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Jordan says rash of injuries in system a fluke

January 28, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
With a smile, Joe Jordan said Phillies minor leaguers are due for a healthy year. After last year's rash of injuries to some of the organization's top prospects, he truly believes it.

Jordan, the Phillies' Director of Player Development, was confident last year was nothing more than a fluke. Speaking a week ago at the annual Williamsport Crosscutters Hot Stove Banquet, Jordan heaped praise on the Phillies' minor league training staff and the preparation of the players for a full season of play.

“Guys are competing. They're going to get hurt,” Jordan said. “We just had a tough year. We're due for a healthy year.”

The tough year included three of the Phillies' top five prospects – ranked by Baseball America – missing significant chunks of the season with injuries. No. 2 prospect and former Crosscutter Roman Quinn played just half a season when he fractured his wrist after being hit by a pitch. Then, during an offseason workout this fall, Quinn ruptured and Achilles tendon.

For a player said to have the best speed and athleticism in the system by Baseball America, the Achilles injury is frightening. Quinn was already having a rough year hitting just .238 when he was hit by a pitch on June 24, breaking a bone in his wrist. Quinn didn't play another game the rest of the 2013 season.

Last year's No. 3 prospect Tommy Joseph played in just 34 games over four levels last year dealing with the effects of a concussion. The 22-year old who is considered the best catching prospect in the system spent time playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and Jordan said Joseph is on track to be ready to go for spring training.

Former Crosscutter Cameron Perkins missed more than a month after breaking his wrist when he was hit by a pitch. Perkins was hitting .337 when he broke his wrist after double jumping from Williamsport to Clearwater. He finished the year hitting .295 for the Threshers.

And then there was the case of 2013 second-round draft pick Andrew Knapp, a switch-hitting catcher out of the University of California. Knapp caught just 21 games for the Williamsport Crosscutters last summer because of a lingering elbow injury that forced him to be the team's long-term designated hitter for nearly 2/3 of the season.

Knapp was initially diagnosed with an elbow strain from overuse. After catching in a June 20 game against Jamestown, Knapp didn't catch again Aug. 2. He was the catcher when Yacksel Rios, Mark Meadors and Manny Martinez combined on a no-hitter in late August.

In October, Knapp had Tommy John surgery on the ailing right elbow. Although the recovery time isn't as long for position players as it is for pitchers, Knapp will likely miss a large chunk of the first half of the season.

“I'm very involved and familiar with what we're doing to prepare guys and what we're doing to treat guys if injuries happen,” Jordan said. “I think our guys are good. I think our coordinators on strength and conditioning and the rehab side are very good and very qualified. We just had a tough year.”

The biggest blows, though, may have come from the pitching prospects. Adam Morgan, rated the fifth-best prospect by Baseball America last year and on the brink of earning a spot in Philadelphia, dealt with an injury to his left shoulder for much of the year, appearing in just 16 games.

Shane Watson, a 2012 supplemental first-round pick, also dealt with shoulder problems and appeared in just 16 games. Both pitchers had surgery on their throwing shoulder in the offseason and will miss a large chunk of the 2014 season.

Former Crosscutter Kevin Brady missed the final four months of the season with an arm injury. And intriguing left-handed reliever prospect Yoel Mecias appeared in just 13 games following Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies were already thin on pitching prospects before the rash of injuries. Jordan said the surgeries for both Morgan and Watson were last resorts after trying rehab.

“It's disappointing more than anything. It thins us out,” Jordan said. “I think we expect to have them both on the mound at some time this summer. Talking to our rehab coordinators and doctors they dealt with, I think they think it's realistic. We just have to get a few weeks post-surgery to see how they're responding.”

Of the players coming off injuries, Jordan was maybe the most confident in Joseph's bounce-back from the concussion symptoms which kept him off the field for the better part of four months. Jordan said Joseph cleared a big hurdle in the Dominican when he was “dinged” in the head three or four times with foul tips and felt no symptoms of the concussion from last spring.

“I think that was a hurdled we needed him to get through, but he needed to get through it more than anything,” Jordan said. “He said I got popped about three times pretty good and I feel fine. So now he's got two months post that season to get ready for camp and hell be ready to go.”

OTHER THOUGHTS FROM JOE JORDAN

Q: Do you feel like Severino Gonzalez's stuff can translate to the higher levels of the minor leagues?

JJ: I think we have to get him to the higher levels to see. He had one start at AA at the end of the season and he had six solid, clean innings. But we have to get him to AA and AAA to see how it plays. I think that's where you get a clean read.

Q: How important was Severino's emergence for depth in pitching in the system?

JJ: I don't think we're any different than any other organization. We need surprises and we need surprises again this year. He was a very pleasant one last year. He got his opportunity and never relinquished it. He ran with it all summer. We need some more to do that."

Q: Has there been a more concerted effort in recent years to try and bring in the higher profile talent from Latin America?

JJ: I think our international scouts have done a good job. I know for a fact we have good development down there. I inherited two very good staffs in the Dominican and Venezuela. But our scouts have always done a good job down there. I can see guys we signed six or seven years ago when they were 16 are all of a sudden now starting to impact our organization. It takes time. They're so young when you sign them. But I like what our guys do.

Q: What's the plan at this point with Carlos Tocci?

JJ: I think the plan is waiting on strength. We're going to keep him playing. He's going to be in the lineup. He's a good player. We have to get through some physical maturity and some strength, and he's working at it. He was 10 pounds heavier last year than the year before. If we can get him to keep adding on to it, then he'll be OK.

 
 

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