Team: Lehigh Valley Ironpigs
Standings: 6th in the North Division
Top Hitter Stat Lines:
Top Pitcher Stat Lines:
Top Hitting Prospect – Maikel Franco
Depending on whose rankings you believed coming into the year, Maikel Franco was anywhere from a Top 20 prospect to Top 70 prospect in baseball. It turns out the truth is closer to the lower side, but it also looks like most of the dispute is over his safety as prospect. Franco’s bat is fine, but AAA pitchers were able to exploit his approach for much of the year. Franco is at his best when he combines aggression and patience has he attacks his pitches early in counts, getting to his plus raw power. At his worst he is off-balance and will lunge at pitches making weak ground ball contact. Franco might not make a return trip to Allentown next year, but that doesn’t mean his development is over, as it might be an adjustment period in the majors. The one question Franco was able to answer was about his defense as he showed up in 2014 in better shape, and was lighter on his feet on defense. He is always going to have range issues, but he has soft hands and a strong-arm, and he can make a good amount of plays around the bag. Overall he won’t win any Gold Gloves, but he is not going to embarrass himself either.
Top Pitching Prospect – Ethan Martin
It was a thin pitching year in AAA for guys who still have prospect eligibility (Ken Giles and David Buchanan made major league impact this year). The best of the guys left is RHP Ethan Martin. This year was supposed to be Martin’s breakout as he moved to being a full-time reliever. He was supposed to be the guy who did what Ken Giles did this year. But starting pitching woes forced Martin back into the rotation this spring, but a shoulder injury cut the experiment short. It took most of the year for his stuff to return as he recovered from injury and worked through a dead arm period. The Phillies eventually shut him down rather than bring him up in September. Next spring Martin should compete for a spot in the Phillies bullpen, though there is a chance they try to stretch him back out as a starter. At his best Martin will bring a mid-90s fastball paired with a good curveball, and a plus cutter like slider. If he can stay healthy Martin could join Giles and Diekman in a young, cheap flame throwing bullpen.
What to Make of Cam Perkins:
I have been a noted doubter of Phillies LF prospect Cameron Perkins, and when he hit .342/.408/.495 in Reading those predictions looked quite silly, but he then hit .216/.259/.298 in AAA, which made everyone look silly. So who is Cameron Perkins as a baseball player? He is a solid corner outfielder with a good feel for contact, a decent feel for defense, some goofiness, and one huge flaw. He does not drive the baseball. Perkins is very skinny, and at 24 years old he is unlikely to put on a ton of strength. But more than pure strength, Perkins does not drive the baseball, he can make contact with almost any pitch and he will flare balls to the outfield for hits or get the ball out to the gaps, but it is rare that he looks to drive the baseball. To make this change would require a fundamental change to how he approaches the game, as he has stated that he looks for things like RBIs and small ball over driving the ball. The ability to put the bat on the ball is extremely valuable, but for a corner outfielder he is not going to be more than a 4th/5th outfield utility player unless he can generate hard contact. It is still fairly early in his career, and he does have the contact skills to succeed, but he is going to need to take strides in 2015 to establish himself as a top prospect in the Phillies system.