The Clearwater Threshers are the High-A minor league affiliates of the Phillies, and are located at the same place where Phillies fans travel every February and March to enjoy spring training. They have been affiliated with the Phillies since their very first season of existence all the way back in 1985.
For their first 29 seasons the club was known as the Clearwater Phillies and played their home games at old Jack Russell Stadium. With the opening of a new ballpark now known as Spectrum Field in 2004, the team name and identity was changed as well.
Clearwater, Florida is approximately 1,100 miles from the Philadelphia area. Driving it will take you roughly 17 hours, give or take depending on traffic conditions and how many stops you choose to make along the way. Most who make the drive travel most of the way down I-95.
Of course it’s far quicker and in many ways easier to simply hop on a plane for the two-hour flight. Your plane from Philly International will land in Tampa. From there it’s about an hour drive or two hours by public transportation to Clearwater.
Their 77-60 mark was the second-best overall in a season that is split into halves. The first half saw Clearwater finish just 32-36 and in fourth place. However, the team rolled to a 45-24 mark over the second half.
The Threshers faced the first-half divisional winners, the Daytona Tortugas, in the FSL playoff semi-finals. Clearwater captured the opener by a 7-6 score, but then Daytona came from behind to capture the next two games by 6-5 and 5-3 and win the best-of-three series.
This year’s Clearwater Threshers Player of the Year is outfielder Jose Pujols. A 6-3, 175lb right fielder, he bats and fields right-handed. Pujols turned 23-years-old just last week and is a native of the Dominican Republic. He was originally signed by the Phillies as a 16-year-old back on July 2, 2012.
Power has generally been considered his calling card. Pujols demonstrated that again this year as his 18 home runs, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored each led the ball club. He also put together a solid .301/.364/.523 slash line.
While Pujols still strikes out too much, he improved in that regard over his dismal 2017 campaign. Last year he whiffed 150 times over 352 plate appearances. This year that figure was 162 K’s, but spread over 491 plate appearances.
The improvement allowed him to get to his power more in games, raising his homer total from just eight last season, a year in which he had produced just a .194/.247/.305 slash line. And that improvement also yielded a promotion, as he reached Double-A Reading towards the end of the year.
Threshers manager Shawn Williams was quoted on Pujols’ improvement and performance by Jim Salisbury for Baseball America back in late August:
“From Day 1 of spring training, he was on a mission. He made some changes to his stance and his mindset. He’s improved his selectivity and become a tougher out. He’s really becoming a hitter. He’s taking singles. He’s shown a good two-strike approach. He’s getting guys in from third. He’s becoming more hitterish and in turn producing good numbers. And he’s always had big power.”
That awful 2017 campaign was enough to get most of the prospect evaluators to drop him off their Phillies top prospect lists. However, the folks at “Prospects 1500” put him at #15 on their “Phillies Midseason Top 50 Prospects” rankings, stating “While Pujols is still striking out a lot, his current rate of 37% is lower than last year. That, along with an increased walk rate and more power is what is driving him back up the rankings.”
Pujols has put himself back on the radar with this Clearwater Player of the Year performance in 2018. It is now up to the young slugger to ensure that he continues working on his all-around game. If he continues to improve moving forward as he did this season, we just might see him banging balls over the walls at Citizens Bank Park in a couple of years.
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