I spent yesterday afternoon at the Philadelphia Phillies’ Carpenter Complex (their minor league facility). They were taking on the Toronto Blue Jays’ A-Ball teams at home and, if you haven’t been down to Clearwater to watch the minor league spring training games, you’re missing out. The Carpenter Complex is a beautiful park that is fantastic for watching baseball and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. If it’s Spring Training, try to avoid days in which the Phillies are at home because you’ll end up paying for parking.
If you’re looking for my Blue Jays reports, I’ve published my observations from yesterday on my own site, Blue Jays from Away, in two parts. Part one describes what I saw in bullpen sessions from pitchers Matt Dermody, Scott Copeland and Frank Viola as well as some batting practice sessions that I saw. Part two discusses the players that I saw in the games, including some of the Jays’ top prospects Franklin Barreto, Alberto Tirado, Mitch Nay and Dawel Lugo.
I spent some time yesterday (as I did the day before) with Baseball Prospectus’s Chris King who helped point out some of the Phillies’ prospects that I wasn’t necessarily as familiar with. Once again, keep in mind that it’s still early and players haven’t yet found their groove. Let’s not jump to any conclusions about these players from a small sample size at the beginning of their spring training.Phillies’ shortstop J.P. Crawford begins his swing in Clearwater, Florida on March 14, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Jay Blue
The Phillies’ top draft pick in 2013, J.P. Crawford, was in action yesterday but I can’t tell you anything about the young shortstop’s defense because he was only hitting. I saw four of his at bats and he only got on base in one of them by taking a walk. He wasn’t really making good contact but he was facing pitchers who, for the most part, are slightly more advanced than he is. While Crawford makes contact a lot of contact and puts the ball in play, it wasn’t with a lot of authority. He grounded out twice (I think both times it was to the second baseman) and popped out to the pitcher once.
Playing shortstop was Malquin Canelo, a 19-year-old Dominican who isn’t known for his bat. He did, however, make one tremendous play in the field, robbing a batter of a hit. He was moving towards second on a hit-and-run and the ball was hit behind him where he would have been had he just been playing his position normally. Canelo was able to not only stop his momentum to his left but get going again to his right to get to the ball and make a strong throw to get the batter at first.
One player who really impressed was 18-year-old catcher Deivi Grullon. While I didn’t note what he did at the plate, what he did behind the plate was outstanding. In the span of two batters, Grullon put on a defensive clinic by showing an excellent pop time and quick release of the ball as well as a strong and accurate arm (although the runner was safe due to a dropped ball but the throw was literally perfect). He also had tremendous footwork in blocking a ball in the dirt and later on threw a runner out. At MLB.com, they give his arm a 70 grade and his fielding a 50 grade although after yesterday, I might bump that fielding grade a bit. On the other diamond, I saw Chad Carman throw out two base stealers early.
Another of MLB.com’s top prospects who pitched yesterday was Mitch Gueller who was struggling with his control. Ethan Martin was only throwing in the 86-89 mph range with his fastball and was throwing a 79 mph offspeed pitch. (Martin was the only Philly I was able to get radar gun readings for: most of the scouts hanging around were scouting the Blue Jays.) Tyler Buckley, 23, impressed with a curveball that, I was told, struck three batters out. Buckley, a 6-foot-5 righty, was in the New York-Penn League last year after being drafted out of the University of Arkansas – Little Rock in the 27th round of last year’s draft and is obviously showing an advanced feel for his breaking ball. While I didn’t have a radar gun reading on Delvi Francisco, a 21-year-old Dominican who spent most of last season in Class-A Lakewood, most of the Blue Jays hitters were late on him, which is a good sign because he was playing in the more advanced group against players who were mostly in Class-A Lansing last year.
That’s all for today. Tomorrow, I’ll report on the same teams actually as the Phillies A-ball teams are visiting Dunedin and the Blue Jays’ complex.