Tag Archives: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

Dylan Cozens to have foot surgery that will jeopardize his 2019 season

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Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens career sidelined by foot surgery

The Philadelphia Phillies organization has lost an outfield prospect with big-league experience. It was announced today that Dylan Cozens, who has appeared in 27 games with the Phillies, will have foot surgery and miss the rest of the 2019 season.

Cozens, who turns 25-year-old on May 31, played in 26 games with the Phillies during the 2018 season. He slashed just .158/.273/.289 over 44 plate appearances, making eight starts. Half of those came over the final week of the regular season, after the Phillies had been eliminated from postseason contention.
On June 6 in just his third big-league game, Cozens blasted his lone home run to this point in Major League Baseball. That night at Wrigley Field against the host Chicago Cubs, Cozens drilled a two-run homer off closer Brandon Morrow in the top of the 9th inning to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead.
Cozens was called up briefly this season and appeared in one game on April 26. He grounded out weakly to second base as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 7th inning of a Phillies 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
OF Dylan Cozens (foot surgery) done for the season

Slashed .167/.333/.462 with 6 HRs, 20 BBs, 42 Ks in 23 games with @IronPigs

The Phillies second round pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in his native Arizona, Cozens became a sensation in the 2016 season at Double-A Reading. That year he blasted 40 home runs and stole 21 bases, teaming with current Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (38 homers) to form the most powerful combo of hitters in all of Minor League Baseball.
But Reading has always been known as a tremendous hitters park. While Hoskins developed into an all-around strong hitter, Cozens regressed the following year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He would strike out more than 500 times over the 2016-18 seasons combined, stunting his ability to reach the majors. Cozens has struck out in more than half of his plate appearances with the Phillies when given an opportunity.

Cozens will have no minor league options remaining when the 2020 season opens, so this could very well mark the end of his time in the Phillies organization. He will look to recover and rehabilitate himself, and then make a decision on where his career is headed during the next off-season.

Strong 2018 finish has Hector Neris stock up entering Phillies 2019 campaign

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Neris was back to his shutdown self in 2018’s second half

Growing up in Villa Altagracia in the San Cristobal province of the Dominican Republic, Hector Neris was a gifted athlete who enjoyed utilizing both his physical and mental gifts.

While enjoying the physical competition on the baseball diamond and on both volleyball and basketball courts, Neris also enjoyed testing and stretching his mind as an avid chess player.
On April 29, 2010 the Phillies signed Neris as a 20-year-old international free agent. Over the next three years the right-hander would prove that he was durable and that the had the ability to overpower minor league hitters.
From 2010-14 as he worked his way up progressively through each stop in the system, Neris struck out 363 opposition batters across 353.2 innings over 191 games.
Beginning with a one-game audition in August 2014, Neris has appeared with the big-league Phillies in each of the last five seasons. His performances in 2016-17 appeared to cement him as the club’s long-term closer. Over those two years, Neris allowed just 127 hits across 155 innings over 153 games while compiling a cumulative 188/56 K:BB ratio. He also served in a key role out of the Dominican Republic bullpen during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
But then from the very outset of the 2018 season, Neris saw very different results. It all began in the season opener in Atlanta. After retiring two of the first three batters, and following an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman, Neris surrendered a three-run, walk-off home run to Nick Markakis.
Neris was strong over his next three outings, striking out four and walking none over three shutout innings while recording his first Save of the season. However, in his fifth outing with the Phillies leading the Cincinnati Reds by 3-2 at Citizens Bank Park he surrendered three straight hits to start the top of the 9th to tie the game. The Phillies would win in 12 innings, but Neris had blown a Save opportunity.
Over the next few weeks, Neris would have few clean innings, and appeared to genuinely be losing confidence on the mound. By the end of June he had surrendered 35 hits over 30 innings, including an incredible 11 home runs. He had an unsightly .292 batting average against, and hitters had a huge .981 OPS against him.
Neris still had good stuff, as revealed by his 41/11 K/BB ratio. But he was simply making too many bad pitches. The Phillies had seen enough and sent him back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to try and regain his confidence.
The demotion clearly woke him up. Neris overpowered minor league hitters with a 31/7 K:BB ratio over 19 innings. He had a 1.45 ERA and allowed just nine hits across 18.2 innings. Perhaps most importantly he kept the ball in the park, allowing no home runs.
Phillies brass noticed the results and were receiving strong reports from the IronPigs coaching staff, and Neris was recalled in mid-August for another shot with the big club. It was as if the ugly results of the first-half of his season had been completely forgotten.
From August 15 through the end of the regular season, while the rest of the team was falling apart, Neris fully demonstrated that he was back to his old, dominating self. Over his final 20 games following his return he allowed just 11 hits over 17.2 innings for a .172 batting average against with a phenomenal 35/5 K:BB ratio. Neris also continued his progress from the minors by allowing no home runs.
For his fantastic performance, Neris was named as the National League’s reliever of the month for August even though he only pitched during half of the month. His overall 14.3 K/9 rate was baseball’s second-highest over the 2018 season.

Per Matt Breen at Philly.com, manager Gabe Kapler noticed a difference on his return. “What we saw is a guy who seemed a little bit more confident in his fastball,” Kapler said. “I think we saw a guy who was confident overall. The eye test tells me he used his fastball a little bit more and that he was even more effective with his split.
During the early weeks of this Grapefruit League season down in Florida, Neris has tossed four innings over four games. He has surrendered four hits and a pair of earned runs, striking out five and walking two as he works to get ready for the 2019 season.
The Phillies have an improved bullpen entering the 2019 campaign. Veteran right-handers David Robertson and Juan Nicasio and left-handers James Pazos and Jose Alvarez join a group that also includes returnees Pat Neshek and Adam Morgan and youngsters Seranthony DominguezVictor Arano and Edubray Ramos. There will not be enough room to keep all of them when the club breaks camp and heads north for the March 28 regular season opener.
Can Neris regain the closer role that he lost with his poor first-half in 2018? He certainly still has that kind of stuff. If he pitches the way that he did over the final seven weeks last year he may force the Phillies decision-makers to consider that possibility long and hard.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Hector Neris looks to carry his strong 2019 finish over to a new season

Can right-hander Drew Anderson elevate his big-league profile?

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Drew Anderson has enjoyed minor league success

Barring the late signing of a veteran free agent such as Dallas Keuchel, the Philadelphia Phillies starting pitching rotation would appear to be set as spring training gets underway down in Clearwater, Florida.

Aaron Nola is the newly-signed young ace. Jake Arrieta fills the proven veteran role. Nick PivettaVince Velasquez and Zach Eflin are incumbents on the back-end trying to find consistency and elevate their games. Jerad Eickhoff is the returning-from-injury former rotation member trying to fight his way back in from the outside.
In the bullpen, veterans David Robertson and Juan Nicasio have been added to a group of right-handers that already included Seranthony DominguezHector NerisPat NeshekTommy Hunter and Edubray Ramos. One of the most exciting arms in the early going has been 22-year-old righty Edgar Garcia.
So where does all of that leave Drew Anderson? He will reach age 25 in exactly one month, before the end of the Grapefruit League season. He has been tantalized with a taste of the big-league life on a handful of occasions spread out over the past two seasons.
Anderson has an uninspiring 0-1 mark with a 7.80 ERA and 1.733 WHIP thus far over 15 innings with the Phillies across seven mound appearances, six of those out of the bullpen. He has surrendered 23 hits with a 13/3 K:BB ratio.
What exactly has earned the Phillies 21st round pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Galena High School in his hometown of Reno, Nevada a place on the current 40-man active roster?
Aside from his big-league struggles, Anderson has pitched very well over the course of a six-year professional career. He has risen incrementally through the system, making a stop at each of the Phillies minor league affiliates at one time or another. Anderson has pitched particularly well since missing the entire 2015 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery that April.


When he returned in 2016, Anderson wowed by allowing just 55 hits across 70 innings with a 78/22 K:BB ratio over 15 starts split fairly evenly between Low-A Lakewood and High-A Clearwater. That earned the 22-year-old a spot on the Phillies roster that off-season during an overall roster shakeup by the club. He has remained there ever since.
In January of 2017, Ryan Lawrence for The Philly Voice asked then Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan about the club’s thought process in adding Anderson to the official roster. Jordan’s responses include:
I think it may have surprised some people that would put him on, but it really wasn’t one that we discussed a lot. I don’t even remember if he was a consensus, but we got to ‘yes’ pretty quickly. It’s just easier to hide an arm in a major league bullpen when you plan on losing 100 games. We just feel like this guy has a chance to be a real meaningful rotation piece.
I like a lot about him. He’s got very good weapons to begin with, a good arm and a good breaking ball…he was a low-round high school pick but all he’s done is compete. He’s got a lot of confidence. I think he has a lot of the intangibles good pitchers have…He’s got a chance to be a good piece.”

In 2017, Anderson became an Eastern League All-Star while pitching with Double-A Reading where he went 9-4 while surrendering just 81 hits over 107.2 innings in an extreme hitter’s environment. That earned him a late-season audition with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where in his lone start he allowed just five hits over 6.2 innings while striking out seven batters.


Anderson also made his first two big-league appearances with the Phillies in August of that 2017 season. His debut in Major League Baseball came on August 1 with the Phillies visiting the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Called on to pitch the bottom of the 8th inning with the Phillies already behind by 5-1, he retired the first batter that he faced, getting Martin Maldonado to sky out to center field. But he then surrendered singles to the next two hitters, who promptly took off in a double-steal. When catcher Andrew Knapp threw the ball away, one run scored and the other runner moved up to third base. he would subsequently score on a sacrifice fly.
With two outs and two runs in, having surrendered two hits, Mike Trout stepped to the plate. Per Todd Zolecki at MLB.com, the first pitch to the Angels superstar was a curveball that sailed over Trout’s head. “I was like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go,‘” said Anderson per Zolecki. “It was just all adrenaline.” Anderson won the battle, striking out the Angels star on a 2-2 pitch. “It was a rush. It was fun. I mean, I’m glad I got in and struck out Mike Trout.”
Anderson was optioned back to Reading the following day. Called up later that month, Anderson got into a game against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. The Cubbies bashed him around for five earned runs over just 1.1 innings that day. It would be his final appearance of the season.
Pitching most of last year back with the IronPigs, Anderson went 9-4 with a 3.87 ERA and 1.156 WHIP. He allowed 92 hits over 104.2 innings across 19 starts with an 84/29 K:BB ratio and was called up to make a handful of appearances with the Phillies. Over five games he yielded 17 hits across 12.2 innings.
His final 2018 appearance with the Phillies was by far his best to date. On September 28 at Citizens Bank Park against the first-place Atlanta Braves, Anderson shut the visitors out over two innings. He surrendered a lead-off double to Freddie Freeman in the 5th but then struck out the next three batters in a row. In the 6th he surrendered a harmless two-out single.


Last month, Matt Winkelman at Phillies Minor Thoughts ranked Anderson at just 46th on his list of the club’s top 50 prospects, evaluating him as a #5 starter and possible middle reliever. Winkelman wrote up the following scouting report on Anderson:
He fills up the up the strike zone, sitting mostly 91-95, touching up to 96 in the rotation. The problem has been his secondary pitches. Anderson’s curveball is an above average and usable pitch, but it isn’t a dominant bat misser. He will throw a changeup and slider, but both only top out at average. The collection of pitches allows Anderson to keep hitters off balance, but the lack of a dominant one among them means Anderson struggles to miss bats and generate weak contact. If Anderson can maintain solid control, he could carve out a role as a back end starting pitcher. However, given his limited upside in a rotation, he could move to the bullpen at some point. In a relief role he should throw harder, possibly touching back up into the 97+ range. It would also allow him to shorten his arsenal and focus on possibly just the curveball, possibly making it a plus secondary pitch.
Knowing what the incumbent group has to offer, manager Gabe Kapler wants to see his youngest arms early. The first five starting pitching assignments of the spring have been allotted to those less experienced pitchers. Anderson is scheduled to go on Sunday in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.
The most likely scenario would find Anderson beginning the year as a key member of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs starting rotation. Based on his performance there, he would again become one of the first arms called up if the Phillies suddenly had a need for an emergency starter or bullpen arm. And there is also the possibility that he could be shipped elsewhere as part of a trade package at some point.
Originally published by Phillies Nation as Drew Anderson hopes to show that he can be more than an emergency arm

Phillies lefty pitching prospect Cole Irvin appears ready for his shot

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Irvin has risen through the minors and is knocking on the big-league door

We’re now less than three weeks before Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report for the start of spring training in Clearwater, Florida. Most of Phillies Nation is waiting, now impatiently, for the sudden lightning bolt of an announcement on the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado free agent situations.

However, many sources have reported that the club is also still considering options to improve the starting pitching rotation. Specifically, a proven veteran left-handed winner would be a perfect fit for a club hoping to contend in what appears to be a tough NL East Division in the 2019 season.
The primary name floating around has been that of free agent Dallas Keuchel. The lefty could still return to the only team for whom he has ever pitched, the Houston Astros. However, the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers also would appear to be good matches.
While there are other veteran left-handers available, including former Phillies pitcher Gio Gonzalez, there is also an option available from inside the organization, one that might be as good an option as any other than Keuchel.
That option is California native Cole Irvin, the club’s #10-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. Irvin, who turns 25-years-old on January 31, was the Phillies fifth round choice in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon.
Irvin signed quickly that summer and was sent straight to Low-A Williamsport. There he made a strong impression, going 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 0.964 WHIP over 10 games, seven of those starts. He allowed just 36 hits over 45.2 innings while striking out 37 opposition batters.
In the following 2017 campaign, Irvin split the year between High-A Clearwater where he made 11 starts and AA-Reading, for whom he made another 13 starts. Over 25 games at the two levels, 24 of those starts, Irvin went 9-9 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.176 WHIP. He surrendered 140 hits over 151.1 innings with an excellent 118/38 K:BB ratio.

Irvin pitched the entirety of last season at the highest level of the minor leagues. For the Phillies Triple A-Lehigh Valleyaffiliates he made 26 appearances, 25 of those as a starter. He went 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, and allowed just 135 hits over 161.1 innings with a 131/35 K:BB ratio.
For that performance, Irvin was named as the International League Pitcher of the Year. Back in October here at Phillies Nation we named Irvin as our Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year.
Overall in his three-year professional career, Irvin has pitched in 61 games, 56 of those as a starting pitcher. He has put together a 28-14 record with a 2.84 ERA and 1.094 WHIP over 358.1 innings. The southpaw has yielded just 311 hits, including just 27 home runs, and has a strong 286/81 K:BB ratio.
Irvin is a Tommy John surgery survivor, having missed the entire 2014 college season. He now throws both a two- and four-seam fastball, mixes in two breaking balls well, has a solid changeup, and knows how to throw strikes. He has also proven adept at inducing ground balls, something that would be of tremendous value at Citizens Bank Park if he can keep it up.
With these results and his demonstrated command and control, Irvin would be a top prospect – if he threw his fastball at 95-96 mph. But since he “only” works in the low-90’s with it, he doesn’t get the respect that his record says he deserves.
During the 2018 season, the Phillies former farm director Joe Jordan was quoted on Irvin by Jim Salisbury for Baseball America:
He really knows how to pitch. He’s 90-92, and he can go get a little more when he needs it, but he really commands well. His changeup is a good pitch. He’s really learned to pitch inside to righties, and that’s opened up the outer part of the plate for his changeup. The slider and the curveball are good. He has a good arm, a good mix and a good brain. He’s very equipped. Never does he go into an outing without a game plan. He prepares like a major leaguer.

Irvin could probably work as an effective lefty in the middle of the Phillies rotation right now. (Cheryl Pursell)
Right now, Irvin appears to be blocked. With Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta currently fronting the rotation, the club appears set to open spring training with Nick PivettaVince VelasquezZach Eflin, and Jared Eickhoff battling for the rotation spots behind those two.
When the Phillies did have to reach down to Triple-A last season for spot starters, they opted to give those opportunities to righty Enyel De Los Santos and lefty Ranger Suarez, who became the first left-hander to make a start for the club since September 2016.
Irvin has received an invitation to spring training, so he will be there when those pitchers and catchers report. Despite his minor league success and the club’s continuing desire to find a left-hander for the rotation, he will be a longshot to make the team, even if he pitches well.
The Phillies can continue to keep Irvin in their minor league system all through this coming 2019 season without having to put him on the 40-man roster. They won’t be forced to make a roster decision on him until next Fall, when he would be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft if not protected by then.
The best chance for Irvin to make his 2019 debut with the Phillies would be for injuries and/or ineffectiveness by the current options to combine with his own continued strong pitching to force the issue.
Irvin appears to be ready right now if called upon. He knows it and is keeping himself focused. Joe Bloss at MLB.com quoted him after his starting assignment in last summer’s Triple-A All-Star Game: “All I can do is handle what I’m doing and just do my best and develop and get myself in a position to be the next guy.”

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Ready for a big-league opportunity , Cole Irvin is blocked – for now

Cole Irvin named as Lehigh Valley IronPigs POY

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The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have been the Triple-A minor league affiliates of the Philadelphia Phillies since the 2007 season. But the franchise has a long and winding history.
Founded in 1993 as the Ottawa Lynx in Canada, they were an affiliate of the old Montreal Expos for their first decade of existence. The Baltimore Orioles then took control of the club through 2006.
Then in 2007, having grown unhappy with the ownership of their Triple-A affiliates at the time, the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons, the Phillies entered into an agreement with the Lynx to become their new highest-level minor league affiliate.
With the opening of Coca-Cola Park for the 2008 season, the Phillies relocated that former Lynx franchise to the new Allentown, Pennsylvania facility and changed the team’s identity. The name “IronPigs” is drawn from ‘pig iron‘, or crude iron, which is manufactured in the area.
Allentown, PA is approximately 70 miles north of the Philadelphia area. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to make the drive, with most using I-476.
The IronPigs captured the North Division crown with an 84-56 record that was the best in the entire International League this season. However, first-year manager Gary Jones and the Pigs were bounced out in the playoff semi-finals by Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Now an affiliate of the New York Yankees, Scranton took the first two games in the best-of-five series by 3-2 and 3-0 scores. Lehigh Valley got back into the series with a 3-2 victory in Game Three, but then Scranton closed it out with a big 7-2 rout in Game Four.
This year’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year is pitcher Cole Irvin. The 6-4, 180lb left-hander will turn 25-years-old just prior to the opening of 2019 spring training. He was the Phillies fifth round pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon.
Irvin went 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.054 WHIP this season for the IronPigs. He allowed 135 hits over 161.1 innings across 26 appearances, 25 of those as starts, with a 131/35 K:BB ratio.

For his outstanding season, Irvin was selected as the International League Pitcher of the Year and made the start in this year’s Triple-A All-Star Game. He was also named to Baseball America’s all-star team.
His contributions were not only relegated to the field. For the second straight year, Irvin was recognized as one of the Phillies minor league community service award recipients.
Lehigh Valley pitching coach David Lundquist was quoted on the southpaw’s success this season by Joe Bloss for MLB.com back in mid-July:
“[Irvin has] been very consistent commanding the fastball and with the secondary pitches. Change has been a plus weapon. It’s a pitch he can throw anytime. The curveball’s been good and we tightened up the slider.”
Back in early August we released our Phillies Nation Top 20 Phillies Prospects rankings and placed Irvin at #12 on our list. He is currently ranked #10 on the MLB.com Phillies top prospects list.
They grade his classic four-pitch starter’s mix of fastball-slider-curve-change mix each at a 50 grade, with 55-grade control. In their scouting report, the MLB evaluators see him as having back-end starting pitcher potential:

“Irvin has already shown some mastery of pitch sequencing and making adjustments, something the Phillies expect to see after he fell victim to the long ball in the hitting-friendly confines of Reading last year. He could impact the big league rotation as a No. 4 or 5 starter at some point in the near future.”

Irvin may not have ace potential, but the combination of his age, experience level, success, and left-handedness mean that he will certainly get a shot with the big club at spring training in Clearwater. His ability to get big-league hitters out will ultimately determine where he pitches next season.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year: Cole Irvin