|Arizona Fall League Preview|
The Arizona Fall League opens today and the Phillies have seven prospects and a manager taking part in this year's AFL. The Phillies contingent is a part of the Peoria Javelinas.
The Phillies will be sending seven prospects to take part in the Arizona Fall League as members of the Peoria Javelinas. The contingent includes four pitchers (Jay Johnson, Tyler Knigge, Colby Shreve and Kyle Simon), one catcher Tommy Joseph, one infielder (Cody Asche) and one outfielder (Zach Collier). There is one other member of the Phillies minor league system spending the Fall in Peoria, Arizona; Reading Phillies manager Dusty Wathan will be at the helm of the Javelinas in 2012.
The Javelinas will be comprised of prospects from the Phillies, Cincinnati, Minnesota, San Diego and Seattle.
Of the Phillies players headed to Arizona, the games are likely most important for outfielder Zach Collier. The 22-year old had a decent season at High-A Clearwater, but also had it interrupted by a 50 game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball substance abuse policy, when he was found to have amphetamines in his system. In 78 games with the Threshers, Collier had 6 home runs and hit .269 with a .333 on-base percentage. Coming into the season, Collier had a career minor league average of just .242 in the minors and had three total home runs to his credit.
The suspension was especially problematic, since Collier also missed all of the 2010 season with a wrist injury.
Simon and Joseph were both acquired in trades over the summer, with Simon coming from Baltimore along with catcher Gabriel Lino in the Jim Thome trade and Joseph coming from San Francisco as the key piece of the Hunter Pence trade. Both played well after being acquired and both are definitely on the Phillies prospect radar, with Joseph potentially being the top catching prospect in the organization.
Cody Asche has some defensive issues at third base, but his bat shows a lot of promise. Ironically, his power really started to blossom after he was promoted to Double-A Reading this summer, where he hit ten of his 12 home runs this year. He could be on track to battle for the third base job with the Phillies in 2014, especially if they don't find a long-term solution through either free agency or trade this winter.
The 22-year old Johnson may be the surprise pick of the bunch to be among the Phillies players in Arizona. He pitched to a 5.02 ERA with Reading this season in 28 appearances. A lot of Johnson's problems can be traced to shoulder issues that hampered him throughout the 2012 season and twice put him on the DL with what was listed as a left shoulder strain. Johnson seemed to have worked his way past the injury and pitched well in July, with a 3.75 ERA for the month. In August though, he struggled horribly and allowed nine earned runs in 9 2/3 innings for an 8.38 ERA.
Johnson's biggest problem has been control. He walked 18 hitters in 28 2/3 innings this season.
Knigge and Shreve aren't household names, but both have pitched well and are deserving of their trip to the AFL.
Knigge pitched at both Clearwater and Reading in 2012 with a combined ERA of 1.43 and 11 saves. He's a 23-year old right-hander who has worked his way through the system pretty quickly since being drafted in the 12th round of the 2010 Draft by the Phillies.
Shreve was the Phillies sixth round pick in 2008 and started his professional career at Lakewood in 2010 after recovering from Tommy John Surgery that delayed his pro career until that season. He returned strong and has had only minor hiccups as he moved up the ladder, including pitching to a 4.40 ERA in 28 relief appearances with Reading this season.
The Phillies prospects will be sharing the spotlight with Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, who set a minor league stolen base record in 2012 with 154 swipes. Hamilton will be making a position change, moving from shortstop to the outfield - most likely center field - as the Reds work to convert him from playing as an infielder.