Team: Clearwater Threshers
Standing: 6th in North Division (First Half), 4th in North Division (Second Half)
Top Hitter Stat Lines:
Peter Lavin – 54 G – 6 HR – 5 SB – .292/.344/.450
J.P. Crawford – 63 G – 8 HR – 10 SB – .275/.352/.407
Roman Quinn – 88 G – 7 HR – 32 SB – .257/.343/.370
Brian Pointer – 123 G – 15 HR – 16 SB – .246/.336/.419
Top Pitcher Stat Lines:
Top Hitting Prospect – J.P. Crawford
It would have been hard to script a season better than this for the Phillies 2013 1st round pick. Across two levels Crawford hit .285/.375/.406 with 11 HRs and 24 stolen bases, but more impressive was his 65 walks to only 74 strikeouts. There are still some defensive issues to iron out, but the overall package indicates a plus defensive shortstop. On offense Crawford continues to grow and has shown the potential for more home run power than previously expected. There is little doubt in my mind that Crawford is one of the top 15 prospects in all of baseball and that may not be limit to his ceiling.
Top Pitching Prospect – Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola was only with Clearwater for 7 games, but the 2014 first round pick was the best pitching prospect to take the mound for the Threshers this year. There was a lot of talk about Nola’s upside coming into the draft, but that sold short his stuff on the mound. The fastball in pro-ball was 91-93 and he touched as high as 96, he lost some movement on it as he went deeper into the year, but it should explosive late run early in the season. Nola’s breaking ball flashed as a bat missing pitch and he showed some changeups that indicated that it might be a plus offering eventually. The upside may only be a #3 starter, but that #3 starter could arrive in the majors in 2015. There is a chance that the secondary pitches continue to grow, the command sharpens more and you have a guy who is much better than what radar gun will tell you.
Welcome Back In A New Place:
When Roman Quinn‘s season ended prematurely last year to a wrist injury there was some concern, when he tore his Achilles in the offseason there was full panic. The good news is that the speed is all back. He is now a center fielder in deference to Crawford, but the early results have been that he may be a plus defender with a plus arm that could be a weapon from the position. He still needs to be a better base runner to use his speed more, and while he hit 7 home runs, you would like to see him drive the ball more consistently. It is nice to see him back on the top of prospect lists. He will get more work in the Arizona Fall League.
Ethan Stewart once was the Phillies #31 prospect according to Baseball America, but overall the big left hander has been disappointing. On the year he put up a 4.85 ERA over 81.2 innings as a starter with a 53:40 walk to strikeout rate. The Phillies put him in the bullpen to start July, and things have started to really change. Ignore the 4.71 ERA as a reliever, but rather look that over those 21 innings he only walked 5 batters, while striking out 24 (0 walks 11 strikeouts in August). His fastball is touching 97 and the off speed looks crisper. If he can master that kind of stuff he could move very quickly in an impact relief role. Stewart is going to the AFL and we will see if this was a fluke or if the 47th round pick of the 2011 draft is real out of the bullpen. If the stuff is real he could go from on the very fringes of the org to needing protection from the Rule 5 draft.
On the Fringes:
Coming into the year Brian Pointer and Miguel Nunez were names that Phillies prospect watchers were aware of, but both came out of the gate in 2014 as duds. Brian Pointer hit .214/.304/.321 and Nunez put up a 6.02 ERA in the first half. Both came on strong in the second half though. Pointer found his power, hitting 12 second half home runs and while the walk and strikeout rates were not great he managed to put up a .272/.363/.500 line in the second half of the year. Pointer still has a lot of holes in his game, and likely won’t make a Top 30 this off-season, but he should start 2015 in Reading. He profiles more as a 4th/5th outfielder than a starter, but it was an interesting year for the former 28th round pick. Much like Pointer, Miguel Nunez did not make any huge changes to his walk and strikeout profile (though they did slightly improve each month), but he did change the quality of contact against him. The big RHP can get the fastball up to 94, but sits 90-92 for the most part, and he pairs that with a good breaking ball and changeup. The profile is more of a #4 starter, but he is certainly an interesting arm that should be a starter in Reading next year, where he will need to keep the ball out of the air, but could put himself firmly on the prospect map.