It took a little while, but the Phillies' top leadoff prospect is in a nice groove at Double A Reading, which is where this week's Future Phillies Report begins:
CF Roman Quinn (AA)
Quinn, the switch-hitting speedster who impressed last season and in his first big-league camp this spring, got off to a slow start for Reading in his return from a 2015 hip flexor tear. He hit .248 over his first 31 games with nine extra-base hits and 13 steals in 142 plate appearances.
But over the last 15 games, Quinn's hit .354 with five doubles, two homers, 11 steals and 21 runs scored. He's had three hits in three of his last four games, punctuating the hot stretch Wednesday with a leadoff homer, two RBI doubles and a sacrifice fly in a lopsided Reading win in Portland.
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
All three of Quinn's extra-base hits Wednesday came from the left side. He barreled the leadoff homer to right-center, lashed his first double to the opposite field and hit the second double over Red Sox CF prospect Andrew Benintendi's head.
It's been a strong week for Quinn, who also homered and drove in three runs on Tuesday.
Quinn is hitting .284/.360/.421 in 214 plate appearances this season. He's 24 for 29 in stolen base attempts and is on pace to reach double-digits in doubles, triples and home runs. He's struck out a lot, though, for a top-of-the-order bat, whiffing 51 times.
Reading manager Dusty Wathan said at the end of April that Quinn was still trying to find his timing as a left-handed hitter. He is naturally right-handed. It's safe to say he's found that timing — in 159 plate appearances this season as a lefty, Quinn has hit .279/.365/.436 with all four of his triples and all three of his home runs.
For Quinn, 2016 is all about staying healthy and remaining consistent at the plate. In five minor-league seasons, he has yet to exceed 88 games or 382 plate appearances.
If the hot hitting continues, he could find himself later in the season at Triple A, where fellow prospect Nick Williams has played center field the majority of the time. Williams can play all three outfield spots, so if the Phils eventually deem Quinn ready for the next step on the minor-league ladder they could shift Williams to a corner outfield spot currently occupied by veteran Cedric Hunter or Cam Perkins.
With his blazing speed and strong arm, Quinn is expected to stick in CF. It's the only position he's played in the Phillies' system since moving off shortstop early in the 2014 season.
SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
From one leadoff man to another — Crawford went 6 for 20 (.300) with four walks in his first six games with Lehigh Valley before taking four straight 0-for-4s. He's hitting .195 through 11 games with the IronPigs with five walks and nine strikeouts.
Defensively, Crawford is showing real signs of improvement. He has no errors in 95 innings and 43 defensive chances at Triple A. His fielding percentage for the year is .970, up from last year's .953 mark. Crawford committed 27 errors last season but is on pace for around 20 this year. The Phillies wanted to see him remain focused and make more of the routine plays this year and he has. They wanted to see the same thing at the major-league level from Freddy Galvis, who is having his best defensive season as Crawford zeroes in on taking his job some time soon.
Crawford batted second when he first got to Lehigh Valley but has led off five games in a row, with Cody Asche batting second.
In his last game Tuesday, Crawford singled in each of his first two at-bats and came around to score both times. He led off the game with a sharply hit line drive up the middle. In his second at-bat, he crushed a 1-2 pitch in between first and second base for another base-hit. It was a much-needed multi-hit game that Crawford is hoping breaks him out of the mini-skid.
RHP Jake Thompson (AAA)
Thompson had his worst start of the season on Tuesday, allowing eight runs (six earned) in 3⅔ innings in a start that pushed his ERA from 3.48 to 4.23.
It started in the first inning when Thompson allowed a double and a single to the first two hitters he faced. He appeared to be on his way to getting out of the jam, but he was squeezed on a full-count pitch to put two men on with one out, and power-hitting Orioles prospect Christian Walker hit a three-run homer with two strikes on an up-and-in fastball that caught too much plate.
Thompson was actually given a two-run lead when the IronPigs scored six runs over the first two innings, but he ran into two-out trouble in both the third and fourth innings. After striking out the first two hitters he faced in the third, Thompson allowed a double, two straight singles and a walk to Norfolk before stranding the bases loaded. In the fourth, he got two quick outs and then went single, single, single and was lifted after Asche made an error in left field to bring in two runs.
The minor leagues are less about results and more about development. Thompson continues to show plus pitches, and he's tough to hit when he's commanding his curveball and has his two-seam fastball jumping back inside to a right-handed hitter. In that third inning, both strikeouts came on curveballs that had different looks. The first strikeout was on a slower hook in the high-70s that caused an awkward, late swing from a left-handed hitter. Thompson then pumped the next batter he faced with curveballs that ranged from 78 to 82 mph, striking him out on a sharp breaker that plummeted out of the zone.
RHP Zach Eflin (AAA)
Eflin was also hit around his last time out, allowing six runs on a season-high nine hits in five innings. It was his first loss of the season and raised his ERA from 2.05 to 2.81.
It was a strange night for Eflin. He allowed back-to-back doubles to start the first, fourth and sixth innings. All six players came around to score. He had just one 1-2-3 inning but was able to work out of a few jams.
Eflin allowed six doubles on the night after surrendering just five doubles and seven extra-base hits total in his first eight starts. It was an off night for the right-hander against a Louisville Bats (Reds' affiliate) lineup that doesn't have a ton of pop.
Still, Eflin has a 0.88 WHIP and .207 opponents' batting average this season that both rank toward the top of the International League. He's responded well after both of his previous poor outings this season, following a five-run game with 6⅓ shutout innings and another five-run game with three straight brilliant seven-inning performances.
Let's see how he responds this time. Eflin next pitches Friday night in Charlotte against the White Sox Triple A affiliate.
OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams had a nine-game hit streak snapped on Tuesday. In those nine games he went 14 for 33 (.424) with three doubles and two homers. The power is starting to arrive for Williams as the weather heats up.
He's still striking out a lot, with 18 in his last 11 games and 48 in 187 plate appearances this season. He's walked three times in his last six games but still has just 10 for the year, a number the Phillies would like to see increase.
At .279, Williams' batting average is 15 points below his career mark, and at .747 his OPS is 79 points lower. But this is, after all, his first stint at Triple A, and these first two months were also his first experience playing on the East Coast during a chilly spring. Prior to coming to the Phillies' system, all of Williams' minor-league stops with the Rangers were in hotter cities: Hickory (N.C.), Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and Frisco (Texas).
Williams, a left-handed hitter, has been better lately against lefties, hitting his first home run against one on Memorial Day. On a 2-2 count, Williams drove a hanging slider out to right-center against former Phillie Andy Oliver, who had just been taken deep by left-handed hitting Asche.
OF Dylan Cozens (AA)
The power-hitting corner outfielder had his quietest week in quite a while, but still has a double, a homer and five RBIs in his last five games.
Cozens continues to hit the ball hard when he makes contact — 30 of his 53 hits this season have been for extra bases (16 doubles, 14 home runs).
He's hitting .272/.348/.569 at Reading this season, and in 62 games there dating back to the end of 2015, Cozens has hit .285 with 17 homers, 53 RBIs and a .933 OPS.
Like several other Phillies prospects, Cozens strikes out a lot — 64 in 221 plate appearances and 19 in his last 11 games. A left-handed hitter, he's struck out in one-third of his plate appearances against lefties, but he does have six extra-base hits against them.
It will be interesting to see which Reading outfielder — 23-year-old Quinn or 22-year-old Cozens — makes it up to Lehigh Valley first.
C Jorge Alfaro (AA), C Andrew Knapp (AAA)
Alfaro continues to be a key run producer for Reading. Through 30 games, he's hit .328 with a .500 slugging percentage, eight doubles, a triple, four homers and 26 RBIs.
Alfaro, who has a hit in 12 of his last 14 games, got a bit lucky with his last extra-base hit Tuesday. He hit a towering shot to left field in Portland that appeared to be well foul, but the wind blew it back into fair territory and it caromed off the Green Monster-like wall for a double.
Alfaro makes a lot of loud contact, something that stood out in spring training — against major-league pitching — when the ball just made a different sound coming off his bat.
With offense pretty much nonexistent from the catcher position league-wide, Alfaro has the chance to be a unique player if he can stay healthy. There are not many catchers in the majors these days who have power, a strong arm and the ability to call a game.
As for Knapp, he's not having nearly the season he had last summer with Reading, when he hit .360 with a 1.050 OPS in 55 games, but he's still hitting well for a catcher at Triple A. Knapp is batting .246/.325/.444 with 15 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and 16 walks in 160 plate appearances for Lehigh Valley.
With five errors and 15 stolen bases allowed in 20 attempts, Knapp is developing slowly defensively.
RHP Mark Appel (AAA)
Appel hit the DL last Friday with a shoulder strain. It was not much of a surprise after watching his fastball average 88-89 mph in the first inning of his last start. Prior to that, Appel was throwing 93 to 95 mph early in games.
It was a much-needed break, both physically and mentally. Appel is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA in eight starts. In his last four, he had an 8.27 ERA and put 32 men on base in 16⅓ innings.
RHP Ben Lively (AAA)
Appel's loss was Lively's gain. The right-hander took Appel's place in the Triple A rotation and has given the IronPigs two quality starts.
Lively, 24, is 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 11 starts at Double A and Triple A this season. He's struck out 58 batters in 66 innings while walking 17. He's been taken deep just three times.
At Lehigh Valley, Lively's lines have been: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K and 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K.
Lively has a simple delivery and does not overpower hitters. His fastball sits in the high-80s for the most part. That lack of heat is why he's never really been regarded as a top prospect despite solid minor-league results.
Let's see how long it lasts. The beauty of having so many right-handers close to the majors is that even if they all can't sustain their success or live up to the hype, the Phillies should still be able to fill out their future rotation with a few of them.