The Atlanta Braves dynasty of the 90's and early 00's was built upon a foundation of pitching, timely offense, and an impeccable farm system that was taught to win from the early stages. Great blueprint for success, hence the reason the Phillies are following suit.
We all know why the Phillies pitching is so good, duh! Timely offense has been enough to produce the best record in MLB and only stands to get better from here on out with Utley back and Victorino soon to follow.
The Phillies also have one of the best farm systems and it is evident by the talent churned out who are now with the Phillies (Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, Domonic Brown, and to some extent Shane Victorino). Also, don't forget how Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, Ben Francisco, and Roy Oswalt got here - via trade. Trades that were facilitated by the bountifulness of prospects in the Phillies system.
Lets take a look at some of the players down in the minors that might be seeing time in the future for the Phils are be that all important trade chip.
*Image courtesy of PhilaPhans.com
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs:
Triple-A, 31-19 (1st)
The Lil' Piggies are a team to be reckoned with. They are built almost exclusively on minor league free agents that have MLB experience, but can't hack it full-time. Regardless of how the team is constructed, first year manager Ryne Sandberg must be happy with the results, as this is by far the best Iron Pigs team since becoming the Phillies AAA affiliated a few years back.
Pete Orr is hitting .346/.870 since being demoted. Jeff Larish/1B is hitting bombs, 10 homeruns. Tagg Bozied/OF/1B is sporting a tremendous OPS (1.088) since being activated a couple weeks ago. Josh Barfield/2B (.280/.723), Erik Kratz/C (.279/.923, 8 HR), Rich Thompson/OF (.258/.709, 18 SB), and Brandon Moss/OF (.243/.773, 29 RBI) are the offensive standouts.
Doing some outstanding pitching for LHV is Brian Gordon (3-0, 1.01 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), who has recently converted to a starting pitcher. The rest of the rotation is lackluster (except for Vance Worley who was just optioned back down yesterday). The relief pitchers are excellent though - Drew Carpenter (4-0, 2.23/1.08, 34 K in 32.1 IP), Michael Schwimer (2-0, 1.95/1.19, 35 K in 27.2 IP), Juan Perez (2.82/1.34, 27 K in 22.1 IP), and Mike Zagurski (1.88/1.12, 23 K in 14.1 IP, 9 SV).
Double-A, 26-23 (4th)
Baseball Town, USA holds some of the Phillies real prospects, not minor league retreads like in Lehigh Valley. Cody Overbeck/1B/3B/OF is the main power source with 13 HR and 36 RBI, batting .282/.873. Of course, there's still Matt Rizzotti/1B (.324/.962, 8 HR, 32 RBI), who is likely trade fodder come trade deadline in July because he's blocked by Ryan Howard. Others include - Steven Susdorf/OF (.323/.916), 12 year minor league vet Mike Spidale/OF (.319/.722), and Derrick Mitchell/OF (.255/.738, 7 HR, 31 RBI).
Hurling the ball for the little Phillies is starting pitcher JC Ramirez (5-3, 2.83/1.06, but only 20 K in 54 IP). Much like the Iron Pigs, this team's pitching surplus appears in the bullpen, not the rotation. They have gotten superb relief work from - BJ Rosenberg (1.88/1.15, 34 K in 28.2 IP), Tyson Brummett (1.78/1.16), Phillippe Aumont (3.03/1.01, 32 K in 23.2 IP), and Justin De Fratus (3-0, 2.55/1.38, 26 K in 24.2 IP).
Advanced-A, 32-19 (2nd)
Converted pitcher Joe Savery has cooled off some, but is still hitting .342/.834 and has been playing some outfield along with firstbase. Catcher Sebastian Valle is clobbering the ball right now to the tune of a .320 average. Super prospect Jonathan Singleton/OF has fallen on hard times and is struggling .259/.707, but others in the lineup are picking him up- Jeremy Barnes/3B (.292/.774), Darin Ruf/1B (.281/.799), and Leandro Castro/OF (.281/.791).
Whereas the starting rotation in Triple and Double-A were poor, the Threshers are storing some real talent in theirs. Clearwater's starting rotation boasts - Jonathan Pettibone (5-3, 1.75/0.99), Jarred Cosart (5-3, 2.87/1.11), Julio Rodriguez (6-3, 2.28/1.07), Trevor May (3-2, 4.08/1.36, 68 K in 53 IP), and Tyler Cloyd (3-1, 2.82/0.99). Wow! Working relief are - Justin Friends (1.16/0.69, 17 SV), Derrik Loop (0.74/1.07), and Joseph Esposito (1.97/1.31).
Single-A, 27-23 (5th)
Former high draft pick outfielders Zach Collier (.261/.718) and Anthony Hewitt (.266/.780) are finally starting to hit a bit, and are young enough to still possibly become something useful someday. Meanwhile Jim Murphy/1B has been on a tear, as he now has 13 HR and 37 RBI to go along with his .928 OPS. 19 year old Domingo Santana/OF is also doing well (.284/.835).
Pitching for the BlueClaws are standouts - David Buchanan (7-2, 1.97/1.06), Garrett Claypool (2.00/0.91, 66 K in 54 IP), Lisalberto Bonilla (1.27/0.56), and Eric Pettis, who has now combined for 18 games with a 0.65 ERA between Lakewood and Clearwater.