Now here's a nice problem to have; Either Cole Hamels or Giovany Gonzalez
could wind up as the number three pitcher in the Reading rotation in 2006 to
split up the top two left-handers in the organization. An even nicer part of the
equation is that with Scott Mathieson, the R-Phils won't have trouble filling
the number two spot with a legitimate right-handed prospect. In other words,
Reading could be loaded.
Hamels, who is constantly battling injury problems, will start the season at
AA Reading, if healthy. He underwent another MRI last week on his sore back and
while there isn't any new damage or a worsening problem, Hamels still continues
to have pain and likely will throughout his career. Doctors do believe though
that with special exercises and a careful eye on the condition, Hamels should be
able to pitch through the condition with only minor flare-ups. We can only hope.
Gonzalez, one of the young left-handed pitchers to come over from the White Sox
in the Jim Thome trade is right there in talent level with Hamels. Because of
Hamels' injuries, some believe that Gonzalez could actually be the better
prospect at this point. That question is likely to play out this summer in
Reading. The problem for Reading fans though is that by mid-season or certainly
by late in the year, both Hamels and Gonzalez could be promoted to AAA Scranton
Wilkes-Barre, because both are close to being ready to pitch at that level now.
Mathieson struggled in the Arizona Fall League, but has a world of potential.
The right-hander, who turns 22 later this month, has moved steadily through the
Phillies organization and posted a 3-8, 4.14 mark on a rather dismal Clearwater
club in 2005. In four minor league seasons, he's amassed an unstellar 4.44 ERA,
but over the past two seasons at Lakewood and Clearwater, his ERA is 4.23. He's
had the misfortune of playing on some pretty bad teams and has a career record
of 13-26, which belies his potential. If there is a bad side to Mathieson, it's
that he is prone to giving up the longball; He ranked third in the Florida State
League with 17 homeruns allowed in 2005 and was second in the Gulf Coast League
with five homeruns allowed in 2003. One of the reasons Mathieson struggled in
Arizona this fall was that he was working on his secondary pitches, which is
often the case for young pitchers in the AFL. Also, Mathieson was dropping his
arm angle slightly, possibly as a result of being tired.
Perhaps the influx of pitching will have a positive effect on right-hander
Keith Bucktrot. After struggling through injuries, Bucktrot's star has fallen in
the organization, but he still could right himself and get right back on track
with a good season in 2006. Bucktrot went 3-4, 5.52 in 11 starts for the R-Phils
last season and it's doubtful that he'll start anywhere else than Reading when
the season begins. Seung Hak Lee is another pitcher recovering from injuries,
although when he was healthy, he pitched well at Reading last season as well,
posting a 1.97 ERA in 14 games (11 of them starts).
When promotions start to hit, the Phillies hope that Zack Segovia will be
able to step up from Clearwater to take a spot in the starting rotation. J.A. Happ is also a name to watch; He'll start at Clearwater, but with a good start
to the season, could move to Reading to fill a need.
The bullpen figures to have Nick Evangelista (7-6, 3.03 in 37 games at
Clearwater) and Matt Squires (0-2, 4.88 in 22 games at Clearwater) in the
bullpen. Squires is healthy again after undergoing shoulder surgery and should
be set for a big season in 2006. Squires pitched at Reading in 2004 and posted a
3.62 ERA in 26 games before developing problems with his shoulder that ended in
surgery. Squires reports that his arm feels better than it has in three years
and he's looking forward to re-joining Reading and reviving his climb through
Partially to accommodate the strong group of pitchers that will be at Reading
and partially because he's just very good, the Phillies are set to promote
catcher Jason Jaramillo to Reading to work with the strong corps of pitchers
that should be at AA. It's a huge plus to be able to promote Jaramillo, who hit
.304 at Lakewood last season, so he can work with pitchers that are set to make
up the bulk of the Phillies major league rotation in the not-too-distant future.
Jaramillo will make the same jump over Clearwater that Michael Bourn made
successfully last season. Speaking of Bourn, a strong performance in the AFL has
convinced the front office types that he's ready for AAA and he'll move along to
Scranton rather than repeating a season at AA.
Two other name position players, second baseman Tim Moss and outfielder Jake Blalock, are slated for Reading. Moss had a slow start to his professional
career, but put it all back together in 2005, hitting .269 at Clearwater with 17
homeruns and a .348 on-base percentage. Blalock hasn't lived up to the power
numbers that the Phillies projected, but with 11 homeruns and a .279 average at
Clearwater, he'll be worth watching at the AA level as well.
Potential starting rotation career numbers