I heart the Phillie Phanatic (Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 Arizona Fall League Delegates: Philadelphia Phillies

This year we decided as a staff to preview each of the team’s preliminary assignments to the 2012 AFL and our goal is to tackle each of the 30 organizations over the next 7-10 days. We hope you will follow along with us, check in several times each day and enjoy reading what we come up with. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed just click here to brush up.

Tommy Joseph at the 2012 All Star Futures Game in Kansas City (Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE)

Seven Phillies farmhands have been assigned to the Peoria Javelinas where they will join forces with prospects from the Reds, Twins, Padres and Mariners. Of the select seven Phillies, only one of them opened the season in the team’s Baseball America Top-30 but two mid-season trades each brought in a player on this list that was a Top-30 prospect in their respective organizations.

Aside from the preseason rankings, three of the five that started 2012 in the organization finished the season very strong and I personally regard at least five of the seven that follow to be players to keep a close eye on going forward.

LHP – Jay Johnson (22) – Signed by the Phillies as a NDFA on March 20th, 2011

2012 – GCL Phillies: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB and 6 SO
2012 – Clearwater: 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB and 4 SO
2012 – Reading: 5.02 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 33 H, 18 BB and 30 SO in 28.2 IP

Just getting started in professional baseball was a bit of a challenge for Johnson. He was signed in the 25th round of the 2009 draft by the Orioles and agreed to terms on a contract but failed his physical and wound up at Texas Tech University instead. The Blue Jays selected him the following year in the 26th round and he signed but had his contract voided shortly after. Obviously the Phillies snapped him up just before the start of the 2011 season and he pitched well out of the Lakewood bullpen despite a 6.4 BB/9.

In 2012 he cut his BB rate to 5.7 with Reading and continued to strike out more than a batter per inning. Johnson’s H/9 spiked up to 10.4 but that is very misleading, as is his 5.02 ERA. Much of the damage to his stat-line was done in his final two appearances of the season when he gave up 8 hits and 6 earned runs in 2.0 innings. Obviously you can’t waive a wand and eliminate those outings but if you could his stat line would have looked like this; 3.37 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 25 H, 17 BB and 27 SO in 26.2 IP. For a reliever, that’s still nothing to write home about, but it sure looks a lot better. We also have to remember that for all intents and purposes he skipped over advanced class-A. There’s already a good deal of wear on his elbow (three procedures including 2004 Tommy John surgery) but he’s a lefty with a fastball that sits in the 90s and a slider that come at hitters from an unusual arm slot.

RHP – Tyler Knigge (23) – Phillies 2010 12th Round Pick

2012 – Clearwater: 0.60 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 26 H, 11 BB and 45 SO in 44.2 IP
2012 – Reading: 2.92 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 25 H, 12 BB and 25 SO in 24.2 IP

Knigge certainly impressed early on allowing just 3 earned runs in the FSL. He struggled after his promotion to Double-A but adjusted and closed the season strong allowing 16 hits and 2 earned runs in 16.1 innings after August 1st. During that stretch he also showed a significant improvement in his walk rate as the 20-2 SO-to-BB can attest. At 6’4″ and 215 he has the big durable frame to hold up to the rigors of a major league season, a fastball he can run into the mid-90s and secondary pitches that flash plus. Three C’s; control, consistency and confidence are what hold him back at times but if he can continue to show improvement in those areas, the Phillies will have a solid bullpen option in place sooner rather than later. He figures to open 2013 with Lehigh Valley, but a strong AFL performance and solid spring training might land him on the the major league roster come Opening Day.

RHP – Colby Shreve (24) – Phillies 2008 6th Round Pick

2012 – Lakewood: 3.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 12 H, 7 BB and 16 SO in 15.0 IP
2012 – Clearwater: 2.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 17 H, 6 BB and 19 SO in 20.0 IP
2012 – Reading: 4.40 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 43 H, 25 BB and 29 SO in 43.0 IP

Shreve was a part of the 2008 draft class and signed to a $400,000 bonus that summer but he didn’t make his professional debut until 2010 due to injury. He had Tommy John surgery prior to the draft so it speaks volumes about what the Phillies thought of him that they gave him a six figure signing bonus. Shreve pitched primarily as a starter for Lakewood when he returned to action in 2010 but has been used almost exclusively as a reliever the past two seasons. Most encouraging, aside from a solid statistical minor league resume, is the fact that he’s been able to stay healthy. Like Knigge, he required an adjustment period once he was promoted to Reading but closed the year strong with a 2.65 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 15-7 SO-to-BB in 17.0 innings after August 1st. He shares another similarity to Knigge in that he’s another overlooked reliever that could help out in the Phillies bullpen in the next year or so.

RHP – Kyle Simon (22) – Orioles 2011 4th Round Pick

2012 – Frederick: 3.96 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 86 H, 21 BB and 49 SO in 72.2 IP
2012 – Clearwater: 1.26 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 10 H, 1 BB and 14 SO in 14.1 IP
2012 – Reading: 1.42 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 12 H, 5 BB and 21 SO in 25.1 IP

The Phillies acquired Gabriel Lino and Simon from the Orioles on June 30th. All they had to give up were the limited services of Jim Thome so by my estimation – especially the way their season has unfolded – they are a winner in the deal no matter what happens. As soon as they got their hands on Simon, they immediately moved him from the rotation where he was with Frederick to the bullpen. The transformation was immediate as his hit, walk and strikeout rates all improved dramatically. Simon’s transition to relief also helped his GO/AO rate increase from 2.55 with the Keys to 4.00 and 4.70 with the Threshers and R-Phillies respectively. For a pitcher that primarily survives and works off his sinker, inducing ground balls is the name of the game and he clearly has more success in that regard coming out of the bullpen.

C – Tommy Joseph (21) – Giants 2009 2nd Round Pick

2012 – Richmond: 0.260/.313/.391, 16 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 0 SB, 25 BB and 64 SO in 335 PA
2012 – Reading: 0.250/.327/.420, 8 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 0 SB, 9 BB and 32 SO in 114 PA

The July 31st trade of Hunter Pence to San Francisco brought back a return of OF Nate Schierholtz, RHP Seth Rosin and, of course, Joseph. I’m a fan of Rosin but there is no question that Joseph was the prize return in that deal. While he did switch organizations, he stayed in the Eastern League which certainly eased his transition and his numbers aside from his K% (which went up) stayed relatively stable. Long term he profiles to be an everyday major league catcher, especially after significantly improving the defensive aspects of his game in recent seasons. His two biggest assets are plus power and a plus arm (40% CS% in 2012) and the former of those two should benefit greatly from the AFL environment.

3B – Cody Asche (22) – Phillies 2011 4th Round Pick

2012 – Clearwater: 0.349/.378/.447, 13 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 10 SB, 12 BB and 37 SO in 270 PA
2012 – Reading: 0.300/.360/.513, 20 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 1 SB, 22 BB and 56 SO in 289 PA

Asche tore apart FSL pitching and landed himself on the S2S Mid-Season FSL All-Star Team as a result. He continued to produce after the promotion to the Eastern League and his natural left-handed power started to manifest itself as the season wore on. In fact he hit a very stout 0.369/.418/.648 during the month of August with 17 2B, 1 3B and 5 HR. At the time he was drafted there was a belief that he would have to move off of 3B – and he played 2B with Williamsport in 2011 – but the Phillies have stuck with him at the hot corner in 2012 and Baseball America recently named him the Best Defensive 3B in the Florida State League. Asche was left of a lot of prospect lists but after what he did in his first full minor league season that is certain to change. His stock has clearly gone up significantly and a strong AFL performance would pump even more helium into his status as a prospect.

OF – Zach Collier (21) – Phillies 2008 1st Round Pick (34th Overall)

2012 – Clearwater: 0.269/.333/.399, 13 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 11 SB, 26 BB and 60 SO in 319 PA

If you’re really paying attention you’ve probably noticed that of the seven players heading to the AFL for the Phillies, Collier is the only one of them to have spent all of 2012 at the same level and on the same team. He is also the only one on this list to open the season in Philadelphia’s Top-30 (#27 according to Baseball America). While Collier’s stat line may not look like much on the surface, his 0.733 OPS is the best of his four minor league seasons and he’s had a bit of a bumpy road to get to where he’s at. He lost the entire 2010 season due to two wrist/hand surgeries and was suspended 50 games in September 2011 after a positive drug test (amphetamines). Since that suspension was handed out after the end of the minor league season, he had to “serve his time” this season and missed all of the April and May action except for three games. With only 343 minor league games under his belt after five years as a pro, he’s obviously behind in his development and his assignment to the AFL makes perfect sense.

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Tags: Cody Asche Colby Shreve Jay Johnson Kyle Simon Philadelphia Phillies Tommy Joseph Tyler Knigge Zach Collier

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