Phillies’ Minor Issues: Injury Returns Edition


Today marks the first installment of a new weekly column here at That Ball’s Outta Here, Minor Issues. It will round up the important news, stats, and performances from the Phillies minor league system during the last seven days. It’s aimed at fans who might not have the time to keep up with prospect lists and read minor league box scores, but want to know more about their team’s future.

It’ll be a weekly snapshot of the system, offering stat lines of the current top five prospects in the system, any major news items, transactions, and injuries occurring throughout the week, and praise to deserving performances and on-the-rise names.

This week in Phillies’ Minor Issues: Lots of news on the injury front, Maikel Franco continuing to climb out of his April hole, and the beginning of Venezuelan League play.

The Week’s News

Returns From Injury. Darin Ruf, Ethan Martin, and Roman Quinn all returned from the DL this week. Martin and Ruf are obvious candidates to see time in the Majors this season, but both have initially been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. I still maintain that Ruf and John Mayberry fill very similar roles, making his immediate promotion an issue. Additionally, he hasn’t looked sharp just yet, and wasn’t on a tear at the time of his injury in Spring Training.

Ethan Martin has looked pretty strong so far, and will be a welcome relief to the bullpen upon being called up. His control is typically erratic, having walked five in his 8.1 IP so far, and having thrown only 57% strikes since his Lehigh Valley return. However, he has struck out seven and only allowed one run to date, so I’d expect him in Philadelphia as soon as he looks even remotely more like his old self.

SS Roman Quinn was sent to High-A Clearwater on Monday after completing recovery for his ruptured Achilles. He promptly earned his first stolen base and was hit by a pitch, although he went 0-4 with a K in his debut. He slightly murks the water around a potential J.P. Crawford promotion, but it’s not a monumental issue, or even a bad problem to have.

Venezuelan Summer League Begins. Latin summer league teams are always the overlooked child of the farm system, and for mostly good reason. The success rate of guys on those teams are so incredibly small, it’s probably not very fulfilling to follow any players there until they come over to America. The level of competition is incredibly uneven, but it is an area that the Phillies have seen success.

Current minor leaguers like Wilmer Oberto, Severino Gonzalez, Herlis Rodriguez, and Jair Morelos all came over from either the Venezuelan or Dominican teams in recent years. The Phillies’ VSL team debuted last week, and has performed well so far (5-1). The Dominican Summer League team has its’ opening day on May 31.

Maikel Franco has cut back on strikeouts, piled on walks, and made stronger contact in recent weeks.

Maikel Franco Steadily Raises Averages. Top prospect Maikel Franco is continuing to dig out of his April-sized hole, cutting back on strikeouts, piling on walks, and hitting for stronger contact in the month of May. He knocked his fourth HR of the season on Monday, adding it to two doubles from the beginning of the week. He also has walked in each of his last four games.

On the whole, Franco is hitting .324/.422/.535 (.957 OPS) in May, with 3 HR, 11 BB, 11 K and 9 XBH in 18 games. In April, he hit .172/.234/.253 (.487 OPS) with 1 HR, 6 BB, 18 K, and 5 XBH in 23 games.

Injury Bulletins

Top Prospects

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  • It appears that the only purpose to keeping J.P. Crawford’s bat in single-A Lakewood is to deter the development of other teams’ pitching prospects. Despite missing four games this week with a wrist injury, Crawford returned strong Monday night going 2-4 with a walk. There’s a logistical issue with SS Roman Quinn’s return to high-A Clearwater, but by the end of the month I’ll start looking for news of a promotion.
  • With his first rehab start in Clearwater, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez officially exists in the record books – for the most part. His number of pitches/strike total is still blank, as it is not recorded in that park. However, 1/2 K/BB doesn’t look great, but it is also his first American start of any significance; he’s also coming off of the DL. More time is needed with him.
  •  Jesse Biddle‘s control continues to be a bit of a roller coaster. His 7 K’s in his one start are both great and typical for him, but 4 BB and only 51.9% strikes thrown is still an issue. A little more consistency would be nice.

Other Prospects

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In addition to mentions of the top five prospects each week, attention will be given to On The Rise prospects (who might be see on organizational lists around the internet) with strong performances, and anyone around the system with a week deserving of recognition, to whom I’m designating the working title Names of Note.

On The Rise

Pitching – RHP Severino Gonzalez

Overall, the Phillies’ system is currently low on pitching depth, and this week there wasn’t a ton to choose from in terms of standout prospect performances. Severino Gonzalez did perform admirably in his first outing after what is unequivocally the worst outing of his career (May 11, 3.2 IP, 10 H, 10 ER, 4 K, 0 BB). He bounced back, only allowing 1 ER in 6 innings, with typically strong control. He importantly kept down the number of hits by producing eight groundouts and four strikeouts.

Hitting – OF Dylan Cozens

The quite literally Hit-or-Miss Cozens did a lot of the former this week for Lakewood, adding 7 hits to his 3 walks this week, while hitting his fourth HR. Like Franco, he’s seen a performance uptick so far in the month of May, on pace for fewer strikeouts while already matching last month’s number of walks in only 70% of the number of games. His May OPS of .805 is a strong improvement over April’s .656.

Names of Note

Pitching – RHP Barry Enright

28-year old Enright pitched one hell of a game for Lehigh Valley this week, albeit with a bit of an odd line. He threw a complete game, allowing only four hits and one run to the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. He pounded the strikezone, only allowing one walk, but curiously also only struck out two batters. He also didn’t induce a ton of ground balls, as he only got seven of his outs in that manner (he also had seven fly-outs, as well). Regardless, it was an impressive outing.

Batting – CF Jesus Alastre

Latin leagues are a complete crapshoot for a lot of reasons, some of which are described above. This isn’t proclaiming the 17-year old Alastre as some prospect after six VSL games, but he decimated the players he was assigned to play against, which is all this section is trying to notice. In his first minor league action, Alastre is hitting .429/.556/.571 with a double, a triple, and two walks through six games.