Minor league baseball is prepared to continue after a hiatus in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2019, there have been some changes to minor league baseball. MLB used the considerable leverage granted by antitrust immunity to force all of professional baseball under its umbrella of control. First, MLB squeezed out MiLB leadership and put control of minor league baseball under the commissioner. Second, MLB exerted its will on minor league owners and dropped 40 or more teams from major league affiliations. Third, MLB restructured the minors in a way that suited MLB. And, fourth, MLB created partner leagues to soften the blow to contracted teams, those deemed to have inadequate facilities or to be geographically undesirable.
This means that Clearwater is no longer High-A nor in the Florida State League. Clearwater was relegated to Low-A and is now in the Low-A Southeast League.
Low-A was formerly the designation for short-season baseball. And A-ball was a full-season league. Now, Low-A will be a combination of both. It is the first rung of the ladder above Complex Level (rookie level) ball, but will be a full-season league. Low-A will play 120 games just as all levels will play this season. But, will return to a full schedule next season, pandemic protocols permitting.
Clearwater has used a 15-second pitch clock for the past several years. I’ve been told they will continue to do so. In addition, the league will test two new rules – the limit of two pickoff attempts per plate appearance, and the automatic ball-strike system (ABS). (I’m not sure about the clock. MLB announced it is introducing the clock to Low-A West only, so either they forgot the clock was already in use in the FSL or they intend to remove the clock from Low-A Southeast, the old FSL.)
Anyway, here are your 2021 Clearwater Threshers.
Abrahan Gutierrez was originally signed as an international free agent by the Braves as a 16-year-old on July 2, 2016 out of Venezuela. He was one of several players who were granted free agency when the Atlanta Braves were found to have violated international free agency signing rules. He was signed by the Phillies on March 6, 2018. He was born on October 31, 1999 and is R/R, 6’2, 214 lbs.
Gutierrez did not play the summer he was signed. He made his professional debut in 2017 with the GCL Braves (.264/.319/.357/.676 in 141 plate appearances and threw out 38% of base stealers). After signing with the Phillies, Gutierrez repeated GCL in 2018 as an 18-year-old with Phillies West (.315/.363/.407/.769 in 177 plate appearances and threw out 21% of base stealers).
Gutierrez jumped to Lakewood in 2018 (.246/.314/.318/.632 in 322 plate appearances and threw out 30% of base stealers). Most notable was his spike in strike outs. In his GCL seasons, Gutierrez struck out 14.9% (2017) and 9.0% (2018). In Lakewood, he struck out 19.3%, respectable, not alarming, but noteworthy. His walk rates in his first three seasons were 7.1%, 5.5%, and 8.7%.
Gutierrez possesses some power with 6 HRs, 4 with Lakewood. He also hit a grand slam during 2020 spring training with the Phillies.
Christopher Burke has not played professionally in the United States. He was signed by the Phillies on November 28, 2018. The 19-year-old is from Australia and has played for the ABL Melbourne Aces the last four years, getting regular playing time the past two seasons. He only caught 5 games for the Aces in 2020. The catching duties were split between an Aussie and an American from the Red Sox system.
Luis Garcia started at Lakewood in 2019 and struggled at the plate. But, his assignment was part of a two-year plan. It was always anticipated that he would repeat Lakewood. If he forced his way onto Clearwater’s 2020 roster … great. But, his having to repeat was never considered a failure. He got a year’s experience at full-season ball at a young age plus he spent considerable time in 2021 major league spring training.
The 20-year-old possesses an above average glove. We hope that with age and experience he can hit much better than his Lakewood .186/.261/.255/.516 and more like his GCL .369/.433/.488/.921.
Edgar Made is a 21-year-old who can play multiple infield positions. Primarily a middle infielder, he signed as a 16-year-old and progressed steadily from the DSL in 2017 to Williamsport in 2019. After the college draft, his light hitting forced a return to the GCL in where he hit .333/.391/.509/.900.
Casey Martin was the Phillies’ third round selection in the 2020 Amateur Draft. The 22-year-old has not played professionally, yet.
Martin batted .508 as a high school junior and also compiled a 0.70 ERA and struck out 18 batters in 10 innings pitched. He garnered several All-State Awards as well as the Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year Award for 2018.
As a freshman at Arkansas (playing mostly 3B), he hit a team-high .345 with 13 HR and 49 RBI in 627 games. He was selected All-SEC Second Team, SEC All-Freshman Team, NCBWA First Team Freshman All-American, and Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American.
As a sophomore, he hit .286 with 15 HR and 57 RBI while starting all 66 games at SS. He was selected All-SEC Second Team, Golden Spikes Award Watch List, and Preseason All-SEC First Team.
As a junior, he entered the season on the Preseason Golden Spikes Watch List and as a preseason All-American honoree (on 5 different outlets). He hit .271 in a Covid-19 shortened 59 at bats.
DJ Stewart is a 22-year-old corner infielder. He was signed in 2017 out of high school where he excelled as a pitcher. He played at Low-A Williamsport in 2019 where he slashed .264/.321/.368/.689. He has one career HR as a professional, hit during his first GCL season.
Nicolas Torres was signed as a 16-year-old in 2016 but wasn’t placed on a roster until 2017. He hit over .300 in the DSL (2017) and GCL (2018) before arriving and sticking in Williamsport in 2019 where he slashed .260/.323/.287/.610 as a 19-year-old. He plays both middle infield positions.
Rixon Wingrove is a 20-year-old Australian signed by the Phillies when he was 17 in 2017. Signed as a catcher, the big fellow (6’5, 260) was summarily moved to first base before the GCL season started. He spent two years in the GCL, hitting .298/.374/.500/.874 with 5 HR and 37 RBI in 2019. He spent the last two seasons playing winter ball in the ABL for Adelaide (and the prior two with Sydney). He hit 7 HR last season for Adelaide in 77 plate appearances. He has a lot of personality if you can get through his thick Aussie accent.
Hunter Markwardt was the Phillies 13th round pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft out of Oklahoma Christian. He hit .351 and .372 in his two years at OC. He continued to hit in his first professional season in Williamsport (.306/.324/.355/.678). He plays all 3 outfield positions but spent almost all of his college career in centerfield.
Ben Pelletier was signed by the Phillies as an international free agent in 2015 while he was still in high school in Canada. The 22-year-old saw time in all three outfield positions in 2019 with Lakewood. A promising hitter in his second GCL season (.333 with 3 HR in 2017) and in Williamsport (.277/.333/.480/.835 with 9HR in 2018), he fell off to a .197/.275/.350/.625 in Lakewood in 2019.
Johan Rojas was signed as an international free agent in 2018 and made an immediate impact in the DSL hitting .320/.376/.421/.797 as a 17-year-old. He had a similar impact in 2018 in the GCL (.311/.393/.527/.920 with 5 triples) before being promoted to Williamsport (.244/.273/.384/.657 with 6 triples and 2 HR). He led both the GCL and NYPL in triples. He is a speedy centerfielder with a plus glove.
Corbin Williams was the Phillies 24th round pick in 2018 out of Junior College. He slashed .289/.348/.325/.673 in his first professional season in the GCL. As a 21-year-old he slipped to .220/.302/.250/.552 in Williamsport. He is a good glove centerfielder with plus-plus speed. He stole 30 bases in 36 attempts in Williamsport. I’ve seen him steal several bases this spring on the first pitch once he reaches first base. Therein lies his problem, he can’t steal first base.
Mick Abel was the Phillies 1st round pick in 2020 out of Jesuit High School (OR). He was MLB Pipeline’s No. 11 Draft prospect. An MLB write up said that he had been throwing bullpens during the pandemic shutdown of Oregon baseball. Some were caught by 2019 overall #1 pick Adley Rutschman (Oregon State, Orioles) who told Baseball America that he couldn’t believe the pitches he caught came from a high school pitcher, and that “you rarely see an arm that good,” adding that Abel’s repertoire is “electric” and “smooth.”
Tyler Adams is a LHP drafted in the 27th round of the 2019 draft out of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He went 3-2 as a junior and struck out 38 batters in 27.1 innings (12.5 K/9). The 23-year-old showed a lively arm in the GCL with a 90-93 mph fastball in 13 appearances. He struck out batters at a 7.2 K/9, but needs to improve on his 7.7 BB/9. (Note: in college he also played the field when he wasn’t pitching, so it will be interesting to see if focusing on pitching accelerates improvement with his control.)
Tyler Burch is a RHP signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2019 out of Lewis-Clark State College (ID). As a junior, he made 15 starts and posted a 10-2, 2.87 in 84.2 innings while striking out 79 batters. Among honors received – NAIA Honorable Mention All-American, NAIA West Pitcher of the Year, All-NAIA West Team. As a senior, he made 13 starts and posted a 6-2, 3.16 in 74.0 innings while walking 15 and striking out 64 batters. Among honors received – Avista NAIA World Series Team, NAIA West co-Pitcher of the Year, All-NAIA West Team, NAIA West Gold Glove. The 21-year-old RHP made just one appearance in the GCL before being assigned to Williamsport. At Williamsport, he went 4-1, 1.56 in 11 appearances with 4 starts and a save. He walked 6 (1.6 BB/9) and struck out 32 (8.3 K/9) in 34.2 innings. He maintained a low 90s fastball at 91-93 mph in Williamsport.
Dylan Castaneda is a RHP drafted in the 30th round of the 2019 draft out of Salisbury Prep. As a 17-year-old, Castaneda pitched 10 innings in 2019 in the GCL. He had a 2.70 ERA with 12 strikeouts, but 9 walks and 3 hit batters.
Starlyn Castillo is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2018. He wasn’t placed on a roster until 2019 when he pitched 9.1 innings. He had 10 strikeouts and 8 walks.
Castillo made just five appearances as a 17-year-old but exhibited a composure that far exceeded his young age. In his third appearance, he pitched the second, third, and fourth innings of a no hitter. He had a low-to-mid 90s fastball that he complemented with promising secondary pitches.
Castillo was one of the top players to come out of the 2018 international signing period (8th by MLB, 16th by Baseball America). As a 16-year-old, he showed a 93-97 mph fastball, a power slider with plus potential, and a developing change up. As with most young pitchers, scouts noted his inconsistencies with his secondary pitches and his command. They were also concerned about his weight. At worst, he was seen as having a future in the bullpen.
I saw Castillo pitch in XST, in his two home GCL appearances, and in 2019 Instructs. I didn’t check for velocity during XST and Instructs, but he was 92-94 in his third GCL appearance. His slider was 87 and his change up was 81-83. I was impressed with his poise and composure. So much so that I even forgot he was just 17-years-old. He was coming off of a finger injury, so you have to consider that when examining his pitching on such a small sample.
Christian Hernandez is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2017. He wasn’t placed on a roster until 2018 when he started in the DSL. He posted a 2.57 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 10 walks in 63.0 innings. He didn’t pitch in 2019.
Nick Lackney is a LHP drafted in the 18th round of the 2019 draft out of Minnesota. In his senior year, Lackney posted a 2.38 ERA and 53.0 innings, mostly in relief. He struck out 49 and walked 23 batters. In 7.2 GCL innings in 2019, Lackney walked 7 and struck out four.
Fernando Lozano is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2019. Lozano posted a 1.99 ERA and 5-0 record in the GCL. In 31.2 innings, he struck out 31 and walked 6 batters. Lozano has pitched on the Mexican League during the offseason. He posted a 1.83 ERA this past winter and a 3-0 record. He posted a 3.10 ERA in 2019 in Williamsport and struck out 35 and walked 12 in 29.0 innings.
Alejandro Made is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2017. After limited action in the DSL in 2017, Made came stateside in 2018. He posted a 4-2, 2.66 in the GCL with 25 strikeouts and 9 walks in 23.2 innings.
Rafael Marcano is a LHP signed as an international free agent in 2018. He went 1-0, 1.35 in 9 DSL appearances in 2018, striking out 11 batters in 13.1 innings (7.4 K/9). In 2019, he posted a 4.34 in 23.1 innings in the GCL. He walked 7 and struck out 24 for a 2.7 BB/9 and a 9.3 K/9. He throws his fastball 91-92 mph and his curveball 76-78 mph. He improved his BB9 from 4.1 in ’18 to 2.7 and his K9 from 7.4 to 9.3.
Jordi Martinez is a LHP signed as an international free agent in 2018. In 14 appearances (10 starts) that summer, he went 1-4, 5.44 in 41.1 innings. He struck out 37 batters (8.1 K/9). He posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.167 WHIP in 12.0 innings in the GCL. He walked 5 and struck out 13 for a 3.8 BB/9 and a 9.8 K/9. He throws his fastball 92-94 mph and throws a slider at 84-86 mph.
Gunner Mayer is a RHP drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 draft out of San Joaquin Delta College (CA). In his only year at SJDC, Mayer went 0-1, 4.78 with 1 save in 25 appearances. He struck out 48 batters in 37.2 innings. After signing with the Phillies, the 18-year-old RHP made 4 appearances before being shut down in mid-July, 2019. He posted a 5.40 ERA, 1.320 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and 10.8 K/9 in 8.1 innings (3 walks, 10 K). He showed an effortless, low 90s fastball (90-92 mph) with the promise of more velocity (maybe much more), a 76-78 mph curveball, and change up in the low 80s.
Carlo Reyes is a RHP signed as an international free agent in late 2018. He debuted in the DSL in 2019 and posted a 4-2 record and 2,45 ERA. In 62.1 innings, he walked 13 and struck out 72 batters.
Rodolfo Sanchez is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2017 by the Tampa Bay Rays. He was traded tothe Phillies in November 2020. In his 3 seasons in the Rays’ organization, he has struck out just under one batter per inning.
Eduar Segovia is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2018. He posted a 1-2, 0.59 in the DSL in 10 appearances. He struck out 18 batters in 15.1 innings (10.6 K/9). In 2019, he posted a 2.43 ERA and 0.843 WHIP in 10 appearances, 9 of them starts. He walked 10 and struck out a team-high 39 batters for a 3.0 BB/9 and an 11.8 K/9 in 29.2 innings. His fastball was 91-93 mph, touching 94 mph.
Victor Vargas is a RHP signed as an international free agent in 2017. He debuted in the GCL in 2018 struck out 34 batters in 45.0 innings while walking 11 batters. He began 2019 in the GCLwhere he posted a 1.44 ERA in 25.0 innings, walking 4 and striking out 15 batters. He was promoted to Williamsport and posted a 1.84 ERA with 8 walks and 11 strike outs in 14.2 innings.
JP Woodward is a LHP signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2020. In three years at Lafayette, he struck out 117 batters in 115.1 innings. He was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll three consecutive years.
Gabriel Yanez is a LHP signed as an international free agent in 2017. He pitched just four innings in the DSL in 2017. He came stateside in 2018 and struck out 33 walking just 3 in 35.0 innings. In 2019, he posted a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings striking out 14 and walking 3 batters before being promoted to Williamsport where he posted a 3.32 ERA in 19.0 innings, striking out 16 and walking 5 batters.