In 2007, the Philadelphia Phillies selected Joe Savery with the 19th overall pick in the draft. Savery was a highly-touted left-handed pitcher out of Rice University who also did some damage with his bat.
Savery had originally been drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 15th round of the ’04 draft but chose not to sign. With the Phillies, Savery posted a 2-3 record to go with an impressive 2.73 ERA in low-A Williamsport ball in ’07, striking out 22 batters in 26 innings without allowing a home run.
Savery fared well enough that he was named the 90th overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America before the 2008 season.
In ’08, Savery spent the whole year in high-A Clearwater, posting a 9-10 record with a 4.13 ERA in 24 starts. He worked 150.1 innings, striking out 122 batters.
Savery spent ’09 moving up the ranks of the minor league system, posting a 12-4 record in Double-A for the Reading Phillies before getting the call to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, in which he went 4-2 with a 4.38 ERA. His strikeout rate dropped dramatically late in the season and he walked a higher percentage of hitters than he ever had before.
In 2010, Savery endured by far the worst year of his professional career, going 1-12 as a full-time starter in Triple-A. He gave up close to 11 hits per nine innings, his walks were up, and his K total was down. While he struggled on the mound, Savery was a star offensively, as he batted .348 in 46 at-bats.
Savery made the permanent switch to being a position player in the offseason, working extensively to gain muscle mass. He entered 2011 with the high-A Clearwater Threshers as a left-handed hitting first baseman.
Savery had a successful spring training and tore it up in the first week of the season, hitting .778 in the first five games (14-for-18). He hit .450 for the month, winning Philadelphia Phillies Minor League Player of the Month.
At this point, Savery is still around the .400 mark (.394) with a .437 on-base percentage and .523 slugging percentage, numbers that will almost certainly send him up to the next level soon.
The list of pitchers who have made a successful transition to being a position player is a small one, but Savery is working toward adding another name to that list.
“I was drafted to be a successful pitcher and I tried my best, but there was a lot of down time and I was in the stands a lot,” Savery said. “It was difficult for me going from playing every inning of every day at Rice to playing half a game every fifth day. It was hard for me to focus.”
“I spent a lot of time worrying about where I would end up, and it drove me crazy. Now I try not to worry about it as much and I’m just happy to be playing every day. I’m grateful for the opportunities the Phillies have given me, both on the mound and in the field.”