April 20, 2018
By: Steve Degler
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Reading Fightin Phils have battled Mother Nature as much as their on-field opponents through the first two weeks of their seasons. Each team has had a road trip and a homestand so I thought it was time for a quick early season assessment.
The brutal weather this April cannot be ignored. Playing conditions have been very rough for everyone. As the temperature hopefully begins to rise, the numbers should get better. Both the Pigs and Phils may struggle to score runs at times but the Phillies top two minor league teams also feature a talented group of pitchers.
Starting with the position players, the Pigs feature the dynamic Roman Quinn at the top of the order. He can change a game with his speed. When he gets on base, he can be a disruptive force for the defense. The more he gets on, the better the chances the Pigs win that game. Dylan Cozens has already homered three times and walked nine times. The strikeout total is still very high (18) but he has had some really good at-bats in the early going. Mitch Walding is off to a solid start and veterans like Dean Anna, Danny Ortiz and Liberty HS/Lehigh product Matt McBride have bolstered the line-up.
In Reading, Damek Tomscha continues to produce base hits at a consistent pace and Jan Hernandez is batting.333 through 10 games. Cornelius Randolph, a 2015 first-round pick, is off to a very slow start, hitting just .178 with 15 strikeouts in his first dozen Double-A games.
As far as the pitching goes for Lehigh Valley, Brandon Leibrandt has made a smooth transition to the bullpen. The lefty has not allowed a run in his first 8.2 innings. Zach Eflin has thrown the ball very well in his first three starts as he tries to make his way back to Philadelphia. It has been a bit of a strange start for 2017 Paul Owens Award winner Tom Eshelman. The right-hander with pinpoint control has walked four and allowed five home runs in 17 innings, but he has also struck out 19 hitters. One pitcher to watch is Enyel De Los Santos. He was acquired from San Diego for Freddy Galvis. The righty has a live arm and has the capability of putting up some good numbers.
The talk of the Fightin Phils heading into opening day was their pitching. There are many good arms on this staff. The starting rotation of Ranger Suarez, JoJo Romero, Franklyn Kilome, Harold Arauz and Jacob Waguespack is immensely talented. In the bullpen, Seranthony Dominguez is the arm to watch. His fastball reaches the upper 90s and I would expect that he will pitch in Philadelphia at some point this season. There are several other relievers who possess good arms and aggressive mindsets.
Both teams are off to somewhat slow starts but I think as the weather gets warmer, they will start producing a good number of wins and talented prospects for the Phillies.