Highs and lows of Phillies' minor-league season

Maikel Franco moved from Clearwater to Reading, and from third to first, and he never stopped hitting.
Maikel Franco moved from Clearwater to Reading, and from third to first, and he never stopped hitting. (RALPH TROUT / Reading Fightin Phils)
Posted: September 09, 2013

Another minor-league season has come to a close and it was a difficult one for the Phillies in a lot of ways.

Injuries derailed top prospects such as lefthander Adam Morgan, catcher Tommy Joseph, and shortstop Roman Quinn. Calls for relief at the big-league level mostly went unanswered when the team was still on the fringe of contention. None of the Phillies' minor-league affiliates reached postseason play.

There were, however, some success stories.

Infielder Maikel Franco wasn't among Baseball America's top 100 prospects at the start of the season, but he will likely be in the top 50 before the start of next season. Third baseman Cody Asche had just completed a disappointing first professional season at Williamsport at this time two years ago and now he appears to be in the big leagues to stay. Darin Ruf was considered a fringe prospect at this time two years ago and now appears to be a power bat of the future for the Phillies.

"I gauge success based on players getting better individually," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "I think we had a lot of success stories. Obviously we did have some guys who didn't have the years we were counting on, but that's every year."

Here's a look at some of the highs and lows of the Phillies' 2013 minor-league season. Players who lost their rookie status this season will not be mentioned as being on the rise or decline.

On the rise

Lehigh Valley (AAA)

Cesar Hernandez: After a strong offensive season with the IronPigs, he could earn a job as a semi-regular in the big leagues next season, playing all three outfield positions and second base. He will work on all those skills playing winter ball in his native Venezuela this season.

Cameron Rupp: Because of Tommy Joseph's concussion and Sebastian Valle's declining stock, Rupp emerged as the top catcher in the system and is finishing the year in the big leagues. He still must prove he is something more than a backup at the big-league level.

Adam Morgan: The lefthander's shoulder problems, which arose again in his final start of the season, are a major concern. But on the mound he has given the Phillies reason to believe he can be a future part of their rotation.

Reading (AA)

Maikel Franco: He started the year in Clearwater as a third baseman and ended it as a first baseman at Reading. He never stopped hitting regardless of where he played and is now considered the best prospect in the organization.

Jesse Biddle: See the separate story on the native Philadelphian's difficult but rewarding season.

Mike Nesseth: He started at high-A Clearwater and finished at Lehigh Valley. But most of his season was spent at Reading, and one rival scout described the pitcher as "an under-the-radar guy that I really like."

Kelly Dugan: The 2009 second-round pick played the same number of games (56) at Reading and Clearwater. He also had the same number of doubles (12) and home runs (10) at each place and solidified his place as an outfield prospect worth watching.

Clearwater (high A)

Severino Gonzalez: The best story of the year in the Phillies' minor-league system was this 20-year-old righthander from Panama. He started the year in extended spring training with the thought he'd pitch at short-season Williamsport and finished a combined 7-5 with a 1.97 ERA at Lakewood, Clearwater, and Reading.

Cameron Perkins: The 22-year-old outfielder was leading the Florida State League in hits when he suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him at the end of May. He batted only .250 after his return, but Jordan said Perkins never regained full strength.

Aaron Altherr: The 22-year-old centerfielder had his best minor-league season, hitting .275 with 36 doubles, six triples, and 12 home runs while also stealing 23 bases in 28 attempts.

Lakewood (low A)

Willie Carmona: The 22-year-old infielder was one of the older players in this league, but he did what an older player should do, finishing fifth in the league with a .303 average and seventh with 34 doubles. He will need to show more home run power.

J.P. Crawford: The Phillies' 2013 first-round pick was promoted to Lakewood after batting .345 in the Gulf Coast League. The 18-year-old shortstop dazzled with his glove and bat in his first professional season.

Shane Watson: The team's 2012 first-round pick and Crawford's former teammate at Lakewood High in Southern California showed off enough of his power arm to impress the Phillies, but he was shut down with shoulder fatigue after a Fourth of July start.

Williamsport

Jiandido Tromp, OF; Andrew Knapp, C; Dylan Cozens, OF, Andrew Pullin, 2B, Zach Green, 3B; Keivi Rojas.

GCL Phillies

Deivi Grullon, C; Wilmer Oberto, OF; Richard Bielski, RHP; Mark Leiter Jr., RHP.

On the decline

Lehigh Valley

Tommy Joseph: Because of his concussion problems, it might not be fair to include him on this list. But it was definitely a lost season - he had just 123 at-bats and hit .179 - for the catching prospect acquired from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade. Jordan said Joseph will continue to catch and report to the Instructional League in Clearwater.

Tyson Gillies: The outfielder's 390 at-bats were the most he has had since coming to the organization in 2010. Not much else good to say about his season.

Reading

Austin Wright: The 2012 Florida State League pitcher of the year struggled mightily and finished the year pitching out of the bullpen.

Zach Collier: The 34th overall pick, this outfielder had a strong August finish, but still hit only .222 in his first season at double A.

Anthony Hewitt: This was probably the outfielder's best minor-league season, but it will be surprising if he doesn't leave the organization as a minor-league free agent.

Clearwater

Ken Giles: The hard-throwing righthander is still very much a top prospect and he will pitch in the Arizona Fall League. But if he doesn't improve his command - he walked 19 batters in 252/3 innings - he will just be another big arm that didn't make it to the big leagues.

Lakewood

Roman Quinn: He's still considered one of the top prospects in the organization and Jordan said he will remain at shortstop next season despite Crawford's presence. Quinn, 20, did not play after June 24 because of a fractured wrist.

Larry Greene Jr.: A lot of holes must be patched in his swing if the 20-year-old outfielder is to live up to his first-round draft potential.

Mitch Walding: The 20-year-old third baseman has the glove to make it to the big leagues, but has hit .227 in his first two professional seasons.

Who can help next year

  In addition to Asche and Ruf, who have played significant time with the big club, these players may make to to Philadelphia as well:

Mike Nesseth: Given the inconsistency of the guys who had a chance to earn a bullpen spot this season, Nesseth will be one of many auditioning for a job in spring training.

Jesse Biddle: The Philadelphia native is determined to get to the big leagues next season. He won't start there, but he could very well finish the season with the Phillies.

Maikel Franco: If he does what he did at Clearwater and Reading early next season at Lehigh Valley, the Phillies will find a place for him.

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