When the Double-A Reading Phillies play the Altoona Curve tonight at Citizens Bank Park, don’t count on seeing many of these players in the home dugout further down the road.
READING, Pa. -- Yesterday at First Energy Stadium, the average age of the Reading Phillies starting nine, including DH, was 28-years-old, much older than most Double-A clubs.
That's older than some major-league clubs, frankly.
Granted, three young regulars – Michael Bourn, Tim Moss and Jason Jaramillo -- were out of the lineup to start yesterday's game. Then again, so was veteran outfielder Jim Rushford, age 32, recently promoted to Scranton after spending two months in Reading.
No team speaks of the sorry state of the Phillies farm system more than Reading. The team was so desperate for bats, they were forced to clean house a few weeks ago by re-signing veteran retreads, like 31-year-old Gary Burnham. Burnham got as high as Triple-A Syracuse (Toronto), but he’s way too old for Double-A. The same can be said for half the team.
Better organizations don’t resort to this. Then again, no one ever accussed the Phillies of running a tight ship. After yesterday's loss, Reading fell to 25-36, the worst record in the Eastern League. It's part of a lasting, top-to-bottom trend of Phillies minor league futility spanning the past few seasons.
Only two R-Phils position players, Bourn and Jaramillo, are considered big-league prospects. Jaramillo, a catcher in the mold of Johnny Estrada, has been hurt most of the season, while Bourn is spending his second full season in Reading. The speedy 23-year-old has earned high marks for defense, but does not hit for power. His make-or-break stat should be on-base percentage, which stands at a respectable .349. However, it cannot mask the biggest eye-opening stat: strikeouts, 50 of them in 61 games. Unless you're Ryan Howard, that's not the stuff of major league hitters.
The good news: the R-Phils have a stable of outstanding pitchers. Dan Haigwood, the junkball left-hander picked up in the Jim Thome deal, along with teammate Gio Gonzalez, starts tonight's game in Philadelphia.
Haigwood and the talented pitching staff isn’t the problem for Reading, but the desperate atmosphere of losing can be devastating for confidence and drive. Haigwood is holding hitters to a .221 average with a 3.97 ERA, but his win-loss is just 1-5. Gonzalez, who’s dazzled, is just 2-6. In addition, Mathieson and the surprising Zach Segovia have shown promise. It's a welcome change from last season, when the entire starting rotation was comprised of pitchers who started with other organizations.
Here’s a glimpse at yesterday’s Double-A lineup. This should never happen.
Carlos Leon: 27-year-old infielder. Signed as a minor league free agent in 2003. Hitting .287 with 2 homers and a nice OBP (.388).
Joey Hammond: 28-year-old outfielder/infielder. Signed as a minor league free agent after 2005 season. Hitting .240 with 2 homers and a .284 SLG. Slow swinger.
John Castellano: 28-year-old catcher/outfielder who cannot defend. Signed back with the desperate Phillies earlier this season. Was assigned to Single-A for some reason, where he punished young pitching. Back with Reading, he’s hitting .316 with 4 homers and a .451 SLG.
Matt Padgett: 28-year-old designated hitter/outfielder. Played last two seasons with Albuquerque (AAA) and hit 17 homers last season. Posted a .515 SLG in 2004.
Angel Chavez: 24-year-old infielder. Claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants in April. Saw action in 10 games with the Giants last season. Ranked fifth among all Giants farmhands with career-high 83 RBI in combined 119 games. Batted .282 with 19 2Bs, 4 3Bs and career-high 16 HRs.
Gary Burnham: 31-year-old infielder/outfielder. Signed as a free agent on May 24 as part of Reading’s veteran overhaul. Originally selected by the Phillies in the 22nd round of 1997 draft. He spent the entire season with independent Bridgeport and hit a career-high 18 homers. He and catcher Jeff Winchester combined on a bang-bang play at the plate in yesterday's game.
Jesus Merchan: 25-year-old third baseman. Signed by Phillies as a minor league free agent last June. Light-hitting corner slugging just .333 this season with no homers.
Brandon Gemoll: 25-year-old first baseman. Spent last three seasons with Double-A Huntsville before signing as a minor league free agent. Hitting .198 with no homers in 91 at bats. Ten doubles, however.
Jeff Winchester: 26-year-old catcher. Signed as a free agent in June. Originally selected by the Rockies in the first round (40th overall) of the 1998 draft. He’s hitting .108 in 55 at bats.
Extra reading: As usual, check out the latest Double-A news at Mike Drago's blog [here].