At Reading, Dusty Wathan creating winning atmosphere for Phillies' prospects

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READING, Pa. — At 53-22, the Reading Fightin Phils have the best record in professional baseball. Not just the best record in Double A or the minor leagues — anywhere.

Unfortunately, right now that doesn't do much for the Phillies, who are currently closer to being in contention for the worst record in baseball. Somewhere down the road, however, the taste of winning at the lower levels these prospects have gotten could mean a great deal to the franchise.

"It's a big part of player development," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "You come up through the organization winning together, it's kind of part of the way we want to teach guys.

"You can go out here and lose 80 or 90 games every year, and your last 30 or 40 games you're really not playing for anything. If you can keep these guys playing for something as the year goes on, you're gonna get more out of them."

Some of the top prospects in the organization are currently at Reading, which should come as no surprise given the team's success. Catcher Jorge Alfaro, right-handers Ricardo Pinto and Nick Pivetta, first baseman Rhys Hoskins and outfielder Dylan Cozens are all top 30 prospects for the Phillies, all having fine seasons. The latter two, Hoskins and Cozens, have belted 39 home runs combined — more than the Atlanta Braves.

That's not even counting all the players Reading has lost this season. Outfielder Roman Quinn has been on and off the disabled list. Right-handers Ben Lively and Alec Asher and shortstop J.P. Crawford — the No. 1 ranked prospect in the organization — have already received promotions to Triple A.

Despite some of the big names to have passed through, Reading keeps coming up victorious. The club is 19-4 in a June that's featured an 11-game win streak.

"It says a lot about the organization and the guys that we've had here the whole year," Wathan said. "The scouting department's done a tremendous job, and we've got some guys that when other guys have gone up, those guys have stepped in and filled in nicely.

"I had guys on the bench that would be playing every day in a lot of lineups in this league, and they weren't getting a chance because of those guys. They were patient and they're producing right now and giving us a chance to win every night."

The success has certainly contributed to the atmosphere at the ballpark. While nobody quite saw this coming, Hoskins, who leads the Eastern League with 20 homers, admits it's been a big confidence boost for everybody involved.

"Best team in baseball is pretty cool to say, but I don't think we knew that at the start," Hoskins said. "The guys that we have, this is a good group of guys, and we've shuffled players a lot. Guys have come in and done their jobs really well, so it's just a testament to all the guys in the clubhouse.

"Obviously when you win, it makes baseball more fun. I'm not that surprised that we (had that winning streak). I think we've been doing that all year. It seems like we'll win five or six then lose a game, win six or seven then lose a game, so it was only a matter of time before we rattled off 12, 13, 14, whatever we did. Don't be surprised if we do it again."

That success is starting to happen at the next level as well, where the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are heating up. The Phillies' Triple A affiliate is 18-6 in June, improving its overall record to 44-32.

As Wathan said, this is valuable experience for young players and a positive sign for their development. It's not a bad thing for the Phillies, seeing prospects who are on the doorstep of the majors creating this kind of excitement.

They can only hope it will translate to more winning for the big club in time — even if that means a few years from now.

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