Positional Preview: Prospects

So, let me clear something up here, right off the bat. Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but, technically, “Prospects” is not a position. However, on the 2016 Phillies, prospects are as important a subset of the roster as any. And so, if I haven’t completely blown your mind, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I take a look at a handful of guys who will be worth watching in spring training, and in their minor league seasons at Reading and Lehigh Valley.

Star Potential Up The Middle: J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams

It’s been said before about a thousand times, and I’m not sure I can add much to the conversation here, but let me try: JP Crawford has awesome dogs. Have you seen them? Beautiful. Here’s one of them.

Also, the guy is a legitimate, top of the heap type prospect. There’s not a big hole in any part of his game right now. His defense needs some polish, his power is still developing, and he’s not likely to steal three dozen bases or anything, but he should be a solid, first division regular at shortstop for a good long while. In contrast, Jorge Alfaro‘s defense, except for his solid arm, is a big hole to be watched. In camp and beyond, the defense will be the key, as his potential value will be immense if he can stick behind the plate. Like perennial All-Star immense. Sandwich franchise commercial immense. Crashburn Alley Career Retrospective immense. And I talked a bit about Nick Williams and other outfielders last week, so I’ll just follow up here with this – if Williams is consistently as selective as he was at times in 2015, he’s nearly as big a prospect as Crawford. Like Alfaro, it’s the “ifs” being so much bigger than any of JP’s “ifs” that holds back a reasonable person’s enthusiasm. But folks, feel free to be unreasonable with these guys, if you want. I won’t stop you. I may join you on occasion.

Non-Roster Invitee Starters: Mark Appel, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson

Mark Appel is…well…I don’t know. The former #1 overall draft choice has had a bad pro career thus far, with results ranging from middling to disastrous – for instance, when I pulled up his line from Lancaster in 2014, (in the admittedly hitter-friendly Cal League), it literally caused a sinkhole under the foundation of my home. LITERALLY. (Luckily Allstate covers damage due to ghastly stat lines). We’ll see if either adding his 2-seamer back into his arsenal to offset his hittable 4-seamer, or getting away from Houston and what seems like a toxic relationship, helps. If either does, maybe he’ll make us all forget about Ken Giles. Look for him to start at AAA, just because of the roster crunch. But if he really improves, they’ll make room for him. Matt Winkelman wrote about Zach Eflin the other day at Phillies Minor Thoughts – I highly recommend clicking through. Very interesting arm who has been pushed from the fore after Appel, Thompson and Vincent Velasquez arrived. I look forward to seeing what he can do with his refurbished repertoire in a limited look in big league camp, and beyond that as one of a handful of strong starters at AAA. And likely joining Eflin and Appel in Allentown will be Jake Thompson – I won’t be surprised to see him or Eflin stay the full year in AAA and not get called up until September, since again they’re not yet on the 40-man roster. To get an earlier call ahead of those with roster spots, either man may have to show he’s done improving in the AAA environment. Remains to be seen if either will make that leap, but I’d bet on Thompson ahead of Eflin, there.

Relievers: Jimmy Cordero and Edubray Ramos

Jimmy Cordero was brought over in the Ben Revere deal. He’s a somewhat wild, high-velocity fastball/slider guy. Claims out of winter ball had his fastball touching 104 MPH, and I hear the Phils have already decided to call him “One-Oh-Four Cor-Der-O(r)”. Clunky. Also, this talk of Miles Per Hour has me wondering – is a baseball diamond the only place in The Dominican Republic where people talk about inches, feet, miles, and not metric measurements? Possibly. Edubray Ramos is not as flashy as Cordero, but the story is interesting. He’s been flying through the Phils system since signing on for the 2013 season, after spending 2011-12 without an affiliated MLB contract when the Cardinals shuttered their Venezuelan academy and released him. He started 2013 in the Phils Venezuelan academy, stopped stateside in the GCL before finishing in the high-rookie New York Penn League. He skipped Low-A in 2014 and dominated Clearwater before coming back to earth a bit in Reading. If he pitches in the bigs in 2016, it will cap an incredible rise for the 23-year-old righty.

…And The Rest:

Andrew Knapp – likely the everyday catcher at AAA Lehigh Valley, he tore up AA last year after a promotion from Clearwater. He seems to be for real, even sliding into the back end of the Top 100 prospects on Baseball America. If he and JP Crawford both hit it big in the majors, that 2013 draft is going to turn out to be a huge success, even if no one else from the draft contributes significantly in the majors.

Brock Stassi – kind of a wildcard here, as it’s hard to get excited about a guy who’s not really a prospect in the traditional sense, but Stassi could be an injury away from significant playing time at first base this season. And if he gets even close to how he hit in 2015, he may just give the club some value until a suitable replacement can arrive. There was a good article on Stassi by CSN’s Jim Salisbury on Tuesday – worth your time.

Darnell Sweeney, Tyler Goeddel and Roman Quinn – like Nick Williams, I mentioned all three guys in the “So Many Center Fielders It’s Just Plain Crazy” report last week. Sweeney is a bit of a utility guy, minus the ability to field shortstop, Goeddel is likely a corner OF who needs to stick on the roster or be waived and maybe go back to Tampa via Rule 5, and Quinn is a burner who needs to stay healthy to give himself time to improve all facets of his game beyond his speed. All three have the chance to contribute going forward.

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  1. glovesdroppa

    February 24, 2016 10:01 AM

    I’m excited most for Williams and Knapp. Williams could really help fill an area of need (outfield) big time, and Knapp no matter what position he ends up is the best switch hitting prospect we’ve seen since Jroll and Victorino. Obviously Crawford and Alfaro are probably our best overall prospects, but Knapp and Williams give me reasons for positivity.

  2. Romus

    February 24, 2016 10:34 AM

    I look for JP Crawford to be a ‘Derek Jeterish’ type player AND leader.

  3. Ryan

    February 24, 2016 12:03 PM

    Haha, that metric vs standard measurement has me imagining a baseball version of Kingpin with some scrappy Canadian kid who throws “100”.

    • Brad Engler

      February 24, 2016 01:37 PM

      *Woody Harrelson peeks at radar gun, scratches head, says swear word*

  4. Major Malfunction

    February 24, 2016 03:54 PM

    Brock Stassi is indeed and interesting wildcard. He reinvented his swing and it paid out nicely. If he duplicates success this year, how can they not want to bring him up?

    And what about the 16-17 year old 1B they signed? He’s already 260 lbs, so I don’t think he needs to fill out and develop. What’s the plan there? And is there a scouting report in him? 6-8 years from MLB ready?

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