Cutters roster might be unpredictable

This is going to be an interesting summer in Williamsport. What’s going to happen with the Crosscutters’ season, which opens Friday night at Bowman Field, is anybody’s guess.

In the past, it was always easy to point to more than a half-dozen prospects who were going to be worth watching no matter how good or bad the team on the field ended up being. This season, the depth of those types of prospects just aren’t there.

There is no Franklyn Kilome or Adonis Medina or Francisco Morales likely to be on this pitching staff. There’s no Jhailyn Ortiz, Jose Pujols or Dylan Cozens who had out-of-this-world upsides.

The reality is, without a collection of recent draftees making an appearance in Williamsport this summer, this Crosscutters team isn’t going to have quite the star power of teams of the past. But don’t worry, it’s not as if it won’t be interesting.

The Philadelphia Phillies have made some bold moves in recent years to challenge some of their youngest prospects with over-aggressive assignments. This year was no different, even as leadership of the entire minor league system was handed over to former Crosscutter Josh Bonifay.

The Phillies pushed uber-prospect Luis Garcia and pitching prospect Victor Santos to Lakewood at just 18-years-old. New Zealand’s Kyle Glogoski skipped Williamsport altogether after a summer in the GCL. And lanky outfielder Carlos De La Cruz has been in Lakewood all season when Williamsport would have been a guarantee in the past. That youth is a big part of the reason the Blueclaws are last in the South Atlantic League Northern Division.

But this Cutters team won’t be without its players worth watching. We’ll get our first eyes on a preliminary roster Wednesday at the team’s annual media day. That roster will be pieced together with selections from this week’s draft over the next couple weeks before you get a clearer idea of what this team will look like by the end of June.

But it’s because this roster is so unpredictable that it’s going to be fun to watch. The hope for fans should be first-round pick Bryson Stott makes an appearance in Williamsport just like Alec Bohm and Adam Haseley did in each of the last two summers. Fans should hope to see the upper-90s fastballs of draftees Erik Miller and Andrew Schultz.

After all, more college players on the roster often tends to lead to more wins as the New York-Penn League has quickly become more of a high school/international signee league than the college league it used to be. Short-season baseball is always interesting because every team follows the same basic formula. In a 76-game season, you’re going to win 25 games and lose 25 games, and it’s what you’re able to do with the other 26 which determine how the season plays out.

How those other 26 are going to play out with this roster is a mystery. But nonetheless, it should be fun to watch.

Here’s a closer look at some of the players who may be on the Crosscutters roster:

(Player, Position, Age, Height, Weight)

JUAN APARICIO, C, 19, 5-11, 175 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies East): .339/.378/.518, 3 HR, 15 RBIs, 26 Ks, 4 BB

Notes: The Phillies have hit recently on Latin catchers with impressive hit tools. Rafael Marchan last year is an example of that after leading the Cutters in hitting. Aparicio, who turned 19 in May, is another of those players and coming off a .339 season in which he hit a career-high in home runs. His isolated power average jumped more than 60 points to a eye-opening .179, but it came with an increase in strikeout rate. Aparicio was signed for $475,000 out of Venezuela, he’s still a work in progress as a catcher because he was playing third base when he was signed. But there’s a chance he’s a middle-of-the-order hitter from the word go for the Cutters.

GABRIEL COTTO, LHP, 19,

6-5, 175 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies East): 0-2, 9.39 ERA, 2.087 WHIP, 15 1/3 IP, 16 hits, 15 Ks, 16 BB

Notes: He’s a super raw project type of pitcher who may very well spend another summer in the GCL after being taken in the seventh round last year out of Puerto Rico. He hit the low 90s as a high school pitcher, but was low-to-mid 80s last year in eight appearances in the GCL. But with a projectible frame with room to fill out, there’s reasons to he hopeful here. Of course, when your walk rate is higher than your strikeout rate, it’s a major red flag.

JULIO FRANCISCO, OF, 21, 6-1, 140 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies East/Williamsport): .286/.342/.400, 1 HR, 13 RBIs, 19 Ks, 12 BB

Notes: You may remember Francisco from such roles as the go-ahead home run hitter from Cutters opening day last June. It was the only home run he hit all summer between Williamsport and the GCL. But what that homer showcased was the type of raw power which is possible from Francisco. He’s still more of contact guy with nearly 75% of his career hits going for singles, but if he gets it to a gap, he can run. He led the DSL in triples in 2017.

HSIN-CHIEH LIN, 20, RHP, 6-2, 198 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies East): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 3 IP, 0 hits, 1 K, 4 BB

Notes: Member of the Taiwan U-18 national team was signed by the Phillies last year after a tryout in front of several Major League scouts. It appears the secondaries are probably a little ahead of the fastball, which topped out at 90 mph last summer. His curveball shows solid depth and he throws a split-finger fastball, which isn’t uncommon for those coming from the Far East. Part of his intrigue is that there isn’t a ton of information about him. The Phillies gave him $250,000 to sign last summer and he appeared in just three games, not allowing a hit but walking four.

LOGAN O’HOPPE, 19, C, 6-2, 185 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies West): .367/.411/.532, 2 HR, 21 RBIs, 28 Ks, 10 BB

Notes: Remember what was said earlier about the Phillies adding catchers with quality hit tools? Well here’s another example. Philadelphia drafted O’Hoppe in the 23rd round and went overslot to sign him away from his commitment to East Carolina. He responded with an impressive introduction to professional baseball. All the tools at his disposal on both sides of the ball are solid, if unspectacular. But there’s a Major League future there if the tools progress. He and Aparicio provide even more quality depth to a talented position in the Phillies’ system.

ANDREW SCHULTZ, 21, RHP, 6-4, 195 pounds

2019 stats (University of Tennessee): 3-1, 3.24 ERA, 25 IP, 17 hits, 39 Ks, 22 BB

Notes: You like velocity? Schultz has all the velocity. It’s his greatest calling card, but his lack of control of that fastball is a large reason why Schultz went undrafted out of high school. Schultz features a fastball which hit 101 mph multiple times this spring, but he walked nearly a batter an inning. The Phillies took a shot on Schultz in the fifth round of this week’s draft, and normally that would mean he’s destined for Williamsport should he decide to sign. But with a reliever-only pitcher like Schultz, he could be a quick mover in the system. But should he wind up pitching at Bowman Field this summer, make sure you find someone with a radar gun to sit behind.

LOGAN SIMMONS, 19, SS,

6-2, 180 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies East): .232/.345/.400, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 30 Ks, 9 BB

Notes: The Phillies gave Simmons more than twice the slot value of his sixth-round pick last year because of his 60-grade power (on the 20-80 scale) knowing there were questions about his hit tool. He signed with the Phillies instead of going to Georgia Tech and had mixed results in his first pro summer. He hit three home runs and had a decent enough on-base percentage of .345, but he also struck out in more than 26% of his plate appearances. The two big questions about his future is if he’ll hit well enough to let the raw power show in game and if he’ll be able to stick at shortstop. If first-round pick Bryson Stott makes a trip to Williamsport, Simmons may have to play third.

BRYSON STOTT, 21, SS, 6-3, 200 pounds

2019 stats (UNLV): .356/.486/.599, 10 HR, 36 RBIs, 39 Ks, 55 BB

Notes: If the Phillies follow suit of the last couple seasons, first-round pick Bryson Stott should at least see some time in Williamsport this year. The last two times the Phillies drafted college players in the first round (Adam Haseley and Alec Bohm), they’ve both eventually ended up playing for the Crosscutters. The biggest thing Stott has working for him is he does everything really well. His pre-draft scouting reports graded all five tools at above average, and his hit tool is likely to be his carrying tool. He fits into the Phillies’ new way of thinking after walking more than he struck out for UNLV.

NICOLAS TORRES, 19, 2B,

5-10, 155 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies East): .302/.340/.396, 1 HR, 19 RBIs, 27 Ks, 8 BB

Notes: It’s hard to imagine Torres not opening the season as the Cutters’ second baseman after former Cutter Brayan Gonzalez was sent to the Dominican Summer League last week. He’s a career .322 hitter in 108 career minor league games, including .302 last year which included fading down the stretch. The Venezuelan can hit, but his plate discipline leaves something to be desired yet. His calling card is his speed and he stole on seven of his eight attempts last season. The bottom line is he should hit, he should strikeout, and he should be as solid a defender as Williamsport will have.

CORBIN WILLIAMS, 21, OF, 6-2, 160 pounds

2018 stats (GCL Phillies West): .289/.348/.325, 0 HR, 9 RBIs, 27 Ks, 7 BB

Notes: When you think of Corbin Williams, think of Roman Quinn. But only the speed aspect of his game. Because other than his speed, there isn’t much to write home about with the former 24th-round draft pick. But the hope in drafting Williams out of College of the Canyons is that he can be taught to hit enough to make his speed a real weapon. In 29 games last season in the GCL he was adequate at .289, but you’d expect that from a college draftee. Power has never been his fortÈ, and it probably never will be. But if you need someone to beat out a bunt for a base hit, Williams is your guy.

Mitch Rupert covers the Williamsport Crosscutters for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.

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