This week in the Road to Lakewood series, we look at some potential BlueClaws infielders in 2012. Each week, we’ll look at a different positional grouping. After starting pitchers and relievers the last two weeks, we’ll continue with infielders today, outfielders next week, and then it will be time to start the minor league spring training games the following week.
Disclaimer: These lists are looks at players that could be with the BlueClaws this year, not who will be with the BlueClaws this year. That stuff all sorts itself out at spring training. Typically, the BlueClaws carry 13 position players. The exact breakdown depends on a number of factors (two or three catchers, can anyone play both the infield and outfield, can one utility infielder play second, third, and short, etc).
We also have a some quotes sprinkled in from Phillies assistant director of minor league operations Steve Noworyta. At the bottom we’ll look at a few 2011 draftees that did not see significant playing time last year, largely because they signed very late.
One of the most obvious choices for this list is 3B Maikel Franco, who played three weeks with Lakewood last year but was primarily Williamsport’s third baseman, hitting .287 with 2 HRs and 38 RBIs. He also walked 25 times and fanned just 30. With Lakewood, however, he went 8-65 with 15 strikeouts and 1 walk. Franco, who doesn’t turn 20 until August, will be one of the youngest regulars in the Sally League this year. Franco also hit what we thought was the most impressive home run of the year here last season: a laser over the LF wall that got out of here in about 1.5 seconds as Franco turned around a 96 mph fastball from Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon.
Says Noworyta: “We sent him to Lakewood just to give him a taste, to feel what it’s like. He played well in Williamsport. Sometimes you need a little time like Aaron Altherr. If you get that time, you adjust to that level.”
3B Harold Martinez was a 2nd round pick last year from the University of Miami (90th overall) who hit .256-2-31 with Williamsport playing third base and DH. Here’s an article on Martinez from the Williamsport Sun-Gazette around the start of the Cutters season last year where he said he was surprised the Phillies drafted him in the 2nd round.
The 1B who played the most for Williamsport last year was Brock Stassi, who hit .200-1-14. He was a 33rd round pick last year from the University of Nevada. He was drafted the year before in the 44th round by the Indians as a pitcher.
1B Patrick Murray was a 34th round pick in 2010 from Lewis & Clark State, where he was a teammate of 2011 BlueClaws RHP Tyler Knigge. Murray was drafted by the Phillies before, back in 2006′s 44th round. He hit .313 with the GCL Phillies in 2010.
The other main 1B option is Chris Duffy, who was on this list last year but repeated GCL, hitting .297 with 6 HRs (to lead the team) and 27 RBIs. A 26th round pick in 2010 from Central Florida, Duffy was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award his last year with the Knights. Here is an interview with Duffy, drafted out of high school in the 9th round by the White Sox, from Phuture Phillies.
(NOTE – Kelly Dugan, a 2nd round pick in 2009, can play 1B and OF, and might play 1B here because, as you’ll see next week, there are a lot of potential outfielders. However, we’re going to list him with the outfielders as he’s just played a lot more games there).
Says Noworyta: “This offseason was big for him to see how he prepared himself. He has all the tools to be a very good defensive third baseman with some power.”
2B Cody Asche was a 4th round pick last year from Nebraska and was the highest Huskers position player drafted since Alex Gordon (Royals) went 2nd overall in 2005. Asche played third base at Nebraska but with Franco and Martinez, he played second base with Williamsport, hitting .192 with two HRs.
Says Noworyta: “He had a great instructional league. Sometimes these players get off to slow starts and they get a little rest after the season, come in fresh and there’s a lot of difference.”
SS Tyler Greene was a 9th round pick last year who was considered somewhat of a gamble to sign, but the Phillies signed him for a reported $375k. He had been committed to Georgia and this was a big signing for the Phillies. Greene, from West Boca, hit .276 and stole five bases with the GCL Phillies last year. Because he got some seasoning in (17 games, he signed on July 25), it wouldn’t be a huge stretch at all to see him here on Opening Day.
2B Carlos Valenzuela deserves a mention after hitting .331 in 160 at bats last year with the GCL Phillies. The 21-year old spent the three previous years with the DSL Phillies. He finished fifth in the GCL last year in batting average.
So too does IF Alejandro Villalobos, who hit .285 in the GCL last year starting games at both shortstop and second base. He struck out only five times in 165 at bats, which is superb.
Williamsport’s regular SS last year was Taylor Black, who hit .212 with a home run. He was a 28th round pick of the Cardinals in 2010 and the Phillies got him in the 16th round last year. Black spent his freshman year with Charleston Southern before transferring to the University of Kentucky.
Here are a few looks at potential catchers, which is anyone’s guess. Last year, no less than five catchers started between 23 and 39 games for either the GCL Phillies and Williamsport.
C Robert Stumpo is a Wilmington, DE native who went to West Chester University (33rd round pick, 2010). He hit .267-1-23 in 44 games with Williamsport last year and split time with the next person on the list. Stumpo hit .354 with runners in scoring position last year.
C Francisco Diaz is a Venezuelan native who turns 22 on March 21st. He hit .211 with 7 RBIs last year with Williamsport, starting half the games with Stumpo starting the other half. One thing that jumps out about Diaz is in the last four years (2008-11), he has drawn 58 walks compared to just 61 strikeouts. He also hit .307 in the Gulf Coast League in 2010.
C Logan Moore is ranked as the second best catcher in the system per Baseball America behind Sebastian Valle, though outside of the top 30 prospects. He was a 9th round pick last year from Northeastern Junior College (CO) who turned down Tennessee to sign with the Phillies. Moore played for the GCL phillies last year, hitting .225-1-9 in 71 at bats.
The other one to watch, maybe not for 2012 but for 2013 is C Chace Numata, a 14th round pick of the Phillies in 2010 from Hawaii. But he only played nine games last year due to injury and if I had to guess he goes to Williamsport with C John Hill, a 19th round pick last year from Concordia University.
Some other players from last year’s draft include:
SS Roman Quinn, who Baseball America ranks 11th in the system. He was a 2nd round pick last year who signed late and did not appear in a game. He is considered to have game-changing speed and is a switch hitter. Because he signed late (he was committed to Florida State), we’d guess he opens in extended spring training but we could see him mid-season a la Jonathan Singleton in 2010.
SS Mitchell Walding was a 5th round pick from California who signed out of a commitment to Oregon. He also signed late and didn’t play. Per Baseball America, he slipped a bit under the radar in baseball because he was also an accomplished football quarterback and didn’t participate in summer showcases because of that.
We listed a lot of guys here and there were a few that maybe we could have but didn’t. But it should serve as a pretty good primer for some potential infielders you’ll see with Lakewood in 2012.