If first impressions are lasting, the second coming of Ryan Howard may have arrived at single-A Lakewood a couple of weeks ago.
Jonathan Singleton, an 18-year-old first baseman taken by the Phillies in the eighth round of last year's draft, is off to an incredible start with the BlueClaws after opening the season in extended spring training.
Singleton, a lefthanded hitter out of Lakewood, Calif., near Los Angeles, hit safely in 14 of his first 15 games, batting .451 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. That included a game that was suspended Thursday against Hagerstown.
"You can see a lot of big-league qualities in him," Lakewood manager Mark Parent said. "He enjoys being the guy. He enjoys hitting cleanup, and having guys depend on him to drive in runs."
Chuck LaMar, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of the player development department, said the Phillies waited six weeks to send Singleton to Lakewood because they wanted to make sure he was ready for what is considered a high level of competition for someone his age.
"I needed to be convinced if he struggled that he would not get away from swinging the bat forcefully," LaMar said. "Sometimes if you push young hitters, especially young power hitters, they worry about their stats and putting the ball in play rather than driving the baseball. I wanted to make sure that he'd have the mind-set to continue to drive the baseball. He has a chance to be a true power hitter when he reaches the major leagues."
So far, so good.
Here's a look at some of the Phillies' other minor-league prospects through the first two months of the season.
Nicholas Hernandez. The 21-year-old lefthander was off to a 3-1 start with a 1.61 ERA, but he is now on the disabled list with a weak left shoulder, and isn't likely to pitch again for at least a month.
"We've shut him down for two to three weeks and then we will let him start his program again," LaMar said. "He has to get stronger. There is some weakness in the back of his shoulder. That weakness was indicated in spring training."
Domingo Santana. The 17-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic has continued to struggle at the plate - he's hitting .194 with 64 strikeouts - but Parent said he has made great strides with his outfield play. LaMar said Santana could be sent to short-season Williamsport when that club begins its season next month.
Cody Overbeck. The 2008 ninth-round pick out of the University of Mississippi leads the Florida State League with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs. The 23-year-old righthanded hitting third baseman also is hitting .330, good for eighth in the FSL.
"He was hurt almost all of last year with a sports hernia, but if you go back to the year before, he was a run-producing force in the New York-Penn league," LaMar said.
Anthony Gose. The 19-year-old outfielder is hitting .265 and has struck out 53 times in 204 at-bats, but LaMar said the Phillies are satisfied with the progress of their 2008 second-round pick.
"He has 20 stolen bases and he's probably the best defender in the league," LaMar said. "We're not concerned about his batting average. We're concerned with how he plays the game."
J.C. Ramirez. The 21-year-old righthander acquired in the Cliff Lee trade with Seattle has missed two starts with a blister but returned to the Clearwater rotation this week.
"He gave up four runs in the first, then shut down [Dunedin]," LaMar said. "We're pleased with his stuff."
Trevor May. After excelling last season at Lakewood, the Phillies' 2008 fourth-round pick is 3-4 with a 5.26 ERA for Clearwater. The 20-year-old has 60 strikeouts in 391/3 innings, but he has also walked 26.
"Everything has been fine with Trevor except his command," LaMar said.
Phillippe Aumont. It has been a terrible month for the Canadian-born righthander acquired in the Lee deal with Seattle. Through Friday, he was 0-3 in five starts with a 9.54 ERA. He had allowed 20 hits and 20 earned runs, and walked 18 in 182/3 innings.
"We moved him back into the starting rotation to work on all his pitches," LaMar said. "If we moved him back to the bullpen he'd probably have better results, and maybe that's where he ultimately belongs. But pitching as a starter is better for his development."
Domonic Brown. The organization's top prospect continues to play well, hitting .306 with 10 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 26 RBIs.
B.J. Rosenberg. The right-handed reliever rejoined Reading last week after spending the first six weeks on the disabled list with a tired arm.
Scott Mathieson. The former Phillies righthander who has fought through two ligament-transplant surgeries continues to dominate as a closer for the IronPigs. In 18 games, Mathieson is 2-0 with eight saves and a 0.76 ERA.
"He might be as good a power reliever as there is right now in minor-league baseball," LaMar said.
Mathieson has struck out 26, walked six and allowed 14 hits in 232/3 innings.
"He's getting closer and closer to being ready to help the big-league club," LaMar said. "I think at some time in the near future you'll see him on the major-league staff."
Andrew Carpenter. The Phillies' second-round pick in the 2006 draft is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA in his last six starts.
"He got off to a slow start, but he's pitching better and better," LaMar said. "He's the best starting pitcher on the triple-A staff."