Overbeck may be better Phillies prospect than Rizzotti

Matt Rizzotti, hitting .359 with eight homers and 30 RBIs at Reading, may be best suited for DH.
Matt Rizzotti, hitting .359 with eight homers and 30 RBIs at Reading, may be best suited for DH. (RALPH TROUT)
Posted: May 22, 2011

Reading's Matt Rizzotti and Cody Overbeck are an interesting pair.

They are lighting up the Eastern League with their bats, but neither player is considered particularly proficient with his glove.

Rizzotti, 25, went into Saturday ranked fifth in the league in hitting and first in extra-base hits. He was batting .354 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs.

Overbeck, who will turn 25 on June 5, went into Saturday leading the league in home runs and tied for the league lead in RBIs. He was hitting .276 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs.

Despite posting terrific offensive numbers the last two seasons, neither Rizzotti nor Overbeck is ranked among the organization's best prospects by Baseball America. There remains doubt as to whether Rizzotti will even make it to the major leagues.

A National League scout who has seen both players perform quite a bit was recently asked which one had the better chance of getting to the big leagues.

"I love Rizzotti to death, but if I had to pick one or the other, I think Overbeck has a better chance of playing in the big leagues," the scout said.

Overbeck, a righthanded hitter, has one major advantage over Rizzotti, who has a sweet lefthanded swing. Even though he made 17 errors in 78 games at third base for Reading last season, he is still considered a more versatile player than Rizzotti.

"I think Overbeck can play in the National League," the scout said. "He can play some first base and some third base, so he is a corner guy with power."

Lately, Overbeck, a 2008 ninth-round pick out of the University of Mississippi, has also been introduced to left field. He has not made an error this season.

"This kid has some unbelievable power," the scout said. "Like Rizzotti, the ball makes a different sound when it comes off Overbeck's bat. He is going to swing and miss more than Rizzotti, but you can't ignore his power."

Rizzotti's problem is obvious.

"I think he's an American League player," the scout said.

What he is really saying is that he thinks Rizzotti is a designated hitter, which is where he has been used most often by Reading manager Mark Parent this season. Rizzotti, in limited time at first base, has three errors.

The scout said he does not understand why Rizzotti is still at Reading, where he hit .361 with 16 home runs and 62 in 77 games last season.

"I'd like to see him at triple A," the scout said. "I don't know what else he has to prove at double A. If they don't like him and don't think he can play, get him to triple A so they can showcase and trade him. If he does well at triple A, I think they will have people calling and knocking down their door for him."

Rizzotti hit only .200 in a 17-game stint at triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. Still, the team thought enough of him to add him to the 40-man roster and send him to the Arizona Fall League during the offseason. He was removed from the 40-man roster near the end of spring training and sent back to Reading.

No other team claimed Rizzotti off waivers and the scout said he believes the Long Island native must prove he can play first base and hit triple-A pitching before another big-league team will show interest.

The current first baseman at triple A is Jeff Larish, a 28-year-old former big-leaguer.

"If you don't play first base, you really don't have value," the scout said. "How many 25-year-old designated hitters do you see?"

The answer is one: Kansas City's Billy Butler is 25 and the only regular DH in the American League under the age of 30. The average age at the DH position is 34.2.

That's why Overbeck is considered the better prospect.


Phils minor-leaguer Singleton's in a slump - his first as a pro

Clearwater

(Advanced A, 26-16, second place, Florida State League North Division)

  For the first time in his brief professional career, Jonathan Singleton is mired in a prolonged slump. Heading into Saturday, he was hitting .118 (4 for 32) over his last 10 games and he did not have an extra-base hit in 17 games this month.

"It looks to me that he's in the middle of trying to hit for power and trying to hit for average," a National League scout said. "He's also wearing protection for his ankle, so I don't know if that's bothering him."

The scout and Chuck LaMar, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player development, agree that a little struggle might be beneficial in the long run.

"Maybe it will make him work even a little harder," the scout said. "Right now his swing has a little loop in it, but I watched him take BP and it might have been the most impressive BP I've seen in the entire league. He's only 19."

Said LaMar: "You hate to see any young player struggle, but it's going to happen to every player and you'd much rather see them struggle at a lower level for the first time than have it happen at a higher level. But the game of baseball is about struggle."

Brody Colvin's fastball was being clocked in the mid-90s late last season at Lakewood, but after missing time earlier this season with a back injury, the righthander was clocked in the low 90s by the NL scout during a recent start.

Righthander Julio Rodriguez has impressive numbers - 5-2 with a 2.44 ERA - but the NL scout said he was skeptical about his chances of pitching in the big leagues. "I can't say he's a prospect right now. He throws 87-88 and it looks pretty straight."

Catcher Sebastian Valle has been out all week because of a concussion, but is expected to return soon. . . . Second baseman Cesar Hernandez missed time earlier this season because of injury and has had to be a spectator the last week while Chase Utley continued his rehab.

Reading

(AA, 23-17, third place, Eastern League Eastern Division)

 After being sent back to the R-Phils for a second straight season, righthander Justin DeFratus has done nothing to damage his reputation as a big-league relief prospect. In 14 games, he was 2-0 with three saves and a 2.95 ERA after posting a 2.19 ERA and six saves in 20 games with Reading last season.

"He's throwing the ball extremely well," LaMar said.

 Carlos Rivero, a third baseman who manager Mark Parent believes already has the glove to play in the big leagues, hit .304 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in his first 18 games this month.

Lehigh Valley

(AAA, 25-16, first place, International League North Division)

Outfielder Rich Thompson is 32, has just one big-league at-bat, and certainly is not considered a major-league prospect, but it's impossible to ignore what he has done as a base-stealer since joining the Phillies organization in 2008.

Over the last four seasons, he has been successful on 109 of 119 steal attempts, including all 17 this year with the IronPigs. Even though he is not on the 40-man roster, you have to wonder whether that kind of success rate would not be beneficial in September, when rosters are expanded.

Michael Schwimer, 25, has been in the conversation about young Phillies relievers knocking on the big-league door, and with 33 strikeouts in 232/3 innings and a 1.90 ERA in his first 15 appearances he remains part of that conversation. The one drawback: 13 walks.

Lakewood

(Low A, 19-22, seventh place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

Ervin Manzanillo is 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA in eight starts, but LaMar said he falls into the same category as Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' 2010 first-round draft pick.

"They are going to have games where they're not so good and then come back and pitch very well the next time," LaMar said. "That's part of being a young pitcher in that league."

Manzanillo, 19, had a second consecutive strong start Friday, allowing a run on four hits in 61/3 innings to beat West Virginia and pick up his second win.

Biddle, also 19, had his best start for the BlueClaws Wednesday, throwing six shutout innings at Delmarva while registering eight strikeouts. In his last four outings, the lefty is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA.

- Bob Brookover


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com

or @brookob on Twitter

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