They're raw, unheralded and a little older than we'd like, but the Phillies' minor league position players have been surging of late. Is help on the way beyond Michael Bourn?
Conventional wisdom says the Phillies have better young pitching depth than position depth, however the gap may be closing. A poster on the PhilliesPhans message board offered an eye-opening entry Monday on how some of the higher-tier position prospects have been hitting over the last 10 games. I hadn't noticed.
Mike Costanzo, 23, is starting to get his strikeouts under control and has been hitting with better consistency. The Reading third baseman homered twice on Sunday, raising his OBP/SLG to .452/.649 over his last 10. He went hitless last night, but August has otherwise been a good month. He’s struck out only twice in his past eight games. He’s up to .257/.357/.473 with 22 home runs, the most in the chain. Costanzo would appear to be headed for another solid year of minor league seasoning.
Greg Golson took most of Clearwater’s pop (and strikeouts) with him to Reading, but left behind a group of pretty efficient hitters – many of them having good second acts. Catcher Lou Marson, 21, outfielder Jeremy Slayden, 24, and shortstop Jason Donald, 22, are hitting well. Donald, a 2006 third-round selection, has the highest OPS among the young guys in the chain (.932).
Peeter Ramos, 25, is no better than a borderline prospect, but at least he's been hitting. A contact hitter with a little pop and a good glove, the second baseman is hitting .307/.379/.434. Someone wrote Ramos has more ‘Es’ in his name than on the field. He’s only committed two errors.
One reason the gap between hitters and pitchers may be narrowing is the high-ceiling pitching talent has had mixed second-half results. A number of pitchers, like Carlos Carrasco and Pat Overholt, have struggled making the jump from Class-A to Double-A, but have shown flashes lately. One exception is Triple-A left-hander J.A. Happ, who may be starting to turn the corner after an injury-riddled, limited first half. Happ has allowed just two runs and six hits over his last 12 2-3 innings while striking out 14. Fellow left-hander Josh Outman lasted seven innings his last start with Reading, his second start since his call-up from Single-A.
To answer the original question ‘Is help on the way beyond Michael Bourn?’ unfortunately, I’d have to answer, ‘No. It’s not.’ The margin between the pitchers and hitters is still very wide. Reading, for example, has a group of .300 hitters, but most of them are older non-prospects. The Phillies will get Costanzo into the majors come hell or high water, but his numbers so far do not project into much big-league success. He can’t hit lefties and strikes out too much. Aside from a few scattered bodies, the rest of the chain provides very little pop and very little hope.
Utley expected to miss full five weeks: The Inquirer reported today that Chase Utley’s timetable could be stretched to about five weeks. Utley has been fielding groundballs and had his stitches removed, but it appears the second baseman will take the cautious approach to have the bone heal properly. Five weeks had been the best estimate; three weeks was wishful thinking.