Winter Ball Round Up; Feb. 2 – Fini

Australian Baseball League – A couple of quick observations.  First, the announcers remarked that the Perth  Heat roster contains 4 members (3 active for the playoffs) of the the first family of baseball in Western Australia, the Kennelly family.  You may remember that Tim Kennelly was in the Phillies system for 8 years (2005-12).  The Phillies tried him at every position but shortstop.  He’s currently playing right field and DH for the Heat.

And second, the venue for the championship series is Adelaide’s Norwood Oval.  It has dirt cutouts like any artificial surface for the mound, catcher’s/batter’s boxes, and the bases.  One of the announcers remarked about the condition of the “grass”.  This piqued my interest and I had to google the Oval.  It is also known as Coopers Stadium (Coopers Brewery sponsership) and is rented to the Norwood Football Club.  It’s primary use is for Australian rules football, but is also use for a variety of other sporting events including soccer, rugby, American football, and baseball.  it has a grass surface.  An interesting twist for infielders – less certain bounces off grass but maybe a little less velocity on some ground balls.

Game 1:  The Perth Heat took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning.  Thirteen pitches later, they trailed 3-2 after back-to-back-to-back home runs by the heart of the Adelaide Bite line up.   That lead held up and the Bite took the first game in the three game series.  Brian Pointer started in left field and went 1 for 3 with a walk and a strike out.  He hit into a game ending double play with the tying run on third.  The Australian announcers noted during the broadcast that Pointer led the Heat with 53 strike outs and stated that the number was twice as many as any other Heat player.  This was a slight exaggeration.  The next highest total on the team was 29 strike outs.

Game 2: The Heat evened the series with a 5-3, 10-inning victory.  After Adelaide took an early lead on a first inning home run, Matt Kennelly and Brian Pointer hit back-to-back home runs to give Perth a 2-1 lead.  The Heat added a run in the 7th inning to take 3-1 lead, but the Bite came back in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game.  The frame started with their fifth solo home run of the series before they tied the game on back-to-back doubles.  Pointer didn’t figure in any of the later scoring, but put together a respectable line – 1 for 1 with a run scored, run batted in, and 3 walks.

Game 3: “Pointer continues his torrid streak!”, said the Australian play-by-play announcer.  This after describing Pointer as the “Hottest man, arguably, in the championship series”, then helping his color man down play his Saturday contribution of a HR and 3 walks, because “..walking the 9th hitter once is a cardinal sin, let alone 2-3 times…”.  Pointer’s second inning double into the right field corner off a left-handed pitcher had just driven in Matt Kennelly with the game’s third run.  One out later, he scored the game’s fourth run on a double by Tim Kennelly (they’re everywhere!).  Perth went on to close out Adelaide 12-5 to win the ABL championship.  Pointer didn’t figure into any of the later scoring but finished the game going 3 for 5 with a double, a run scored, RBI,  and 2 strike outs.

Pointer’s combined stats for the championship series were 5 for 9, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K.  In 5 post-season games, Pointer went 8 for 16, 3 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K, and an OF assist.

The Caribbean Series – With Willians Astudillo left off the Venezuelan roster and Rene Garcia seeing no time in any of Puerto Rico’s 4 games, I only have Maikel Franco to report on, so I can do so in some depth.

  • Dominican Republic 6, Cuba 2Franco played third base and batted third. He went 1 for 5 and stranded 4 runners.
  • First inning, runners on first and second, no outs: called strike, ball in dirt, called strike, fly out to left fielder for first out.
  • Third inning, leading off: foul ball, foul ball, fly out to left fielder for first out.
  • Fifth inning, nobody on, two outs: ball, line drive single to right field.
  • Sixth inning, runner on first, two outs, 4 runs in:  foul, pop out to shortstop to end the inning.
  • Eighth inning, runner on first, two outs: called strike, ball in dirt, ball, ground ball to third baseman, force out at second to end the inning.


  • Dominican Republic 5, Venezuela 6 – All eleven runs were scored in the first two innings.  Franco played third base and batted third.  He went 0 for 5 with 3 strike outs and stranded 8 runners.
  • First inning, runners on first and third, no outs:  called strike, pick off attempt, ball, foul, pick off attempt, foul, strike out swinging on a pitch in the dirt for the first out.
  • Second inning, runner on third, one out, 3 runs in, pitching change: Called strike, called strike, strike out on called third strike for the second out.
  • Fourth inning, runners on second and third, two out, pitching change:  swinging strike, ball in dirt, swinging strike, strike out on called third strike to end the inning.
  • Sixth inning, runner on third, two out, pitching change:  ball, hard ground out to shortstop to end the inning.
  • Eighth inning, runners on first and second, two out:  ball in dirt, foul, ground out pitcher to first to end the inning.


  • Dominican Republic 3, Mexico 2 – Dominicana score a run in the 8th and two in the 9th to overcome Mexico’s early lead and walk-off with the win.  Mexico commited 6 errors in the game.  Franco played first and batted third.  He went 0 for 5 with 2 strike outs and stranded 6 runners.
  • First inning, runner on third, one out:  ball, ball in dirt, swinging strike, ball, pop out to second baseman, two out.
  • Third inning, nobody on, one out:  ball, swinging strike, ball, fly out to center fielder, two out.
  • Fifth inning, runners on second and third, two out:  called strike, swinging strike, strike out swinging to end the inning. (Note: the previous two batters had also struck out after the runners advanced on an errant pickoff attempt at second.)
  • Eighth inning, runner on first, nobody out:  ball, ball, foul, pick off attempt, called strike, reaches base on a fielding error by the third baseman, two on nobody out.  (This could have been scored a hit,  Franco topped it down the line and the defender had to charge to make a play.  As slow as Franco is reputed to be, I think his reputation cost him a hit here.)
  • Ninth inning, runners on first and third, one out, tying run already scored:  ball, foul, ball, foul, ball, strike out swinging as runner steals second on the 3-2 pitch.


  • Dominican Republic 2, Puerto Rico 3 – Dominicana had clinched home team for the 2 vs. 3 game by virtue of their win over Mexico, and Puerto Rico had been eliminated because of their heads-up loss to Cuba.  Puerto Rico was the winless host team against an opponent who had nothing to gain with a win.  The result was not a surprise.  Franco played third and batted sixth.  He went 2 for 4 with a home run, RBI single, run scored, and 2 game-tying RBIs.  He struck out once and stranded one base runner.
  • Second inning, nobody on, one out:  first-pitch pop up to first baseman in foul territory.
  • Fifth inning, nobody on, one out:  first pitch home run 6 rows deep into the left field bleachers on a 91 mph fastball that sunk late into his happy zone and he connected.
  • Seventh inning, runner on second, two out, pitching change:  ball, ball in dirt, called strike, called strike, strike out on called third strike to end the inning.
  • Ninth inning, runner on second, two out: runner balked over to third before first pitch, first pitch game-tying, RBI, soft single to left field.  He successfully stole second during the next at bat.

Final Standings after the round robin games –

  • Venezuela        4     0
  • Dom. Rep.        2     2
  • Mexico               2     2
  • Cuba                  1     3
  • Puerto Rico     1     3


  • Dominican Republic 4, Mexico 5 – Franco played first and batted third. He went 2 for 4 with a single, double and stranded 2 runners.  Dominicana fell behind 5-0 before mounting a comeback that fell a run short.  Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Gigantes put the tying runs on second and third with nobody out.  A ground out to the right side, closed the gap to one and put the tying run on third (with Franco only 3 batters away.)  The game ended with Franco in the on deck circle.
  • First inning, runner on first, one out: foul, ground ball to second baseman, double play (second to short to first) to end the inning.
  • Fourth inning, leading off:  hard hit, first-pitch double to center field.  He was stranded at second.  (I have read countless reports about Franco’s arm bar swing and how it will affect his ability to adjust to pitches during his swing.  On this pitch, he was able to make a noticeable adjustment.  As the ball moved in on him, he cleared his front shoulder, got the barrel of the bat on the ball, and was able to generate enough force to drive the ball where the center fielder couldn’t catch up to it.  Not bad for ABS.)
  • Sixth inning, runner on first, one out:  after a pickoff attempt, first-pitch pop to shallow center that the second baseman caught over his shoulder with his back to the infield for the second out.
  • Eighth inning, runner on first, one out, pitching change: called strike, ball, foul, sharply hit ground single through the hole on the left side for a single.  (I noticed on more than one occasion that Franco is not above exhorting his less demonstrative teammates.  It’s nice to see that type of leadership skill in a young player.)

Franco rebounded from a slow start (1 for 16, .063) to finish 5 for 23 (.217).  He scored a run, had 2 RBIs (both game-tying), a home run and a double.  He stranded 21 runners, had 0 walks, and struck out 6 times.

I have two obserations.  First, It seems that when Franco experiences any sort of string of bad outcomes at the plate, he pulls himself out of the funk by attacking pitches early in the count.  Second, it seemed there was a high frequency of pitching changes before Franco came to bat.  In one game, it looked like it was the game plan to disrupt Franco at the plate whenever possible.  Against Venezuela, he faced five different pitchers, three pitching changes occured prior to his at bats.  On two other occasions pitching changes were made before his at bats.    Small sample, I know, but both of the above statements were easy to notice.

32 thoughts on “Winter Ball Round Up; Feb. 2 – Fini

  1. Interestingly, Franco in the 3-hole must be considered the best batter on the team. Usually three hole hitters get that label. For a guy that young with the many veteran players on his team, that is pretty noteworthy. This off-season winter experience has him around 200 PAs which can only help when he gets to LHV again.

  2. Cozens came on strong at the end and with 8 HRs showed some good pop down-under.
    He could be in for a big power surge at CLW this season…looking forward to that.

    1. Cozens will be a unanimous top 10 prospect at this time next season. If both Franco and Nola both disqualify themselves as prospects, I’d wager Cozens can make it as high as 5th in our post-season consensus poll. No joke. Romus – where’d you rank Cozens? I had him 6th

      1. Steve….8th…the two of the three new pitchers pushed him down.
        I can’t wait to see how he does at Bright House this summer.
        Can you imagine if he really comes on at CLW, he could also get a mid-summer promo to Reading.
        Hope abounds.

  3. I wish Phillies would sign Dayan Viciedo a young power right handed bat. Sign him to a 2 yr deal with incentives.

    1. Absolutely. Low risk – you can waive him at the end of spring if you’d like. He could also have the kind of year which can make him an asset come trade deadline. I’m surprised he hasn;t landed anywhere yet, but I suspect he’s the one delaying a signing as we scrutinizes his landing spot towards one with the most available playing time. The Phillies can offer that, even if only to the tune of 300-400 PAs.

      Then go sign Beachy

    2. Defensively in LF, the Tank cannot be much worse then what we have seen out there in the last few years……or decades for that matter.
      But it sure is crazy scary….Viciedo, LF, Ben Revere, CF and Dom Brown, RF.
      That could very well be a collective negative 15 UZR.

  4. If Cozens, Pujols and Cord Sandberg take steps forward this season, the Phillies farm system will get much better reviews in the national media. I just don’t think things are as bad as they are being portrayed by some of the publications.

  5. Viciedo would be a nice gamble. Just close your eyes every time a ball is hit in the outfield . Nevertheless, a good low risk, low cost signing .

  6. I wonder if having Juan Samuel as a coach will help Franco. Sammy was one of the best athletes that I have seen in a Phillies uniform. His triples into the corners at Vet Stadium were jaw dropping ….almost as good as Bull Blasts. But Sammy’s downfalls were his complete inability to adjust to off speed pitching and his lack of having any sense of the strike zone. These two flaws reduced him to a slightly above journey man player. Franco has these same two flaws–at least from the small sample he showed last September. Hopefully, Sammy can stress the importance off parking on those 2 aspects of his offensive game.

    1. Speaking of a Sammy…if there is one I think Franco can comp to offensively may be Sammy Sosa …pre-1995 before the PEDS.
      Franco could be that 265/340 guy with 25/30 HRs….but if he stays at third with good defense then I can live with it.

      1. Man, Franco is such a different athlete than Sosa was. When I think of Franco, I think of a less fast (and less talented) Adrian Beltre or Aramis Ramirez. If Franco does what we hope he can do, I think he will be similar to Ramirez, which is to say, one of hell of player – a solid first division regular and perhaps occasional all-star. I’d take that in a heart beat. But Franco has to show that he can hit or fight off tough breaking pitches and he can’t get too heavy so that he has to move off third. But he has the same kind of thunder in his bat that Ramirez has – it’s a gift; you can’t teach it and not many players have it – true, in-game 65+ power. And having watched him play third for a month, I was actually very encouraged by his defense. Maybe he’s not very fast, but he has tremendous hand-eye coordination, a gun for an arm and a feel for that position that, again, you cannot really teach – some guys can do it and some guys (a lot of guys actually) cannot.

        1. I agree catch. I’ve often compared Franco’s upside with Aram. I don’t think the BA will be there for Franco immediately. But if he flirts with .260 to go along with 20+ homers he’ll be a great boost for the organization. I also think he’s a bit underrated by the prospecting community right now.

        2. catch agree with Ramirez or Beltre, but threw in the offensive side of Sosa since they have some similar peripherals. Someone like Beltre had some great MiLB stats. Not sure it would be fair to Franco to comp his current stats with Beltre’s

          1. Beltre was fast and probably is faster, but two years ago Franco had monster year in low A and AA , probably as good as any of Beltre’s minor league years, minus the walks and steals of course

            1. Well, there’s the walks and steals, you’re right, but one of the biggest differences is that Adrian Beltre had his monster minor league seasons when he was 18 and 19 years old – by the time he was 20 (the age at which Franco had his minor league breakout year), Beltre was a major leaguer. In terms of significant, the age differences are monumental in terms of how one projects a prospect. Beltre had the minor league stats and advanced play of a potential Hall of Famer (or at least perennial All-Star), which is what he has turned out to be (going in his age 36 year, Beltre already has 77.8 WAR – even if he did essentially nothing further, he should go into the Hall of Fame).

  7. Players like Franco and Grullon are why I don’t think the Phillies are players in the Moncada sweepstakes. They would rather divide that money into several players than tie it up into one. I can certainly understand the rationale behind that philosophy–signing players is a numbers game.

    1. This is why I think they are not in the sweepstakes as well. $80 million is a lot to spend on an unknown player when you can spread out the money over many players.

      Good scouting will allow you to get a better long-run return on your investment.

      1. $80M may be too much.
        Perhaps they will offer some thing a lot less and hope for D-Back result, as they did with Tomas.
        How low we you go?
        I would offer $20/25M bonus, ($20/25M penalty) and see what comes about.

        1. I don’t know the pipeline but if they have a number of high value prospects it would push my offer lower.

          There is a give and take here. If you have a good development pipeline you are less likely to go all in on one guy.

          If your pipeline is weak then it makes sense.

          Hard to say for me. I cannot put a hard number on what I would do but it would be nowhere near $40 million pretax.

    2. They are comparing Moncada to Cano. I can only dream on an infield with Crawford, Moncada, and Franco for a number of years. Pipe dream mind you, but a dream nonetheless.

      1. I mean…He has a fastball that’s 92-94, two other plus pitches and plus command. I would say his absolute ceiling is a 1.

  8. Great to see Pointer play well in playoffs. He went 3-7 in the semi finals and in championship was Perth’s hottest hitter. All the games were on MLB tv, he smashed a long home run in game 2 along with 3 walks and in final games he had 3 hits with a double. Kid looked really good. He finished season with 5 home runs. Maybe a good upcoming year in AA for the 23 yr old.

    1. He’s another nice kid to watch. I enjoyed his time in Clearwater last year. He’ll need to cut down on his Ks going forward. He doesn’t hit enough home runs to make his K rate acceptable.

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