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Mack's Minor League Report- March 31st

The 2024 season has officially begun down in the minor leagues. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs kicked off their 2024 season Friday night with a thrilling come from behind victory over the Worcester Red Sox. The IronPigs are the first of the Phillies minor league affiliates to begin regular season play. Throughout the season we will be reporting on what is going on down in the minor leagues for not just the Phillies, but some other minor league players you need to keep an eye on.

The IronPigs and the Phillies both held Opening Day on Friday, and unlike the Phillies the IronPigs kicked off 2024 with a win. The Pigs' entered the bottom of the 9th down 4-0. However, after tying it at 4, a Rodolfo Castro grand slam gave the Pigs a 7-4 victory on Opening Day. I know someone is reading this and is confused. As Aramis Garcia was rounding the bases after the Castro homerun, Garcia was too excited and never touched home plate.

The IronPigs missed the International League playoffs in 2023 by just a couple of games. They return 16 different players from 2023. Their lineup features 8 guys that have MLB experience. 2019 NL All-star with Colorado David Dahl is the new addition to the lineup.

The IronPigs have a lineup of players like Weston Wilson ,Darick Hall, and Kody Clemens that can take any pitcher deep. Then you look at guys like Scott Kingery (yes he is still there) and Simon Muzziotti that can reach base and are huge threats on the base path. Even down in AAA, the Ironpigs have options on the bench that provide excellent depth.

With the pitching, Tyler Phillips was given the opening day start for Lehigh Valley. On Friday Phillips went 6IP, 1H, 1ER, 3BB, 6K to get the ND. Former Phillie Andrew Bellatti struggled in his first appearance of the season giving up 2 homeruns in 1 inning. However, the walk-off home run gave Bellatti the win. Kolby Allard made his team debut on Friday going 5IP, 4H, 2ER, 2BB, 2K. Allard who is part of the team's 40-man roster received the ND on Saturday.

Orion Kerkering was assigned to AAA for rehab assignments and made his first appearance on Saturday. He went 1IP, 1H, and 1K. Kerkering's fastball was hitting as high as 97 mph. He is expected to pitch one more time before rejoining the Phillies on April 9th.

David Buchanan returns to Lehigh Valley for the first time since 2016. He gets the start today for the Pigs'. Phillies' 2nd rated prospect Mick Abel is expected to make his season debut Wednesday night in Rochester.

The IronPigs do not have as many big names within their starting rotation or bullpen compared to their lineup, but the pitching does feature a good mix of young prospects and vets to the team.

The Phillies made their first move to the minors on Sunday. Nick Nelson has been recalled up to the big leagues with Luis Ortiz headed to IL.

The IronPigs are the only Phillies affiliate to kick off 2024. Reading, Jersey Shore, and Clearwater will all begin their 2024 seasons in the upcoming week. As we approach the rest of the farm beginning the 2024 season, here are some players within the Phillies farm system you need to keep an eye on.

  • Aidan Miller (3rd rated prospect, Clearwater)- Miller appeared in 10 games in Clearwater last year going .216/.341/.297. Miller has a big-time bat and can easily hit the ball out of the park. His ETA to Philadelphia is 2027 but keep an eye on him as he progresses throughout the minors.

  • Starlyn Caba (5th rated prospect, Rookie ball)- Larry Bowa has had nothing but praise for Caba's defense this spring. The longtime Phillie spent time working with Caba at SS and he shows gold glove potential.

  • Griff McGarry (11th rated prospect, Lehigh Valley)- It is still unclear what the Phillies plans are with McGarry. He has enough velocity to get guys out in less than 5 pitches. His issue is doing that consistently. If they move McGarry from a starter to a reliever, I think we have a future Phillies closer.

  • Justin Crawford (4th rated prospect, Jersey Shore)- Crawford is my personal favorite player down in the farm. He has a strong enough bat to hit the ball out, while also having enough discipline to not chase after balls. His ETA is 2026, but I think we can see him in 2025.

  • Alex McFarlane (15th rated prospect, Clearwater)- The Phillies have a lot of pitching prospects, but McFarlane may be the most underrated of them all. He had 69 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched in 2024. I think we can see a quick rise in the minors this season. I don't think he makes it up to the Phillies, but I can see him in Reading by August.

Even though these articles and this site is usually focused on Philadelphia sports, it is always fun to hear how some of the future stars of the league are doing down in the minors.

  • Paul Skenes (3rd rated prospect, Pittsburgh)- He pitched 3 innings in his season debut, striking out 5 and gave up 0 hits.

  • Jackson Holiday (Top prospect in baseball, Baltimore)- So far in 9 at bats he has 5 hits, 4 RBI's, 6 runs, and his first homerun off a lefty is over 500 at bats at the professional level. Holiday already looks like a star in the making. With Baltimore wanting to make a World Series push in 2024, Holiday looks like he can help them do that.

-Adam Mack
AAT Sports Network


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