Honors are swirling all around the Reading Fightins. First, Jim Murphy was chosen as the Eastern…
Phillies positions of strength
Like every organization, the Phillies are strong at some positions and weak at others. Let's start looking around by starting with the areas that they're strongest in and what it means to the organization. We've listed all of the players with the ones playing at the highest levels of the minors first, although the depth chart doesn't exactly work that way. First Base - For the Phillies, first base has a few players who are often overlooked, but shouldn't be. Unfortunately, for all of these guys, there's a big blockade named Ryan Howard at the major league level and with the size of his contract, it doesn't appear that he'll be going anywhere anytime soon. Cody Overbeck - Only Ryan Howard has hit more home runs as a member of the Phillies organization since 2010 than Cody Overbeck has. The truth is that Overbeck is known for swinging a consistent bat. In six minor league seasons, Overbeck has hit 99-371-.260/.318/.452 in the Phillies organization. The ninth round pick from the 2008 Draft started his professional career as a third baseman, but his defense brought about a shift and the Phillies tried him in both left field and first base. That weak defense at third has turned into a strong glove with a .996 fielding percentage at first base, giving him a permanent home. Darin Ruf - Yes, it's worth throwing Ruf in here, because the Phillies haven't abandoned him as a first baseman and have him play there on occasion to keep himself sharp enough that if they needed him to play there in the majors, he would be ready. We all know about Ruf's power, but keep in mind, that 20 of his 38 minor league home runs last season came in one month. Ruf is a streaky hitter who has yet to really find his groove this season and his move to left field has gone well enough that he could play there at the major league level, if needed. Unfortunately, the guy who had 12 home runs at this point in the 2012 season, has seven right now and his .320 average from this time last year is down to .266 at Lehigh Valley. Jim Murphy - The 6' 4", 240 pound Murphy is the reigning Player of the Week in the Eastern League and was just chosen to play in the league's all-star game. With 15 home runs, Murphy is on a pace to blow-up his career-high of 22 home runs in a season set back in 2011 when he was at Lakewood. If Overbeck wasn't blocking him, Murphy might be in line for a promotion to Lehigh Valley, because at age 27, it's time to find out just what the Phillies have in Jim Murphy. Defensively, Murphy has a solid .994 fielding percentage at first base and is a career .270 hitter in six minor league seasons. Chris Serritella - The Phillies drafted Serritella in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft and he played at Williamsport last summer. This year, the Phillies challenged Serritella by jumping him over Lakewood and sending him to the Florida State League, where he is responding pretty well to the challenge. Even with the jump, Serritella is hitting .272, but he has struck out 72 times in 284 plate appearances. The 23-year old is also showing increased defensive skills at first and should be okay long-term to stay at first base. Brock Stassi - The Threshers are juggling Serritella (41 games) and Stassi (25 games) at first base and have given Stassi an additional nine games in the outfield. Stassi is hitting .327 and has a .992 fielding percentage at first base, making him someone to watch. Third Base: Now this is a spot where there could be an opening at almost any time. Michael Young isn't a long-term solution, so the Phillies will be taking applications for the hot corner very soon. Cody Asche - Thought to be the heir apparent to the position, Asche has continued to improve and improve both at the plate and defensively. Asche turns 23 in just a few days and is putting up some strong numbers at Lehigh Valley, where he's hitting .274 with eight home runs, well on the way to setting a new career-high, beating his old mark of 12. Defensively, Asche doesn't figure to win any Gold Glove Awards, but he's adequate and is getting better. He's got a strong, accurate arm and good, natural instincts. Maikel Franco - The 20-year old Franco was impressing enough at Clearwater that he received a promotion to Reading last Thursday and he's heating up the Eastern League. Dating back to his time with the Threshers, Franco has a 14-game hitting streak during which he's hitting .446 (25-for-56) with eight home runs and 17 RBI. He also hasn't struck out in 43 at-bats, which is unheard of for a guy with his type of power. Since arriving at Reading, Franco has already launched three home runs and is hitting .483 (14-for-29). It will be interesting to see how the Phillies approach having Asche and Franco at third base, but it's looking like Franco may grab the heir apparent label away from Asche. Outfield: The Phillies may wind up redoing their outfield alignment again during the off-season. If they do, there really aren't a lot of choices for players that could step in to play for the Phillies, but down the road, that will likely be a different story. Leandro Castro - Castro just turned 24 and is an exciting player to watch, but on occasion, he reminds you that there is still some work to be done. His focus can drift now and then and he has some improvements to make both at the plate and in the field, but everything is there and he's closing the holes in his game very quickly. In each of the last three seasons, Castro has hit 10 home runs and is averaging .272 in his stops with Lakewood, Clearwater and Reading. This season, Castro has already hit eight home runs at Lehigh Valley and is hitting .262 on the season. Darin Ruf - Yes, he was listed under first basemen, but he's also an outfielder now and has to be considered to be in the mix. Plus, he's the only one who would have any shot of helping the Phillies in the immediate future. Anthony Hewitt - The first-round pick of the Phillies back in 2008, Hewitt looks like he might be starting to piece things together a little bit. He's shown some power over the past three seasons, hitting 38 home runs and has already hit eight this season, putting him on a pace to beat his career-high of 14, but the Phillies expected more power than that out of him when they drafted him. He's doing a decent job of cutting down on his strikeouts and he's hitting .263, which would be a career-high, so at least there's hope. Aaron Altherr - If you're looking for a guy that is starting to show what he can do, Altherr is your guy. He's already tied his career-high of eight home runs and has 46 RBI, just four off his career-high in that category. Plus, he's hitting .302, well above his average in full-season leagues. Now, if he can just get his strikeouts - 87 in 290 plate appearances - under control, he would be able to showcase more of that speed that he has. Kelly Dugan - The Phillies moved Dugan off of his natural position of first base pretty quickly and put him in the outfield. Dugan is just 22 and in his second season in a full-season league, playing at Clearwater, where he's hitting 9-32-.326/.414/.549 with the Threshers. His strikeout rate is holding steady, but his power numbers and average are both climbing, which is a good sign from a young player. Cameron Perkins - After playing in the Gulf Coast League and New York - Penn League last season, the Phillies bumped Perkins along to High-A Clearwater and he's responded well, hitting 3-31-.337/.381/.513 with the Threshers. It figures that Perkins will develop more power as he continues, but isn't likely to ever be a big power bat. Perkins is better defensively in right field than in left field and he's got a strong arm to go along with his offensive numbers. Carlos Tocci - While his numbers aren't overly impressive, they look much better when you keep in mind that he's still just 17-years old and went playing in the Gulf Coast League last season to Lakewood this season. Tocci is hitting .231 for Lakewood with just a .295 on-base percentage, but again, keep his age in mind. The tools are there and the fact that he's a BlueClaw this season is a sign of just what potential he has. Catcher: This is an interesting position, because it looks like there's some juggling going on with the depth chart. Combine that with the fact that Carlos Ruiz is in the final year of his contract and it becomes a very interesting position to watch. Tommy Joseph - After coming over from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence deal last July, Joseph pretty much became the heir apparent to Ruiz almost immediately. He started very slowly - both offensively and defensively - at Lehigh Valley this season before going on the DL with a concussion in early May. He still hasn't returned to Lehigh Valley and has just gotten back into the lineup for Clearwater, where he's on somewhat of a rehab assignment. He's missed some key time and given other candidates a leg up on the battle for the top backstop. Cameron Rupp - Starting the season at Reading, Rupp was having a decent, but non-startling season with the Fightins when he was moved along to Lehigh Valley out of necessity. Since being at Lehigh Valley, he's getting rave reviews for his work behind the plate and for how he works with pitchers. Offensively, he's hitting 0-6-.250/.280/.354 in 13 games with the IronPigs, so his offense isn't overwhelming, but he seems to have the potential to continue to develop at the plate and the Phillies worry first and foremost about defense and calling a game when it comes to catchers. Sebastian Valle - Here's the guy that seemed to be the leader in the clubhouse on the depth chart prior to Joseph arriving. The way things were going, Valle wound up splitting time with Rupp at Reading and is pretty much down to third on the depth chart among catchers. Since Rupp's promotion, Valle is playing every day and his numbers are showing a bit of an uptick, but he's still hitting just .225 for the Fightins, although he also is good defensively. The Phillies are tinkering with Valle in left field, but that's likely a project that will be explored more heavily after the season.
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