Talking Haskell & American Pharoah

August 2nd, 2015

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Today, Monmouth Park hosts the biggest day in New Jersey racing history as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will run in the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational.

Tuesday, July 7th was Monmouth Park night at FirstEnergy Park as we ran the BlueClaws Haskell Preview Race (American Pharoah won as you can see above). We also had Monmouth Park track announcer Frank Mirahmadi on the air with us to talk about the horse, his race-calls of American Pharoah’s races from Oaklawn Park (in Arkansas) over the winter, and more.

It’s the perfect day to dust off this interview. Enjoy!

Click here to listen.

Note: In the photo above, on the left, American Pharoah won our Haskell Preview Race, beating Souper Colossal (who finished 2nd in the West Virginia Derby yesterday) and on the right, Buster lined up early to see American Pharoah. Those Buster Bobble-Bellys will be given to the first 1,500 fans on August 9th (one week from today).

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Twin Rodriguez Brothers Square Off On Mother’s Day

May 17th, 2015

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One downside about being a professional baseball player is spending so much time away from your family, but that wasn’t the case for Herlis and Helmis Rodriguez on Mother’s Day at FirstEnergy Park. In fact, not only were the twin brothers re-united at the stadium, they were re-united on the field.

Herlis, a BlueClaws outfielder and Phillies prospect, and Helmis, an Asheville pitcher and Rockies prospect, squared off three times on Mother’s Day at FirstEnergy Park.

“We were waiting a long time for this, and it was the perfect day – Mother’s Day,” said Herlis.

Unfortunately for Herlis, Helmis got him out all three times, twice on groundouts and once on a strikeout. The twins, from Venezuela, had not faced off against each other outside of an intra-squad game – they had always been on the same team – but both brothers knew this was a possibility from back in April when the rosters were unveiled.

“The first thing I thought was ‘I’m going to face him.’ I talked to the manager (Shawn Williams) and told him that we were going to play my brother.”

For Williams, whose brother Brady manages the Rays Double-A club in Montgomery, it was a no-brainer to play Herlis against his twin, and Williams said he enjoyed watching the two twins square off against each other.

“On Sunday, he beat me three times, but I was happy to face him,” said Herlis.

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We’re Back! Opening Day Game Notes

April 9th, 2015

It’s been a long off-season (the BlueClaws haven’t played since September 1st (220 days) and haven’t played at home in 224 days, but that all changes tonight, as Shawn Williams leads Lakewood into their 15th season here at the Jersey Shore.

RHP Ricardo Pinto gets the ball on Opening Night for the BlueClaws, who will utilize a 6-man starting rotation this year (Pinto, LHP Josh Taylor, RHP Tyler Viza, RHP Ranfi Casimiro, RHP Chris Oliver, and LHP Elniery Garcia).

Tickets – 732-901-7000 opt 2 or here.

Today’s Game Notes (more if you click the link)

Welcome to Opening Day…Welcome to the 15th Opening Day in BlueClaws history as the team kicks off the 2015 season at FirstEnergy Park against Kannapolis (White Sox).

New vs Old…The Phillies played in Kannapolis (as the Piedmont Boll Weevils) prior to the BlueClaws coming into existence in 2001…That year, the Kannapolis franchise changed their name to the Intimidators…The BlueClaws lost the first game in franchise history, 4/4/2001 at Kannapolis.

On Opening DayThe BlueClaws are 6-8 all-time on Opening Day, winning last year in Savannah 6-3 to snap a two-year Opening Day losing streak… Lakewood is 2-12 all-time in home openers, losing the first 10 before a win over Kannapolis in 2011 (Kannapolis topped Lakewood 9-2 in the 2013 season opener)…Last year, the BlueClaws dropped the home opener 6-0 to Hagerstown.

In And OutThe BlueClaws and Kannapolis will play 15 times this year, eight in Lakewood and seven in Kannapolis…The teams next meet -May 14-17 at Kannapolis…The Intimidators won last year’s season series 7-3.

Well RegardedThe BlueClaws have five players ranked among the top 30 prospects in the system per Baseball America: #5 Carlos Tocci, #13 Deivi Grullon, #14 Ricardo Pinto, #21 Cord Sandberg, and #30 Elniery Garcia.

Six-Man Rotation…The BlueClaws will open the season with a six-man rotation, the first time they have done so (not including 2013 when LHP Yoel Mecias & RHP Miguel Nunez piggy-backed and alternated starts at the beginning of the year)…Lakewood did use a six-man rotation in July/August last year upon Mecias’ return from injury.

PT for JT…Jiandido Tromp was given the chance to play everyday with Williamsport last year, and the 20-year old from Aruba responded by leading the league in home runs (14) and adding 16 stolen bases…Tromp had 4 HRs in 368 ABs prior to time with Williamsport last year, where he hit 14 HRs in 259 ABs…This is his 3rd stint with Lakewood and he played in the last two NY-Penn League All-Star Games.

Familiar FaceCarlos Tocci returns to Lakewood for a third straight season, but for the first time, he is not the team’s youngest player (Deivi Grullon, born 2/17/1996)…Tocci opened the 2013 season with Lakewood at age 17, the youngest player in team history and is one of just 10 players to play for the team as an 18-year old: (Freddy Galvis, Anthony Gose, Zach Collier, Jason Knapp, Sebastian Valle, Jonathan Singleton, Jonathan Villar, Domingo Santana, Maikel Franco, JP Crawford, Deivi Grullon)…Galvis, Santana, and Tocci are the only 17-year olds.  

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Giles Recalls Lakewood, Readies for Season

January 23rd, 2015

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Ken Giles’ rapid ascent through the Phillies system and into the Rookie of the Year race came as a surprise to many, but not to those that saw him and his 100 mph fastballs with the BlueClaws in 2012. Giles came back to Lakewood on Wednesday for the annual Phillies Winter Banquet and recalled his time with the BlueClaws three years ago.

“The fan experience stands out. It’s one of those things you couldn’t really describe in words,” he said. “It’s so special to me that this is where I started to be a professional baseball player. I soaked in every moment of it, I enjoyed myself, and I never had a point where I was stressing out about anything.”

Giles went 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA with the BlueClaws in 2012, making six starts among his 29 appearances and striking out 86 hitters in 67 innings pitched. He only threw 25 innings with Clearwater in 2013, but returned from injury to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, something that Giles considers a turning point in his career.

“That was the biggest point in my career, because I had to learn the different side of baseball and how to come back stronger, better, and smarter,” he said. “That helped me going into the AFL and I brought that into the next spring training too. All my pitching mechanics clicked when I came back from the injury.”

Giles was called in to Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage’s office after a game in June, like had happened several times before.

“You’re going to Cincinnati,” Brundage told him.

Giles didn’t realize the Phillies were in Cincinnati and asked if he’d been traded. He hadn’t. He’d been called up, and after debuting on June 12th, became the  61st player to go From The Shore, To The Show (the total list is now 67).

With the Phillies, Giles went 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA and struck out 64 hitters in 45.2 innings pitched and he’s ready for bigger things in 2015 in a bullpen with Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon (if he doesn’t get traded).

“We’re going to be a hard bullpen to face. People are going to say ‘O man we have to face this bullpen,’ kind of like the Royals.  The starter didn’t go long, but they only needed him to go six, because they have the 7-8-9 guy. They have to score runs early.”

Who’s the toughest guy he’s faced? “Definitely Giancarlo Stanton (of the Marlins). He’s just got great bat ability, can hit hard throwers, and if you make a mistake, he’s going to make you pay.”

What did he learn with his first few months with the Phillies? “Be yourself. That’s not trying to showboat or anything, but being yourself. That’s all I did when I got brought up. I’m not going to change who I am, and I’ll be myself around the clubhouse. Once I cross those white lines, I have to be who I am.”

Now, he’s a reliever the National League will have to contend with for many years to come.

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Get To Know: New BlueClaws Manager Shawn Williams

November 20th, 2014

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The announcement was made on Tuesday that Shawn Williams will manage the BlueClaws in 2015, coming from Williamsport where he managed the Crosscutters last year.

You can read the press release here and you can read the story in the Asbury Park Press here.

We had a chance to talk to Williams on Tuesday, and we have some quotes below.

On coming to Lakewood: I cannot wait to get up there. I’ve heard nothing but great things. I played in the South Atlantic League with Columbus (Georgia in 2008) but we didn’t play Lakewood. I’ve heard the stadium is an exciting place to play and have heard great things about the area and the fans. Legger (Greg Legg) told me how awesome it is.

Being a first-time manager last year: It was awesome. I learned a lot from Nelson Prada (who managed Williamsport in 2013 when Williams was a player/coach) and Roly de Armas (GCL Phillies manager) in extended spring training. Doug Mansolino (field coordinator) and Andy Tracy (hitting coordinator) have helped me along the way and the amount of knowledge you learn is priceless for me.

When he figured out he wanted to manage: It was always something I wanted to do down the road, but I didn’t know when it was going to happen. I asked my brother (Brady) who manages with the Rays (Double-A Montgomery last year) and he said I’d know when it was time. I was a player two years ago and they offered me the chance to start coaching and it was something I couldn’t turn down.

Hardest part of managing: It’s a combination of everything. Knowing the personalities of your players and getting the most out of them, during the every-day work that we do and making sure you don’t overwork them. The in-game stuff – learning when to hit and run and when to bunt – is the hardest to learn but a lot of that is knowing your players and what they can and can’t do.

Advice he’s received from his father Jimy, who managed the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Astros: He gives me advice pretty much daily. I talk to him almost every day. He listens to the games, and he definitely has some insight for me, and asks questions about why we did this and that. Probably the best thing is when he comes up and visits and critiques how I coach third base, and I definitely use my dad as much as I can.

Experiences as a kid while his dad was a big league coach and manager: I don’t really remember Toronto but I remember Atlanta and especially Boston. We’d go there during the summers, go on a few road trips, and being around those players was a great learning experience, finding out what you’re supposed to do on a daily basis and how to conduct yourself.

Note: We also asked Williams about some of the players he had last year in Williamsport that could be BlueClaws in 2015. Look for that in the coming days.

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Williams to Manage Claws in 2015

November 20th, 2014

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(press release below)

LAKEWOOD, NJ – Shawn Williams has been named the 11th manager in BlueClaws history and will lead the team in 2015, it was announced by the Phillies on Wednesday.

He will be joined on the staff by hitting coach Nelson Prada and pitching coach Aaron Fultz.

Williams, 31, managed Williamsport in 2014, his first as a manager. He was a player/coach with the Crosscutters in 2013 follwing the conclusion of his playing career. He spent four seasons (2007-10) in the Tampa Bay minor league system while also playing in the American Association (2006), Can-Am League (2010-11) and the Atlantic League (2010 & 2012).

“I cannot wait to get up to Lakewood and start the season,” said Williams. “I played in the South Atlantic League with Columbus (GA), and that year we didn’t play Lakewood, but from everything I’ve been told, the stadium is an exciting place to play. I’ve heard nothing but great things.”

His father, Jimy, managed the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Astros and is a former Phillies bench coach.

Prada comes to Lakewood after serving as Clearwater’s manager in 2014 and Williamsport’s manager in 2013. Prior to joining the Phillies, Prada spent eight years managing in the Twins organization, five with Beloit in the Midwest League and three with the Gulf Coast League Twins.

Fultz, who was Lakewood’s pitching coach in 2013, is the lone member of the coaching staff that has coached for the BlueClaws before. He joined the Phillies as a coach in 2012 and spent that season and 2014 as the pitching coach with Williamsport. He pitched for the Giants, Rangers, Twins, Phillies, and Indians over an eight-year big league career.

Greg Legg, who managed the BlueClaws last year and had been on the coaching staff for eight of the team’s 14 seasons (2001 and 2014 as the manager and 2008-2013 as hitting coach), will serve as Clearwater’s manager in 2015, his 34th in the Phillies organization. Dusty Wathan, who managed the BlueClaws to a league title in 2009, will return to Reading and Chris Truby, who managed the BlueClaws in 2011, will embark in his second season as the Phillies roving infield coordinator.

2015 BlueClaws ticket packages and group outings are now on sale. Additional information is available by calling 732-901-7000 option 3 or online at BlueClaws.com.

The BlueClaws are the Jersey Shore’s top stop for affordable, family entertainment. They will celebrate their 15th season of family fun this year, with programs and promotions throughout the summer. For more information, visit BlueClaws.com/15.

– BlueClaws –

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Interview: Quinn Shining In Arizona Fall League

November 7th, 2014

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Roman Quinn’s 2014 season started on the disabled list but it’s ending in the All-Star game of the prestigious Arizona Fall League, as the 2013 BlueClaw continues to thrive against some of the top prospects in baseball.

“I think I’ve stacked up pretty well,” he said on Thursday from Arizona. “I’m working on getting better every day. It’s great being out here and I’m learning a lot from the older guys. They’re giving me some great advice.”

Through games of November 6th, Quinn was leading the league in stolen bases (13 in 15 attempts), tied for the lead in runs scored (18) and tied for the league lead in walks (15). Because of his ability to walk, 15 in 92 plate appearances (16.3%), his on-base percentage is .370 and it’s given him ample opportunity to utilize his best tool, his speed. That this improved walk rate (he was just under 9% with Clearwater this year, has come against some of the best pitching prospects in the game, is all the more impressive. Quinn, who was a right-handed hitter growing up, began switch-hitting in 2012 while with Williamsport in the NY-Penn League and attributes his improved patience and plate discipline to the increased amount of reps he’s accumulated from the left side.

“It’s definitely something I wanted to work on. I figure it all came together from the reps I got and seeing more pitches and getting more at bats from the left side,” he said. “That [plate discipline and pitch selection] was the last part to come around from the left side.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Arizona Fall League Update

November 5th, 2014

Things are winding down in the Arizona Fall League. Let’s check in on the former BlueClaws currently playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Position Players

Logan Moore (2012) – Moore played two games over the last week and went 1-4 in each one and is 5-30 so far in the AFL.

Roman Quinn (2013) – Since our last update, Quinn has played four “regular season” games and had a hit in each one while adding a combined six walks and three stolen bases while scoring seven runs. He’s up to .260 so far with a home run, 15 walks against just 11 strikeouts, and 13 stolen bases.

We noted “regular season” above because Quinn also played in Saturday’s “Fall Stars Game,” in which he went 2-2 and drove in two runs.

Pitchers

Colton Murray (2012) – Since our last update, Murray has thrown three perfect innings, including two in his last appearance yesterday. He’s allowed five earned runs in 11.2 innings so far with 11 Ks and 1 BB, a very good fall for Murray.

Ethan Stewart (2012) – Stewart threw a 1-2-3 inning on Monday, his only appearance since our last update. He’s given up four earned runs in 6.1 innings so far while striking out 10.

Lisalverto Bonilla (2011) – Bonilla has not pitched since our last update. He’s made three starts down there and has allowed seven earned runs in 11.2 innings while striking out 11.

You can follow the Arizona Fall League in more detail by clicking here.

The season continues through November 13th.

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Arizona Fall League Update

October 29th, 2014

With another week gone by, let’s check in on the former BlueClaws currently playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Position Players

Logan Moore (2012) – Moore has played two games since our last update, going 1-4 last Wednesday and 0-3 on Monday. He is 3-22 in the AFL so far.

Roman Quinn (2013) – Quinn has continued to play extremely well. Since our last update he has three hits and two stolen bases. He also hit his first home run, taking Braves prospect Aaron Northcraft deep on Monday. He is 15-59 and has added nine walks and 10 stolen bases while serving as Scottsdale’s primary lead-off hitter and centerfielder.

Quinn will be playing in the Fall Stars Game on Saturday night at 8 pm. The game will be televised on MLB Network.

Pitchers

Colton Murray (2012) – Murray has thrown three scoreless innings with two strikeouts since our last update. He’s given up five runs in 8.2 innings with nine strikeouts against one walk.

Ethan Stewart (2012) – After missing 12 days, Stewart has made two appearances since our last update, allowing two runs in one inning on Thursday (on a home run to Cubs prospect Addision Russell [the player traded to Chicago from Oakland for Jeff Samardzjia]) and one run in one inning on Tuesday.

Lisalverto Bonilla (2011) – Bonilla, with the Rangers, made his third start of the Fall League on Thursday, allowing four runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings of work, though he did strike out six against just two walks.

You can follow the Arizona Fall League in more detail by clicking here.

The season continues through November 13th.

 

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Mitch Rupert Looks at ’14 Cutters

October 22nd, 2014

Mitch Rupert is the outstanding Williamsport Crosscutters beat reporter from the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and recently unveiled a new blog post looking at 20 players from the 2014 Crosscutters and their outlooks heading into the 2015 season when most will be with the BlueClaws.

BlueClaws fans are familiar with some of the players listed, such as C Deivi Grullon, who was with Lakewood for six weeks prior to joining Williamsport at the start of their season, OF Jiandido Tromp, who has spent part of the last two seasons with the BlueClaws, and OF Aaron Brown, a 3rd round pick this year who played the last three weeks of the season in Lakewood.

We won’t get into the entire analysis (you can read that by clicking here), but here are Rupert’s top five hitting and pitching prospects from Williamsport this year.

Position Players

  1. C Deivi Grullon
  2. 1B/OF Jose Pujols
  3. OF Cord Sandberg
  4. OF Aaron Brown
  5. OF Jiandido Tromp

Grullon, Sandberg, and Tromp are locks to be in Lakewood when the season opens. Pujols is only 18 and only had a few games in Williamsport this year, so it’s not inconceivable he could stay in extended spring training, come up here if there is an injury, or go back to Williamsport, but I’m sure Pujols will at least have a chance to play his way onto the BlueClaws roster. Brown seems ticketed for Clearwater on Opening Day.

Pitchers

  1. LHP Matt Imhof
  2. RHP Chris Oliver
  3. RHP Ricardo Pinto
  4. LHP Brandon Liebrandt
  5. RHP Edubray Ramos

Imhof will almost certainly be in Clearwater and it’s possible, if not likely, Liebrandt, a 6th round pick this year from Florida State who had a 2.85 ERA and struck out 9.9 hitters per nine innings, will join him there. Ramos, being 21 already and off a sensational season (0.81 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 44 innings), could definitely go to Clearwater, especially if they keep him in the bullpen.

Again, I recommend you read the entire piece from Mitch and we’ll try to get Mitch for a Q&A at some point in the near future as well.

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Arizona Fall League Update

October 22nd, 2014

With another week gone by, let’s check in on the former BlueClaws currently playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Position Players

Logan Moore (2012) – Moore is 1-5 since our last update and is 2-15 in the AFL so far.

Roman Quinn (2013) – Since our last update, Quinn had a four hit, two run, two stolen base game last Wednesday and added another two-hit game on Monday. Then last night (Tuesday), he drew three walks and went 1-2. All in all, he is 12-47 with nine stolen bases in 11 games and has drawn eight walks (walk rate of 14.5%, which is exceptional) while only striking out six times in 55 plate appearances. While it is still early on (games go until the second week of November), the early returns are very positive for Quinn.

For more on Quinn from Phillies.com, click here.

Pitchers

Colton Murray (2012) – Murray has appeared twice since our last update, allowing two runs in one inning last Wednesday and one run in 1/3 of an inning on Saturday. Overall, he has allowed five runs in 5.2 innings but has struck out seven and walked just one.

Ethan Stewart (2012) – Has not pitched since October 11th (we hope is ok) and has allowed one run in 3.1 innings so far.

Lisalverto Bonilla (2011) – Bonilla is the only former BlueClaw in the AFL not representing the Phillies (he’s with the Rangers after being traded for Michael Young following the 2012 season). He’s pitched twice in Arizona, once since our last update, starting and throwing four scoreless innings on Friday. He’s allowed three runs (all in his first appearance) in seven innings so far.

You can follow the Arizona Fall League in more detail by clicking here.

 

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Arizona Fall League Update

October 15th, 2014

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With one week gone by, let’s check in on the former BlueClaws currently playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Position Players

Logan Moore (2012) – Moore has one hit, a single, in 10 ABs so far, but has drawn two walks.

Roman Quinn (2013) – The primary lead-off hitter and center-fielder for Scottsdale, Quinn is 5-25 to start the Fall League, though he had his first two-hit game on Tuesday, going 2-6 with a double and two RBIs. The speedster has added four stolen bases in his first six games.

Pitchers

Colton Murray (2012) – Murray, who had an excellent year between Clearwater and Reading this summer, has allowed two runs in 4.1 innings so far. Both runs were given up in his AFL debut and he responded with two perfect innings, striking out three, on Friday and struck out the lone hitter to face him on Monday.

Ethan Stewart (2012) – Converted to the bullpen during the summer, Stewart earned a spot in Arizona with a stellar second-half of the season. So far in the AFL he has made two appearances. He gave up one earned run in 1.1 innings last Wednesday and threw two scoreless innings on Saturday. He’s struck out six in his 3.1 innings though he has walked five.

Lisalverto Bonilla (2011) – Bonilla, the lone player on this list who is not with the Phillies (he’s with Texas), gave up three runs in three innings as a starter on Saturday night, including a two-run home run to Yankees farmhand Kyle Higashioka.

You can follow the Arizona Fall League in more detail by clicking here.

 

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Phillies Hire Almaraz to Amateur Scouting Director Post

October 8th, 2014

From the Phillies:

The Phillies have hired Johnny Almaraz as the organization’s Director of Amateur Scouting, Benny Looper, Assistant General Manager, Player Personnel announced today.

Almaraz, 49, had spent the last eight seasons (2007-14) with the Atlanta Braves, where he was the director of Latin American operations (2007-09) and more recently the director of international scouting and operations (2010-14).  In his role he oversaw scouting operations for the club outside the United States and Canada, supervised all operations at the Braves’ Dominican Baseball Academy and managed a staff of nearly 20 international scouts.  During his time with the Braves, Almaraz signed, among others, right-hander Julio Teheran and catcher Christian Bethancourt.

Prior to working for the Braves, Almaraz spent 16 years with the Cincinnati Reds in various roles including director of player personnel and director of player development.  As a scout, he was credited with signing a number of future major league players including right-hander Johnny Cueto, outfielder Adam Dunn, catcher Paul Bako and left-hander B.J. Ryan.

“We couldn’t be happier to add someone of Johnny’s caliber to our baseball operations staff,” said Looper.  “He has established a reputation for being able to identify future major league talent and brings a great deal of experience to the Phillies.”

Almaraz pitched for two years in the Reds’ minor league system after being selected in the 14th round of the 1988 draft out of Southwest Texas State University.

You can read more on Almaraz’s appointment from Ryan Lawrence at Philly.com here.

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Baseball America – Crawford #2 Among Sally League Prospects

October 2nd, 2014

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Baseball America is in the process of rolling out their 2014 league top 20 prospect rankings and the South Atlantic League list features SS JP Crawford at #2.

You can see the lists for all of the leagues (with some still to be unveiled) by clicking here.

Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft from Lakewood, California, played two weeks with the BlueClaws at the end of last season and this year, hit .295 with 3 HRs, 19 RBIs and 14 SBs over 60 games with Lakewood. At the All-Star break, he was promoted to Hi-A Clearwater, where he played 63 games and hit .275 with 8 HRs, 29 RBs and 10 SBs.

I’m sure he will also appear on the Florida State League prospect list when it is announced next week.

The Phillies were not represented in the Gulf Coast League top 20 and their lone representative in the NY-Penn League top 20 was Aaron Brown (#18), who played for both Williamsport (.256, 3 HRs, 8 SBs) and Lakewood (.309, 1 HR in 14 games). Brown hit is lone BlueClaws home run in the Labor Day season finale, a 9-8 BlueClaws come-from-behind win in Hagerstown.

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