“Change changing places – Changes.
Root yourself to the ground”
-Yes (Jon Anderson, Alan White, Trevor Rabin)
By The Numbers:
The IronPigs are 42-44 at the All Star break, after dropping both ends of a double-header versus P’tucket last Sunday. They’re in fourth place in the International League North division. Here are some other ways to look at the Pigs season thus far:
vs RHP (starter) 32-35
vs LHP (starter) 10-9
vs North Division: 36-27
vs South Division: 4-8
vs West Division: 2-9
Day Games: 8-14
Night Games: 34-30
Extra Innings: 3-3
One-Run Games: 10-11
Scoring First: 21-9
Opponents Score First: 23-32
Leading After 5 Innings: 27-5
Trailing After 5: 8-35
Tied After 5: 6-4
|Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY)||52||37||.584||–||–||30-14||22-23||38-27||6-4||W3|
|Buffalo Bisons (TOR)||46||42||.523||5.5||47||24-21||22-21||30-34||6-4||W3|
|Rochester Red Wings (MIN)||43||45||.489||8.5||44||23-20||20-25||33-31||5-5||L3|
|Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI)||42||44||.488||8.5||45||23-23||19-21||36-27||7-3||L2|
|Syracuse Mets (NYM)||42||47||.472||10.0||42||24-21||18-26||29-36||3-7||L3|
|Pawtucket Red Sox (BOS)||35||52||.402||16.0||37||14-26||21-26||26-37||4-6||W2|
Changes to the roster can be directly linked to the monthly won-loss records above. Call-ups, injuries, and trades are all par for the course in AAA baseball; it’s something every team has to endure. Sometimes, though, the combination of talent and experience can really impact the product on the field and/or the clubhouse dynamic. With strong veteran presence in the clubhouse, it’s been a generally good environment this season, by all reports. And sure enough, as the roster started to stabilize in late June and early July, the winning returned–last Sunday notwithstanding.
But as we head into the last two months of the season, this iteration of the roster will likely continue to undergo changes, and probably not for the better. Just as Tom Eshelman was able to return to his 2017 self on the mound, he was traded to the Orioles. I would expect that the trade deadline will remove talent from the IronPigs roster as we approach the end of July. Unless the team can make up some ground before the end of the month, we’ll be looking at a lame-duck August with no chance to make the playoffs, unlike the last couple years.
Still, there are some players to watch. Plus, with a new Phillies farm director, some of the young talent in the system with a direct route to help the Major League club, might filter up to the IronPigs more quickly than in the past. Here are some players to watch in the second half:
Deivy Grullon: I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether Deivy will be able to return from his broken toe. He’s really exceeded my expectations this season, and may have a role with the Phillies in September if he’s healthy. That could put him in the mix for the big leagues next spring. We’ll await something solid on his injury return–and hope that we get to see more of him this season.
Jan Hernandez: Like Grullon, Hernandez came to AAA having played at Reading last season. As a season ticket holder in Reading, I’ve seen both play a bunch, and again like Grullon, Hernandez began the season looking better than I thought he could. He’s cooled off since returning from injury–but keep watching and see if his prospect status could return to the point that he could be corner outfield depth for the Phillies and earn a 40-man spot–or, not.
Nick Williams: Nick’s been playing really well and has had a smile on his face. It’s great to see–and we’ll enjoy watching him until he gets the opportunity to test the big leagues on an every-day basis somewhere in the second half.
Adam Haseley: I think Haseley is in the mix for the starting CF job in Philadelphia in the spring–or sooner. Perhaps he’ll split time with Roman Quinn? Nevertheless, he’s here to fine tune his game and should be fun to watch here in the second half or as long as it lasts.
Kyle Dohy, Tyler Gilbert, Luke Leftwich, Connor Brogdon: The Phillies found out this season how important bullpen depth can be. This next potential wave of home-grown relief arms will be using the next two months to try to put themselves in a position to help the Major League team either this season or next–just like JD Hammer who already made the jump. The use of the MLB baseball (see below) hasn’t always been pretty for these young hurlers, but working things out at AAA should be an advantage when it does come time to take the next step.
Ramon Rosso: Tossed on the scrap heap by the Dodgers, the starter has the opportunity to turn himself into a depth piece for the Phillies or even a trade chip. Personally, I think he might look better airing it out as a reliever–although I’ve heard no one else suggest that role for him. He should be fun and interesting to watch in the last two months.
Austin Listi: Listi has been one of my favorites to watch in Reading last season and this–but after he was squeezed out (along with Haseley) of a AAA assignment to start the season, he got off to a dreadful start. Now, he’s been heating up. Is he too old to be a prospect? Some say yes, but it’s not because of slow movement–he came in at the same time as Haseley. More limiting prospect-wise is his position on the field. Watch to see how he looks in spots other than 1B, because that will likely determine his next step. He hits the ball and he hits it hard. It will all come down to the other things.
Damon Jones: Now we get to the Reading players. Jones has had but a couple starts at AA, but the lefty has been putting up good numbers and his name has been bandied about as a possibility for the Phillies. I think he needs seasoning–needs to pound the strike zone and gain efficiency. But he can bring it. If the system director is aggressive, he could find his way to Allentown in August.
Adonis Medina: The top-10 prospect, RH starting pitcher, has not been lights out at Reading this season, but he has all the talent and could get the call to test things at AAA late this summer. He could also be traded. It’s a name to watch.
Alec Bohm: Bohm has a direct route to the Phillies. He’s only just begun his AA assignment, but may find himself in the big leagues before we know it. Will he stop in Allentown along the way?
Mickey Moniak: Moniak is on the shelf with a hamstring right now, and likely won’t see AAA until April. However, if aggressive moves are made, he could get the opportunity to challenge himself at AAA in August.
Let’s Talk About Balls
I haven’t written extensively about it–but you may have heard: AAA in both the Pacific Coast League as well as the International League is using the MLB “juiced” baseball this season. I’m not worried about stats (see below) but it may make some players on both sides take some adjustment time when coming to AAA from AA or elsewhere below MLB. I think it’s good for players at the upper levels (will AA convert, too?) to get this adjustment out of the way prior to their ultimate promotion–there’s enough other stuff to worry about in The Show.
International League Home Runs, 2018: 1555 (entire season, all teams)
International League Home Runs, 2019: 1552 (so far)
Pacific Coast League Home Runs, 2018: 2097 (season)
Pacific Coast League Home Runs, 2019: 2061 (so far)
The IronPigs open the “second half” on the road with a massive trip that starts with four games in Rochester, NY. Then, it’s off to the South where four with Gwinnett is paired this season with Norfolk for three. The Pigs get an off day on Monday 7/22, and don’t return to Coca Cola Park until Tuesday 7/23 when Toledo comes to town (“Bacon and Eggs” series). Then Norfolk for three, and P’tucket for two, and Buffalo for two, in a massive 10-game home stand that takes us into August. In the final month of the season, Louisville and Charlotte visit for a six-game home stand, as well as Syracuse and Scranton for a seven-game set. The first weekend in August is away, up in Moosic, where they’ll have some interesting promotions, including a Ryan Howard bobblehead as they’ve been embracing their Red Barons past, this season. The middle of the month will have the team on their far-west swing to Indy and Louisville, and the team will end on the road this year, with Syracuse and then close over Labor Day at Pawtucket. Really, it’s three home stands left, and we’re done at home by 8/25.
I mentioned the weekend at Scranton, but here at Lehigh Valley, some games to circle on your calendar:
There are a couple cap giveaways in the first home stand, as well as salutes to the moon landing and Halloween. There’s a day game on Tuesday, July 30. The Coqui caps and jerseys are raffled/auctioned on August 1. A superhero jersey is coming August 10. The Amazing Tyler and Field of Dreams night are included in the team’s final home stand. And, on the last day, Sunday August 25, the team is giving away free air. Yes, air. It has a sponsor.
If you’re thinking about a game in Reading, there’s a Ryan Howard “pagoda” bobblehead on Monday 7/22, and Jimmy Rollins bobble and Baseballtown Hall of Fame induction on Tuesday 8/6. Harley night is really cool; that’s August 17 this year. There’s a Charlie Manuel world series bobblehead 8/18.
Great photos provided by our photographer friends have always been a big part of the coverage around here. This season, Steven Kiebach and Jack Mitroka are the credentialed photographers under the Horn and Bell Blog banner. Their work is featured in today’s post, and I thank them for their efforts–nobody gets paid around here, you know. And of course, we always thank Cheryl Pursell for her tireless work and professional images, which we’re also privileged to feature.
See you at the park,