Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 2:40 p.m.
By Jim SalisburyCSNPhilly.com
Phillies minor leaguers broke spring-training camp over the weekend and will begin their seasons this week.
Shortly after camp ended, Chuck LaMar, the assistant general manager who oversees player development for the Phillies, was asked to name the bright light of camp, the guy who made everyone sit up and take notice.
His answer might surprise you.
Phillippe Aumont had an outstanding spring, LaMar said enthusiastically. He had impressive outing after impressive outing.
Aumont, 22, was one of the three players that the Phillies received from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade of December 2009. The 6-foot-7, man-mountain righthander had a dismal season in 2010, going 3-11 with a 5.68 ERA at Double-A Reading and Single-A Clearwater. He was used mostly as a starter.
Now, Aumont is back in the bullpen role in which he was used in Seattles system. He thrived in spring training and will open the season in Readings bullpen, where he will share important innings late in the game with Justin DeFratus, one of the organizations top relief prospects.
Phillippe Aumonts confidence is back, LaMar said. He likes the role hes in. Hes throwing strikes with power stuff 94, 95 miles per hour with a curveball and a sinker with late life. We really like what weve seen of this guy.
Righthanded starter J.C. Ramirez, also acquired in the Lee deal, will be in Readings starting rotation. The 22-year-old, power-armed Nicaraguan had an impressive camp.
LaMar was told that some people had given up on the Phillies return in the Lee trade.
Dont do it, he warned. J.C. Ramirez will pitch in the big leagues. And if Aumont continues to come along, hell be a major-league guy.
Tyson Gillies, the third player in the Lee deal, remains in limbo. The 22-year-old centerfielder had a lost season in 2010. He suffered a left hamstring injury that knocked him out of Readings lineup after 26 games. In June, he was arrested for cocaine possession in Clearwater. Charges were dropped in October. Gillies is one of the best athletes in all of pro ball, but he cant seem to get on the field. He was slated to open the season at Reading but is once again being hampered by left hamstring problems, and there is no timetable for his return.
Were in the process of finding out whats wrong, LaMar said. Hes seeing doctors. Obviously something is going on in there.
As the minor-league season begins, pitching appears to be the strength of the system. There are some power-armed starting pitchers in the low minors, and some intriguing, hard-throwing right-handed relievers in the upper minors.
Spring-training standout Michael Stutes leads the cast of reliever prospects. The 24-year-old righty nearly made the big club out of spring training and is likely to be the first reliever called up from Triple-A when the Phils need one. Stutes has a rubber arm. He is capable of pitching several days in a row and seldom ices his arm. (Sounds a little like Paul Quantrill.) Phillies officials, on the lookout for a reliever who can get more than three outs at a time, would like to see Stutes do that at Lehigh Valley.
The Lehigh Valley bullpen also features righthanders Scott Mathieson and Michael Schwimer and lefty Mike Zagurski. All could be in the picture in Philadelphia during the season. Righthander Vance Worley will open in Lehigh Valleys rotation, but he also has the ability to help in the bullpen. DeFratus and Aumont highlight the bullpen arms in Double-A.
The best starting arms are in the lower levels. Four of them righthanders Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone will open the season at Single-A Clearwater. All have power stuff and project as big-league talents. Cosart, Colvin and Pettibone are all 20. May is 21.
Clearwater is the Phillies advanced-level Single-A team. Their less-advanced Single-A club plays in Lakewood, N.J., in the South Atlantic League. Thats where 19-year-old lefty Jesse Biddle, the organizations top pick in last years draft and a native Philadelphian, will open the season. Less than a year out of Germantown Friends, Biddle, 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, has impressed club officials with his work on and off the field.
He pitched well last year and in spring training and earned the right to go to Lakewood, LaMar said. Hell have his ups and downs the first year out of high school, but the stuff is there and we think he can handle being pushed a little.
Lakewoods rotation also features Ervis Manzanillo, a 19-year-old lefty from Venezuela.
Josh Zeid and Austin Hyatt, both drafted out of college in 2009, will join Ramirez in the Double-A rotation. Hyatt was the pitcher of the year in the Florida State League last year. Zeid jumps to Double A from the South Atlantic League. He is knocking on the door or prospecthood.
The top two catching prospects in the system, Cameron Rupp and Sebastian Valle, will open at Lakewood and Clearwater, respectively. Rupp was a third-round pick last season out of the University of Texas.
Two of the organizations top position player prospects, Jonathan Singleton and Cesar Hernandez will open at Clearwater. Singleton, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound left-handed swinger, is one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. He batted .290 with 14 homers and 77 RBIs in 104 games at Lakewood last season. And he did that as an 18 year old. With Ryan Howard signed for six more years, the Phillies are converting Singleton from first base to leftfield. So far, hes handled the switch well. Hell play leftfield aside centerfielder Jiwan James, a multi-tool prospect to keep an eye on. Another toolsy centerfielder, Aaron Altherr, will open at Lakewood.
Hernandez, a 20-year-old Venezuelan second baseman, jumps from the New York-Penn League, where he hit .325 in 65 games last summer, to Clearwater.
Rival scouts who peeked in on Phillies minor league camp were very impressed with Singleton and Hernandez.
The Phils have stocked their Triple-A club mostly with major-league veterans. Below that, Double-A middle infielders Freddy Galvis and Harold Garcia are both considered prospects.
Other players to keep an eye on include Joe Savery, the teams No. 1 pick in 2007, and Zach Collier, who was selected between the first and second rounds in the 2008 draft. Savery is converting from pitcher to hitter and will open at Clearwater, where he will bounce between first base and designated hitter. He may also get on the mound in a pinch. Collier, a top hitting prospect leading up to the 2008 draft, returns to Lakewoods outfield after missing last season with a wrist injury.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org
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