0-1, 4.20) and Yohan Silva (1-3, 4.34) are among the team leaders in innings pitched though have not dominated at the level one would expect of older prospects.  Jorge Gonzalez (age 21) is a LHP with good surface stats (3-0, 1.29 ERA) though he has not missed many bats (21 IP, 16 K, 3 BB, 7 K).  Finally, LHP Ely Izturriaga is still lurking on the VSL team 2 years after a brief GCL promotion.  He is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA and the strongest peripheral stats on the team (24 IP, 17 H, 11 BB, 31 K) in mostly the closer role.  As a LHP he will get more chances than most, though he really needs another GCL promotion to be seen as a prospect.

Next up we will take an early season look at the DSL squad.

15 thoughts on “2011 VSL Phillies June Update (aka Should We Pay Attention to Herlis Rodriguez?)

  1. Thanks andyb! Great write up. Looking forward to tracking these position players and seeing if they can continue to put up impressive numbers the way Valle has. As a bonus they are playing at some of the premium defensive positions.

  2. Thanks Andy. I’ve been noticing Rodriquez for about a week. I thought there may have been some correlation between Herlis starting to play the day before his 17th birthday but that’s neither here nor there. I noticed him from his 1st game. Pretty soon I was asking, “Who is Herlis Rodriquez?” He has extra base power. Two of his caught stealings were actually pickoffs so it looks like he has really raw baserunning skills. If he’s for real, he’ll get instruction on base stealing.

  3. Good read, really needed that to form some sort of backdrop for how to look at their box-scores.

    So, the bottom line becomes this – is there anyone besides Herlis I should track daily IYO?

    1. If there is another position player I might add SS Jair Morelos to your list. On the pitching staff there is not really someone who stands out enough to follow daily.

      The DSL team is a little older this year and none of the position players have stood out quite as much. If I had to pick one guy to watch from that team it probably would be 18-year-old LHP Francibel Alejo. Besides the great name he is young, pitching pretty well, left-handed, and projectible (6’3″, 170).

      1. Well played!

        I wonder if there’s any chance that his at-bat music would be Mogwai’s “Like Herod”

  4. Believe that Wilson Garcia has mostly played 1B. Either position he may run into the old lack of size thing. Catchers if you list Garcia at 17, Then you have Frank Rojas at 18, and the other 4 all at 19 and born around the same time. Jose Oliveros- stats look all right and a bit bigger.
    Astudillo has been injured for a time, and expeience is limited as SS, wouldn’t count on him there. Chavez solid all season. Yeah, they may have trouble advancing if all the draftees (HS) sign.
    Which brings up Alumni News- though the boxscore was not up at the last time I looked , the game is over and you can glean from the stats page:
    Alejandro Villalobos started at SS, Believe a Venizuelan at 2B (Nerio Rios) Dominican Jorge Castillo in LF, and the other Dominican , somebody’s favorite, Carlos Valenzuela at 3B. Venezuelan age questionee, Gustavo Gonzalez on a reserve role. If those guys are still in those spots by the end of the season, there might be some complaining on here. Infield related note: Steven Malcolm MIA, and alleged signee Trey Ford not listed as yet.

    1. Make that Villalobos at 2B, and Gustavo Gonzalez at SS, and Valenzuela 3B, Castillo LF. Nerio Rios did not play.

  5. Wilson Garcia and Frank Rivas are the alternating starters at catcher. Don’t worry about their size. They are both 5’11” and young enough to fill out over time.

  6. Came accross this article, not sure where to go with it…

    Righthander Jake Cosart from Clear Creek High in League City, Texas is the younger brother of Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart and showed similar arm strength. . . sort of. Jake has a smaller frame than Jarred, at just 6-foot-1 and 145 pounds. But he has long arms and hit 98 mph on PG’s gun on a throw from the outfield during morning workouts. Throws from the outfield are typically a few miles an hour faster than what a player would record as a pitcher, because outfielders have the benefit of getting a running start on their throws. But, scouts were still excited to see Cosart on the bump. When he did take the mound, though, he was mostly in the 85-87 mph range. The heat—combined with the fact that he’d already thrown a lot as a position player before pitching—may have taken a toll on his skinny frame, but there’s more in that arm than what he showed today.

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/category/high-school/

  7. And Herlis Rodriguez with an 0-4 today. Phuturephillies jinx? At least Francisco Herrera went deep with his 2nd HR of the year.

    1. And looking at today’s box from yesterday, Astudillo is back from injury, and Francisco Herrara did not play. Doubt they bench Chavez or Jair Morelos. Sign of things to come or one takes to DH over Mayorga, Oliveros and numerous others?

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