The Class-A Clearwater Threshers open the second part of their season with a 4-17 record as the farm system continues to struggle.
It’s never too early to establish a winning culture, but in Clearwater, where prospects get down to business in the competitive Florida State League, players have experienced nothing but extreme failure the last two seasons.
The Threshers were trying to rebound from a 55-82 2004 campaign under the misguided Mike Schmidt managerial experiment, another in a long line of joke personnel decisions. They’re off to another bad start this second half with former Reading Phillies manager and player Greg Legg at the helm. For the season, Clearwater is now 22-68.
With so many levels of the organization comprised of high school talent or foreign amateurs, very few players come to the Phillies with a history of competing at a high level. Between Triple-A Scranton and Low-A Lakewood, the Phils farm system had a .464 winning percentage in 2004, in addition to short-season Batavia, with a record of 28-46 (.378).
It’s the same story this season. Double-A Reading (44-50) has been mired in the Eastern League cellar all year. Aside from homegrown talent like Michael Bourn and Chris Roberson, essentially the same type of slashing outfielder, the brightest moments have come from older players like Randy Ruiz and pitchers Allen Davis and Chris Rojas, all transplants from other organizations.
As for homegrown talent, Juan Richardson, thought to be the slugging future at third base, had a brutal start to the season and seldom plays his position anymore. Shortstop Danny Gonzalez, once praised for his hard work, was released before mid-season. Both Richardson and Gonzalez were ranked at one time by Baseball America.
The bulk of hyped talent resides in Clearwater this season, but the early results are less than impressive. Opponents are hitting .297 off Zach Segovia (2-9, 5.85). Segovia was a second-round choice in 2002 out of high school and missed all of last season with shoulder surgery. And Scott Mathieson, another high school draft pick and ranked by BA, is a mediocre 1-4 with a 4.16 ERA.
In short, the minor leagues are in turmoil once again, with a disturbing talent void in Double-A and troubling results from former top prospects, including Gavin Floyd, who has all the "tools" except the one that counts.
Aside from Ryan Howard and a couple of surprises among minor league free agents, there’s been little to celebrate down on the farm.
Talent isn't the issue, just as talent isn't the only issue with the big club. The minors suffer from too many high school picks, poor development and coaching decisions and a losing mentality that's plagued the organization for years.