The Morning Call
Amped up over arms on the farm
Phillies pitching development director Chaves likes the potential from upper-level prospects
Rafael Chaves loves the postseason, so the Phillies director of pitching development is getting amped-up with less than a month remaining in the minor league regular season.
“The minor leagues are all about development,” Chaves said. “Sometimes with development, you win. … When they compete in the postseason, they are competing for something other than their personal numbers, and that’s a beautiful thing.
“… I love watching the postseason because that’s when teams come together, when there’s that chemistry.”
It is unlikely the IronPigs will make the International League playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. They sit eight games out of the North Division lead entering Friday’s game, nine behind Durham for the wild-cart berth.
Double-A Reading, however, leads the second-half race in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division by five games with 21 left.
There are a lot of pitchers in the upper levels of the Phillies’ minor league system who have exciting potential. A few may be exposed to next month’s postseason. A few could be headed to the Arizona Fall League. A few could be in the big leagues in September.
Chaves, who has been part of eight organizations as a player, coach and instructor since 1986, offers his thoughts on them:
RHP Spencer Howard, age 23, No. 5 (on MLB.com’s Phillies prospect list): “Anybody who watches him pitch would have a hard time finding something they don’t like. He does a lot of things right and is blessed with a great arm and a combination of four pitches that could be out pitches on any given night. When he may have all four working, that’s when a guy like him has a chance to throw a no-hitter like he did last year. He’s special.
“He profiles like a top-of-the-rotation type of guy. Those are hard to find.”
RHP Connor Seabold, 23, unranked: “He has a lot of talent. [He and Howard] are still young and unfortunately missed part of year. But they’ve gotten on track. If they stay healthy, they may have an opportunity to help the club at the end of this year or maybe next year. They’ve shown signs of being able to dominate hitters when everything is clicking right.
“I don’t like to overcook guys. If they are ready and there’s a spot [at the next level], I’m in favor of let’s go, let’s see what you can do. If the challenge is there, let’s go get it, learn from the challenge. You don’t get better unless tested.”
LHP Damon Jones, 24, No. 21: “This kid was in [low-A] Lakewood last year, and now he’s competing in Triple-A. What’s not to like? Still development to be done yet. … He was able to dominate at [high-A Clearwater and Reading]. It’s like going to school. You graduate, go to the next one, a new challenge.”
RHP J.D. Hammer, 25, no longer a prospect after spending more than
45 days with the Phillies: “When you go up, there’s no place to be other than the big leagues. When you come back down, you think you have to do even better to get back up. I think he held his own very well in big leagues [1-0, 3.79 ERA in 20 games]. Now it’s about confidence, remembering what got you to the big leagues and not trying to do more than what you’re capable of doing.”
Hammer allowed two earned runs or more in five of his first six outings [11 earned runs total] since returning to Triple-A in late July. He allowed eight total with the Phillies.
LHP David Parkinson, 23, No. 19:
“He’s a student of the game. He pays attention and works really, really hard.
He’s never satisfied so he’s always searching to be better. He’s better than the numbers say he should be because of his mind. The hard work he puts into his game probably is the difference maker for him.”
Parkinson has allowed more than three earned runs just twice in 18 starts with Reading.
RHP Adonis Medina, 22, No. 2:
“He’s had his ups and downs. One thing about Medina, he’s got the tools. Some guys develop a little later than others. He’s still very young. It’s a matter of putting it all together. I don’t think he’s too far from having everything click. There are some things, fastball command, that must improve a little bit. With his breaking ball, slider and changeup, he has a chance for three out pitches. He fields his position well, holds runners, does a lot of things that good pitchers need to have. I think he has that in him. He’s in the process of getting there.”
RHP Enyel De Los Santos, 23, No. 8 and LHP Cole Irvin, 25, No. 17: “The main thing is confidence, believing in themselves and understanding the difference between Triple-A and the big leagues. Sometimes, you’re thinking it’s the last pitch you may throw at this level. There’s so much pressure, especially in a big-market franchise. I think they held their own, but still have learning to do.”
De Los Santos and Irvin had multiple stints this year with the Phillies as starters and relievers. Chavez said ongoing adjustments are being made in the minors to follow Phils manager Gabe Kapler’s pitching philosophy of not having established roles. Shortseason Williamsport and low-A Lakewood this season employed piggyback rotations with 12 pitchers taking turns starting one game then relieving the next.
Chaves said Clearwater will do the same next season.
Game notes: Knights 9, IronPigs 2
The two errors Lehigh Valley committed gives it an International Leagueleading 100 this season, including nine in its last five games. … IronPigs pitchers walked five to bring their season total to an IL-most 466. … Nick Williams extended his hitting streak to five games. He has hits in 30 of 33 Triple-A games this season. … Maikel Franco made several standout defensive plays, including a slick, sliding stab on Luis Robert’s grounder in the third. Franco was 1-for-4 at the plate. … Charlotte starter Odrisamer Despaigne (3-2), who entered the game leading the league in ERA (3.23), threw a 52-mph blooper to
Austin Listi in the second inning. It was taken for a ball. … Austin Davis was sharp in two scoreless innings with four strikeouts. … Edgar Garcia’s 17 consecutive scoreless innings streak ended when Charlotte’s Yermin Mercedes hit a three-run home run in the ninth. Zack Collins followed with a solo shot. … Scout Night drew 10,100 fans, the 17th capacity sellout this season. Lehigh Valley (8,426) entered Friday third in league attendance behind Columbus (8,472) and Charlotte (8,463).
RHP Ramon Rosso (1-2, 5.51 ERA) faces Charlotte LHP Matt Tomshaw (2-1, 7.90) in a 6:35 p.m. start. The IronPigs are 14-13 vs. left-handed starters.