How keeping core of young players together in minors has helped Phillies to win

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Rhys Hoskins (left), Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr celebrate the Phillies’ win over the Diamondbacks Wednesday.

Within the past few years, the Phillies have drafted or signed and developed a top-of-the-rotation starter (Aaron Nola), a closer (Hector Neris), a middle-of-the-order slugger (Rhys Hoskins), a shortstop (J.P. Crawford), and a dynamic top prospect (Scott Kingery). Their presence on the major-league roster is proof that the farm system is churning out players.

But it’s possible the Phillies are accomplishing even more in the minor leagues: It seems they’re also teaching those players how to win.

Over the past three seasons, the Phillies’ full-season affiliates – triple-A Lehigh Valley, double-A Reading, high-A Clearwater, and low-A Lakewood – have combined for a 917-761 record. That .546 winning percentage isn’t coincidental, either. While player development supersedes win-loss records in the minors, the Phillies have tried during their rebuild to keep their core of young players together at various levels.

Reading, for instance, won back-to-back division titles in 2015-16 with rosters featuring Nola, Hoskins, Crawford, Kingery, pitcher Nick Pivetta, catcher Andrew Knapp, and outfielder Aaron Altherr. It’s little wonder, then, that Knapp recently chalked up the Phillies’ early success in one-run games (6-1) to their familiarity with winning in the minors.

“Winning is a part of developing players,” said Joe Jordan, the Phillies’ director of player development. “I think if you’re doing it the right way, with young rosters and players that are playing at age-appropriate levels, then if you can accomplish getting players better and winning, that’s the perfect scenario.

“I heard about Knappy’s comments and I appreciate it, because we do talk about winning. I mean, those guys are doing what they’ve been used to doing. They’re just getting to do it in major-league stadiums. I think it’s great. I think it’s very important.”

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Reading and reacting

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler returned from his visit to Reading on Monday night gushing about hard-throwing reliever Seranthony Dominguez, suggesting the 23-year-old might be ready for the big leagues later this season.

But a few other players caught Kapler’s eye, too. He singled out leadoff hitter Zach Coppola, who notched an RBI double and made a stellar catch in center field.

“He gave his body for the club,” Kapler said. “He went after a ball on defense, crashed into the wall at full speed. I thought that was really impressive.”

First baseman Zach Green also picked a good night to hit a home run in Reading’s 8-4 victory.

Kapler said he decided to spend a rare home off-night by going to Reading because he wanted to support manager Greg Legg. And it’s unlikely that Kapler’s appearance was a one-off. He spent the past three seasons as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm director, which gives him a heightened understanding of the importance of the day-to-day routine in the minor leagues.

“It was a tremendous effort on his part to take that time to come over and speak to the players in the locker room, sit and talk to the staff a little bit before the game, and then sit there for six innings,” Jordan said. “It was very much appreciated by everyone in Reading, myself, and I think our entire system. It was impactful, very much so.”

Extra bases

Former first-round pick Cornelius Randolph is off to a rough start. The 20-year-old outfielder was batting .159 with two doubles and one homer through Wednesday for Reading. … Righthander Sixto Sanchez’s second start for high-A Clearwater went better than his first. Sanchez, 19, allowed two runs on six hits in six innings. More importantly, the Phils’ top prospect walked only one batter after issuing four walks in four innings in his season debut. … Lefthander Ranger Suarez has allowed four runs in 21 innings over his last three starts for Reading. Suarez is slated to start Saturday at Portland.