Phillies Prospect Notebook: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras anchoring Clearwater's strong rotation

Phillies Prospect Notebook: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras anchoring Clearwater's strong rotation

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Prospect Franklyn Kilome is the second-highest rated pitcher in the Phillies' organization, and the right-hander lived up to the billing Sunday, as the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies' Class A Advanced affiliate, closed a three-game series at St. Lucie.

The right-hander twirled seven sparkling innings, shutting down the Mets’ hot bats, as the Threshers blanked St. Lucie 1-0 behind an unearned run at First Data Field to salvage the final game of the series.

Kilome, 21, allowed five hits, struck out six and didn’t issue a walk in winning for the first time since April 27. Only one St. Lucie player managed to reach second base against the 6-foot-6, 175-pound pitcher.

The Dominican pitcher is ranked No. 7 overall by Baseball America among Phillies' prospects. Only 18-year-old Lakewood hurler Sixto Sanchez (fifth overall) is rated above him in the organization.

“He’s got a chance to be a workhorse. Good body, very good arm, but still learning how to pitch a little bit,” pitching coach Aaron Fultz said of Kilome, who improved to 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA.

“He’s up to 97 (mph) with a good curveball and slider. He’s learning a changeup. He’s learning the game, but he’s got a huge upside.”

Jose Taveras (4-2, 2.26) has been another reliable arm on Clearwater’s staff. He led the South Atlantic League in strikeouts last season and has 54 in 55 2/3 innings this year.

Taveras also handled St. Lucie on Saturday, but he was left with a no-decision after the bullpen gave up three runs in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings. The 23-year-old worked six strong innings and yielded just a run on four hits.  

“Taveras is just a very good competitor," Fultz said. "His fastball is average, pretty decent breaking ball and his changeup is good, but the thing that makes him good is he’s just a competitor. He studies the game and the hitters and is very advanced with that.”

Added Threshers manager Shawn Williams: “There are times when he may not have his usual command, and he’ll change an arm angle, which shows he’s got a good feel for what he’s doing. He’ll crossfire, has deception … he’s got something where they don’t pick up his fastball and are always late.”

A third Dominican right-hander, Seranthony Dominguez (3-0, 2.02), has been a big part of the rotation as well and has won three times in six starts but is currently sidelined with shoulder soreness. An MRI returned a clean report.

“The first three or four weeks we were ridiculously good," Fultz said. "We’ve had a few bumps in the road since then, but we’re getting the job done.”

Zach, not Francis, Ford
Zach Coppola has a famous Hollywood last name, but the Clearwater corner outfielder has spent 2017 making a name for himself with his defense, at the plate and on the bases.

Coppola, 23, was 5 for 12 with two runs scored in the St. Lucie series, including Sunday’s lone run. He made a pair of outstanding run-saving catches in the outfield over the weekend and raised his average to .346, second to Chris Paul (.351) of Fort Myers.

“Zach has been doing a great job as a leadoff hitter,” Williams said of the Iowa native. “He gets big hits, bunts, but the thing for me is he does something every night to help you win, whether it’s a bunt hit or a great diving play in left-center. He’ll throw a guy out or get a great dirtball read and score the winning run.

“He’s a very good baseball player who does all the little things.”

Good contributors
The Threshers (28-23) have sat atop the FSL’s North Division for most of the first half, but a series loss at St. Lucie over the weekend left them trailing Dunedin by one game after both clubs won Sunday.

Williams said his first season skippering the club has been highlighted by a full-team effort.

“It’s been a little bit of everything,” Williams said. “Early on our pitching was very, very good. Cole (Irvin) was really dealing (see more on Irvin). Dominguez, everybody was. We were getting the big hits, and our defense has been very consistent. Overall, we’ve just played good baseball.”

One standout playing good ball has been 5-foot-5 middle infielder Grenny Cumana, who went 7 for 10 in the series and made a spectacular catch-and-throw on the grass behind the bag while playing second base to rob St. Lucie’s Vinny Siena of an infield hit Sunday.

Tenacious P
Fultz said one immeasurable he likes in his pitchers is a bulldog-like tenacity that has them wanting the ball in key moments, regardless of previous outcomes.

“I don’t have to have the guy who’s always going to succeed in the big situation, but I always want the guy that wants to be out there in that situation. To me, that’s the selling point,” he said. “It’s not always being successful; it’s always wanting to be in that situation, which is a big plus.”

Fultz said his favorite battler was Jamie Brewington, a teammate of his in the San Francisco farm system, who appeared in 40 games over two MLB seasons.

“He went right after hitters, and it was fun to watch,” Fultz said.

Thinking man's pitcher, Phillies prospect Cole Irvin enjoying time with Clearwater

Thinking man's pitcher, Phillies prospect Cole Irvin enjoying time with Clearwater

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Clearwater Threshers pitcher Cole Irvin is a student of baseball, but maybe the word “student” – simply stated and in its base meaning – describes the young left-hander best.

A graduate of the University of Oregon who completed his undergraduate degree in sociology in just 3½ years, Irvin has applied a studious, methodical approach to his work on the mound, where he starred as a freshman and senior for the Ducks as a regular Friday night starter.

His 2014 collegiate season was marred by Tommy John surgery, but he reflects on it now as being an important part of him staying in college and obtaining his degree. He remained in Eugene another semester after getting drafted by Pittsburgh in the 32nd round, his second time getting selected.

“I look at it as a positive. I wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree at Oregon if I didn’t have the surgery,” said Irvin, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Phillies last June.

“Sociology covers so many topics. It’s a great degree to have. My studies varied from the population of salmon affecting society to the study of social media. There was so much I learned in so many diverse topics. I like interacting because everyone’s opinion mattered.”

The sociological background also easily translates to the diamond for the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Irvin.

“It’s the same in baseball,” he said. “The more information you have about the opposing team, our team, if we’re doing the shift and other things … now you have all that collected information. Now you just go do your thing. I think I apply (sociology) to so many different aspects of what I do.”

Sociology aside, Clearwater pitching coach Aaron Fultz has been impressed with the mental approach Irvin has displayed.

“Very (much so),” Fultz said when asked if the southpaw is the quintessential cerebral pitcher. “He’s a no frills guy and he’s here to work.”

Fultz broke into MLB and played three seasons with the San Francisco Giants – 2000 to 2002 – and the former big leaguer said Irvin reminds him from a work ethic standpoint of a Bay Area teammate of his.

“He kind of reminds me of Jeff Kent," Fultz said of Irvin, who also bears a slight resemblance to the five-time all-star and 2000 NL MVP of the Giants. "He comes here and he wants to work and get better.”

That industrious attitude worked well for Irvin in his first spring training camp in the Grapefruit League in February. He broke camp by bypassing Low A Lakewood and joining the Threshers. Then he proceeded to overwhelm hitters in the Florida State League.

Irvin, 23, was 3-1 in four starts in April, posting a 1.04 ERA. In 26 innings, he allowed 22 hits, struck out 20 and walked just three. His WHIP stood at 0.96.

“His first four or five starts, I thought he was the best pitcher in the league,” Fultz said. “Since then, we’ve had a little hiccup here and there about location and just giving up some hits. He’s had some bad luck, too.

“But I love the way he goes about his business. He gets the ball and he’s ready to pitch. He has a very good idea and is a smart kid. He doesn’t throw 95, but he’s left-handed – that helps – and he has a really good changeup. His stuff is better than average, but his tenacity and the way he goes after hitters is a really good selling point for him.”

Irvin said he tries not read what is written about him or the multitude of numbers baseball produces.

“The past three outings haven’t gone the way I’ve anticipated, especially after the first five starts of the year,” said Irvin, who is 3-5 with a 3.20 ERA after four straight losses starting on May 4 against Jupiter.

He will try to break that winless skid Tuesday when he faces Florida back in Clearwater.

Of his standout first pro season at short-season Williamsport last year (5-1, 1.97 in 10 games), Irvin admitted he doesn’t look at the stats, saying, “Honestly, I don’t know the numbers. I don’t get ahead of myself and look at stats. Every once in a while, I’ll look at media stuff, but I try not to follow that stuff.

“Once it gets in your head, you start to get anxious about moving up and thinking about things you’re not supposed to be thinking about. I’m supposed to be thinking right now, ‘What can I do to get better and get to the big leagues?’ It’s not about being in the minor leagues; it’s about being in the big leagues.”

Irvin has enjoyed his season so far and, like a good sociology student is harvesting his own data.

“There’s a lot to build off of. It’s my first full season, so it’s exciting to spend a whole year playing baseball and doing something you love and is fun," he said. "It’s something I’ve dreamed of as a kid.”

“I never thought I’d be here this quick, so I’m taking it one day at a time. I can only focus on this day, and tomorrow will come tomorrow.”
 
Three questions with Cole Irvin

You throw a one-seam fastball. What does it do?

“It’s literally across one seam, holding it with one finger. It depends on the wrist. If it’s on the side of the ball, it’s going to fade (vs. righty batters). But if your wrist is more on the inside toward your body, it’s going to cut. I only use it as a strikeout pitch. [Laughing] I’d say it’s a wipe-out pitch, but I don’t have wipe-out stuff like most of the guys on this team. It’s an effect pitch, where there’s a little uncertainty where it’ll go.”

You’re from Yorba Linda, California, the birthplace of Richard Nixon and home of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Have any good Nixon stories?

“Actually, I do. When I was 12, I had to do community service for the high school I was going to go to. I had to have so many hours. The library was looking for someone to clean the helicopter – Air Force One helicopter or whatever it was called. Every Sunday morning I’d show up at 5:30 a.m. to clean that helicopter. I had to go through the Secret Service back door and security checks. I was 12, so there wasn’t much information on me. I spent four or five Sundays cleaning that helicopter. It was so much fun.”

As an Oregon Duck, you were able to play in the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers and New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto. Any success?

“My senior year was the first time we’ve ever gone to Goss Stadium and won a series at Oregon State. I pitched against Conforto and also played with him on the Team USA collegiate team that had (Chicago Cubs star Kyle) Schwarber. Honestly, Michael’s one of the great guys to know and talk to. He’s just a world-class, awesome guy.”

Phillies' Cornelius Randolph still young, but not intimidated by High A ball

Phillies' Cornelius Randolph still young, but not intimidated by High A ball

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Phillies feel they have a hot prospect in Cornelius Randolph, a smooth-swinging outfielder for the Clearwater Threshers of the Florida State League (FSL).

Randolph was a first-round selection (10th overall) from a strong 2015 draft that has already placed four picks in front of him in MLB — Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson (23 years old), Houston’s Alex Bregman (23), Boston’s Andrew Benintendi (22) and the White Sox’s Carson Fulmer (23).

Randolph? He’s just 19.

“It’s not been an issue,” said Randolph of his young age as the Threshers began a three-game series with the St. Lucie Mets last weekend. “I’ve always played against older guys. Ever since I was young, I’ve always played up (in age).”

Ranked the No. 15 Phillies prospect by Baseball America, Randolph suits up with the Threshers each game as the FSL’s youngest player. The outfielder, who won’t turn 20 until June 2, is almost six months younger than the Florida Fire Frogs' (Atlanta affiliate) dynamic Venezuelan outfielder Ronald Acuna, the next youngest.

And age can be a quirky issue in the FSL.

St. Lucie prized shortstop Amed Rosario, ranked No. 1 in the Mets’ farm system and considered the best talent to come through the organization in a decade, is waiting in the wings to replace Asdrubal Cabrera at Citi Field. Like Randolph, Rosario played his first FSL season at 19, though Rosario was five months older than the Clearwater player is now.

Yet a team like the Lakeland Tigers is an example of the other extreme. The Detroit affiliate’s roster is speckled with players over 25 years old, and starting left fielder Quincy Latimore checks in at 28 – not quite AARP-ready, but well above the average player’s age in Florida’s High A baseball.

Randolph paused after noting he had always played against older competition in higher levels, then added, “Not this much up, of course. But it’s still pretty much the same thing and the same game. Baseball is still baseball.”

Clearwater manager Shawn Williams said he often forgets how young his upstart left fielder is.

“The most impressive thing to me is you often forget he’s only 19 because of how he acts and carries himself. That’s why I can’t wait to see what he’ll be like in a couple of years,” the first-year Threshers skipper said.

“He’s a very good learner and he listens well. (Hitting coach) Rob Ducey this year and Nelson Prado last year have been great working with him. He takes in everything and applies it right away. That’s what I like to see because he takes it in right away and makes adjustments quickly.”

Randolph is a native of Griffin, Georgia, a city 40 miles south of Atlanta, which has become baseball’s fertile ground of talent, producing current big leaguers like Swanson, Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, Tampa Bay shortstop Tim Beckham, Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis, St. Louis outfielder Dexter Fowler and a few others, with many likely on the way.

Randolph is often compared to Beckham, who shares the same hometown and high school with the Phils' farmhand. Beckham, 27, who is making a case to stay with the Rays this season, was the 2008 draft’s No. 1 overall pick, but scouting reports of Randolph claimed the Phils' 2015 first-rounder had a better and a more impactful bat than Beckham at the time of being selected out of Griffin High School.

A former Clemson commitment, Randoph gave a glimpse of those accolades in his first FSL starts, a four-game, home-and-home set with North Division rival the Dunedin Blue Jays.

He went just 3 for 17 against the Blue Jays, but after going hitless on opening day, he set the bar high by producing a homer in each of the next three games, drove in six runs and scored four times. One of Randolph's homers was off highly regarded Toronto southpaw Angel Perdomo.

“I started off well, but you’ve got to keep it rolling,” Randolph said.

The series in St. Lucie was a tough one for Randolph, who batted second all three games. He went just 1 for 13 and watched his average dip to .203, still with three homers and up to 8 RBIs; meanwhile, Clearwater — owners of the FSL’s best record — lost two of three to the last-place Mets.

“Mostly, I’m just not worrying too much about numbers,” Randolph said of his approach in his second full pro season. “Last year I worried a lot about them and tried to make a big impression. That happens, of course, in your first full season.

“This year I’m just trying to make sure I’m on the field every day, stay healthy, try to play hard and barrel up the balls. The more I barrel, the more hits I’m going to get.”

He has spent time studying the pitchers in the FSL, too. Hurlers firing mid-90s fastballs are fairly common from Clearwater to Port St. Lucie, so Randolph has to have a plan at the plate.

“Everybody seems to throw 96 or 97. Guys from the bullpen, you can just expect them to be 95 to 98. If you go up there without a plan, you’re pretty much in trouble. I didn’t have much of an approach last year,” said Randolph, who hit .274 with Lakewood last year in the Low A South Atlantic League.

“In your first AB (in the FSL), you might get that fastball over the plate first pitch, then breaking ball/change-up, then breaking ball, and that first AB’s over with. You’re like, ‘What just happened?’,” he said with a laugh.

Added Williams: “He likes challenges. It’s a great challenge for him to be in this league this year. It’s good for him and will help him develop quicker.”