Archive for November, 2008

Donald Named Prospect to Watch

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com talked to several scouts down at the Arizona Fall League and listed ex-BlueClaws shortstop Jason Donald as one of the top prospects in the AFL.

“The 2008 Stenson Sportsmanship Award winner, Donald came off a solid year — that included going to the Olympics — and was one of the best performers in the Fall League, hitting .407 with a 1.223 OPS. He also showed the ability to play three infield positions — second, short and third — equally well. With injuries to Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz clouding the Phillies’ Opening Day infield, Donald’s flexibility might come in handy soon.”

Donald did not make Baseball America’s Top Ten Phillies prospects last year, but his excellent 2008 season coupled with Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman, and Greg Golson having been traded by the organization could put Donald all the way up in the top five for 2009.

Off the Stove

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Some Thanksgiving Friday nuggets from the hot stove:

- The Brewers have signed ex-BlueClaws pitcher RJ Swindle. You probably remember RJ, the lefty who threw about 82, tops, with his fastball but threw a nasty 60 mph slow slow curveball that nobody could hit. Well nobody in the minors could hit it, whether that was in Lakewood, Reading, or Lehigh Valley. He had a rough patch with the Phillies mostly in mop-up duty, but in the minors he would strike out more than a batter per inning, barely walk anyone, and of course he’s lefty. Who knows if he can make it in the bigs but he was sure fun to watch, and a great guy on top of that.

The Red Sox drafted him and he only had a  56/4 K/BB ratio in the Penn League. After he was released, he went to Charleston in the SAL for the Yankees and 0.61 ERA with a 46/5 K/BB ratio. That wasn’t good enough for the Yankees either. The Phillies signed him off the Newark Bears and he had a good run all the way up the ladder. We wish him the best with the Brewers.

- Todd Zolecki of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the Phillies have made contact with Derek Lowe and AJ Burnett. It appears that it’s Moyer or Lowe or Burnett, and then a slew of former BlueClaws will have the chance to win the fifth starter spot behind Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, and Moyer/Lowe/Burnett. Those would be JA Happ (3.61 ERA in 31 MLB innings), Kyle Kendrick (11-9, 5.49 ERA), and Carlos Carrasco (3.69 ERA, 159 Ks in 151 IP between AA/AAA). Drew Carpenter and maybe Adam Eaton could be in the mix too, per Zolecki.

- Still think the Phils re-sign Moyer. If the Yankees don’t sign CC Sabathia, it appears they’re going to throw the Brinks Truck in front of Lowe and Burnett, pricing everyone else out of the running. And those guys know to wait.

- If you missed it last week, the Phillies added RHPs Carlos Carrasco and Drew Naylor, LHP Sergio Escalona, C Joel Naughton, and OF John Mayberry Jr. to their 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft. All, except Mayberry, who was just acquired for Greg Golson last week, are former BlueClaws. The Rule 5 Draft, designed to limit the ability of teams to stockpile minor leaguers who would advance to the big leagues in another organization, takes place at the Winter Meetings on December 11th. Jeremy Slayden was left unprotected.

- Enjoy the turkey leftovers.

Don’t Forget: BlueFriday Sale This Week

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, from your friends at the Lakewood BlueClaws.

Just a quick reminder, Friday and Saturday, 10a – 3p, it’s our big BlueFriday Sale. Up to 50% off items all over the ClawsCove. Some hats and t-shirts will be available for just $10 as well.

For more information click here. Have a great holiday.

Q&A with Lou Marson

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Lou Marson has had an exciting year. Coming off league titles with the BlueClaws (2006) and Clearwater (2007), Marson spent the 2008 season with AA-Reading and earned his way into the 2008 Futures Game. From there, he had the opportunity to play on the US Olympic baseball team, and took home a bronze medal. Later, he was a September call-up with the Phillies, hit his first big league home run, and stayed on with the team through the playoffs and World Series title. Greg Giombarrese had a chance to catch up with the former Lakewood BlueClaw on his 2008 season, time in Lakewood, and the future.

Question: You spent time with the Phillies all the way through the playoffs. As a young player, what was that experience like?

Lou Marson: It was a great experience. I got called up in September and it was great the team wanted me to stay with them throughout the playoffs. It was awesome. It was great to be around the guys and watch them get ready to play every day.

Q: What kinds of things did you learn from the big leaguers this fall?

LM: Just being there, having conversations with them, watching the game, nothing in particular. It’s the same game up there but a different atmosphere, that’s the biggest thing. All the people, the media, I don’t like to use the word pressure but there’s a little bit more pressure. It’s all mental at that level.

Q: What pitcher that you caught impressed you the most?

LM: Ryan Madson was most impressive. He was on top of his game all the way through the playoffs. His change-up is really good. It looks just like a fastball coming out of his hand.

Q: Your favorite parts of the Olympic experience?

LM: The Opening Ceremony was the highlight of the trip. I watched that when I was a kid and being there and walking into the stadium with the athletes from all over was obviously a tremendous experience. We took the bronze home, which was awesome. We definately wanted to win the gold, but it didn’t work out.

Q: How much of the other events were you able to see?

LM: I didn’t get to see any swimming, but when I had a chance I did catch some diving and saw a track and field session. I talked to some of the archery guys. I thought their sport was pretty cool. Table Tennis was huge there, because it’s big in China.

Q: When did you realize the Olympics could become a reality? Your reaction to making the team?

LM: I found out about it in June and we basically tried out at the Futures Game. You only had one shot and they made up their mind on that. Paul Siler told me, the head of USA Baseball. I’m not the type to jump up and down but I was definately excited. I called my parents and they called everyone. The word spread quickly.

Q: What did you take out of your time in the Arizona Fall League?

LM: I got to meet a lot of great guys. It was fun playing with players from different organizations. I loved playing for Ryne Sandberg, our hitting coach, who I liked watching when I was growing up. It’s nice sometimes to talk to guys outisde the organization just to hear a different voice.

Q: Your favorite part about playing for the BlueClaws?

LM: There were great fans there. It was my first year on a full season team and the highlight was winning the title. I met my girlfriend there, and I go back every off-season to see her family and my host family from when I was with the BlueClaws. I have only good things to say about everything in Lakewood.

Q: You’ve won a lot of hardware (BlueClaws title, Clearwater title, bronze medal) in a short time. What’s the secret?

LM: (laughing) I guess I was just in the right places at the right times. I’ve been around good people and good players. The biggest thing is just having a good group of guys and enjoying yourself when you go to the field every day. It’s a long year and you have to enjoy what you’re doing.

Q: You have a chance to play a third season with Dave Huppert this year in AAA. What did you like about him and is it nice to already have a relationship with your manager heading into the season?

LM: He’s a great guy. He’s one of my favorite managers. He lets you play, keeps things loose. And he was a catcher so it’s good to have a guy that can stay on me and help me develop. He’s got a lot of great things to say and makes a lot of sense because he’s been through it. He’s seen great players and he’s managed great players so I try to pick his brain and communicate with him. It’s important to be able to take criticism because you’re going to fail in this game and if you can take criticism, you’re only going to get better.

Q: Your personal goals for the 2009 season and what are you working on to achieve them?

LM: My goal last year was to get called up in September (which he did). I just want to continue to get better, improve, and stay healthy. It’s so important to stay healthy, and get your at-bats. My goal is to make the team out of spring training. I definately feel it’s possible. I’m only 22, but if I go do my thing, and have the mentality that I don’t have to be great, but be good enough to make the team, then I think I have a shot. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.

Q: What’s your typical off-season regimen? 

LM: I’m taking some time off now to recover after the long season. I work out four days a week now with weight lifting, stretching, and running. Then right after Christmas, I’ll start hitting and throwing and doing a lot more baseball related activity to get ready for spring training.

BlueClaws Awards

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Just to follow up on the BlueClaws family being named Organization of the Year by Ballpark Digest, this isn’t the first time, even in 2008, the BlueClaws have been honored with an Organization of the Year Award.

This year, the BlueClaws have been recognized by the Monmouth Foundation for Education, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Ocean, the Ocean County YMCA, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Ocean County.

The team was named the winner of the 2005 Bob Freitas Award, for excellence in Minor League Baseball, and in the past has been honored by local Chambers of Commerce in Toms River, Jackson, Eastern Monmouth, Western Monmouth, as well as the Monmouth Ocean Development Council, among others.

Buster Takes MVP of Hoops Game

Monday, November 24th, 2008

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Known best for his prowess on a baseball diamond, Buster showed on Sunday that he’s more than just a one-sport sensation. The Lakewood BlueClaws mascot unanimously earned MVP honors in his second sport, basketball, in a mascot game at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

The yellow furry creature led the way with four points, though Buster and his teammate, IronDog of the New Jersey Ironmen, fell to the New Jersey Devil and Trenton Devil 6-5, in front of 4,018. Buster was named MVP in a poll conducted by the players and the referee, Boomer of the Trenton Thunder.

For some pictures of the event, click here.

Organization of the Year!

Monday, November 24th, 2008

BallparkDigest.com has named the family of clubs owned by Mr. Joseph Finley and Mr. Craig Stein as its Organization of the Year. The pair, along with several other partners, own the BlueClaws, along with the Double-A Trenton Thunder and Reading Phillies, and most recently, the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who will play their second season in 2009.

Click here for more information, and congratulations to Mr. Finley, Mr. Stein, the other owners, and the staffs of the four teams.

Donald and Mesa Fall in AFL Title Game

Friday, November 21st, 2008

The Mesa Solar Sox, featuring several Phillies prospects, dropped the Arizona Fall League title game to the Phoenix Dirt Dogs 10-4 on Saturday afternoon. Jason Donald (BlueClaws 2007) went 2-5 in the loss. Jeremy Slayden (2006) came in for defense but did not bat, and Sergio Escalona (2007) gave up a run in relief. We’ll wrap up the Fall League later this week.

Read about Mesa manager Rocket Wheeler letting his players vote on their starting lineup for the championship game. Jason Donald (BlueClaws 2007) hit 2nd and played short. He was the lone Phillies prospect in the starting lineup.

Click here for information on Darryl Strawberry’s appearance at FirstEnergy Park this upcoming season.

BREAKING NEWS!!! Darryl Strawberry to Appear at FirstEnergy Park

Friday, November 21st, 2008

It looks like we have our first breaking news item here at BlueClaws Blog. Darryl Strawberry will be at FirstEnergy Park to sign autographs on August 1st, 2009. This is the first 2009 promotional night that has been released.

Strawberry, an eight-time all-star and popular member of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, will appear at FirstEnergy Park on Autism Awareness Night. His charitable organization, The Darryl Strawberry Foundation, lists as its mission statement to “bring global awareness to autism and other developmental disorders.

“The bat is retired. The spikes are in a box, but the true purpose of my life is just beginning,” says Strawberry on his website.

Other former players who have signed in the past at FirstEnergy Park include Steve Carlton, Bob Feller, and Goose Gossage.

Don’t forget to bookmark this site and check back soon for more breaking news. Much more to come on Strawberry next week.

Chase Utley Out Until June? Golson Traded

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Hip surgery. New GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did say that it’s possible Utley is ready for Opening Day, but even if all goes well and he’s ready to resume baseball activity in four months, that doesn’t leave him much time to get ready for the opener.

Tough break for the Phillies, who might have to go find another utility guy (Tad Iguchi sequel?) to start the season. They could conceivably give Jason Donald (BlueClaws 2007) some time, but he’s never played above Double-A, and they won’t know if he’s ready for the bigs until spring training, and by then the market is much thinner.

Ex-BlueClaw, and former Phillies first-round pick, Greg Golson was traded today to the Texas Rangers for corner OF John Mayberry. This probably bodes well for other athletic outfielders in the system, like Quintin Berry and Dominic Brown.

Adrian Cardenas

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

He’s no longer in the Phillies organization, but we thought it would be nice to check in with 2007 BlueClaws second baseman Adrian Cardenas. Part of the Joe Blanton trade, he’s now a member of the Oakland Athletics organization, and as a 20-year old this summer, was promoted to Double-A, where he hit .279 in 26 games. He’s considered to be one of the top prospects in baseball at second base, and he could conceivably see the big leagues before age 23 if he keeps progressing at the same rate.

The A’s by the way, who drafted a 2b high up in the most recent draft (before the trade) put Cardenas back at short, where he played in high school. It may or may not be permanent, we’ll see. Jonathan Mayo of mlb.com caught up with Cardenas a few weeks ago in Arizona.

He was down in Arizona in the fall league, and offered up a guest blog on mlb.com. Go read that. You’ll learn something about a fascinating, well rounded, young baseball player. When he was here in 2007, Adrian told me that if not for baseball he had a good chance to go to the Julliard School at Lincoln Center to study music, which I think we can safely say puts him in a pretty small group of baseball players, and athletes in general.

Quick story, last year (2007) Cardenas gets picked to go to the Futures Game. There were only a handful of guys from the South Atlantic League (or Midwest League, the equivilent A-ball league) who played in the game, and it was a great honor for Adrian, who was just 19 at the time. So a few days before he’s leaving (for San Francisco), I’m interviewing him for the pregame show, and I asked him what he was most looking forward to. I guess it was earlier in that homestand, it might have even been the night before, the BlueClaws had faced Pedro Beato of Delmarva for the fifth time (it’s the first week of July mind you), and he had joked about seeing Beato so often. And Adrian, as he mentioned in his blog entry about this year’s Fall League, said he just wanted to get the chance to compare his game to some of the top Double-A or Triple-A prospects in the sport.

So the game is moving right along, he hadn’t played yet. It’s the seventh inning, and he finally gets his first at-bat. Anyone want to offer a guess as to who was pitching?

Slayden’s Walk-Off

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Jeremy Slayden hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday afternoon, giving Mesa a 7-4 win over Peo Saguaros and a spot in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday.

Slayden took some early BP with Ryne Sandberg, the team’s hitting coach, earlier in the day, and pinch-hit in the eighth off of Mets prospect Eddie Kunz. The home run was his 3rd of the fall and the four RBIs give him 27 in just 25 games.

“It was a fastball down the middle,” said Slayden. “I just got the barrel on the ball.”

BlueClaws alums Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Tuffy Gosewich all played in the game for Mesa.

An outfielder for the 2006 SAL Champion BlueClaws, Slayden slugged 17 home runs this year for Reading, and he’ll get a shot to play in Triple-A in 2009.

CJ Henry’s Brother Joins Him at Memphis

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Last week we mentioned that CJ Henry had enrolled at Memphis and walked-on to their basketball team. Today, CJ’s brother Xavier committed to the Tigers, and he’ll be a freshman shooting guard next year.

“The deciding factor was getting my last chance to play together with my brother at Memphis and keeping my family together so everyone could watch us,” Xavier Henry said on ESPN Tuesday morning.

Xavier is a concensus top-five prospect in the high school class of 2009. CJ, who played with the BlueClaws in 2006 and 2007, is currently injured.

AFL and HWL Updates

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Not a whole lot going on from a Phillies standpoint down in the winter leagues right now. They’re winding down in Arizona, with the last regular season games on Thursday. Mesa, for which the Phillies prospects play, is currently tied for first in their three-team division and has a chance to play for the league title this weekend.

Jason Donald has played sparingly in the last few days, but went 3-4 with a three-run home run, his fourth of the winter, in his last appearance. He’s third in the league in batting average (.422), fourth in on-base percentage (.484), and third in slugging (.747). He’s made three errors in 24 games but remember, he’s working at some new positions, second and third base. He’s normally a shortstop.

Quintin Berry continues to play well. He has six multi-hit games in his last ten, and is hitting .325 over that stretch, and .333 for the fall. The speedster swiped 51 bases this year at Clearwater, and is likely headed to Reading in the spring. He’s been a post-season all-star each of the last two seasons. Not bad for a guy who started his pro career 0-27.

Andrew Carpenter has allowed six home runs in 26 innings and has a 5.88 ERA. Sergio Escalona and Pat Overholt have each allowed multiple runs in their most recent appearances, one inning each.

Here’s an interesting stat: 15 of the 18 players who won a Silver Slugger Award this year were Arizona Fall League alums. One who wasnt? Phillies 2nd baseman Chase Utley.

Switching over to Hawaii, where Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor, and Kyle Drabek played for the Honolulu Sharks.

Quickly on Drabek, we noted his six shutout innings from last week. In his last start of the winter on Saturday, he allowed two runs over 4.1 innings, and finished up with a 3.05 ERA. But what’s even more notable is that Drabek allowed just eight hits and four walks while striking out 19 in 20.2 innings. Clearly the overpowering stuff he had before his injury is still there in some form. A very encouraging winter for the former first-round pick.

Michael Taylor was named the Phillies organizational hitter of the year, but cooled off a bit in Hawaii, where he hit .247. But overall an excellent year for Taylor, who was maybe the most improved player in the organization this year. He hit .227 in 2007 at Williamsport before hitting .346 between Lakewood and Clearwater this year. We’ll have more on Taylor later in the week.

Finally, a big winter for Dominic Brown, who won the HWL batting title, finishing at .389. Brown was with Lakewood in 2008, where he hit .291 with 22 steals. The Georgia native, who turned down the chance to play wide receiver at Miami, is another supremely athletic outfielder the Phillies have drafted in recent years, following Quintin Berry, Greg Golson, and D’Arby Myers.