2018 Gulf Coast Phillies Recap, Part One (East)

The Gulf Coast League is a rookie level league in central and southern Florida.  It is comprised of 18 teams in 4 divisions and represents 15 organizations – Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, New York (AL), New York (NL), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa, Toronto, and Washington.  In recent years, the GCL Phillies have done very well.  The 2016 Phillies posted a league best 43-15 record, finished first in the Northwest Division, won a one-game semifinal playoff game, and lost the championship series two games to one.  The 2017 Phillies again posted a league best 36-22 record, finished first in the Northwest Division, and dropped the one-game semifinal game to the eventual league champion.

In 2018, the Phillies became the third organization to sponsor a second team in the GCL.  Their GCL Phillies with manager Roly de Armas became the GCL Phillies East.  Nelson Prada took over management of the new GCL Phillies West.

This was my seventh summer watching future, hopeful contributors to the Philadelphia Phillies begin their stateside odyssey through one of America’s last bastions of indentured servitude, Major League Baseball’s minor league system.

I spend a lot of time watching Phillies’ prospects as they pass through Clearwater.  One of the things I have learned, and it is something that I hope others will consider, is that the Gulf Coast League is a rookie league where the indoctrination of young men into their chosen profession of baseball and the development of their talents are more important that the results on a score board or in a box score.

Gulf Coast Phillies East

The GCL Phillies East posted a 30-24 record and finished first in the Northeast division under manager Roly de Armas.  A 19-9 stretch through a 5-week period in mid-season provided the Phillies with the lead they would ride to the division title.  They were eliminated in a semifinal loss.  In addition to de Armas, the staff included hitting coach Rafael Delima, pitching coach Hector Mercado, and coach Charlie Hayes.

There are 34 players on the team’s active roster but including promoted players and rehab assignments as many as 58 players saw action.  They were a formidable offensive team.  They had the third best batting average (.274), second best slugging percentage (.405), third best on base percentage (.754), and second most HR (37).  They had the third youngest pitching staff, the second fewest walks allowed (149), and the best K/BB (2.85).

Many stood out.  Two were second baseman Nicolas Torres and catcher Juan Aparicio who were named to the GCL Post Season All-Star team.

Starting Pitchers

Victor Santos is an 18-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in November, 2016.  The 2018 season was his second as a professional, his first stateside.  During his 2017 season in the Dominican Summer League, Santos posted a 4-2 record in 12 appearances (9 starts) and a 2.57 ERA.  He struck out 38 and walked 5 in 49.0 innings. In his American debut, Santos posted a 6-1 record in 11 starts and a 3.03 ERA.  He continued to show good command, striking out 65 and walking 4 in 59.1 innings.  He pitched six innings on five occasions. He issued three of his four walks in his third appearance of the season and didn’t walk another batter until his 11th start to end the regular season.  His best outing was a six-inning, two-hitter in which he struck out eleven and walked none on July 28th.  He sported a low 90s fastball and a developing slider and change up.

Dominic Pipkin was the Phillies ninth round pick in the 2018 amateur draft out of Pinole Valley High School (CA).  He made his debut on June 27th and pitched 2.0 scoreless innings, allowing no hits, walking one, and striking out three.  His best outing was a five inning, one-hitter on July 21st where he walked none and struck out five.  Pipken is a 6’4, right-handed pitcher who made 10 appearances, 8 of which were starts.  He posted a 1-2 record and 3.64 ERA.  He struck out 18 and walked 8 in 29.2 innings.

Jonas De La Cruz is a 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher signed by the Phillies as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in September, 2016.  He recorded a 5-6 record and 3.71 ERA during the 2017 Dominican Summer League season.  He struck out 60 and walked 33 in 63.0 innings, 15 appearances/14 starts. He made 10 appearances/6 starts during his stateside debut with the 2018 Phillies.  He posted a 5-2 record and 4.46 ERA.  He struck out 31 and walked 19 in 34.1 innings.  He’ll need to improve on his 5.0 BB/9.

Carlos Francisco is a 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in April, 2017.  He was immediately assigned to the Dominican Summer League.  Francisco suffered a 1-5 record but posted a 2.70 ERA.  He struck out 41 and walked 20 in 50.0 innings.  Stateside for the 2018 Phillies, he posted a 2-4 record and 6.51 ERA.  He walked 18 in 37.1 innings but struck out 41 for a 9.9 K/9.  He has a low 90s fastball.

Gabriel Cotto is an 18-year-old, left-handed pitcher the Phillies selected in the seventh round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. The slightly built Cottto (he’s 6’5, 175) shows promise.  The Phillies brought him along slowly, two and three inning appearances after a disastrous first start where he hit three batters in one-third of an inning.  He showed poise and progressed well enough until another rough outing near the end of the season.  He’ll need to work on his command.  Although he struck out 15 batters in 15.1 innings, he also walked 16 batters and hit six with pitches.

Relief Pitchers

Bailey Cummings is a 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies selected in the 29th round of the 2017 Amateur Draft out of San Jacinto North Junior College (TX).  He was limited to 2.2 innings in August of his draft year, but excelled as a high leverage reliever in 2018.  He went 2-2 with a 1.88 ERA and collected 2 saves.  In 24.0 innings, he walked 6 (2.3 BB/9) and struck out 31 (11.6 K/9).  He has a sub-90s fastball and a curve ball.

Gabriel Yanez is a 19-year-old, left-handed pitcher the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela on January 12, 2017.  He threw just 4.0 innings for his DSL team in 2017, but was still brought stateside to pitch in the GCL in 2018.  He had a 6.43 ERA in 35.0 innings, but struck out 33 (8.5 K/9) and walked 3 (0.8 K/9.  He made 3 starts and 12 relief appearances.  He didn’t record a win or a loss, but managed 2 saves in 2 save opportunities.

Alejandro Made is a 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2017.  After just 6.0 innings for his 2017 DSL team, he was brought to Florida to pitch for the Phillies in the 2018 GCL season.  He posted a 4-2 record and 2.66 ERA in 14 relief appearances.  He struck out 25 in 23.2 innings (9.5 K/9) and walked 9 (3.4 BB/9).  He has a low to mid 90s fastball.

Brian Auerbach is a 22-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Rollins College on June 18, 2018.  The Dunedin, Florida native posted a 2-0 record and 1.59 ERA in 13 relief appearances.  In 22.2 innings, he struck out 19 (7.5 K/9) and walked just 4 (1.6 BB/9).

Mark Potter is a 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies selected in the 19th round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of Jacksonville University (FL).  He posted a 1-0 record and 1.96 ERA in 11 relief appearances.  He struck out 4 in 23.0 innings (1.6 BB/9) and struck out 13 (5.1 K/9) while posting a 0.957WHIP.

Eric White is a 22-year-old, right-handed pitcher selected by the Phillies in the 26th round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of Dallas Baptist University (TX).  He posted a 1-0 record and 0.82 ERA in six appearances.  In 11.0 innings, he walked one (0.8 BB/9) and struck out 7 (5.7 K/9) while posting a 0.818 WHIP.  He has a low 90s fastball.

Taylor Lehman is a 22-year-old, left handed pitcher the Phillies signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Penn State University on June 18, 2018.  He posted a 0-1 record with a 7.02 ERA.  In 16.2 innings, he struck out 17 batters.

Jake Kinney is a 21-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies selected in the 33rd round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of Tallahassee Community College.  He had made a commitment to attend Florida State but the Phillies were able to lure him away with an offer he couldn’t refuse.  He signed late and only made seven appearances.  The big reliever (he’s 6’7, 220) posted a 3.00 ERA in 9.0 innings and struck out eleven.  He held opponents scoreless in his first six appearances.  He had a low to mid 90s fastball.

Justin Miller is a 20-year-old, right-handed pitcher the Phillies selected in the 12th round of the 2016 Amateur Draft out of Central Union High School (CA).  He spent his first two seasons as a reliever, but the Phillies appeared to be stretching him out as a starter in spring training.  He posted a 1-5 record with a 4.50 ERA.  He struck out 27 in 28.0 innings.  He was the victim of some shoddy defense as he was dinged with 13 unearned runs, the first unearned runs of his career.  He had an upper 80s to low 90s fastball and a curve ball.

Middle Infielders

Nicolas Torres played this season as an 18-year-old, right-handed hitting second baseman signed by the Phillies as an international free agent out of Venezuela on July 2, 2016.  He made his debut in the DSL in 2017 and posted a .333 average with 17 extra base hits.  He made his stateside debut this season and started 32 games.  He posted a .302/.340/.396/.736 slash with a HR and 19 RBI.  In 151 plate appearances, he walked 8 times (5.3%) and struck out 27 times (17.9%).  He committed just 3 errors and posted a .977 fielding percentage in 132 total chances.  He was recognized for his accomplishments when he was named to the GCL Post Season All-Star team.

Edgar Made is an 18-year-old, switch hitting second baseman signed by the Phillies as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic on July 8, 2016.  He made his debut in the DSL in 2017 and posted a .242 average with 15 extra base hits.  He made his stateside debut this season.  He posted a slash of  .253/.300/.386/.686  with 2 HR and 15 RBI in 90 plate appearances.

Logan Simmons is an 18-year-old, right-handed hitting shortstop the Phillies selected in the sixth round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of Tattnall Square Academy (GA).  He posted a .232/.345/.400/.745 slash but finished the season strong over his last 12 games, batting .353/.436/.706/1.142 (12 for 34) with 3 HR.

Corner Infielders

Jack Zoellner is a 23-year-old first baseman the Phillies selected in the ninth round of the 2017 Amateur Draft out of the University of New Mexico.  He was placed on the disabled list after being assigned to the Lakewood BlueClaws.  He got a few at bats with the GCL Phillies at the end of the 2017 season.  He returned to the GCL in 2018 and spent the entire season there.  After posting a .240/.364/.422/.786 slash with seven HR, he was traded to Baltimore for cash considerations in the international free agent market.

Jake Holmes is a 20-year-old, right-handed hitting third baseman the Phillies selected in the eleventh round of the 2017 Amateur Draft out of Pinnacle High School (AZ).  Holmes followed a nice 2017 season with an even better 2018 season.  He slashed .353/.395/.534/.930 in 31 games before he was promoted to Low-A Williamsport.  In 129 plate appearances, he had 4 HR, 29 RBI, 10 walks (7.8%), and 19 strike outs (14.7%).  Holmes began his transition from shortstop to third baseman after his 2017 season.

Luke Miller is a 22-year-old, right-handed hitting third baseman the Phillies selected in the 22nd round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of Indiana University.  He posted a .284/.381/.385/.766 slash with 2 HR and 21 RBI. In 126 plate appearances, he walked 17 times (13.5%) and struck out 18 times (14.3%).  He is a versatile who also saw playing time at second base, first base, and all three outfield positions.

Outfielders

Julio Francisco is a 20-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic on September 9, 2016.  He hit .318 for his DSL team in 2017 and earned a trip stateside for the 2018 GCL season.  He slashed .293/.352/.395/.747 in 44 games with 14 steals in 18 attempts. He played 333.2 error-free innings in center field.

James Smith is a 23-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder the Phillies signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Central Washington University on June 1, 2018.  He was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year.  He started slow, not getting his first professional hit until his seventh start, but rode a .346 average over the next 35 games to a final slash of .280/.351/.439/.791 with 3 HR and 22 RBI.  He drew 13 walks (8.7%) and struck out 23 times (15.4%) in 149 plate appearances.  He played all three outfield positions and committed one error in 322.2 innings.

Carlos De La Cruz is an 18-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder (who turned nineteen in October) the Phillies signed as a non-drafted free agent on August 23, 2017.  He began his professional career in 2018 and slashed .284/.345/.459/.805 with 6 HR and 21 RBI.  He did strike out in about 1/3 of his plate 165 appearances.  He started 40 games in right field and missed about two weeks due to an injury that did not result in a trip to the disabled list.  He probably has as much raw power as anyone in the Phillies’ minor league system.

Jose Rivera is a 19-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic on March 16, 2017.  He posted a .277/.353/.347/.699 slash.  He didn’t exhibit much power with just 6 extra base hits, no HR, but showed an ability to get on base with a 10.1 BB/9 (12 walks) and 15.9 K/9 (19 strike outs) in 119 plate appearances.  He was versatile playing second and third bases during the season as well as left field.

Ben Aklinski is a 22-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder the Phillies selected in the 32nd round of the 2018 Amateur draft out of Kentucky University.  He played just 10 games in the outfield (LF-8, CF-1, RF-1) before being promoted to Williamsport.  In 39 plate appearances, he slashed .267/.410/.300/.710 with 8 walks and 3 strike outs.  He had just one extra base hit, but did hit seven at Williamsport.

Catchers

Jack Conley is a 21-year-old, right-handed hitter the Phillies signed as their 27th round draft pick in the 2018 Amateur Draft out of North Carolina State University on June 18, 2018.  He caught 27 games, 17 as a starter.  He posted a .329/447/.461/.907 slash in 94 plate appearances.  He had 2 HR, 11 RBI, 14 BB (14.9%), and 17 K (18.1%).

Carlos Oropeza is a 19-year-old, right-handed hitter the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela on January 28, 2016.  He spent his first two professional seasons playing with the Phillies’ Dominican Summer League teams.  In 2018, he caught 25 games, 18 as a starter.  He posted a .281/.347/.337/.684 slash.  He threw out just 4 of 26 base stealers (15%).  He also saw some action at first base (5 starts).

Juan Aparicio is an 18-year-old, right-handed hitter the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela on July 2, 2016.  He played well enough in his first season in the Dominican Summer League that he was brought stateside for the 2018 GCL season.  He saw action in 24 games, 13 starts.  He posted a .339/.378/.518/.896 slash with 3 HR and 15 RBI.  He threw out 5 of 20 base stealers (20%).  At season’s end, he was recognized for his accomplishments when he was named to the GCL Post Season All-Star team.

Mitchell Edwards is a 19-year-old, switch hitter the Phillies signed as an international free agent out of Australia on June 8, 2018.  He saw limited action in 12 games (5 starts) and posted a .250/.308/.417/.724 slash.  He showed feel for the position and threw out 67% of base stealers (6 of 9).

League Leaders

  • Wins – Second: Victor Santos (6), Third: Jonas De La Cruz (5)
  • Innings Pitched – Second: Victor Santos (59.1)
  • K – Second: Victor Santos (65)

Team Leaders

  • AVG – Nicolas Torres (.302), Julio Francisco (.293), Carlos De La Cruz (.284)
  • Runs -Jack Zoellner (31), Julio Francisco (28), James Smith (27)
  • HR – Jack Zoellner (7), Carlos De La Cruz (6), Jake Holmes (4)
  • RBI – Jake Holmes (29), Jack Zoellner (26), James Smith (22)
  • SB – Julio Francisco (14), Nicolas Torres (7), Jake Holmes (4)
  • Wins – Victor Santos (6), Jonas De La Cruz (5), Alejandro Made (4)
  • Saves – Brian Auerbach (3), Bailey Cummings (2), Gabriel Yanez (2)
  • K – Victor Santos (65), Carlos Francisco (41), Gabriel Yanez (33)
  • ERA – Victor Santos (3.03)
  • WHIP – Victor Santos (1.13)

Next up: 2018 Gulf Coast Phillies Recap, Part Two (West)

 

6 thoughts on “2018 Gulf Coast Phillies Recap, Part One (East)

  1. Jim, did you copy Torres’ stats onto Edgar Made? I think Made had a .253/.300/.386 Triple Slash and had 18 Ks and 4 BBs. I think he made 8 Es while playing 2B, 3B and some LF. Not being critical because this is a great article.

  2. Carlos De La Cruz is also a very big person. At 6’8″ 210 he towers over most other players. GCL pitchers might have been a bit intimidated by him. He has Cozens like power.

    1. Call me cazy … but … Carlos De La Cruz has the highest ceiling in the organization. Give him time to grow into his frame and get adjusted to his long limbs/cavernous strike zone. I’ve got him at #26 in my latest top 50.

  3. “……. begin their stateside odyssey through one of America’s last bastions of indentured servitude…:
    …ain’t that the truth!

  4. Thank you for this recap. As someone who struggles to keep up at this depth of the organization, even struggling to keep up with your daily updates in-season, I really enjoyed reading this. I especially appreciated updates on international free agents about whom I had forgotten, and learning about undrafted free agents within the organization. In the GCL East, amongst the pitchers I can definitely see the organization’s emphasis recently on pitchers who control the strike zone.

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