After a deflating 2020 in which the Minor League Baseball season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia Phillies affiliate teams finally took the field of play for a new season this past Tuesday.
It’s an exciting time for the members of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, High-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws and Low-A Clearwater Threshers.
“I think it meant a little bit more because of having all the extra time off,” Fightins manager Shawn Williams said of returning to play after Tuesday night’s opener in Reading. “It was just great to see baseball, great to see the fans there and just [great] to see all of our guys get after it for all nine.”
Lehigh Valley is 5-1 to start the season, while Reading is 2-4, Jersey Shore is 3-3 and Clearwater is 3-3 as well. Each week of the season, the teams will play a six-game series against one opponent from Tuesday through Sunday. Every Monday is a scheduled day off.
Phillies Nation will have a Phillies minor-league week in review on each of those Mondays throughout the 2021 season to focus in on some of the top storylines surrounding the organization’s affiliates.
Lehigh Valley Walks Off With Early Wins
As the IronPigs earned a series win over the Rochester Red Wings, their first three games ended in walk-off victories on the way there.
On Tuesday night, Scott Kingery hit an 11th-inning triple to left field, plating two runs to give Lehigh Valley a 6-5 opening-day win:
The following night, Josh Stephen, who’s since been sent down to Double-A Reading, took home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to steal an 8-7 win. C.J. Chatham then gave the IronPigs a walk-off 5-4 win on Thursday with an RBI single in the 10th inning.
Lehigh Valley’s 3-0 start was the first in team history.
Gamboa Starts Hot In Leadoff Spot
Arquímedes Gamboa got off to a strong start in his return to Reading, and a quick one at that. The Fightin Phils leadoff batter began the 2021 season with a right-center field home run in the team’s opening at-bat of the year against the Erie SeaWolves.
His manager said the 23-year-old is “on a mission.”
“Every little thing now, from his early hitting to his [batting practice] routine, he really looks good,” Williams said. “He’s doing a lot of good things that are going to help him stay consistent.”
For Gamboa, an excellent defensive shortstop with the ability to move around the infield and into center field as well, some offensive development would be a huge step in his career. He struggled to hit for avearage or power for Reading in 2019, slashing just .188/.305/.270 with three home runs.
The switch-hitter has gotten stronger and put time into bat speed training in the time over the past 18 months or so. It’s paying off early, as Gamboa is still walking the way he always has, but is seeing more base hits with a little bit of pop. Through six games, his slash line is .238/.429/.429 with a home run and a double.
Stott’s Approach Impresses At High-A
2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott is playing his first full minor-league seasons at last, and his approach at the plate has already been noticed.
The shortstop had just three hits in 16 at-bats in the opening series against the Hudson Valley Renegades, but all three have been extra-base hits — a home run to left field, a double to center field and a home run to right field:
Jersey Shore manager Chris Adamson is impressed with Stott’s ability to use all fields, while also working deep counts at this level.
“His ability to stick with that approach is important and it’s going to help him hit for a long, long time,” Adamson said Friday.
Top Pick Abel Makes Professional Debut
The Phillies’ No. 1 pick in last year’s draft Mick Abel suited up in Clearwater Wednesday for the first outing of his professional career.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, the Lakeland Flying Tigers offense got to the young right-hander. He lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits, a home run and two walks. Able struck out four batters.
While far from the perfect debut, just seeing the 19-year-old out on the mound has to be considered a positive by the Phillies. After missing out on his high school and minor-league season last year, Abel can now get adjusted to facing professional hitters in a competitive setting.
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