The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have been the Triple-A minor league affiliates of the Philadelphia Phillies since the 2007 season. But the franchise has a long and winding history.
Founded in 1993 as the Ottawa Lynx in Canada, they were an affiliate of the old Montreal Expos for their first decade of existence. The Baltimore Orioles then took control of the club through 2006.
Then in 2007, having grown unhappy with the ownership of their Triple-A affiliates at the time, the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons, the Phillies entered into an agreement with the Lynx to become their new highest-level minor league affiliate.
With the opening of Coca-Cola Park for the 2008 season, the Phillies relocated that former Lynx franchise to the new Allentown, Pennsylvania facility and changed the team’s identity. The name “IronPigs” is drawn from ‘pig iron‘, or crude iron, which is manufactured in the area.
Allentown, PA is approximately 70 miles north of the Philadelphia area. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to make the drive, with most using I-476.
The IronPigs captured the North Division crown with an 84-56 record that was the best in the entire International League this season. However, first-year manager Gary Jones and the Pigs were bounced out in the playoff semi-finals by Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Now an affiliate of the New York Yankees, Scranton took the first two games in the best-of-five series by 3-2 and 3-0 scores. Lehigh Valley got back into the series with a 3-2 victory in Game Three, but then Scranton closed it out with a big 7-2 rout in Game Four.
This year’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year is pitcher Cole Irvin. The 6-4, 180lb left-hander will turn 25-years-old just prior to the opening of 2019 spring training. He was the Phillies fifth round pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon.
Irvin went 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.054 WHIP this season for the IronPigs. He allowed 135 hits over 161.1 innings across 26 appearances, 25 of those as starts, with a 131/35 K:BB ratio.
For his outstanding season, Irvin was selected as the International League Pitcher of the Year and made the start in this year’s Triple-A All-Star Game. He was also named to Baseball America’s all-star team.
His contributions were not only relegated to the field. For the second straight year, Irvin was recognized as one of the Phillies minor league community service award recipients.
“[Irvin has] been very consistent commanding the fastball and with the secondary pitches. Change has been a plus weapon. It’s a pitch he can throw anytime. The curveball’s been good and we tightened up the slider.”
Back in early August we released our Phillies Nation Top 20 Phillies Prospects rankings and placed Irvin at #12 on our list. He is currently ranked #10 on the MLB.com Phillies top prospects list.
They grade his classic four-pitch starter’s mix of fastball-slider-curve-change each at a 50 grade, with 55-grade control. In their scouting report, the MLB evaluators see him as having back-end starting pitcher potential:
“Irvin has already shown some mastery of pitch sequencing and making adjustments, something the Phillies expect to see after he fell victim to the long ball in the hitting-friendly confines of Reading last year. He could impact the big league rotation as a No. 4 or 5 starter at some point in the near future.”
Irvin may not have ace potential, but the combination of his age, experience level, success, and left-handedness mean that he will certainly get a shot with the big club at spring training in Clearwater. His ability to get big-league hitters out will ultimately determine where he pitches next season.
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