Joe Jordan was in a meeting at Citizens Bank Park earlier this week when the subject of Mitch Walding came up. The Phillies’ front-office personnel had seen the numbers and they wanted an opinion on them. Jordan provided a strong one.
“He looks like a major-league player,” the Phillies director of player personnel said. “He has been as consistent on both sides of the ball as anyone [at triple-A Lehigh Valley]. He looks like a guy if you put him in a big-league uniform and put him on a big-league field, he will not look out of place. That’s the way he is playing.”
That’s high praise for the IronPigs third baseman, who has had more downs than ups since the Phillies selected the Northern California native in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.
Through Wednesday, Walding was hitting .287 with eight doubles, four home runs, and 13 RBIs. With the help of his 20 walks, which were tied for the league lead, he ranked eighth in the International League with a .410 on-base percentage. Walding is also playing third base better than at any other point in his career. He has had three errors in 78 chances.
In his first six minor-league seasons, the lefthanded-hitting Walding batted .240 with a .330 on-base percentage, but his power production has picked up in recent years. He hit a combined 13 home runs with high-A Clearwater and double-A Reading two seasons ago and finished fourth in the Eastern League last year with 25 home runs for Reading. Walding, 25, is only 15 days younger than Maikel Franco, and if he makes it to the major leagues, it could be as a utility player. He also has played first base and the outfield.
“He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing,” Jordan said. “Consistency has kind of been the missing ingredient for Mitch. He has had periods in the minor leagues where he has shown us everything you need to do, but right now, he is showing us something good every night.”
Lefties in waiting
It has been well documented that the Phillies have not used a lefthanded starter since Sept. 28, 2016, and when they optioned Zac Curtis to Lehigh Valley on Wednesday morning, they did not have a single lefthanded pitcher on the entire 13-man staff.
Given the way Brandon Leibrandt and Cole Irvin are pitching for Lehigh Valley, it would not be surprising if the Phillies had multiple lefties on their staff before this season is over.
Leibrandt, a sixth-round pick in 2014, has not allowed a run in 23 innings this season while pitching as a starter and in relief. Irvin, a fifth-round pick in 2016, is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in six starts and has held lefties to four hits in 30 at-bats.
Leibrandt, 25, is going to pitch in the big leagues, Jordan said. “I don’t think he’s far away. That’s why we put him in the bullpen at the start of the year, and he will go back to the bullpen at some point in time. We trust him. He’s not just a left-on-left guy. He can get righthanders out, too.”
Lefties are hitting .105 (2 for 19) against Leibrandt, and righthanded batters are hitting .169 (10 for 59).
“I think the other lefthander who deserves to be talked about is Tom Windle,” Jordan said. “He has struggled over the last few years, but he has been really good. He lowered his arm slot, and if he continues to do what he’s doing, don’t be shocked by it.”
Windle has allowed just three hits and posted a 1.29 ERA in his last five appearances with the IronPigs.
After hitting 29 home runs a year ago, including a team-record 27 for low-A Lakewood, Darick Hall is off to a great start with high-A Clearwater, too. The lefthanded-hitting first baseman is batting .297 with a league-leading 10 home runs and 26 RBIs. Hall, 22, was a 14th-round pick in 2014. “His power is real,” Jordan said. … Outfielder Cornelius Randolph, the 10th overall pick by the Phils in 2015, is hitting just .182 with five extra-base hits at double-A Reading. … Lakewood’s Jhailyn Ortiz has been sidelined with a shoulder bruise since April 23 and could miss two more weeks.