Crashburn Prospect Q&A: Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts

With the Minor League season all but concluded, I had a conversion with Matt Winkelman, the founder of Phillies’ Minor Thoughts, one of the most comprehensive public sources of information on Phillies’ prospects. He spends the rest of his time continuing that work at The Good Phight, where he also provides great prospect coverage. He can (and should) be found on Twitter @Matt_Winkelman, and today I asked him about a variety of topics, from Rule 5 Eligible pitchers to first overall pick Mickey Moniak, and even discussed the player who might be the biggest under-the-radar pitcher in the Phillies’ farm system.

With the 2016 season wrapping up, talk is sure to turn to the 40-man roster crunch ahead of the Rule 5 draft. In Matt Gelb’s interview with Joe Jordan, Elniery Garcia, Nick Pivetta, and Ben Lively were confirmed to be added in advance of the deadline. Knowing that, what other pitching prospects do you expect the team to add before the Rule 5 Draft?

I think the obvious adds are Ricardo Pinto and Mark Appel. Pinto struggled this year as a starter, but it would be easy to see him as a fastball/changeup reliever in the majors next season. Similar thought path with Appel, the shine is off of him as a #1 overall pick, but it is easy to see another team taking a chance on him as a reliever. The other two names to watch are Alberto Tirado and Miguel Nunez. Tirado has shown enough this season that you could see a team taking him and putting his 100 mph fastball in a bullpen next year. Nunez is a bit more complicated, he is a minor league free agent so adding him to the 40 man roster would be about preventing him from leaving. Whether they think about adding him will depend on whether he can harness his control in the Arizona Fall League.

The Phillies selected five college pitchers (including JuCo prospect Jo-Jo Romero) in the first 10 rounds of the draft, and each performed pretty well in their first exposure to professional ball. Which of them are you excited about, and do any of them have the potential to stick in the rotation?

At this point it is becoming pretty clear that there is a divide in the group with Romero and Cole Irvin (5th round) sticking as starters and the other three (Grant Dyer, Blake Quinn, and Julian Garcia) are relievers going forward. I am most excited about the future upside of Romero because he pitched the year at 19 and the changeup is a good pitch, and a good enough pitch to make him a decent starting pitcher. That said it is hard not to get excited by Grant Dyer who looks like a major league reliever and one that could get there fast. His curveball is an impact pitch, and while he may not have closer upside he could be a very solid reliever soon.

Last year’s first round pick, Cornelius Randolph, has received a little less attention this season than other recent top picks, presumably due to a combination of injury and an unexciting stat line. However, after returning from the DL, he hit for average and walked at a 10 percent clip. Is his biggest concern just growing into some power? How is he progressing?

Power is still the big concern, it just isn’t there in the swing right now and he is mostly filled out. Part of the problem is his swing right now allows him to make a ton of contact, but rarely allows him to just pull a ball out of the ballpark. His defense concerns some and they think he might need to move to first base, but I think he should be fine in left field. His bat speed is there and he can really hit, so it is too early to really worry.

Mickey Moniak, this year’s first overall pick, had a pretty strong start to his professional career – will he be on the Randolph plan in 2017 (AKA, as a high school outfielder starting his first full season in Lakewood)?

If Moniak does not start next year in Lakewood it means something went wrong.

Additionally, as two athletic high school prospects, both Moniak and J.P. Crawford earned praise for their approaches at the plate and high baseball instincts. Can you compare Moniak’s offensive skill set to Crawford’s at the same age?

The first thing to remember is that the Crawford that showed up in Florida for the GCL was not the J.P. Crawford from draft reports. His approach was very advanced for a high school hitter, and more advanced than Moniak’s is now. Moniak is a better pure hitter, his swing is shorter to the ball and I think it has more room to adjust. Moniak also probably has more present power, even if it is not by much. While Crawford stole more bases in the GCL than Moniak, Moniak is probably the faster runner of the two. Now, Crawford had the advantage of doing all this while playing shortstop which is why having a lesser offensive skill set is still a bit more exciting. Given the state of major league center fielders right now, we already know that there will be more pressure on Moniak’s offensive skill set to hit its full potential.

Lakewood starting pitcher Franklyn Kilome concluded a dominant post-April season with a seven inning shutout gem in the playoffs, where he struck out nine and allowed only one hit. How excited about Kilome should fans be moving forward, and where should he expect to start the 2017 season?

It is time to be very excited about Kilome again, he has a front line fastball and curveball. The curveball has come on strong and he has shown the ability to throw it for strikes and for chases. His fastball command is still not there and he really needs to find a changeup that works for him. Given that he still needs that basic work, they will almost certainly continue to take it conservatively which means he should open 2017 as the ace of the Clearwater Threshers.

The Phillies have a notable number of undersized, but hard throwing, Latin starting pitching prospects. Sixto Sanchez has probably opened the most eyes among that group this season – what can you say about him?

Sixto Sanchez is the latest in what is becoming a long line of breakout Latin pitchers in the Phillies system. As the GCL season started he was an interesting guy who could throw 91-95 for strikes. By the end of the season all of his pitches had stepped forward, and he even added a low 90s slider. He also went from that 91-95 to 94-97 and touched as high as 99 while still being able to spot it on the corners. There are not many pitchers who can match his stuff, and the only real knock is the height, because he is solidly built.

Finally, a team of experts with years of scouting experience at Baseball Prospectus have called JP Crawford the best prospect in baseball. However, I also read an anonymous internet commenter that called him a bust. Who’s opinion should I trust?

He is one of the best prospects in baseball (I don’t think Yoan Moncada is going to lose eligibility). Don’t read the comments.

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  1. CJ

    September 14, 2016 09:37 AM

    “Don’t read the comments.”

    Now, see here!

    Good stuff. Very exciting.

  2. Chris S

    September 14, 2016 10:03 AM

    I’m really excited about both Sixto Sanchez (possibly best name in Phillies farm system) and Franklyn Kilome!

    However, I wouldn’t read this comment ;P

    • Rei De Bastoni

      September 15, 2016 09:18 AM

      Best name since Gauntlett Eldemire.

      • Romus

        September 15, 2016 09:21 AM

        What about Adonis Medina?

      • Rei De Bastoni

        September 15, 2016 11:09 AM

        We should have name tools. Other high marks are Severino, Elniery, Kingery, Llovera, and maybe the best of all is Seranthony.

  3. RU

    September 14, 2016 10:55 AM

    Thanks for this one. Matt always does an amazing job ! I know this won’t go to his head because there is no reading of the comments.

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