Phillies Top 10 Prospects
I’m not a huge fan of prospect lists, which provide a momentary snapshot of a system that is in constant flux and evolution. But the internet loves lists of all kinds and I can’t deprive you of that, can I? As always, I see just about everyone in person and get info from scouting and front office sources to supplement my own evaluations. If you want long form, detailed scouting reports on most of these guys, you can find them here. Enjoy 4000 words of Phillies prospect realism.
#1 Maikel Franco
Position: 3B for now, potential future 1B
Height/Weight: Listed at 6’1’’ 180 lbs but we all know that’s horse shit.
The Tools: Plus potential hit thanks to superior bat speed, a nice bat path, and good hand-eye coordination, 60 raw power that could play higher than that if his hit tool reaches its ceiling, 65/70 arm strength, 40 defense that I think will be good enough to play at the hot corner in the short term, 20 runner.
The Swing: Simple feet, explosive weight transfer, max effort swings in-game are common. Deep, late load can cause timing issues. Electric hands, strong and explosive wrists through contact.
The Defense: Soft hands and a near plus-plus arm that should allow him to make up for what he lacks in range and movement skills for now. He’ll make some spectacular plays but won’t get to some balls that an average third baseman would. Arm will be wasted over at first if/when he goes, but 20 runners don’t profile in the outfield so that’s his only option if he has to move.
What Can Go Wrong: I’ve been saying it for a while now, but the approach could be fatal. Franco is an aggressive, early-count swinger who doesn’t work pitchers and expands his zone too often. He’s a victim of his own special contact skills; he knows he can get to everything and so he tries to, and balls that should be taken are put in play. It’s Josh Vitters syndrome. Unless the approach matures Franco’s performance won’t accurately represent his skill set. It is possible Franco’s bat only performs at a fringe-average level in the Majors because of it. Franco’s body is already bad and is only likely to get worse as he ages. This could eventually force a move to first base. His value will take a hit if/when that happens. There’s more risk here than s typical for a prospect who has performed so well at Double-A or above.
Overall Projection: Warts aside, Franco has explosive offensive ability unlike anyone else in the system. He will likely struggle at some point — whether the junk-ballers of Triple-A give him fits or he’s embarrassed in his first exposure to MLB quality pitching — and have to make adjustments. He’s shown the ability to do in the past. I think Franco has a chance to be an above-average regular, maybe make some All-Star teams.
#2 J.P. Crawford
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 180 lbs.
The Tools: Stone-cold lock to stick at SS where he projects as comfortably plus. 50 run, 50 potential hit if you squint hard enough but has a long way to go to get there. Can’t see power ever playing better than a 40. Plus arm.
The Swing: Front foot flies open during stride and will need to be cleaned up. Hands load excessively high and can extend early at times. Bat speed is fine. Starts with a wide base, strides to and swings with a wider one. There’s nothing wrong with it but it may benefit his overall balance if his stance is narrowed a tad. Body control and athleticism are indicators that he’ll be able to manifest whatever changes coaches wish him to make.
The Defense: Too often I think people place the “athlete” label on players who simply have good straight-line speed and an athletic build. I’m beginning to prefer to apply it to players who have exceptional control of their bodies and Crawford is a prime example. His footwork and actions are well beyond his years and his reactions and first step quickness allow what is otherwise average speed to play up in the field and produce excellent range. It could be plus-plus defense at maturity.
What Can Go Wrong: He never hits enough to be anything more than a fringe-average regular.
Overall Projection: If you had Crawford #1 on your list instead of Franco I wouldn’t argue with you. In many ways he’s a safer prospect because the defense is a given and should carry him to the cusp of the Majors on its own. He’ll only need to hit a little bit to contribute. While I don’t think the bat will ever be an explosive weapon on its own, Crawford has shown really fantastic patience for someone his age and his on-base skills could allow his offensive output to play above his raw tool level. He could be a star from a value metric perspective.
#3 Jesse Biddle
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 225 lbs.
The Stuff: 55 Fastball that sits 88-91mph and might show a little more here and there, big, loopy, 70mph curveball that’s a present average pitch but flashes plus, fringe changeup that has some projection, fringe slider.
The Delivery: Arm comes through late and that drag causes some pitches to be left up in the zone. Uses of lower half and hips is apparent. Good arm acceleration. Height and arm angle generate good downward angle on the ball, when he gets on top of it, anyway. Prototypical inning-eater’s body and nothing about the delivery that looks like it might cause injury. Command has been a serious issue.
What Can Go Wrong: Control issues like the ones he experienced last year might never go away. The curveball which makes minor leaguers look silly is slow and loopy (68-73mph) and might not play as strongly in The Show where that sort of pitch is recognized out of the hand more quickly.
Overall Projection: The ceiling, for me, is still that of a #3 starter, always has been. And there were times early last year when it looked like he might get there. But as the season went on Biddle had starts where he didn’t look like a big leaguer at all, struggling to get on top of the fastball and throw it for strikes. I still think he’s going to be a nice #4 starter but wouldn’t be surprised if it took him a little longer to get there than people seem to think it will. I also wouldn’t be shocked if his best secondary pitch became his changeup one day. Of course, he needs to throw enough strikes to get ahead in counts and work on it this year.
#4 Kelly Dugan
Height/Weight: 6’3” 215lbs
The Tools: Fringe-average hit, average power, fringe runner, above average defense, above average arm strength
The Swing: Very vertical bat path, much like Freddie Freeman but without that sort of hand-eye coordination to support it so there’s going to be some swing and miss here. Good bat speed should help generate good power but the power utility has to be questioned because the hit tool isn’t too impressive. Has a bit of a two-part load where his hands go back low and then loop up a bit before firing forward.
The Defense: I’ve seen Dugan get to some balls that I was sure were ticketed for extra bases, most notably a ball that was hit to the right field corner in the air that Dugan got to with a sliding catch right at the foul line dirt. From bat to glove, the ball was in the air for about 4.3 seconds. I know you probably have a hard time contextualizing that, but as someone who has timed thousands of balls in play at BIS, I feel qualified to say that it’s pretty impressive. The arm will be an asset as well.
What Can Go Wrong: The approach Dugan started to show in Clearwater in 2013 disappeared upon his call-up to Double-A. He needs to get back to taking good at-bats. He also might not make enough contact to tap into the power and produce the numbers needed to profile in an outfield corner. Scouts are also concerned with the way Dugan’s lower body will hold up over the course of a 162 game season. It’s quite frail looking.
Overall Projection: Even if Dugan doesn’t make abundant contact, he could still develop a mature enough approach to get on base via walk and work into counts that’ will allow him to tap into his power. If he can do that, his ceiling is that of an average everyday player. That’s the ceiling of a just about every other player in the system, but Dugan ranks higher because he’s already attained Double-A.
#5 Yoel Mecias
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 160 lbs.
The Stuff: A fastball that’ presently average, 87-91 but has touched as high as 94mph and has room for a full grade’s worth of growth, feel for a slurvy curveball that projects to average, a future 60 or better changeup that disappears into a black hole as it approaches the plate.
The Delivery: Loose, athletic, 3/4s arm angle. Will lose delivery later in starts, needs to build stamina to avoid that. Weak lower half leads to inconsistent drive. Some awkward moving parts, lots of elbows flying about. Generally, everything heads home and he projects for average command and control.
What Can Go Wrong: He never fills out and the fastball doesn’t get fat and stay that way for 6+ innings into his starts. The breaking ball never develops to a usable MLB level and he becomes a fastball/changeup reliever. His TJ recovery doesn’t go as planned and he’s a shell of his former self altogether.
Overall Projection: The Phillies have a slew of really interesting young players in A-ball and below. The one who, in my opinion, has more upside than any of the others is Mecias. If everything works out, we’re talking about two plus pitches, a third average pitch and average control. That’s a solid #3 starter. You can’t say that for any other arm (that isn’t recovering from a shoulder injury) in the system right now. There’s plenty of risk here because of his injury history and distance from the Majors but the upside is too big for me to ignore.
#6 Cesar Hernandez
Position: 2B/CF and getting work at SS as we speak
Height/Weight: 5’10’’ 165 lbs.
The Tools: 60 potential hit, 65 run, above average defender at second but we’re in wait and see mode on the defense in CF and at SS, 30 power, 40 arm that moved him off of shortstop in the first place.
The Swing: As simple and clean as you’ll find in the system, Hernandez is very balanced, has a high-contact bat-path, tracks everything (except breaking balls) well and has enough juice and strength in his forearms and wrists to be more than a dinky little slap hitter.
What Can Go Wrong: He extends early now and then and it’s been fine, but a hand injury he suffered last year has left him a bit lacking a bit of bat speed. It might not be temporary. It seems the Phillies have him slated for a super-utility role. He may not adjust well to irregular at-bats. If he can’t become proficient at any other position then he’ll be hard to find a role for.
Overall Projection: I think Hernandez could be a below-average regular at second base, but a switch-hitting, versatile weapon to deploy all over the diamond sounds good to me, too. Sure, the ceiling is low, but so is the risk. If he can play a viable center field, third base and even a little shortstop, then that’s what the Phillies have here at a controlled cost for the next half decade. Sign me up. I’ll be patient.
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 185 lbs.
The Tools: Elite arm strength, potential future 6 or better glove behind the plate, maybe 45/50 future hit, and 45/50 power, slow as molasses.
The Swing: It’s a work in progress but there’s some bat speed here. Simple open stance that he strides to closed, maybe loads a little high, footwork through the swing is sloppy and inconsistent. Lacks bat control now.
The Defense: We’ll learn more about Grullon’s ability to handle Major League velocity and movement as he ascends through the system and catches better pitchers. For now, we know he has one hell of an arm and really impressive footwork for someone his age.
What Can Go Wrong: He never hits enough to profile as anything more than a backup, loses athleticism because his already…uh…mature body continues to balloon and can no longer move behind the plate the way he’d need to in order to be a great defensive catcher.
Overall Projection: I’m not optimistic about the bat but if it does come along then Grullon can be an above-average regular. Even if he just hits enough to bat eighth in a lineup, he might provide that kind of value anyway based on what we’re beginning to learn about the importance of catcher defense. Reports are that he’s a good bit leaner than he was last year. I’m going to go ahead and drop a Henry Blanco comp on him. Those of you who know how I feel about comps will understand how significant this moment is.
#8 Roman Quinn
Height/Weight: 5’10’’ 170 lbs.
The Tools: 80 runner before his Achilles injury, 50 potential hit, defensive utility will ultimately be determined by position, fringe arm, 30 power, and great makeup
The Swing: Wide base that doesn’t expand when he strides, he just picks his foot up and puts it back down. I’d narrow him up so that he actually gets his lower half moving forward when he swings to generate a bit more inertia into the ball. There’s bat speed here, especially from the left side, though his swing plane is less slappy from the right side. It’s not exactly Dee Gordonish from the left side, either. Collapses back side at times to try to find more power than is naturally there.
The Defense: There’s not enough arm here to play shortstop as far as I’m concerned and the actions aren’t always great, either. Word is that Quinn is already taking grounders in camp and the arm has come along a bit, but it could just be organizational speak. I think his legs belong in CF where, assuming he takes to the position visually, he could be plus. Second base is an option, though there probably isn’t enough pop in the stick to profile as strongly there as he would in CF.
What Can Go Wrong: The Achilles injury saps Quinn’s speed for good and he can’t play CF or add value on the base paths, he never learns to recognize curveballs better than he presently does, pitchers attack him with impunity due to his lack of power, forcing him to put a ton of balls in play and he never reaches the Majors.
Overall Projection: I’m weary of run-first prospects but I actually like Quinn’s potential to hit more than most. Because of the utter lack of power, I don’t see a star here, but I think a second-division regular in CF is certainly reasonable, maybe more if the defense there becomes exceptional one day. And based on what I hear about how hard the kid works, I bet I’ll look back and wish I had ranked him higher.
#9 Carlos Tocci
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 160 lbs.
The Tools: 60+ run, 60+ arm, already plays fringe-average defense in CF but could be plus at maturity, hit tool ceiling is also plus, power projection is dependent on physical development. If it gets to 40 he’s lucky.
The Swing: Simple, clean stride, stays balanced through the swing, has excellent control of the bat and its path, especially for someone lacking strength. Bat speed is fine.
The Defense: Terrific athleticism. Gets good jumps on and takes efficient routes to balls. Arm will be a weapon as well. Has the requisite speed for center field.
What Can Go Wrong: He never fills out and can’t survive at the Major League level simply because he’s so small and frail.
Overall Projection: Tocci needs to start showing that he’s capable of adding good weight so he can drive the ball out of the infield with some regularity. It’s a huge concern, but his feel for hitting is so enticing that if he ever does add that strength then he’s an everyday centerfield prospect. The defensive skills are impressive enough that he might be a Major Leaguer regardless of how much progress the bat makes. I’m weary of him, but the tools are undeniable.
#10 Cord Sandberg
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 215 lbs.
The Tools: Potential plus raw power, plus arm, above average run, potential above average glove in RF, hit tool might get to fringe average
The Swing: Very handsy, very pull-conscious but has the leverage, bat speed and wrist strength to hit for some pretty serious power. Some stiffness in the swing is going to lead to some swing and miss.
What Can Go Wrong: He doesn’t hit enough to tap into the power and profile in an outfield corner.
Overall Projection: A lottery ticket, Sandberg’s got explosive tools but is incredibly raw because of his multi-sport background. He’s got a chance to be an above-average everyday player, maybe a little more, but it’s going to take quite a long time for him to get there, and the chances of it are small.
The rest of the system in no particular order…
Tommy Joseph- Plus raw power but likely won’t make enough contact for it to play at that level, Joseph needs to stay behind the plate to have Major League value. His approach and aspects of his defense are holding him back as well. Could be a fringe-average regular at catcher but after last year’s concussion-filled debacle we basically have to evaluate ToJo from scratch.
Troy Hanzawa- Living proof that being able to play a decent defensive shortstop will take you to the upper levels of the minors regardless of how little you hit. He’s not really a prospect, but it be nice to see him put on a Major League uniform one day, the same way it was to see Tuffy Gosewisch get there.
James Murphy- A power hitting first baseman who was old for the level mashing younger pitching at Double-A Reading? I’ve never heard of such a thing.
Leandro Castro- A favorite of the Lehigh Valley media because of how hard he plays, there’s too much swing and miss here for him to profile in a corner and he can’t really play CF. Maybe he can do some damage in a platoon if you’re desperate. He’ a fun player to root for but he’s an up and down guy at best.
Zach Collier- He can fly and he can play a decent CF but he really struggled with even solid average velocity last year. Guys who saw him in the FSL two seasons ago are more likely to be optimistic about his future than those who saw him in Reading last year, where he was pretty awful. I’m still open-minded about him, but for now he’s got a fourth OF ceiling.
Tyson Gillies- Another burner, Gillies’ raw speed plays down at times in CF because he doesn’t always take good routes to balls. The swing is a real issue and, despite changes, still doesn’t seem viable. Again, maybe he’s a fourth OF.
Steve Susdorf- Just turned 28, can really ht, but nothing else.
Brody Colvin- The stuff is still tantalizing but he just doesn’t repeat his mechanics well enough to throw a passable number of strikes. And the drop and drive in his delivery is still frustrating, sucking all the plane right out of his fastball. He still has a chance to be a reliever but that’s all.
Jay Johnson- The curveball is intriguing but he’s stopped throwing strikes. The stuff isn’t so good that you can give him a pass for it. Maybe a middle reliever.
Adam Morgan – Was #1 on my list last year and looked fantastic last spring before the shoulder went. Hoping he doesn’t leave any of what had him looking like a solid #3 starter on an operating table somewhere.
Shane Watson- He had one of the better prep curveballs in his draft class but also fell victim to the dreaded shoulder injury. If everything comes back to his pre-injury form then he has a chance to be a mid-rotation arm.
Albert Cartwright- Stocky, kind of toolsy second baseman and outfielder who I think has enough skill to be a low end bench option.
Anthony Hewitt- He annihilated lefties last year and I suppose if you’re looking for a sign of hope, that’s it. There’s still an alarming amount of swing and miss here, he did a ton of damage at home (Reading is a hitter’s park) and the defense isn’t any good. Maybe he reaches the Majors after all, but I can’t see a regular role for him.
Cameron Perkins- There’s some power here but I can’t see Perkins hitting enough to play every day in an outfield corner.
Aaron Altherr- He’s got a similar offensive profile to Perkins but has an outside shot of staying in CF or playing good defense in a corner. Thanks to the legs, he’s got a much better shot of contributing as a fourth outfielder type. He could still grow into some more power, too.
Perci Garner- A heavy, heavy fastball and decent slider might get earn him a bullpen spot one day. I like him more than most. Needs to throw more strikes.
Kenny Giles- A blistering fastball that touched 100mph last fall and a hard but short slider in the mid to upper 80s gives Giles the best pure arm strength in the system. He’s dealt with health issues but will likely reach the Majors this year just so the organization can have a look at how the stuff plays at the big league level. I don’t think the slider is good enough to make him a Kimbrel/Chapman type of dominant closer but I think he could be an eighth inning type of arm.
Severino Gonzalez- He’s priority #1 for me to see this April and I know the numbers look spectacular but I can’t sell myself on someone this small holding up for 200+ innings at the Major League level. Sevy has advanced pitchability and control of a four pitch mix and has a #4 starter ceiling.
Tyler Knigge- Above average fastball, fringe average slider. May be a middle reliever.
Austin Wright- Decent velo from the left side and has some nice depth on the curveball, but doesn’t throw enough strikes. We’ll see if the full-time conversion to reliever helps things at all.
Gabriel Lino- Body beautiful for a catcher who has enticing tools but not much feel for hitting. He’ll likely see a lion’s share of the catching duties at Lakewood this year, making it his third Sally League go around. He’ll only be 21 in May, however and I’m more optimistic about him than most. There’s good bat speed here
Zach Green- A ton of raw power and I think he sticks at third base but people question the bat speed and the hit and power utility. Lots of risk here because we’re not sure how he’ll handle secondary pitches as he ascends, but he has a chance to be a solid everyday player.
Samuel Hiciano- There’s some raw power here but the lower half needs cleaning up and there’s a ton of pressure on the bat because it’s a corner only profile.
Jiandido Tromp – A really interesting player, Tromp is a plus runner who I think can play CF and is physical enough that there’s a chance he’ll hit some. His pitch recognition is still poor and his footwork in the box is loud, but he has a chance.
Andrew Knapp- I haven’t seen Knapp catch because he needed TJ surgery last year but I can see what people like about the bat. He’s solid in all facets, bat speed, leverage, balance, loft, hand-eye…it’s all there. If he is as advertised defensively, then he has an everyday player’s ceiling. He’ll likely start the year at Clearwater.
Jake Sweaney- Another athletic lottery ticket, Sweaney is as raw as they get and everything about him needs work. But there’s arm strength and bat speed and we can’t teach those things. There’s not much else to say about him right now. He has a half decade’s journey to the Majors ahead of him.
Malquin Canelo- He’s going to be a plus defensive shortstop and that alone makes his a name you should remember, but he probably won’t ever hit enough to be anything more than a nine-hole hitter.
Jan Hernandez- Another body-control athlete, Hernandez’ swing needs ironing out but he could grow into some pop and be above average defensively over at third base. He has a solid-average regular ceiling. I’m a fan.
Andrew Pullin- An outfield convert to second base, Pullin might be a future plus hitter and has the athleticism to be a damn good defender (though he lacks feel for it right now) but likely won’t hit for enough power to be an impact player at the position. He might be a second-division guy.
Dylan Cozens- Monstrous power, monstrous body, monstrous hill to climb as a likely first baseman.
Larry Greene Jr.- He was atrocious last year. I NP’d him. He supposedly has looked better this spring. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Mitch Gueller- An athletic pitcher who had seriously troubling velo fluctuations and command issues at Williamsport last year. Pre-draft he was sitting low 90s with the makings of an above average curveball.
Yacksel Rios- Loose armed, average fastball, interesting slider. He has some physical projection left. Will start the year at Lakewood, turns 21 n June.
Luis Encarnacion – 1B only prospect but has a chance to hit enough to make it work. He’s a long way from the bigs and might not see full season ball until 2016 but the bat is really interesting.
Jose Pujols- The most physical projection of any hitter in the system, Pujols has prodigious raw power and a traditional right field profile. He can’t hit anything with bend to it to save his life, but he’s just 18.