IL Preview: Lehigh Valley IronPigs
The IL preview series continues with the Lehigh High IronPigs of the North Division. The Philadelphia Phillies’ affiliate finished the 2013 campaign with a 72-72 mark and a fourth place finish in the North.
The IronPigs were led by All-Stars infielders Cody Asche and Cesar Hernandez. Asche hit .295 (119-for-404) with 24 doubles, five triples, 15 homers and 68 RBIs, while Hernandez batted .309 (121-for-391) 12 doubles, nine triples, two homers and 34 RBIs. Hernandez finished third in the league in BA and first in triples.
The IronPigs will have to rely on its offense, again, in 2013, as they will be pretty thin in the pitching department.
Pitching: The IronPigs will be led by the Phillies top pitching prospect, Jesse Biddle. The No.2 prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization according to Baseball America will have to improve from his 5-14 mark from 2013 in Reading to help Lehigh Valley. Despite losing 14 games, Biddle ranked third in the Eastern League in strikeouts (154), first among starters in opponent average (.210) and appeared in the XM Futures All-Star Game in New York. The former first rounder in the 2010 draft has an impressive array of pitches, featuring a low-90’s fastball, a 12-6 curveball, hard slider and a changeup. Biddle has strikeout stuff, fanning 479 batters in 458 minor league innings, but has some control issues. In 2013, he walked a career high 82 batters, leading the Eastern League. He will likely be joined by Austin Wright, David Buchanan and Sean O’Sullivan in the rotation.
Infield: The group around the horn may be one of the best in all the IL. Maikel Franco, who hit .320 (173-for-541) with 31 home runs and 103 RBIs between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, leads the group. The No.1 prospect in the Phillies organization according to Baseball America was a Florida State League All-Star and appeared in his second Futures All-Star Game in July. He was named the Phillies Minor League Player of the Year at the end of the season.
In addition to Franco will be former IL All-Stars Hernandez and Jim Negrych. Hernandez made the Triple-A All-Star team as a reserve, while Negrych was the starter. As a member of the Buffalo Bisons in 2013, Negrych hit .285 (109-for-382) with 27 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 44 RBIs. Hernandez may work in the outfield, as he continues to add versatility to his game. Another player that may have to move around will be Cody Overbeck. Overbeck led the IronPigs with 19 homers in 2013, but may have to work in the outfield to get time on the field as Franco will likely spend a lot of time at first base.
Outfield: The outfield will have some speedsters patrolling the gaps with Clete Thomas and Tyson Gillies manning two of the three spots. In 63 games with the Iron Pigs, Gillies hit .220 (47-for-217) with 31 runs and 13 stolen bases. He is an instant threat on the base paths, having swiped 108 bases in his minor league career. Alongside, Thomas and Gillies will be Kevin Frandsen, who was outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh High over the weekend. Frandsen has spent the majority of the last two seasons with the big club, slugging seven homers and driving in 40 runs as a part-time player for the Phillies.
Schedule: Lehigh Valley will come to Coolray Field from May 1-4 and the G-Braves will travel to Allentown, PA from May 9-12.
Projected Depth Chart: