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Pitching quartet showcasing ability in Minors

Sanchez, Suarez, Romero, Dominguez top 30 prospects at Class A Advanced Clearwater
MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The first pitch Class A Advanced Clearwater right-hander Seranthony Dominguez threw at Lakeland on the night of April 12 was a 97-mph fastball just below the knees that painted the outside corner. The second pitch was almost exactly the same.

"I saw [the Flying Tigers' hitting coach] go from the front row to kind of sit back in the dugout because you could tell that game was over after two pitches," recalled Aaron Fultz, pitching coach of the Phillies' Florida State League affiliate. "I mean, that's how good those two were. But he repeated it all night, and he was phenomenal."

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The first pitch Class A Advanced Clearwater right-hander Seranthony Dominguez threw at Lakeland on the night of April 12 was a 97-mph fastball just below the knees that painted the outside corner. The second pitch was almost exactly the same.

"I saw [the Flying Tigers' hitting coach] go from the front row to kind of sit back in the dugout because you could tell that game was over after two pitches," recalled Aaron Fultz, pitching coach of the Phillies' Florida State League affiliate. "I mean, that's how good those two were. But he repeated it all night, and he was phenomenal."

The 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic would allow just one run on three hits over six innings. Dominguez didn't walk a batter and struck out 10.

"It was probably the best game I've ever seen pitched," Fultz said. "And that's in 25 years of professional baseball. It was that dominating."

Here's the best part for the Phillies' organization: Dominguez is one of four Threshers starters ranked among the organization's top 30 prospects by MLBPipeline.com. He's No. 28, behind 19-year-old right-hander Sixto Sanchez (2) and left-handers Ranger Suarez (15) and JoJo Romero (16). Suarez just turned 22 and Romero turns 21 shortly after the season ends.

Phillies' top 30 prospects

Many games, they're dominant. Occasionally, not so much. Most young pitchers, no matter how talented, can be inconsistent. Still, each has the kind of raw ability that scouts dream about.

"All those guys are great talents, great arms. They've got good stuff," Threshers manager Shawn Williams said recently at Spectrum Field. "They're very young in this league [where the average age for pitchers is 23.1]. They're learning, which is great. That's how you get better. For me, you get better by not being successful all the time. You have to come back and make adjustments."

Sanchez, with his triple-digits fastball, is the most touted. He got off to a dominant start at Class A Lakewood, allowing 46 hits while walking nine and striking out 64 in 67 1/3 innings before being promoted to Clearwater.

In his first two starts after that, Sanchez gave up eight earned runs. In his third outing against Charlotte, the Stone Crabs put two runs across in the second inning with one out.

"After that, it looked like something clicked," Fultz said. "He was a completely different pitcher after that and just shut them down."

Said Sanchez, who is also from the Dominican: "I was a little more focused after that."

Sanchez retired 14 straight hitters, striking out four of them, to end the outing. In Sunday's start against Lakeland, he permitted one earned run over 4 2/3 innings before the game was ended by rain.

Video: Top Prospects: Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Phillies

Player development director Joe Jordan said Sanchez (a combined 5-6 record, 2.90 ERA this season) has the best arm in the system.

"What separates Sixto is his ability to throw it where he's trying to a lot," Jordan said. "He's got very good command and control of his fastball. That's always a good start. His changeup is developing, as is his curveball. Both those pitches are behind his fastball as far as quality, but they've both really come forward this year.

"We're just going to take our time and develop a pitcher, because he's got a chance to be something special. He's a long way away. Although, if you see him on the right night, you think he may not be that far away. He's just got to stay patient, keep working, staying hungry, because he's got a chance to be as good as anyone we have."

Suarez, a native of Venezuela, also began this season at Lakewood. Overall, he's 8-5 with a 2.09 ERA in 21 starts. On June 26, Suarez was pitching a perfect game for the BlueClaws until he gave up a two-out single in the eighth.

"That's what I'll remember most about this season," Suarez said.

Added Jordan: "He's got to be talked about as far as a guy who's had as good a year as anyone in our Minor League system. I think the thing that's happened with him is that his stuff has jumped. His fastball has jumped a full grade. He's up to 94, 95 [mph] pretty much every outing, where it was more 88 to 92 in the past. He's always been able to really pitch. He's pretty accomplished."

Video: Suarez dazzles again

The Phillies selected Romero (8-3 record, 2.21 ERA at Lakewood and Clearwater) in the fourth round out of Yavapi College in the 2016 Draft.

"I think if we made a decision today, he would definitely be in the top two or three choices for our Minor League Pitcher of the Year," Jordan said. "Good sink, a lot of strikes, very athletic delivery. He's been a little surprising, I think, just with his ability to really pound the zone this year."

Added Fultz: "He's probably the softest thrower, and he'll touch 94 [mph], possibly 95. And he throws five pitches [two-seam, four-seam, cutter, slider, curve and change], so it's kind of fun. And he commands all of them. I wouldn't know how to rank the pitches on a given day. They're all quality pitches. There are times when I'm watching him and I'm thinking he should maybe ditch one of the pitches to focus on the others. But then I also see that they're all good, so I don't know how I'd pick one."

Video: Romero fans career-high 10

Dominguez, after a torrid start, was sidelined by shoulder problems for eight weeks. He wasn't as effective when he returned on July 10, but he pitched six shutout innings of two-hit ball against Fort Myers his last time out on Aug. 22. Dominguez is 4-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 13 Threshers appearances (12 starts).

"The first two months of the season with the Threshers, probably nobody was talked about more than him," Jordan said. "It's top-of-the-scale fastball. Ninety-eight, 99 mph at times. Developing slider, changeup. Really, more the ability to command and use those pitches is what's been a little different this year. When he's healthy, he's been as impressive as anyone who's come through there, including guys who have now gone to [Double-A] Reading."

There are no guarantees that young players, especially young pitchers, will survive the gauntlet that lies between Class A Advanced and the big leagues. Jordan gets that. At the same time, he can't help but be excited by what he's seen.

"I don't really try to hold back being enthusiastic about good, young players," Jordan said. "I've done this a long time, and I know it's not all going to happen the way we think that it will. That's just baseball. I think the benefit we have is that we do have numbers, so we're not just counting on four guys. We feel like we've got some inventory of 10 to 15 arms -- I'm talking about starters -- that have a chance to break through and have some options going forward.

"There's landmines out there everywhere, but we're going to get some guys through the system who are really good."

Paul Hagen, a reporter for MLB.com, won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 2013 for a lifetime of excellence in baseball writing.

Philadelphia Phillies