Phillies 2015 Top 30 Prospects
I wanted to post my Top 30 Prospects list on the day pitchers and catchers report because it’s symbolic of the passing of not just one year to another, but one generation to another. Ok, I’m lying – it’s because I procrastinated for a very long time and this seemed like the latest I should let it go. So as late as I am, I thought it would be interesting to compare my list with a sample of those from around the industry. The very excellent Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) from the very excellent PhilliesMinorThoughts.com had a big list of industry lists already, so I stole that and mushed it all together to create a consensus ranking for all of these players. Good man, that Matt Winks.
Now, this ranking comparison is by no means scientific – I tried to weigh factors like some guys only appearing on a couple lists and boot those picks as outliers. For instance, Mark Leiter was on one list at #15 or something, and as much as I like Mark Leiter for his paternal connection to the team, and for the fact that his Twitter proves him to be a Philly sports fan like the rest of us, 15 is pretty wild for a guy with his profile, so I pulled him.
The number in parentheses is where I am versus the consensus, so +1 means I am higher than the average, -1 means I am lower. Without further ado, (mercifully to you all), here’s the list.
- J.P. Crawford –(even) I will surprise no one by picking Crawford first. He is the consensus #1 in the system, and has been ranked as high as #7 in the game by two national prospect reporters. Crawford beats out Nola and Franco with the upside of a perennial all-star contender.
- Maikel Franco – (+1) This was a tough one, as clearly Aaron Nola is a fine prospect as well, but Franco’s ceiling is a bit higher, with a little more risk than Nola. For a reasonable upside, Franco looks like a 20-25 homer guy who can hold his own at third by getting to enough balls to make his arm play. His value in the present offensive environment seems higher than Nola’s reasonable #3 starter upside.
- Aaron Nola – (-1) Nola clearly lands in the #3 spot on my list, as I think Franco would on most anyone else’s. His proxiomity as well as the outside chance his excellent command and control helps him tick up to a #2 starter made the choice to drop Nola down to #3 difficult, but the competition behind him is where things get very murky.
- Roman Quinn – (+2) That Quinn was able to pick up the running game a couple weeks back from an achilles injury says a lot about his conditioning and drive after that potentially devastating injury. He had a month or so in the summer where he was red hot – getting on base, walking a lot, stealing a bunch, and that carried over in the AFL with even more walks and an eye-popping two steal appearance in the AFL Fall-Stars Game. I am of the mindset that Quinn has what it takes to be about a league average producer in centerfielder, and that there’s not much holding him back from doing so. That’s a strong profile.
- Jesse Biddle – (even) I think this is the right spot for Biddle, though Eflin is close. Maybe it’s familiarity, or perhaps it’s bias towards the guy who has been down on his luck, with an illness and a concussion decimating his last two years, but I can’t argue my way into Eflin without assuming things not in evidence about Jesse Biddle.
- Zach Eflin (-2) New pickup from San Diego/Los Angeles, (JRoll) Eflin beats out Deivi Grullon on proximity/risk. I am looking forward to catching at least one game up the road at Bowie this July with what’s sure to be a fine Reading rotation. I hope Eflin’s all that’s left of the trio of pitchers already ranked here, as that would mean Nola did what he was expected to do and was in Lehigh Valley or Philly, and Biddle was either promoted on merit or mercifully allowed to leave his personal death trap, Baseballtown, USA.
- Deivi Grullon (+4) – I’m pretty high on Grullon now, (it’s a jumpy buzz that settles as a tingle in the right arm that can only be relieved by throwing behind runners), based mostly on his defense. The guy has the gun to shut down the running game, and is reported to have plenty of defensive tools to otherwise make the most of the position. And I get the impression from reports that he has enough at the plate to develop beyond “not a liability” and actually be an asset. For a backstop who’s still in his teens, I couldn’t be more excited.
- Ben Lively (-1) – New guy in from Cincy, (Byrd). I’ll ignore my personal feelings on his questionable/offensive Twitter game for the moment and concentrate on the product we’ll see on the field. Lively brings a back-end starter’s floor, it would appear, with enough upside that some evaluators have tagged him with a #3 ceiling.
- Kelly Dugan (+3) – I have been a Dugan proponent for a while now, thanks in part to him putting together some really impressive offensive spurts in the short season leagues when he wasn’t down with injury. His 2013 was huge for his stock, as he was on the field most of the year, hit 20 homers, and was given a very nice write-up by Keith Law. His 2014 was once again injury-plagued, and his power numbers were down, even in hitter-friendly Reading, but his walks were up over his short 2013 AA stint. Word from the club is that he was told to try to use the opposite field more, which is backed up by his spray charts. I prefer him over Matt Imhof based mostly on proximity and how scarce offense with even a hint of power has become in today’s game.
- Matt Imhof (-1) – 2014 second round pick Imhof from Cal-Poly had a pretty nice start to his pro career, with no red flags in his stats to contradict pre-draft reports that he has a good feel for pitching and good control. I have him ahead of Mecias mostly based on the latter’s injury history. The two hurlers will likely both pitch at Clearwater this year, though if Imhof is pitching well, he could move up anytime there’s room at AA.
- Yoel Mecias (-1) – Had a nice half of a year back from Tommy John, and there was positive reporting on his stuff. Let’s all cross our fingers that he regains all he lost during his time off and continues his progress towards being a mid-rotation starter. Based mostly on upside, he gets the nod over…
- Tom Windle (-2) – Received as the second piece from the Dodgers for Jimmy Rollins, Windle is the wild card in the trade, as his value could spike if he lands in the mid-rotation range, or could plummet if he can’t hack it as a starter. His proximity beats out all the upside you see with…
- Franklyn Kilome (+2) – I’m a little high on Kilome, and that may be premature, but I do love upside on starting pitchers, and Kilome’s may be the highest in the system. With a ceiling like that, I gave him the nod over…
- Andrew Knapp (+10) – I’m probably the high man on Knapp, as I remain enamored of catchers who can hit. Knapp had what some might call a disappointing season as he couldn’t stick at A+ Clearwater. For me, I wasn’t necessarily expecting him to stick there anyway, coming back slowly from off-season TJ surgery that basically meant he could not hit for weeks on end, (and throw for even longer). I expect him to break camp at high-A and I’d love to see him knocking on the door to Reading by mid-season promotion time. The glove may hold him back from such an aggressive move, even if the bat is good to go.
- Dylan Cozens (-1) – I considered dropping him a good bit further when I was weighing his peripherals, as both his BB rate and his K Rate went the wrong direction in 2014 over his nice 2013 campaign. In the end I kept Cozens this high as a recognition of the in-game power we all crave seeing in young sluggers. His stolen base totals may catch some eyes, but there’s not a speed game in this guy – at best, his steal totals show he doesn’t intend to be a base clogger, despite his size. Call it a positive, but to me it’s just barely so.
- Aaron Altherr (+9) – I have yet to see anyone suggest that German-born Altherr cannot play centerfield. As such, I’m not sure why I’m so much higher on him than many others. I don’t think I am mis-reading his mediocre offensive numbers. I just think I am properly valuing his defense, and I see his package as that of a second division starting CF. Also, did you all know his nickname is “The Rhineland Rocket”, a reference to his home region in Germany and an awesome thing that lights on fire to take stuff to space and propels grenades and whatever? IT’S TRUE!
- Carlos Tocci (-4) – That Tocci woud still be in the conversation for a Top Ten spot in the system had it not been for the draft and trades tells you how I feel about his season. It was not great, but not a disaster by any means. He’s still got time to prove it with the bat as he goes up levels, and his defense is for real as well. Guy could use a gift card to Old Country Buffet, maybe. I’ll get the Kickstarter going.
- Victor Arano (+3) – The primary return for Robbie Fausto, (unless you like Valentin more, which I do not), Arano looks like he could be a reasonably quick-moving starter-type. He’s shown good K rates and BB rates thus far, with a 17.4% K-BB rate last year. He showed a high HR rate that we’ll see if he can tame over a full season, as he pitched just about a half season’s worth of innings in 2014. The 20-year-old righty should begin the year young for the Florida State League.
- Zach Green (+3) – He’s been fitted with orthotics to correct for one leg being longer than the other, which was part of the reason injuries derailed the first half of Green’s year. He didn’t play much third when he came back, so we’ll see how he responds to moving back onto the hot corner after some down time, and see how his bat responds to the advanced pitching in Clearwater this year. For me, he’s still a third-baseman with playable power, and that ain’t nothin’.
- Aaron Brown (-1) – Some in the industry are sky high on Brown, lumping him in with the second group of prospects in the mid-single digits in the system. I look at his swing-first approach and see trouble on the horizon. No one’s denying that he needs to alter his approach, but some don’t seem to think that will be a problem. I’m curious how often that sort of thing pans out – seems like a lot less than would allow a guy like Brown to be ranked in the Top Ten in this system.
- Luis Encarnacion (+8) – A $1M sign from 2013, he was the youngest player stateside last summer and held his own for the better part of the year. His placement this summer could tell us a lot about how far the Phils think he has come in the intervening months. I’d be surprised if he’s challenged with a promotion to Lakewood, but the club has done so in the past with Williamsport mid-year as a fallback. That could be the plan here.
- Jose Pujols (+4) – Monster raw power is waiting in the wings if he can ever figure out the rest of his offensive game. He has the pop to challenge Jia Tromp’s home run record in Williamsport this summer if he has his swing working, but he could start in Lakewood as well, and maybe stick there if he takes care of business.
- Cord Sandberg (-5) – I ding him for his inconsistency and his low walk rate. Obviously the package is there for a jump forward, but for now there’s too much talent ahead of him.
- Jesmuel Valentin (-8) – Keith Law thinks he could still be a shortstop, but the Dodgers weren’t playing him there despite org guys taking the spot in his A Ball lineup, so I’m not sure why they would keep him off the most valuable position he could play. I wasn’t in love with the offensive profile for a second baseman, but when I remember that Chase Utley has spoiled us all forever, it looks a good bit better. After all, he did well with a 123 wRC+ at low-A last year before the trade to the Phils.
- Ricardo Pinto (-8) – I thought I was pretty high placing Pinto in the mid-20s when I started organizing my list. Apparently other people like him as well. Looking forward to the full-season debut from this power arm.
- Arquimedes Gamboa (+8) – $900k bonus for the then 16-year-old shortstop last July 2nd after he was tagged as the #8 Amateur Free Agent by Baseball America. So he’s a case of expectations without results, thus far, which turns a lot of people off. I am not one of those people.
- Joely Rodriguez (+5) – The off-chance that former Pirate farmhand Rodriguez (Bastardo deal) becomes a back-end starter is intriguing to me. Also, he shares a birthday with Freddy Galvis and, well, me – the off-chance that someday we’ll all celebrate it together is also intriguing.
- Odubel Herrera (-1) – His risk is high as a Rule 5 pick, since there is a fair chance he won’t be the Phils property by this time next year. I hope the club recognizes his worth and burns the roster spot all year even if he’s not good enough at baseball yet, but they didn’t do so with the DBacks 2014 ROY contender Ender Inciarte a couple years back, in a year where they started Delmon Young and also played Darin Ruf, Casper Wells, Michael Martinez and Roger Bernadina in the outfield, so who even knows.
- Jiandido Tromp (+7) – Tromp is suffering from a lack of available time ahead of him in the system. You hope somehow people move quickly ahead of him and clear some space, or he just dominates in the spring and forces a decision, but his best chance may be an injury. That’s no fun. Also I almost just spelled his name with a “G”, like Giancarlo, which I think is a good sign.
- Andrew Pullin (+3) – Not sure what happens to Pullin this spring. I hope the club likes what they see from Valentin and moves him to AA to start, but that’s very aggressive. If Valentin starts at Clearwater, Pullin may wind up repeating Lakewood for the time being, or playing some outfield, where his bat does not profile very well.
Malquin Canelo – If he can hit at A+ whenever he’s given the chance there, (read: after JP Crawford is in Reading), his glove will carry him up the rankings.
Samuel Hiciano – He was having a great debut in full-season and faltered mid-year. Even with a horrid June, he managed a wRC+ of 98 at a reasonable age for the league. If he’s stable and hitting for power without his Ks spiking up, he could be a big mover on next off-season’s lists.
Deivi Grullon – Could easily be sniffing Top 100s with a strong campaign at the plate as a 19-year-old receiver in Low-A, and prove even more if he handles himself in an aggressive promotion to A+ if Knapp is not playing there for one reason or another.
Kelly Dugan – The right combination of results and opportunity could land Dugan an everyday role in Philly before the year is out.
Make or Break:
Cameron Perkins – The 24-year-old is in his protection year, so he needs to show more than the dismal 50 wRC+ he put up over half a year at AAA in 2014 that sent his stock tumbling.
It’s worth noting that buried in here are some notes culled from my memory, which are very likely to have been reported originally by the dedicated work at Lakewood/Reading and beyond by Jay Floyd (@Phoulballz) at Phoulballz.com, or by Mike Drago (@mldrago) of The Reading Eagle. So Jay or Mike, or anyone who I may have missed who wants credit for the tidbits of their original reporting contained within, i.e. stuff not in press releases from the clubs, but rather reported by you as part of your job or otherwise as a product of your hard work, please let me know and I will happily add the credit.
Aaron Nola photo credit to Tug Haines (@photugraphy) and The Reading Fightins’. Windle, Green, Rodriguez via MiLB.com.