Spring training is officially in full swing.
Full swing brings a different meaning to different players, however. While grizzled veterans like Roy Halladay are working on simply getting their work in and a feel for their pitches, young players are doing battle in order to solidify their spots on the organizational depth chart. Halladay's job isn't in any jeopardy, but for some of the young talent in the Philadelphia Phillies' system, it's now or never.
So with that in mind, there has been no shortage of "notable" prospect performances this spring, but what exactly do I mean by that? While "notable" brings the connotation that a player has had a good spring, the word notable simply means that, in this sense, the player's performance is worthy of noting.
So be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly as you take a look at 10 notable prospect performances this spring. There will be no shortage of any of the above.
Since we've waited for months just to talk about spring training, let's kick the list off with one of the "good."
Last season, Michael Stutes spent the year split between the Philadelphia Phillies' Double-A and Triple-A organizations, gathering many of the same results at both levels. While he struck out more than nine batters per nine innings at both stops, he struggled mightily with control, posting BB/9 rates of 5.30 and 5.09, respectively.
Even with control issues slowing him down, Stutes turned in a successful season in the Phillies' organization. After being drafted as a starter, the Phillies sent Stutes to the bullpen following the 2009 season, and the results were positive. He posted a combined record of 7-1 with an ERA of 3.45 in the minor leagues, earning himself an invite to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.
The Phillies have been rather impressed with Stutes this spring, praising the former Oregon State collegiate-player's fastball and improved control. In five innings this spring, he's allowed just one earned run and punched out eight without walking a single batter. His 1.80 ERA this spring is among the best of the Phillies' young arms, and though he may not be breaking camp with the major-league club, he could force his way on to the 40-man roster and into Philadelphia some time this season.
Michael Martinez spent the 2010 season in the Washington Nationals organization and first caught the Philadelphia Phillies' eye with an impressive stint with the Nationals' Triple-A club. In 33 games, he posted a slash line of .325/.353/.452, and he even popped three home runs. When the Rule 5 Draft rolled around in December, the Phillies passed on a couple of talented young arms to take a chance on Martinez.
A couple of weeks into spring training, however, and Martinez has shown very little of that promise. Since the Phillies will have to keep him on their major league, 25-man roster throughout the entire season in order to keep him in Philadelphia, Martinez has more to prove than most other youngsters this spring, and the Phillies are giving him plenty of early at-bats to prove his worth.
In 21 spring at-bats, Martinez has posted a slash line of .190/.190/.333, with just four hits—one of which was a home run. He's shown little along the lines of his promising on-base percentage and speed, and the Phillies would love for him to straighten his offensive numbers out. They lost more than just a powerful right-handed bat in Jayson Werth. They'll need someone to play center field when Shane Victorino needs a day off, and Martinez fits that bill perfectly.
While the top story of the 2010 season for the Philadelphia Phillies revolved around injuries and underachievement (and the 2011 season is quickly following suit before it begins), the 2010 minor-league season for Phillies' minor leaguers was filled with the emergence of several talented, young arms, led by right-handed reliever Justin De Fratus.
After starting the season with a Phillies' rookie-ball club, De Fratus quickly plowed his way through the Phillies' system, finishing the season with the Double-A Reading Phillies after a brief stint in Single-A ball. Though he put up great numbers along every step of the way, De Fratus dominated his toughest competition in Double-A, posting a record of 1-0 with an ERA of 2.19 in 24.2 innings.
The Phillies were impressed with his strikeout-to-walk ratio as well. En route to punching out more than 10 batters per nine innings and walking less than two at Double-A, De Fratus posted a K/BB rate of 5.60. Needless to say, the Phillies were impressed. They added him to their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft in September.
The spring hasn't been as kind to the young right-hander, however. While many believed he could come into camp and force his way into the bullpen with an impressive spring, a nervous, excited De Fratus faltered a bit. In four innings this spring, he's walked two while allowing four earned runs. In three games, the opposition is hitting .368 against him.
That said, it won't be long before De Fratus is a regular in the Phillies' bullpen.
Carlos Rivero probably isn't a household name. Faced with little organizational depth in the middle infield, the Philadelphia Phillies claimed the infielder off of waivers from the Cleveland Indians in the offseason and added him to the 40-man roster, providing depth and competition for utility-man Wilson Valdez.
Rivero has been a bit of a pleasant surprise for the Phillies in camp when referencing his numbers from last season, which weren't all too impressive. Though he's shown flashes of promise in the past, his .232/.278/.325 slash line from last season with the Indians' Double-A club wasn't very awe-inspiring, despite the six home runs he hit.
That said, the infielder has been rather impressive this spring, knocking four hits in 12 at-bats, including a couple of clutch RBI. To date, he's struck out just once and he has a run scored for the Phillies, as he tries to earn a spot with the Double-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Along with Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer emerged as one of the more exciting relief prospects in the Phillies' organization last season. One of the rare pitching prospects to have never started a single game in the minor leagues, Schwimer has developed into an interesting arm. Last season, he split time between the Phillies' Double-A and Triple-A clubs, posting impressive numbers at each stop.
With the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Schwimer posted a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 1.80 in 20 innings. He showed average control, walking just over three batters per nine innings, but balanced that with the ability to strike hitters out, punching out more than eight batters per nine innings.
Also like De Fratus, however, Schwimer has struggled a bit this spring. He's appeared in just two innings this spring, he's allowed four hits and three earned runs. Though the opposition is batting .400 against him and his ERA is 13.50 now, expect Schwimer to be in the Phillies' bullpen within the next two seasons.
You can never have too many big, slugging first basemen in your system, and Matt Rizzotti certainly fits that bill. He blasted his way through the Phillies' minor-league system last season, starting in rookie ball and making brief stops at Single-A and Double-A, before finally landing with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
While he posted an impressive combined slash line of .312/.421/.434 in the minor leagues last season, it was his power that prompted the Phillies to add him to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft. The surprising prospect blasted 17 home runs in 2010, and though he is blocked by Ryan Howard at the major league level, he could become valuable trade bait in the future.
Though he's had limited at-bats this spring, Rizzotti is already on a mission to show that his 2010 season was no fluke. To this point in the spring, he is 2-for-5 with a long home run. If he can work on his defense and cut back on his strikeouts, he could become a valuable prospect.
Part of me has a tough time still calling Scott Mathieson a "prospect," as I feel like I've been following him for years. At the same time, however, Mathieson, who is just 27 years old, has struggled with injuries in the past, and now that he's healthy should be making his transition to a full-time role in the Phillies' bullpen in the near future.
Though he had his share of elbow discomfort at the end of last season, Mathieson showed promise by staying healthy. After two Tommy John surgeries, all the Phillies could ask for was a full season, and Mathieson made strides. Last season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Mathieson posted a record of 3-6 with an ERA of 2.94 in 64.1 innings. He showed good control while striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings.
Mathieson's ultimate goal this spring is to show the Phillies' that he can still bring the heat with his fastball when he's healthy and provide a shaky bullpen valuable depth. Though he's allowed two earned runs in just four innings this spring, he's punched out four batters and the opposition is batting just .154 against him. He should be in Philadelphia in no time.
Just when you thought the Domonic Brown saga was over for a while, it continues. There's been much ado about the young outfielder this spring, and I gave a full breakdown of his injury earlier in the week (here.) That said, there is still a long future ahead for this five-tool outfielder, and if this spring told us anything about him, it's that he's still a work in progress.
Last season, Brown split time between the Phillies' AA and AAA clubs, and posted impressive numbers at each level. Combined between the two levels, he posted a slash line of .332/.391/.582, with 20 home runs and 17 stolen bases. Despite an unimpressive stint with the big league club, and again in winter ball, the talent is there.
It certainly was not apparent this spring, however, as Brown managed a measly single before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. His only hit of the spring was a single up the middle in 16 ABs and now, thanks to being sidelined for four to six weeks, he'll open the season in Triple-A where, hopefully, he can recapture the magic in his swing.
The Philadelphia Phillies will be keeping a close eye on Mike Zagurski this spring, if for no other reason than he's left-handed. With JC Romero and Antonio Bastardo, the only feasible left-handed relievers scheduled to break camp with the major-league Phillies, Zagurski will provide depth in the event of an injury, and Romero and Bastardo haven't exactly been the picture of health in the past.
Zagurski's 2010 season was very similar to the rest of his career. He showed the potential to completely fool and overpower hitters, and yet, struggled mightily with control. He was seasoned in Triple-A for the entire year, posting a record of 2-3 with an ERA of 3.27. He punched out more than 12 batters per nine innings while walking close to five. That's something the Phillies will be watching closely this spring.
The big left-hander has looked pretty good this spring. The opposition is batting just .235 against him, compiling just four hits. In four innings, Zagurski has allowed just one earned run. The Phillies have to like the strides he's made with his control as well. He's punched out five while walking just one.
John Mayberry Jr.'s name has come up in Philadelphia this winter. While Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco dominated the right-field job's headlines, Mayberry had an outside chance to find some playing time. Brown's injury may not help him win the right-field job, which Francisco has seemingly locked up, but assures that he'll get a strong look for a spot on the bench.
Though he's had his share of call-ups in the past, Mayberry struggled. The Phillies sent him back to the minor leagues to work on his plate discipline and saw some positive steps forward last season. He posted a slash line of .367/.328/.412, with 15 home runs for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Over the winter, Mayberry spent some extra time with new first base coach and infield instructor Sam Perlozzo, spending some time relearning first base, a position that he played all throughout college, trying to improve his versatility to the Phillies. He may have done more with his bat this spring.
Through Wednesday, Mayberry had collected seven hits in just 25 at-bats (.280 average), and slugged two home runs. So far this spring, he has improved his vision at the plate, collecting nearly as many walks (two) as he has strikeouts (three). With Francisco likely to be playing everyday, the Phillies will need some right-handed power off of the bench, and Mayberry could be the key.