We do this every year, and with about seven weeks left until the start of the 2012 baseball season, it’s time to kick off our Road to Lakewood series for 2012! Each week, we’ll look at a different positional grouping, going from starting pitchers to relief pitchers to infielders and concluding with what should be a crowded outfield group again this year.
Going every Friday for the next four weeks takes us right through March 9th, and the minor league spring training games are slated to start on March 12th.
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. The BlueClaws will have a five-man starting rotation as always but this list is obviously going to exceed that.
Also – we have some comments sprinkled in here from Steve Noworyta, Phillies assistant director of minor league operations, who we spoke to earlier this week. On with the list:
LHP Adam Morgan was a 3rd round pick in the draft last year from the University of Alabama. He had an excellent season in the NY-Penn League, going 3-3, 2.01, an ERA that would have ranked 3rd if it qualified. He gave up two runs or less in nine of his 11 starts, and just three in the other. Morgan turns 22 on February 27th and it wouldn’t surprise us at all if he went straight to Clearwater. Baseball America has him 29th in the system.
Said Noworyta: “He came into camp when we signed him and he seemed more polished – his secondary pitches had command to them and he was really able to handle that level. He knew how to pitch when he entered the minor leagues.”
RHP Perci Garner made a few headlines last week when he was ranked in Keith Law’s Phillies top ten (at #9, Insider). He was 21st in Baseball America’s list (not saying either is right or wrong). He was a 2nd round pick in 2010 from Ball State and after being limited to four innings that year, he threw 30 in 2011, striking out 30 and having just a 1.20 ERA. The former QB, who passed for over 8,800 yards in high school, has a fastball that touches 96 on the radar gun and figures to be in the Lakewood starting rotation this year.
Said Noworyta: “He’s the one that’s made the biggest strides from the draft. The velocity is back. His work ethic is unbelievable. He’s the guy we thought we had when we drafted him. He’s down in camp now (we talked to Steve on February 14th) and this is going to be a big year for him.
LHP Lino Martinez was Williamsport’s Opening Day starter last year and went 6-2, 2.79, an ERA drop of 2.14 runs from 2010 in the Gulf Coast League. He will not turn 20 until September 17th, so if he comes to Lakewood, which we figure he will, Martinez will be one of the youngest pitchers in the league, like Ervis Manzanillo was last year. Like Manzanillo, Martinez is from Venezuela.
Said Noworyta: “He had a lot of developing to do when he first came to us but we saw the ability for a left-hander that with a little more size and strength and with some time he would be able to have some success.”
RHP Colin Kleven was a 33rd round pick in 2009 from British Columbia, Canada. He turns 21 on April 15th and last year went 4-6, 4.84 with Williamsport. He’s a groundball pitcher (1.49 groundout/airout ratio) and a hard thrower. In a July 16th game, he threw seven shutout innings on three hits, no walks, and got 15 groundball outs. Last year, one BlueClaw came up from extended spring training and was asked who was playing well and he said, without hesitation, “Kleven looks awesome.” Local article from spring training 2010.
Said Noworyta: “He did a real nice job last year. He’s a big, strong kid that needs to put a little more size on him. He’s trying to get used to his body size and develop that and he should be a pretty good package.”
RHP Mike Nesseth was a 17th round pick in 2010 out of Nebraska who was drafted in the 15th round in 2009 by the Angels. He didn’t pitch for the Phillies in 2010 after having Tommy John Surgery and went 3-6, 3.21 with the Crosscutters last year, making the All-Star team. Marti Wolever saw Nesseth as a sophomore and thought he might be a 1st round pick (article) before his surgery. Read that whole article, it’s excellent, and Carlos Ruiz has a nice comparison for Nesseth. Baseball America has him listed under relief pitchers, but all 14 of his appearances last year were as a starter.
That’s five, all from Williamsport. Here are two more who pitched in the Gulf Coast League in 2011:
RHP Ramon Oviedo is a 21 year old from the Dominican Republic who signed as an amateur free agent in April of 2010. He pitched three games last year after a full summer in 2010 with the Dominican Summer League Phillies before joining the GCL Phillies. In the GCL, he went 4-2, 3.86 in 56 innings pitched last year, being only one of two pitchers (the next player listed) to start ten games for the GCL Phillies.
LHP Ethan Stewart was a 47th round pick in 2010 from New Mexico Junior College. He didn’t pitch in 2010 and last year, went 4-4, 3.62 with the GCL Phillies (54 Ks in 54.2 innings, 1.97 groundout/airout ratio). He got a cup of coffee in Williamsport, allowing two runs over nine innings in two outings. Stewart, who is Canadian like Kleven, turned 21 in January. Baseball America had him 16th among GCL prospects, called him a “potential steal in his pro debut this summer” (here, subscription) and he keeps a detailed book on opposing hitters.
LHP Bryan Morgado was a 4th round pick in 2010 from the University of Tennessee, where he was friends with 2010 BlueClaws LHP Nick Hernandez. He began last year with Lakewood but finished it with Williamsport. With the Crosscutters, he went 2-0, 2.36 with 39 Ks in 34.1 innings. Most of his work has been as a reliever (28 of 31 career appearances). There are a few reasons we list him here, however. One, he made three starts at the end of last year for Williamsport, allowing 6 ER in 15 IP with 13 Ks, which shows the Phillies might decide to make him a starter. Two, he’s only thrown 59.1 innings in two years so he needs the innings. And three, Baseball America lists him as a starter in their prospect handbook.
And one potential returnee:
LHP Nick Hernandez was outstanding for Lakewood at the start of the 2010 season, going 3-1, 1.61 in eight starts. However, his last start was on May 16th, 2010 and he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. However, he was injured between starts, made a few rehab appearances with the GCL Phillies later in the summer, and didn’t pitch at all in 2011. Had he not gotten hurt, he wasn’t going to be with Lakewood too much longer, perhaps only through the end of the first half, but because of the layoff, we could see him for a little bit at the start of 2012.
There’s nine potential Lakewood starting pitchers.