Many times early in the season I was told by various people that the Clearwater Threshers were the worst team in affiliated baseball and that they had never seen a team with so little talent. During the first half of the season the Thresher’s 17-51 record bore out that statement. The team itself had one player (Dan Child) off of Baseball America’s Top 30 prospects and no players off of my list. The team in the first half saw rehab and roster cameos by Top 30 prospects Andrew Knapp, Malquin Canelo, and Deivi Grullon, but the first real impactful talent to arrive was Roman Quinn (.252/.330/.361). After that in the second half, top prospect J.P. Crawford (.278/.354/.430) arrived, and then there was a quick stop by 2014 top pick Aaron Nola. The Threshers are currently 28-36 over the second half and it is not just the top prospects that have made the difference. A group of players of of prospect watcher’s radars have had good second halfs taking the Threshers from historically bad to just mediocre.
Pointer was the Phillies 22nd round pick in the 2010 draft who the Phillies gave $350,000 to after they failed to reach a deal with Scott Frazier. At the time this is what Baseball America had to say about him:
Outfielder Pointer is the best prospect north of Las Vegas. He has a muscular, 6-foot, 190-pound frame and plays the game hard. He bats and throws lefthanded, with a quiet set-up and a smooth swing with loft. He has strength and bat speed, so he projects to hit for power. He could be a single-digit pick and is committed to Oregon State.
Pointer was still fairly raw and the Phillies sent him to the GCL in his first two years, in his second year in the league he has .278/.353/.503, but still didn’t make any noise. Across his 5 minor league seasons Pointer has hit a rather pedestrian .235/.336/.393 with the one positive being that the past three seasons his walk rate has never been below 10%, but it has come with a strikeout rate that has never been below 25%. This year looked like another mediocre year as Pointer hit .214/.304/.321 in 57 first half games. But in the second half Pointer has been on fire hitting .282/.369/.529 with 12 of his 15 HRs. Here are the two spray charts of his season (4/1-6/19, 6/20-present):
You can see some of it is that hits started to fall for Brian, but he is also starting to use the opposite field more and has shown off more power than he had previously. Pointer has been streaky in the past and it is unlikely that he keeps up his second half numbers in Reading. However, Pointer will be in the discussion in the back portions of the Phillies Top 30 this offseason. I am still skeptical if he has the raw ability to be a starting outfielder, but there is a chance at a 4th/5th outfield profile if he can keep the power and start to cut down on the swing and miss.
The Phillies signed Nunez has a 17 year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 for $220,000. He was interesting in his debut, splitting time between the GCL and DSL. He then missed the next two years due to injury before coming back with a 4.22 ERA in Lakewood, first as a piggy back starter with Yoel Mecias, and then on his own. This year started out poorly for Nunez has he put up a 6.02 ERA in the first half of the year, prompting the Phillies to demote him to the GCL and then put him in the bullpen. The Phillies worked to rebuild his delivery and so far it has worked as he has put up a 3.25 ERA over the second half while limiting hard contact. He has also started to show the ability to put together complete starts with his last outing a 8 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 5 K beauty.
Nunez will bring a fastball that is 91-92 touching as high as 93, he pairs it with both a slider and curveball along with a low 80s changeup. It is more of a back end starter profile, but he should be ready in Reading next year where his stuff will get a big test. Like Pointer he may slip into the back of the Top 30.
Unlike the first two names, Art Charles is not a prospect. He was acquired for Michael Schwimer a year and a half ago and has put up mediocre numbers in A-ball has a 22 and 23 year old. What has been remarkable about Charles is how he has found his power stroke. In the first half of the year the big first baseman hit 18 doubles and 3 home runs, in the second half he has 6 doubles and 16 home runs. If there is any major league hope for Charles it will be as a platoon first baseman as he has hit .251/.330/.508 against righties this year with 18 of his 19 home runs.
Walter (20th round) was another member of the group the Phillies got with the money left over from Scott Frazier and the Phillies signed him for $350,000. Baseball America thought highly enough to rank him #29 in the system the year he was drafted due to the potential in his size. However, Walter felt elbow pain to start 2011 and missed 2011 and most of 2012 to Tommy John surgery. He made his way to Lakewood last year where he was brutal the control came and went, and for most of the season it has been much the same in Clearwater. But with injuries and promotions the Phillies have given him a couple of turns in the rotation (2 at the end of the year and a midseason spot start) and the results have been encouraging. Walter has for 14 innings in those three starts, given up 3 runs and 8 hits, but more importantly he has only walked 4 and struck out 11. Walter has also been up to 92, but has struggled to keep the velocity up late into starts. He still is missing the pitches necessary to put batters away, but it is an encouraging step for the once promising pitcher. It remains to be seen whether he sticks in the rotation and returns to Clearwater next year, but either way a scout once said he was more promising than Kevin Gausman, so there was something in that arm once.
Other Guys with Strong Second Halves:
Colin Kleven: 2009 HS pitcher who missed time due to injury. Not knockout stuff, but a 3.67 ERA in the second half vs a 5.32 in the first half on the back of a higher strikeout rate and lower contact rate have put him in contention for a Reading 2015 rotation spot. He has likely been helped by an improved Clearwater defense.
Cody Forsythe: Forsythe (2013 Round 25) is slightly above crafty lefty, but after being very good in Lakewood he has helped stabilize the Threshers bullpen thanks to an ever increasing strikeout rate along with a a solid (but creeping higher) walk rate.
Photo by Tom Haggerty, video by Baseball Betsy