Andrew Pullin's offense made headlines for obvious reasons following Monday night's 7-3 win for the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Home runs are what make heads turn. Opposite-field blasts off the wall look great in a boxscore.
But it was what Pullin did with his glove and arm at second base for the Cutters which was a better sign for the 19-year-old from Washing-ton. Pullin made a trio of strong plays ranging to his right and helped turn a pair of double plays which helped end a pair of Batavia scoring threats.
The offense is the known quantity in Pullin's game. That he was 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs wasn't so much of a surprise Monday. It's what helped him be drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in 2012.
But the defense is what is either going to help or hinder him from progressing quickly through the Phillies' system. He's less than a year into his transition from the outfield to second base. His bat could profile as an elite tool as a second baseman, and under the suggestion from former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, Pullin made the switch late last year in the Gulf Coast League.
Monday was easily his best performance in the field since joining the Crosscutters, but the flaws in his game are still there, and he knows it. But it was a positive night nonetheless.
"Every day I'm feeling better," Pullin said. "The more ground balls I take, the better I feel. (Monday) I felt really good playing."
Pullin's first strong play came on the first batter of the game when the Muckdogs' Yefri Perez rolled a ball up the middle. Pullin got to it and made a very strong throw to first to get Perez by a half-step. He made a nearly identical play in the fifth inning on Batavia's Ryan Aper.
He started an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning with runners at the corners by ranging toward the middle of the field to field the ball and give a subtle flip to shortstop Angelo Mora who made the routine turn for the double play. His only hiccup came when third baseman Zach Green fielded a hot shot ground with runners at the corners in the fourth inning. Pullin took the relay but dropped it. But the ball was hit so hard and Green made such a quick transfer that Pullin had time to pick up the ball and still make the relay to first for the double play.
"(Defense) is the thing that's new to me, so I like to see that I'm getting better and better all the time," Pullin said. "But I want to see that I'm getting better at everything."
Having never played the infield before, Pullin can, at times, still look robotic in his movements. He's still learning about when to charge and grounder or sit back on it.
Cutters manager Nelson Prada would like to see some more fluidity in Pullin's defensive play, but he understands that's something which is going to come with time in the field.
"To me, he's making good adjustments. For me, he's still a little far away to be a regular second baseman. He has to get better with more athleticism and be more flexible at second base," Prada said following Monday's game. "He still has stiff actions, but his game is really good. He's making plays when it's around him. We don't expect him to make the spectacular plays all the time, but we expect him to turn the double plays and make the plays around him."
Monday night was a great night in Pullin's professional development on both sides of the baseball. He went from batting .210 in his first four games of the season to having a breakout night he said now has him relaxed and comfortable in the batters' box.
And although still has a long way to go with his glove, Monday night proved there's capability in his 6-foot, 190-pound frame.
"The game is going to make him better," Prada said. "He's getting there."
FORMER CUTTER HAS TOUGH BREAK: Philadelphia Phillies No. 2-ranked prospect Roman Quinn will miss at least the next four weeks of the South Atlantic League season after the shortstop suffered a hairline fracture in his right wrist.
Tony Graham of the Asbury Park Press reported Tuesday that the former Crosscutter suffered the break when he was hit by a pitch by Delmarva's Josh Hader in the first inning Monday. According to Graham, Quinn will be in a cast for the next four weeks.
Quinn was named the No. 2 prospect in the system by Baseball America following his first season in the Phillies system when he hit .281 with 30 stolen bases for the Crosscutters in 2012. He set the Crosscutters' franchise record with 56 runs scored and 11 triples a year ago.
In 67 games this year with Low-A Lakewood, Quinn was hitting .238 with 32 stolen bases and 31 errors at shortstop. He struggled early, hitting just .202 in April. He was hitting just .188 in June at the time of the injury.
Coincidentally, Mon-day night the Crosscutters were giving away photos of Roman Quinn, with a number of them being autographed, to fans at Bowman Field.
The Phillies had made no corresponding roster moves as of game time Tuesday.
FRANCO ON THE RISE: Former Williamsport Crosscutter third baseman Maikel Franco has been one of the most talked about prospects in minor league baseball, let alone just the Phillies' farm system, and Tuesday it landed him a spot on Baseball Prospectus' midseason top 50 list of the best minor league prospects.
Franco landed at No. 42 on the midseason list, despite not appearing in the preseason top 101 list. He was the only Phillies' prospect to make the top 50, although Reading pitcher Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' consensus top prospect, and Lakewood 17-year-old outfielder Carlos Tocci were included among the players who nearly made the list.
Franco has turned heads this year with a .299 batting average,16 home runs and 52 RBIs for the Clearwater Threshers despite being one of the youngest players in the Florida State League at just 20. He was called up to Class AA Reading last week and in five games is hitting .524 with a pair of home runs and five RBIs.
In 54 games with Williamsport in 2011, Franco hit .287 with two home runs and 38 RBIs. Franco was the No. 8 prospect in the Phillies system by Baseball America coming into the season.