Last year the Lakewood BlueClaws rode a rotation of Dominican RHPs to the South Atlantic League championship game. This year that core group (Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras, Alberto Tirado, and Seranthony Dominguez) was supposed to be the center of the Clearwater rotation. They were joined by 2016 5th round pick, Cole Irvin, a polished 22 year old lefty and by 2016 9th round pick Blake Quinn who was making a return to the rotation after pitching in the bullpen in his pro debut. However, things rarely go as planned. Tirado and Quinn struggled, which forced them back to the bullpen. Dominguez hurt his shoulder after a hot start. The Threshers got reinforcements in the form of JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez, but they also had to send Cole Irvin and Jose Taveras to Reading. This has left two vacancies in the rotation for a pair of relievers to fill.
Edgar Garcia beat his 2015 GCL class to Lakewood last year. At 19 years old, he more than held his own in the BlueClaws bullpen with a 2.80 ERA in 61 innings. The Phillies even tried him as a starter for 4 games and it didn’t go great. After a month and a half in the Clearwater bullpen and a 5.79 ERA, the Phillies made the switch again. The 20 year old has since started 9 games with a 3.54 ERA, 12 walks, and 41 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. He has been limited in his appearances with his last outing (6 IP 6 H 2 R 1 ER 0 BB 7 K) representing both his longest and best outing of the year. Garcia isn’t just some random dude either. His fastball sits 91-95 and he has touched up to 96. His slider has been rated one of the best in the Phillies system and it shows good two plane movement and profiles as a plus pitch. His changeup is still a work in progress, but it flashes potential. Garcia’s success in the rotation does not guarantee that it will be his future home. Like many of the Phillies’ young Latin american pitchers he is small, only listed at 6’1″ 180lbs. He has control, but his command still needs work. Additionally, before yesterday he had only worked in a 6 man rotation with a 5 inning cap. Garcia isn’t in the same class as some of the Phillies over arms, but he probably should at least be in the conversation with pitchers like Ranger Suarez.
Whereas Edgar Garcia was a prospect of sorts, Jacob Waguespack was on nobody’s radar. He was signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 2015 as a junior out of Mississippi. After a brilliant year in Williamsport he was just kind of an average middle reliever for Lakewood last year. In his first season he was only 89-91 and he didn’t stand out enough in Lakewood last year for anyone to give me a report on him. Waguespack made his first start for Clearwater on May 25 and since then he has pitched 9 games with a 2.79 ERA over 42 innings with 9 walks and 41 strikeouts. That on its own might be interesting, but not noteworthy. The interesting thing is that Waguespack has been 92-95 as a starter. Waguespack was a lean 6’6″ when he signed and he has filled out in professional ball. It has been hard to get a grasp on his secondary pitches, but he throws at least a slider and a changeup. His delivery has a lot of moving parts and I worry about his ability to repeat and command his pitches. Waguespack is probably a reliever long term, but the jump in velocity makes him interesting in that role. He won’t go jumping up prospect lists, but he is worth monitoring.
The success of Garcia and Waguespack does not make them locks to be starters or top prospects, but it does make them more interesting. Back in 2015 Austin Davis and Will Morris bailed out the BlueClaws in a similar move. Morris is now out of the system and Davis has reemerged after a year of injuries to be an interesting lefty reliever. I expect both to be back in a bullpen at some point, but until then we will see what they can do.
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