February 02, 2005

Fortune shines on former Phillies

Nick Punto is just one former prospect sliding into an excellent situation this season.

For a minor league system often considered ineffective, a number of Philly farm products are floating around baseball these days, often in starting roles.

Former bench player Nick Punto could replace Christian Guzman at shortstop for the Twins this season.

In Philadelphia, Punto was never considered a prospect with major-league staying power, but managed a cup of coffee with the big club in late 2003. Afterward, he was sent to Minnesota in the Eric Milton deal, which also yielded Carlos Silva.

Punto played 38 games withthe Twins last season, mostly at second and short.

Silva, who the Phillies considered grooming into a closer at one point, went the opposite direction with Minnesota. The team converted him to starter, and went 14-8 and started Game 1 of the AL Wild Card.

Silva had about as good a season as Milton; less strikeouts (76 to 161 for Milton), but fewer walks (35 to 75) and a lower ERA (4.25 to 4.75).

Silva/Punto isn't the only Philadelpha pitcher/shortstop package that may flourish in a new environment. The Phils got a nice surprise in Cory Lidle when they got him from the Reds last year. But the Reds also got an unexpected surprise in pitcher Josh Hancock, who was blocked out of a spot in the Phillies' rotation.

Hancock won three of his four starts for the Reds and will compete for a spot in the rotation during camp.

Like the Milton deal, the Phils also relinquished a throw-in shortstop, Anderson Machado, who was always solid defensively but struggled with the bat and was also blocked out of a spot in Philadelphia.

Before a torn MCL he suffer in Venezuela that will cost him the entire season, he was expected to challenge Juan Castro for Cincinnati's vacated shortstop position, with a chance to take over for veteran Barry Larkin.

Another ex-Phil that never caught on but flourished last year is Eric Valent, who proved to be valuable bench help for the Mets. Valent earned time filling in for Cliff Floyd, and became the eighth Met in history to hit for the cycle on July 29.

Valent is like a left-handed version Jason Michaels, himself was a mid-level prospect who took advantage of opportunities to play.

Hamels injury hits hardest in Reading
Top prospect Cole Hamels broke more than just his hand in Saturday's altercation, he broke a city's spirit.

Ok, he didn't, but it's still disappointing.

Reading has the impossible task of following up a year that saw Ryan Howard break Reading's home run record, plus, Gavin Floyd blow through town.

Hamles figured to be Reading's only high prospect come April 7. He was ranked third-best prospect in the Phils system by Baseball America, and the team doesn't have a sure-fire Reading-bound player in the remaining top 10.


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