Best Tools: 2017 Clearwater Threshers

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.

13 thoughts on “Best Tools: 2017 Clearwater Threshers

  1. Thank you Kirsten for giving us your insights. Most of us, on this site, don’t see these prospects at all until at least AA. Jim provides us his 1st hand comments and they’re tremendous. You’ve added another voice to what Jim provides on a daily basis.

  2. Kirsten…good report.
    Thank you.
    Little surprised about Jan Hernandez’s arm strength.
    I guess as a third baseman it could be camouflaged a bit from the across the diamond throws.
    And I will be interesting in seeing Jacob Waguespack in 2018…..could be a pleasant surprise as a starter in Reading/LHV throwing in the mid-90s. May even be a tick or two higher with a complete off-season regiment dedicated to starting now.

    1. That’s an interesting one too. Randolph by far drew the most walks, but also averaged a strikeout per game. I’d go with Tomscha, he consistently had good at-bats and actually finished third on the team in walks despite only playing half the year in Clearwater. Also only struck out 38 times in 57 games.

      1. Thanks Kristen! Tomscha has been a bit under my radar, but he certainly seems to have pretty good plate discipline.

        I was looking at Clearwater’s stats, and it looks like everyone is trying to hit their way out of Florida (which shortstop in the 80s said that you don’t walk out of the Dominican Republic?). Not a lot of BBs on that team.

        Jeff

  3. Meh. Let me revise my comment. I should’ve said something like “One tool that I’d like to see ranked.”

    Great writeup, Kristen

  4. Kirsten – I like your name. (I think I already said this before). Nice write up although it will be nice to know who has the best SL and CB rather than combine both in the breaking ball category.

    I think high on Edgar Garcia and he is my breakout prospect this year. Although I’m starting to see that he will end up in the pen with a mid-90s FB paired with his wipe out SL.

    1. I like the idea of separating the two.. the best curveball might be McKenzie Mills. He only made three starts but it looked like a pretty good pitch in the low 80’s, good movement, more slurve than 12-6.

  5. Kirsten – you see these guys all season, plus I know you also watch them in spring training because we met there and talked in March, and you seem to have a very educated eye – how many future major leaguers did you watch this year? Also, what % likelihood would you put in Randolph becoming the 300 hitter the Phillies envision? Thanks and enjoy the offseason.

    1. I honestly think at least half the guys who saw time on the mound for Clearwater this year have a good shot at pitching in the big leagues, it was hands-down the best staff I’ve seen in my five years here. I see guys like Sixto, Kilome, Irvin, Romero, Waguespack, and Dominguez with a shot to make an impact. Garcia, Davis, Hammer, Singer and others I can see as big league relievers. Offensively there are a few I think could make it in some role, but harder to see as everyday lineup guys. I think next year is key for Randolph, he did make a lot of progress this year in becoming more of the hitter they want to see, although it didn’t necessarily show statistically yet. I think it will, though not necessarily as a .300 hitter, maybe more .260-.270 with pop.

      1. Thanks, I agree with your pitching observations, we did run lots of good prospects through there this year. Next year should be good also. Randolph may be the only offensive player with a shot to make it but 260 with 20 homers (with little speed and an average glove at best) won’t make it happen. He needs to do more than that. Possible? We’ll see

  6. In my opinion, Waguespack is not only the most under-the-radar prospect in Clearwater, he’s the top under-the-radar prospect in our whole system. I give him a decent chance of ending next year in Philadelphia.

  7. Harold Arauz has the best CB in Clearwater. If you think about, with only a 88mph cut FB, he managed go strike out a ton of hitters with his CB.

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