All posts by Kirsten Karbach

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.

Best Tools: 2016 Clearwater Threshers

Hey guys, I am Kirsten Karbach, play-by-play broadcaster for the Clearwater Threshers. I look forward to contributing some of my thoughts on Threshers baseball here on Phuture Phillies, and would love to hear any suggestions you may have for future articles. My thanks to Jim Peyton for welcoming me aboard.

To kick things off – a look at my picks for “Best tools” amongst Threshers players in 2016.

 

Best Fastball: Victor Arano
Sits mid-90’s out of the bullpen, frequently hit 97-98.

Best Breaking Ball: Drew Anderson
Good break and good command, even when he didn’t have his best stuff he was still able to use it effectively to keep guys off balance.

Best Changeup: Will Morris
Not many guys at this level relied a ton on their changeups, but Morris mixed his low-80’s change well with a low-90’s fastball and used it as a put-away pitch.

Best Control: Tyler Viza
Viza – who throws five pitches (fastball, cutter, slider, curve, changeup) – walked only eight batters total in nine starts for Clearwater. His K to BB was nearly seven in 49.2 innings with the Threshers.

Best Speed/Baserunning: Scott Kingery
Kingery by far led the team with 26 stolen bases, and was successful 83.9% of the time. In his two-year career, Kingery is 41-of-49 (83.7%) in stolen base attempts.

Best Strikezone Discipline: Chace Numata
Numata struck out just 41 times in 94 games, while his 37 walks were third-most on the team. Had he amassed enough plate appearances to qualify, Numata would have led the league in plate appearances per strikeout ratio at 9.00. The leading qualifier was Kevin Taylor of St. Lucie, at 8.44 TPA/SO.

Best Power Hitter: Kyle Martin
Martin slammed 19 home runs, which tied Art Charles for the highest single-season mark by a Thresher, and tied for fourth-most all-time by any Clearwater batter.

Best Outfield Arm: Carlos Tocci
More for accuracy than for strength. Tocci generally shows very good awareness and led the team with nine outfield assists, good for fourth-most in the FSL.

Best Defender: Kyle Martin
Martin broke the FSL record for consecutive games without committing an error (95) at first base, and tied the mark for highest fielding percentage on record for FSL first basemen (.998). He did not commit an error until August 25 – on a wind-blown, dropped popper behind first base – and fell just nine games short of becoming the only FSL first baseman on record to turn in an errorless full season.

Under the Radar Prospect: Drew Anderson

Anderson returned from Tommy John Surgery this year to make seven strong starts in Lakewood, before debuting with four no-hit innings in Clearwater’s combined no-no over St. Lucie on July 10th.

The right-hander showcased some of the best stuff of any Clearwater arm in 2016. His fastball – which sits 92-95 and hit as high as 97 mph – and curveball are both big-league caliber pitches. Anderson also has a slider and a changeup but threw them rarely because he simply did not need them to be successful in the Florida State League. Anderson is still just 22 years old, and the development of at least one of those offerings as well as his ability to stay healthy will key his rise as a prospect moving forward.