There has been a lot of talk about the lack of depth in the Philadelphia Phillies Minor League system.
That talk is not necessarily true. There are a bunch of bright spots that the Phillies fans can be proud. Many of them are in Clearwater where four Threshers were invited to last week's Florida State League All-Star game.
One of them is third baseman Cody Asche who in 62 games was batting .349 with two homers and 25 RBI. He went 1-for-4 in the All-Star game and earned himself a promotion to Reading. Although he is off to a 1-for-15 start at Reading through his first four games, he is a rising star in the Phillies organization.
Two pitchers of note in Clearwater are Jesse Biddle, a starter, and Tyler Knigge, a reliever.
At 6-4, the 20-year old Biddle is progressing nicely in the Phillies system. In his first 14 starts for Clearwater, he is 4-3 with a 3.15 ERA. He has shown an abundance of control with nearly a 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
As a lifelong Phillies fan, Biddle relishes the chance to pitch in Philadelphia one day and is doing everything he can to get there. In the off-season he dropped 23 pounds to a svelt 215 pounds. The drop in weight has improved his agility and stamina on the mound.
Over his last 10 games, Biddle is 4-1 with a 2.33 ERA
Knigge, on the other hand, is a promising closer that is shining in the Florida sun. The tall right-hander has posted a 0.73 ERA in 28 games and is also Biddle's roommate.
The 23-year old was selected in the 12th round of the 2010 Amateur draft and was not on the radar as a top prospect until this season. Last season at Lakewood (Low-A), Knigge made 43 appearances and registered a 4-3 record with a 3.32 ERA.
His biggest improvement came in his control. Last season, Knigge walked 24 in his 65 innings pitched. In 2012, he has a 36-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 37 innings pitched thus far. He has also surrendered just 22 hits leaving him with a 0.89 WHIP.
COLLIER'S BACK ... Many may not have noticed that 22-year old centerfielder Zach Collier was missing. The 2008 first round draft pick had been suspended 50 games for violating the drug policy in place, but not for the reasons that you think.
After a promising start for the Gulf Coast Phillies (rookie league) where he batted .271, Collier had fallen on hard times. The ADHD that he suffered from was taking its toll on Collier as his highest average in the next three seasons was .226.
He improved last season in Lakewood hitting .255 and stealing a career high 35 bases. He started to look like the player the Phillies envisioned him to be. Then he tested positive for the drug Adderall. Although he was taking it for his ADHD, the drug is on the banned substance list and he did not get approval by Major League Baseball. Therefore he served his suspension.
After testing positive, getting the waiver for the drug has been difficult to obtain. For now, he has to go without it.
In his first 20 games back, Collier has never looked better. He has a .321 batting average with six doubles in 78 at-bats.
PETTIBONE IS EL POW ... Reading has a good 1-2 punch with Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone. On Monday, Pettitbone was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for June 18-24.
Last week, Pettibone was lights out with an 1-0 record, 15 strikeouts, and a 1.29 ERA in both of his starts.
He had given up two runs and was in line for the win when he left in the eighth inning of last Tuesday's game against Akron. The Phillies lost 4-3. On Saturday, the 6-foot-5 righty pitched the first game of a double header. Pettibone struck out seven in the seven-inning complete game shutout of Bowie.
Through 15 starts in 2012, Pettibone is 7-5 with 63 strikeouts and a 3.27 ERA. The Phillies No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America currently ranks second in the Eastern League in innings pitched (93.2).
EL ALL STAR GAME ... There's only 16 days remaining until the Baseballtown All-Star Classic and tickets for that and all regular season home games can be purchased online at www.RPhils.com, by phone at 610-370-BALL, and in person at the R-Phils Ticket Office at FirstEnergy Stadium.
ANDY TRACY IS A CROSSCUTTER ... Former IronPig fan favorite Andy Tracy has found a dugout to roam. The power hitting lefty is now the manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League.
The Philadelphia affiliate of the rookie short season team, the Crosscutters are off to a 5-3 start. That's a good start for Tracy, who holds the IronPig career record for home runs.