Greetings From Clearwater – April 24

Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.

Last week, one of my early-season prospect crushes, Gauntlett Eldemire, let me down, but another, Brian Pointer, continued to rake. Also, Anthony Hewitt made his season debut at Clearwater, but it took a while for him to get into the swing of things. Let’s take a look at how Eldemire, Pointer, Hewitt, and the rest of the Phillies cadre of hitting prospects have fared in the early going.

View the Top 30 Prospects

HITTER

AGE

LVL

AVG/OBP/SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

SO

SB

CS

A. Altherr, lf

21

A

.316/.365/.456

57

18

3

1

1

4

12

6

2

M. Alvarez, of

22

A+

.222/.222/.259

27

6

1

0

0

0

13

1

0

C. Asche, 3b

22

A+

.312/.365/.396

48

15

2

1

0

4

5

1

0

J. Barnes, 3b

25

A+

.140/.240/.163

43

6

1

0

0

6

17

0

0

L. Castro, of

23

AA

.273/.288/.418

55

15

5

0

1

0

12

2

2

K. Dugan, of/1b

21

A

.245/.344/.396

53

13

2

0

2

7

15

0

0

E. Duran, ss

21

A+

.261/.300/.326

46

12

1

1

0

3

7

1

2

G. Eldemire, rf

23

A

.240/.397/.360

50

12

4

1

0

13

18

9

2

M. Franco, 3b

19

A

.263/.333/.439

57

15

4

0

2

5

11

0

0

F. Galvis, ss/2b

22

MLB

.214/.233/.339

56

12

4

0

1

2

9

0

0

T. Gillies, cf

23

AA

.267/.302/.433

60

16

3

2

1

1

11

1

0

G. Gonzalez, ss

21

A

.152/.152/.152

46

7

0

0

0

0

10

2

0

T. Greene, ss

19

A

.205/.280/.386

44

9

5

0

1

5

21

1

0

C. Hernandez, 2b

22

AA

.281/.300/.404

57

16

5

1

0

2

9

1

2

A. Hewitt, of

23

A+

.120/.120/.280

25

3

1

0

1

0

6

0

0

K. Hudson, cf

21

A

.143/.204/.163

49

7

1

0

0

2

18

8

3

J. James, cf

23

AA

.319/.346/.596

47

15

3

2

2

3

16

1

1

L. Moore, c

21

A

.216/.326/.378

37

8

3

0

1

3

12

0

1

C. Overbeck, 1b

26

AAA

.293/.344/.414

58

17

4

0

1

5

10

0

0

C. Perdomo, ss

22

A

.182/.217/.182

22

4

0

0

0

1

3

2

0

B. Pointer, of

20

A

.296/.365/.630

54

16

2

2

4

7

15

3

0

D. Ruf, 1b

25

AA

.393/.406/.554

56

22

6

0

1

4

12

1

0

C. Rupp, c

23

A+

.263/.333/.421

38

10

3

0

1

4

7

0

0

S. Valle, c

21

AA

.304/.340/.413

46

14

2

0

1

3

18

0

0

A four-game cold stretch in which he went 2-for-16 dropped Aaron Altherr’s batting average down to .233 on April 13, but he’s been on a tear since, collecting hits in six of seven games and raising his season line to .316/.365/.456. Altherr began 2011 in Lakewood, but was demoted to Williamsport after striking out in 28.8 percent of his trips to the plate through the first two months of the season. Despite his 6-foot-5 frame, Altherr is an above-average runner, and his six steals rank eighth in the South Atlantic League.

Clearwater’s Miguel Alvarez was placed on the disabled list after the Threshers’ April 12 game against Lakeland. Prior to being deactivated, the 22-year-old outfielder was mired in an 0-for-13 slump and had managed only one extra-base hit in 27 at-bats.

After striking out nearly 20 percent of the time at Williamsport last year, third baseman Cody Asche has demonstrated improved plate discipline in his full-season debut. The Phillies’ fourth-round pick last year out of Nebraska, Asche has a hit in 11 of the 12 games he’s started and currently owns a five-game hitting streak.

Asche’s teammate, third baseman/designated hitter Jeremy Barnes, is on a different kind of streak, having gone hitless in five-consecutive games and losing .110 off of his batting average. Barnes is repeating the Florida State League after hitting .267/.335/.403 for the Threshers last year, and time may be running out for the 25-year-old.

The only minor-league player to have gone longer than Leandro Castro without drawing a walk this year is Tigers farmhand James Robbins, who owns a 23:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 plate appearances.

Kelly  Dugan spent his first three professional seasons in the outfield, but a logjam at Class-A Lakewood prompted the Phillies to move their top pick from 2009 back to his high school position of first base this year. After going 2-for-4 with a home run on opening day, Dugan finally hit his second homer of the year on April 19 in the BlueClaws’ 11-9 loss at Hagerstown. Southpaws continues to give Dugan fits – he’s hitting .125/.300/.125 with six strikeouts in 16 at-bats against lefties – but he’s already matched his season-best home run total through 61 plate appearances.

Speaking of significant left/right splits, Clearwater shortstop Edgar Duran has hit .345/.387/.379 against right-handed pitchers but only .118/.167/.235 versus lefties.

Gauntlett Eldemire, one of the toolsiest players in the Phillies organization, has been on a nasty skid since going 2-for-3 with a pair of stolen bases on April 10. The 23-year-old right fielder has gone 5-for-31 in nine games since, though he’s drawn nine walks during his slump .

Lakewood third baseman Maikel Franco has three multi-hit games out of his last six contests and has hit both of his home runs in those six games. He struggled in a late-season promotion from Williamsport last year, hitting just .123/.149/.200 in 65 August at-bats, but is handling himself well this year as one of only 15 players under the age of 20 in the South Atlantic League.

Freddy Galvis put together a modest five-game hitting streak during the Phillies first homestand of the year, but hasn’t done much with the bat since the streak was snapped on April 15. Offensive expectations were minimal, however, and Galvis is delivering on defense, leading all major-league second basemen with 1.66 fielding runs above average (FRAA).

Reading center fielder Tyson Gillies has strung together a seven-game hit streak, raising his batting average to .267.

Considering how raw his tools are, Tyler Greene’s opening day assignment to a full-season league came as somewhat of a surprise. He’s been overmatched at the plate, striking out 21 times in 44 at-bats, and could be in line for a trip T. Williamsport when short-season leagues open in June if his struggles continue.

Cesar Hernandez has added 15 pounds to his 5-foot-10 frame since last year, which could explain his uptick in extra-base hits. Hernandez is already more than 70 percent of the way toward matching his 2011 doubles total of seven.

After beginning his season on a 1-for-20 slide, Clearwater right fielder Anthony Hewitt may have turned things around last night against Brevard County, going 2-for-5 with his first extra-base hits of the season, a double and a home run off of Brewers prospect Jed Bradley.

Reading’s Jiwan James had four multi-hit games in the first week of the season, but has gone 5-for-23 with eight strikeouts since April 12. James still leads the Double-A Phillies in slugging average and is second behind first baseman Darin Ruf in OPS.

Drafted out of Mississippi as a third baseman, Cody Overbeck has played first base almost exclusively since arriving at Triple-A Lehigh Valley last June. Unfortunately, the power he showed at Double-A and below has yet to manifest itself, severely limiting his major-league upside.

Lakewood’s Brian Pointer has shuffled between the outfield corners, but it hasn’t affected his bat, as the 20-year-old currently leads the South Atlantic League with four home runs and is tied for sixth in triples and 10th in slugging average. Philadelphia plucked Pointer out of a Nevada high school in the 28th round of the 2010 draft and signed him away from an Oregon State commitment for $350,000. Pointer spent last year in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .278/.353/.503, but it wasn’t enough for him to rank among the league’s top 20 prospects according to Baseball America. He draws a fair number of walks and is a good baserunner, having swiped 11 bases in 11 tries as a pro. His power-speed combination elicits some comparisons to Domonic Brown, but Pointer isn’t the physical specimen that the enigmatic Brown is, nor does he possess Brown’s raw speed. The lefty hitter struggles mightily against same-side pitching, hitting .143/.250/.229 last year and only .133/.300/.200 through 19 plate appearances at Lakewood this season. He’s gotten hits in 12 of 14 starts this year, going hitless only games started by Greensboro left-hander Adam Conley.

Reading first baseman Darin Ruf ranks third in the Eastern League with a .393 batting average, and he went 5-for-5 with a double and a home run at Richmond on April 17.

Top catching prospect Sebastian Valle continues to hit in Double-A, and after walking in just 3.6 percent of his plate appearances in 2011, has posted a 6.0 percent walk rate through 50 plate appearances. Seventy-two percent of his trips to the plate have ended in a hit, walk, or strikeout, and he’s fanned multiple times in six of his last seven games.

.

Kyle Kendrick and Plan B

Back in December, when the Phillies were still deciding on their future with right-hander Kyle Kendrick, I suggested that they cut their ties with the veteran swingman. Pitchers like Kendrick, I argued, are plentiful in the world of baseball, so paying upwards of $3 million per season to keep him around just wasn’t worth it. The Phillies initially avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $3.585 million salary for 2011, but in February, they announced they had signed Kendrick to a two-year, $7.5 million deal.

We have gone over Kendrick’s abilities ad nauseam here, so I won’t waste your time going over those. For passers-by, here some some relevant links:

  • Phillies Must Make Tough Choice Regarding Kyle Kendrick [Link]
  • Phillies Sign Kyle Kendrick for $3.585 Million [Link]
  • Kyle Kendrick Receives 2 year, $7.5 Million Extension [Link]
  • Kitschy Kyle Kendrick [Link]

As a result of Cliff Lee‘s placement on the disabled list recently, Kendrick moved into the starting rotation, making his first start of the 2012 season last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was absolutely terrible over three innings of work, allowing 11 hits, including a home run to Justin Upton and four doubles, and a total of seven runs. In true KK fashion, he walked one and struck out one out of 21 total batters faced.

Kendrick is certainly not nearly as bad as he looked last night, but in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, there are four pitchers who reasonably could have been called upon to make a spot start or two in Lee’s absence: journeymen Dave Bush and Scott Elarton, left-hander Pat Misch, and right-hander Austin Hyatt (who, unlike Kendrick, is getting Triple-A experience before Major League experience). Their existence and placement in the Phillies’ system is entirely independent of Kendrick’s, so the Phillies would have had just as much of a contingency plan if they had non-tendered Kendrick as opposed to the route they chose.

Kendrick is not, in any respect, noticeably better than any of those four options. What Kendrick has is lore: he was the Phillies’ unsung hero in the 2007 season. As Matt Swartz pointed out on Twitter, the Phillies have been paying for that fluky performance ever since:

twitter.com/Matt_Swa/status/194606700010020864

Kendrick also gets too much credit for his versatility — his ability and willingness to bounce between the bullpen and starting rotation at a moment’s notice. While that is nice, it has no practical benefit. The Phillies still had to make a roster move (recalling Joe Savery) in response, so while it appears that Kendrick eats two roster spots for the price of one, he is just a mediocre pitcher who really doesn’t fit anywhere but in a Triple-A rotation as an innings-eater.

It just as easily could have been Bush or Hyatt getting taken for seven runs in three innings last night, but they wouldn’t have been on the books for $7.5 million over two years while doing so. Kendrick’s performance last night was just a painful reminder of the superfluous way GM Ruben Amaro has doled out money since taking over for Pat Gillick after the 2008 season. From needlessly signing Ryan Howard to a five-year contract extension in 2010, giving bench bat Laynce Nix, reliever Danys Baez, and catcher Brian Schneider two guaranteed years, and awarding closer Jonathan Papelbon the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher, the Phillies have been terribly inefficient and backwards-thinking. When you run a payroll in excess of $170 million, money can cover up a lot of mistakes, but it won’t be the case as this roster continues to age and key pieces — such as Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino — have the potential to change their addresses.