That muffled screaming you hear is the every Phillies fan suffocating one half of this year’s Paul Owens Award winners with hope and expectations.
The team’s minor league pitcher of the year for 2013 is Severino Gonzalez, a 20-year-old starter from Panama, who went 7-5 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.023 WHIP in 25 combined games (14 starts) between low-A Lakewood, Clearwater and Reading this year.
Think about that. Gonzalez started the year in extended spring training and finished up the season with one start for AA Reading, in which he went 6 2/3 innings, giving up 2 ERs, 6 strikeouts and 0 walks.
Imagine that. NO WALKS!!! YOU HEAR THAT, OTHER YOUNG PHILLIES PITCHERS! IT IS POSSIBLE!!!
He averaged 10.33 K/9 this year but, more impressively, only 1.9 BB/9. Baseball America noticed Gonzalez’ stellar season a couple weeks ago…
When the Phillies saw Gonzalez two years ago in Panama, he was an 18-year-old with a mid-80s fastball and good feel for pitching, so they gave him $14,000 to join the organization. He spent two years carving up the Venezuelan Summer League, where he got his fastball up to 89 mph, then jumped to the United States this year. When Gonzalez got to extended spring training, he was overmatching hitters, so in May the Phillies pushed him to high Class A Clearwater, where he mostly worked out of the bullpen.
By the end of June, Gonzalez had allowed only one earned run in 26 1/3 innings, his fastball was maxing out at 94 and his control was still excellent, so the Phillies decided to send him down to low Class A Lakewood to use him as a starter. Gonzalez didn’t allow a run in three of his four starts, moved back up to Clearwater in July and has continued to build on his breakout season. After holding Lakeland to one run over six innings with seven strikeouts, his Florida State League ERA sits at 1.88 with a 61-13 K-BB mark over 57 1/3 innings. Now Gonzalez is a 20-year-old on the cusp of making it to Double-A, and with the uptick in his stuff, he’s turned himself into a legitimate prospect.
For those who don’t think the Phils’ international scouting department is doing some work, just check out the seasons of Maikel Franco and Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’ arrival as a top pitching prospect couldn’t have come at a better time. One of the more promising prospects in the organization, Adam Morgan, missed much of this season with shoulder problems and, in his final start of the year for AAA Lehigh Valley, had to leave the game after just 1 1/3 innings due to shoulder discomfort. Jesse Biddle, while still technically the team’s top pitching prospect, had an up-and-down year for AA Reading, going 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA. The good news is he averaged 10 K/9 and only gave up 6.8 H/9. The bad news is he averaged 5.3 BB/9, and never really seemed to get on a serious roll after the month of April. There were two starts this year in which Biddle walked seven hitters in a game.
Not exactly what you’d call a step forward.
And one of the other depth arms in the organization, Jonathan Pettibone, had a decent start to his Major League career this year, going 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA, although he did give up more than a hit per inning, 3.4 BB/9 and just 5.9 K/9. He’s a #5 starter, but there’s a lot of value in that. However, Pettibone hasn’t pitched since July 28 in Detroit due to an inflamed rotator cuff. While MRIs have shown no damage, and Pettibone did begin throwing rehab starts this month, but he’s clearly nothing more than a depth arm, and there are some injury red flags.
That’s why the Phillies are trying to see if Ethan Martin, acquired in the Shane Victorino trade, can turn himself in a starting pitcher, despite all indications being he’s destined to spend his career in the bullpen. He’s got a power arm, but as his five walks in last night’s 9-6 loss to the Nationals demonstrated, he has control issues and can’t seem to last more than five innings.
So, you can understand why a Phillies nation turns its lonely eyes to Severino Gonzalez, hoping against hope that this time, a Phillies starting pitching prospect will actually pan out.
No pressure, kid.