MLB Pipeline Releases Phillies Top 30 Prospects
On Tuesday, MLB released their top 30 prospects for every National League East team on MLBpipeline.com. While for many this was a chance to see what the league’s prospect gurus had to say about the Braves farm system, which is one of the best, we here at Crashburn were interested in getting our first look at their take on a Phils farm system that has seen some mixed reviews throughout the offseason.
While the general consensus is that the organization is above average, opinions have varied. Keith Law ranked the Phillies as the 14th best system, down from sixth heading into 2016, while Baseball Prospectus tabbed only three teams as having more Top 101 prospects than the Phillies.
A few factors combined to lower the esteem held toward what many in Philly think is a bright prospect-studded future. First, the organization graduated a handful of upper-level prospects last season. The last MLB Pipeline ranking in 2015 had Jake Thompson ranked third, Zach Eflin as a top-10 prospect and Alec Asher also listed at 25. All three played with the big club in 2016.
In addition, a few of the best prospects in the system didn’t take expected steps forward. Nick Williams tried to swing his way to Philadelphia with no such luck, J.P. Crawford, who many also assumed would debut with the Phillies late last season, didn’t make the adjustment to triple-A as swimmingly as hoped for a top-5 prospect in all of baseball, and Mark Appel struggled before having season-ending elbow surgery.
You lose some players to the majors, a few top guys don’t make statements that incite the greatest level of confidence, and your stock realistically will drop. So it went.
So how do they rank the current prospects?
As it Currently Stands
The majority of the list is made up of right-handed pitchers and outfielders. Of the 13 pitchers listed, 11 are right-handed, to go along with eight outfield prospects. No other position has more than three players named.
The top of the list remains the same as the final one posted last season, which was posted during the second half of last season. Crawford remains atop the list followed by 18-year-old first overall pick Mickey Moniak. It is the third straight season the team’s ranking has been topped by Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The rest of the list looks like this.
(In his piece, Jonathan Mayo references the biggest jumps for players from last Opening Day until now. Unfortunately, MLB Pipeline does not let you search their archives in that way. When picking a year, it only provides you with the final update posted for that season, and the Wayback Machine is no help. But alas. I’ll get to the biggest jumps and falls in a bit.)
Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro have flipped spots next down the list, with Alfaro now occupying the third spot and Williams the fourth.
The biggest jump, both from the beginning of last season and from MLB’s final list last season is Sixto Sanchez, who some have anointed as the pitching prospect with the highest upside at the ripe old age of 18. For the non-prospect savvy fan—and even many well versed on the farm system—Sanchez was nearly invisible to begin last year. He’d thrown just 25.2 innings in the 2015 Dominican Summer League with a 4.56 ERA. But last season with the Gulf Coast Phillies, he blossomed.
The six-foot-nothing, 185-lb Dominican native—who the team stumbled upon while scouting a catcher, and signed for just $35,000— allowed just three earned runs over 54 innings, good for a Gulf Coast league bests with a 0.50 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. His 5.5 strikeouts for every walk surrendered ranked eight in the league among the 44 pitchers who threw over 40 innings.
The only other prospect to make a double-digit jump from the last set of rankings in 2016 was Venezuelan second baseman Daniel Brito, another player who debuted with in the Dominican league in 2015 and played alongside Sanchez in the Gulf Coast League this year. He moved up from ranked 30th to 11th.
Appel, along with lesser-known infield prospect Malquin Canelo, both dropped 16 spots, most in the organization. After being acquired in the Ken Giles trade, Appel took a tumble from the number four spot in the rankings to number 20. Canelo dropped from 12 to 28.
Here are the players MLB Pipeline grades as best in the system in ten categories ranging from offense to defense to pitching. A primer on the 20-80 grading scale can be found here:
Franklyn Kilome shows up here twice, with both the best fastball and curveball in the system that propelled him to the number five ranking in the system.
2016 Draft Yields Top Flight Prospects
Of the three main avenues for player acquisition—drafting, international signing and trades—most players (12) in this list came from the draft. Eleven were international signings and seven were brought to the organization via trades.
Because the Phillies drafted Moniak first overall and saved nearly $3 million by signing him for less than the slot value of the number one overall pick, they were able to splurge on prep right-hander Kevin Gowdy and sign him for over twice the slot value of the 42nd overall pick where he was drafted. That pick was the first of the second round, one pick after the first compensation round.
Gowdy, who pitched briefly in the Gulf Coast League, rates as the team’s number eight prospect. He was drafted just one pick after the round in which the Phillies would have received an additional pick if Hellickson declined his qualifying offer.
We covered Moniak who Mayo lists as having the system’s best hit tool (60-grade). Gowdy, too, who has already cracked the top 10 shy of his 20th birthday.
Another high school draft pick, Cole Stobbe, whom the team selected in the third round, made the list at number 15. It’s unclear whether he will play shortstop or third base down the road, but MLB.com’s Jim Callis had good things to say of the right-handed hitting Nebraskan, calling him one of the better prep hitters heading into the draft. Fourth-rounder JoJo Romero, a former JUCO ace, also snuck into the top 30 at number 26.
Now and Then
Such draft success, even so early in the assessment process, is a bright sign for the new regime. Along with the list, MLB tweeted out the Phillies top 10 prospects heading into each of the last seven seasons. Take a look at 2011-2013.
Nineteen players made up the Phillies top 10 across those three years. Eight of those have yet to play major league ball or will never get the chance. Some, like Larry Greene and Philippe Aumont, have retired from baseball. Just three, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and now Tommy Joseph are big league regulars, although Galvis will likely lose his spot when Crawford is called up this year.
On one day in June 2016, the Phillies added four men to their top 30 prospects. In three years, their top 10 featured just eight players with any significant future major league experience whatsoever.
This is a different era for the organization from top to bottom. For the first time since the 1997-2000 seasons, the Phillies have posted four consecutive under-.500 seasons. But the pieces are there in the minors to bring this team back above ground.