Nine former BlueClaws are in Arizona for the prestigious Arizona Fall League, which opens today. We’ll cover the league over the next month and you can follow them on Twitter here.
Here is a rundown of BlueClaws participants:
Kenny Giles – The Phillies drafted Giles in the 7th round of the 2011 draft and he made it to Lakewood in 2012, striking out 86 hitters in 67.1 innings with five saves and a 3.61 ERA. He was promoted in July to Clearwater, where he made 10 appearances and returned this year, going 2-2, 6.31. He’ll be one of the hardest throwers in the AFL this year.
Mike Nesseth – The Minnesota native played collegiately at Nebraska and the Phillies took him in the 17th round in 2010, though because of Tommy John Surgery did not debut until 2011. He opened 2012 with the BlueClaws, going 5-1, 3.06, most of it in relief after he made four early-season starts. He moved to Clearwater for the 2nd half of 2012, pitching to a 2.76 ERA in 21 games. He made 35 of his 48 appearances this year with Reading, going 1-4, but had a 1.64 ERA and threw seven innings allowing one unearned run with Lehigh Valley in three games at the end of the year.
Austin Wright – The BlueClaws have had current-year college starters finish the year in Lakewood the last few seasons (Hoby Milner in 2012, Jon Prosinski and Mark Leiter in 2013). Wright, a 7th round pick from Ole Miss, filled that role in 2011, making seven starts with a 2.67 ERA. He went 11-5, 3.47 with Clearwater in 2012 and went 6-5, 5.92 with Reading this year.
Cameron Rupp – 2013 was a special season for Rupp, who finished the year with the Phillies after opening the season with Reading. He hit a combined .258 with 14 home runs between Reading and Lehigh Valley this year, and took advantage of an opportunity at AAA after Tommy Joseph’s injuries. A 3rd round pick from Texas in 2010, Rupp was the every-day catcher for the BlueClaws in 2011, hitting .272 with four home runs.
Aaron Altherr – BlueClaws fans are very familiar with Altherr, who played 151 games with Lakewood between 2011 and 2012. He spent all of 2012 with the BlueClaws, hitting .252 with 8 home runs and 25 stolen bases after splitting 2011 between Lakewood, where he started the year, and Williamsport. This year, Altherr had his best professional season, hitting .275 with 12 home runs and 23 stolen bases (he has 85 over the last three years).
Kelly Dugan – Whatever clicked in for Dugan at the 2012 All-Star break has propelled him into one of the best hitting prospects in the minors. After hitting .253 with Lakewood in the first half of last year, he hit .331 in the second half (to finish at an even .300). This year, he picked up where he left off, hitting .318 with Clearwater and .264 with Reading, to split his year at .291 with 20 home runs (10 in each stop). He was a 2nd round pick of the Phillies in 2009 from Encino, California.
(Rule-5 draft implications – Wright, Altherr, and Dugan all have to be placed on the Phillies 40-man roster to avoid being unprotected for the Rule-5 Draft. Rupp is on the 40-man already after serving as a September call-up.)
Mickey Kozack – Mickey has been the BlueClaws trainer since 2008 (save one year in 2011 when he was with Clearwater). He will be the trainer for the Peoria club in the AFL.
Lendy Castillo – Castillo is an interesting case. He began the year as an outfielder with the Phillies before they made him a reliever in 2010. He was so good with the BlueClaws in 2011 (4-2, 2.54 with 46 strikeouts in 46 innings) that the Cubs took him in the Rule-5 draft and carried him on their Major League roster for most of 2012. This year, they wanted to make him a starter so they sent him to Low-A Kane County. It didn’t work. He allowed 26 runs in 24 innings and he went back to the bullpen. After 14 relief appearances with Kane County, he got promoted to Hi-A Daytona where he went 2-0, 3.60 in 20 innings. He was outrighted off the 40-man roster and cleared waivers last year and will try to bounce-back in the Fall and hopefully reach AA in 2014.
Trevor May – May, a 4th round pick of the Phillies in 2008, is the rare two-time champion in the minors, winning titles with the BlueClaws in both 2009 and 2010. In 2009, he went 4-1, 2.56 after joining the BlueClaws in June. He opened 2010 with Clearwater, but 61 walks in 70 innings got him sent back to Lakewood, where he went 7-3, 2.91 in 11 games. After a year in Clearwater and another in Reading, after the 2012 season, he was sent to the Twins (with Vance Worley) for Ben Revere. This year with Double-A New Britain, he went 9-9, 4.51, and while he struck out 159 hitters in 151 innings, he also walked 67, which has been his bugaboo. He’ll work on his control under pitching coach Tom Browning (former Reds pitcher). He is on the Twins 40-man roster.
Travis Mattair – “Moose,” as he is affectionately known, has been in professional baseball since the Phillies took him in the 2007 draft’s 2nd round, save one year, 2010, when he played basketball at Boise State. He spent 2008 and 2009 with the BlueClaws, serving as the 3rd baseman on their first championship team. In 2011, he returned to Lakewood, playing 33 games (and hitting a grand-slam single on the 4th of July) before finishing with Clearwater. The Reds picked him up before 2012 (his first Claws manager, Steve Roadcap, is now a scout with the Reds). He spent last year with Hi-A Bakersfield and this year hit .242 with 13 home runs with Double-A Pensacola.