Projected Reading lineup:
Tyson Gillies, CF (.304/4/24)
Cody Asche, 3B (.300/10/47)
Darin Ruf, LF (.317/38/104)
Jake Fox, DH (.203/5/10)
Tug Hulett, 1B (.264/2/22)
Tommy Joseph, C (.257/11/48)
Leandro Castro, RF (.287/10/71)
Miguel Abreu, 2B (.280/4/33)
Troy Hanzawa, SS (.249/0/44)
Projected Trenton lineup:
David Adams, 3B (.306/8/48)
Ramon Flores, LF (.400/1/2) (one game)
Tyler Austin, RF (.286/0/1) (two games)
Zoilo Almonte, CF (.277/21/70)
Addison Maruszak, SS (.276/16/59)
J.R. Murphy, C (.231/4/16)
Kevin Mahoney, 1B (.248/11/36)
Rob Segedin, DH (.188/3/13)
Walter Ibarra, 2B (.276/1/15)
Analysis: Reading is going to be real hard to shut down one through nine, but more specifically two through four. And well, perhaps more specifically than that…three. Darin Ruf is the hottest hitter in perhaps all of baseball right now, and is coming off a month in which he hit a whopping 20 home runs. Jake Fox’s numbers are deceiving, and just putting Ruf on to face Fox isn’t much easier of a task. The Phillies lineup features a lot of guys who can not only change the game with one swing of the bat, but who get on base a lot well…which sets the stage for a bigger impact for the guys with the big bats.
As for the Thunder, they were dealt a big blow when Luke Murton was somewhat unexpectedly called up to Triple-A, taking out the biggest bat in their lineup before the first pitch was even thrown. Defensively, however, that may have been a blessing as Kevin Mahoney re-inserted himself back into the lineup at first…more agile than Murton, the personable Mahoney plays an aggressive style of defense and could make an unexpected impact if he’s able to recapture his offensive form of the first half. There are a lot of question marks in this lineup, however. Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores have a combined three Double-A games between them, but earned their call-ups with strong years. Highly touted players such as J.R. Murphy and Rob Segedin could go a long way towards erasing offensive struggles at the plate with strong postseasons, but the real key may very well be Zoilo Almonte. Almonte, the biggest power threat the Thunder have left, could carry the team with a huge series…and he may very well need to.
Projected Reading bench:
C, John Hill (.000/0/0) (two games)
OF, Jiwan James (.249/6/31)
OF, D’Arby Myers (.306/3/10)
OF, Brandon Tripp (.268/5/27)
Projected Trenton bench:
C, Jeff Farnham (.192/1/6)
OF, Shane Brown (.136/0/7)
OF, Adonis Garcia (.288/4/14)
Analysis: Reading has a very solid bench, but one that lacks versatility. Three outfielders and a just called-up backup catcher is what they’re going into the series with, but each outfielder has proven to be solid with the bat this season. James can also cover a lot of ground in the outfield if need be.
The Thunder bench consists of just three players, and only one who had started over an extended period of time, Adonis Garcia. If Trenton needs a big bat in a pinch hitting spot, they may very well turn to Farnham, who has been known to put on strong power displays during batting practice, but hit just one home run in 99 at-bats this season.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS
GAME 1: Trenton — Brett Marshall (13-7, 3.52) @ Reading — Austin Hyatt (8-5, 4.62), Wednesday 7:05 PM, FirstEnergy Stadium
GAME 2: Trenton — Shaeffer Hall (9-10, 3.67) @ Reading — Trevor May (10-13, 4.87), Thursday 7:05 PM, FirstEnergy Stadium
GAME 3: Reading — Ethan Martin (5-0, 3.18) @ Trenton — Mikey O’Brien (5-7, 4.20), Friday 7:05 PM, Waterfront Park
GAME 4: Reading — Adam Morgan (4-1, 3.53) @ Trenton — Nik Turley (1-0, 5.40), Saturday 7:05 PM, Waterfront Park
GAME 5: Reading TBA @ Trenton TBA, Sunday 4:05 PM, Waterfront Park
Analysis: Game one is huge for the Thunder. Brett Marshall, who finished as the runner-up in the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year race, has the edge over Hyatt, who has struggled at times this season. It’s silly to say the first game of a five-game series is a must-win, and perhaps seems even sillier with the inconsistent Trevor May starting Game 2 for the Phillies. But May has recently strung together a few starts, and shown flashes of why he was considered to be Philadelphia’s top prospect coming into the season. Martin and Morgan — acquired in separate big league trades this season — have proven to be a big boost to the Reading rotation, combining to go 9-1 this season. O’Brien has struggled at times this year, but has improved as of late, while Turley is a bit of an unknown at this level, having made just one start.
Projected Reading bullpen:
R, Brody Colvin (1-4, 11.02) (potential fifth starter)
R, Justin Friend (25 saves, 0.23)
L, Jay Johnson (2-1, 5.02)
R, Tyler Knigge (0-0, 2.92)
R, Julio Rodriguez (7-7, 4.23)
R, Colby Shreve (3-1, 4.40)
R, Kyle Simon (1-0, 1.42)
R, Jordan Whatcott (1-3, 4.42)
Projected Trenton bullpen:
R, Craig Heyer (3-5, 6.07) (potential fifth starter)
L, Lee Hyde (2-3, 3.76)
R, Tom Kahnle (0-0, 0.00)
R, Mark Montgomery (3-1, 1.88)
R, Zach Nuding (NR)
R, Branden Pinder (0-0, 0.00)
R, Ryan Pope (8 saves, 4.64)
L, Josh Romanski (1-2, 4.97)
R, Graham Stoneburner (3-0, 5.02)
Analysis: Both bullpens are kind of a mixed bag, especially with Trenton having just added two new pitchers from Tampa in Tom Kahnle and Branden Pinder. Julio Rodriguez is the biggest name in the Phillies bullpen, as he just pitched in the Futures Game this season. But he was moved to the bullpen out of the rotation midway through the season, and flashed dazzling offspeed stuff in a recent outing against the Thunder. He could be a shutdown late inning arm for the Phillies, who also feature the untouchable Justin Friend as their closer.
Trenton surely would be hoping that Mark Montgomery and his much-discussed slider could be their answer to Rodriguez. Montgomery is on the fast track to the big leagues, and if he can be used on back-to-back days, his impact could be very significant. With the roles of Kahnle and Pinder uncertain, Ryan Pope is the likely closer. One player recently swore to me that he’d be the difference to the Thunder down the stretch, and he may need to be.
Thunder Thoughts: I took quite a bit of flack for picking against the Thunder in the first round in 2010. There’s a well-known story of one player using a few choice words towards me for writing that they’d lose to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, that their pitching was just too good for Trenton to get past.
The Thunder swept New Hampshire.
This year? This is a great group of guys who have overachieved by everyone’s assessment except their own, a group that a lot of people never thought would even reach the playoffs. That group would include myself. They were underestimated all season long, and yet led the division the majority of the way in the second half to earn the regular season pennant.
I’m just not so sure that carries over to the postseason. At the risk of hearing quite a few more lovely barbs thrown my way, I think the Reading Phillies have to be considered the favorites going into the series. There are too many question marks for Trenton, too many things that have to go right for them to win it. And losing Murton, one of their leaders both on and off the field, can’t help matters. I will never count this team out, and I will never say they can’t…they’ve proven me wrong all season long. It’s a team that does not die. And if they go down, it will not be quietly.
But I’ll take Reading in 4. Only time will tell if they prove me wrong one last time…
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com