The anticipation is building for the new season with spring training just around the corner. Most of the focus has been on Cole Hamels’ contract status, and Ryan Howard’s rehab so far. Will Cole sign a long-term deal? Will Ryan’s ankle cause him to miss significant time?
Since I don’t have answers to these questions, I’ve turned my focus to the Phillies’ minor league system. One thing that’s great about spring training is that it brings players from every level of the organization together. It gives Phillies top prospect, Trevor May, the chance to watch and pick Roy Halladay’s brain. Young lefty Jesse Biddle has the opportunity to fine-tune his change-up with Cole Hamels.
The big leaguers’ tutoring may not always be so direct, but just watching how they handle their business is an invaluable lesson for every player aspiring to make it to the show.
We don’t know yet who will be filling out the rosters at each level. Last season the focus was on the “baby aces” in single A. However, there should be plenty of talent spread throughout each level to warrant close attention. I, for one, am very excited to see Sebastian Valle when the pitchers and catchers report. He’s been dubbed the heir apparent to Carlos Ruiz, especially with former catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud now playing for Toronto. This isn’t a knock on Valle, but the Phillies need him to continue to develop, as they are pretty thin at the position behind him.
Despite lacking depth at a lot of positions, the Phillies are still quite rich with pitching prospects. They aren’t ranked nearly as high as a few years ago with all the big trades they’ve made, but they’re certainly still in the top half of baseball regarding their overall minor league system ranking.
Phillies AAA manager Ryne Sandberg has been in the news this offseason, being rumored for a few open managerial posts. Unfortunately for Sandberg, he was passed over and will return to Lehigh Valley. As a player, Sandberg’s major league success is well documented, but he was also excellent in his first year in the dugout. Sandberg’s loss is the Phillies gain, as they will be able to reap the benefits of his managing for at least one more year.
An exhibition game between Lehigh Valley and the Reading Phillies was announced earlier this week. You might think this game has a JV vs. Varsity feel, but both teams have their respective strengths. The iron pigs will boast more experienced players, however the Reading Phils will have many of the Phillies top pitching prospects. I doubt there’ll be a Vegas line out on the game, but I’m going to make my prediction now: R-Phils 3 – 1 over the Iron pigs. I’ll go with Reading mostly because I’m not quite sure what an Iron Pig is…