Reflecting back on the 2017 season, below are my picks for best tools among Clearwater Threshers this year.
Best Fastball: Sixto Sanchez
Sanchez hit triple digits a handful of times across his five starts for Clearwater. His heater easily sits around 97-98 mph, and he gets it over the plate consistently, having walked only 18 batters total this year between Clearwater and Lakewood.
Best Changeup: Jose Taveras
Taveras’ fastball sits around 90 mph, but he kept hitters off-balance with one of the better changeups in the league. While his stuff isn’t flashy, Taveras has found a way to be successful at every level at which he’s played, soaring all the way to Triple-A Lehigh Valley this year. Not only did Taveras reach AAA, he dominated there – posting a 1.32 ERA in seven starts.
Best Breaking Ball: Edgar Garcia
Entering this year, Garcia’s slider was ranked as the best in the Phillies farm system per Baseball America. The 20-year-old had some struggles with consistency, particularly in the later stages of the season, but that slider paired with a low/mid 90’s fastball should keep him on the radar.
Best Control: Cole Irvin
The 23-year-old lefty walked only 14 batters in 67 innings for Clearwater, issuing two walks or less in 10 of his 12 appearances before his promotion to Reading. Irvin, who works with a four-pitch mix plus several variations on the fastball, was a Florida State League All-Star this year and has emerged as one of the top left-handed hurlers in the system.
Best Speed: Zach Coppola
Coppola was one of only four Threshers this year to reach double digits in stolen bases, despite playing in only 45 games before earning a promotion to Reading. Between the two levels, the 23-year-old swiped 39 bags in 54 attempts (72.2% success rate).
Best Hitter for Average: Damek Tomscha
Tomscha provided consistent production from the middle of the order, batting .329 in April, .278 in May, and .308 in June, before a DL stint and a subsequent move up to Reading. Tomscha hit .270 or higher in every month of the season, batting a combined .307 on the year.
Best Outfield Arm: Jan Hernandez
Jose Pujols is a close second; both possess cannons from right, but give the edge to Hernandez for better accuracy. Hernandez started the year as Clearwater’s third baseman, but moved to the outfield in July for the first time in his career. He collected five outfield assists – tied for most on the team – in just 23 games.
Best Raw Power: Jose Pujols
Pujols finished with eight home runs, a year after leading the SAL with 24, but in terms of raw ability and BP display, the power to both fields is unquestionably present.
Best Defender: Mark Laird
Laird was automatic in center for Clearwater this season, recording the first 1.000 fielding percentage among outfielders in the FSL in the last five years (the last to do it was former Thresher Pete Lavin in 2012). Laird, 23, handled 226 total chances flawlessly, and has not committed an error since July 16, 2016 while playing left for the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Under the Radar Prospect: Jacob Waguespack
Waguespack had a breakout year in 2017, culminating in seven innings of one-run, three-hit ball in an elimination game in the International League playoffs. The 23-year-old started the season in the Threshers bullpen but stepped into the rotation for the first time in his career in May, and surrendered two runs or less in each of his first seven starts. He posted a combined 3.42 ERA between Clearwater and Reading this year.
Waguespack was a non-drafted free agent signed out of Ole Miss in 2015. The 6’6” right-hander now features a fastball in the 93-95 mph range as a starter and 95-96 mph from the pen, and a hard, biting cutter in the upper 80’s/low 90’s. Since moving into the rotation he began throwing his changeup and curveball, both of which have shown progress, and implemented a slider midseason.
He has never appeared on a prospect list, and remains under the radar due to the fact he was not drafted and had not started prior to this year. Yet the cutter and mid-90’s fastball alone give him, at the least, a future as a Major League reliever.