Crash Bag, Vol. 13: Smooth Center Fielders
By this time next week the Phillies could already have lost many games, but for now they are undefeated in games that matter. With the 25 man roster set, all we have to look forward to this weekend is minor league rosters and praying that no one gets hurt before the opening day ace-off between Jeremy Hellickson and Scott Feldman.
For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.
@Long_Drive: In your opinion do we have any kids on the farm that reach the majors at age 21 or below?
Reaching the majors by your age 21 season (it is much harder to report on actual age at the time of call up) usually means one of two things. You are either really good, or you got off to a young start. Since the 2006 season, 8 players made it to the majors by age 19, 31 by age 20, and 115 by age 21. Now some of these players only came up for a brief cup of coffee, others are Mike Trout. But what got me interested is that the only Phillie on the list was Maikel Franco, but he had actually turned 22 by the time he was promoted. A lot of this was a combination of bad drafting by the Phillies, coupled with trading everyone away. So who could be the next guy to do it? Here are the players 21 or younger in my top 30 prospects: Mickey Moniak (18), Sixto Sanchez (18), Franklyn Kilome (21), Cornelius Randolph (19), Adonis Medina (20), Kevin Gowdy (19), Arquimedez Gamboa (19), Jhailyn Ortiz (18), Daniel Brito (19), Cole Stobbe (19), Carlos Tocci (21), Bailey Falter (19), and JoJo Romero (20).
There are clearly two obvious contenders in Mickey Moniak and Sixto Sanchez. Both won’t turn 19 until after the season begins, both will start in full season ball, and both are polished, potentially quick moving players. If they continue to progress a level a year, they will be 21 on opening day in Lehigh Valley. If you want to try and beat the 21 mark, both would have to start the year in Reading at age 20 in 2019, and in theory both could rush to the majors by the end of that season. It would take perfect health and no setbacks. We saw with J.P. Crawford that he moved as fast as anyone in his draft class, but a rough year in AAA saw him spend his age 21 season just a step away.
The dark horse in the top 30 is Carlos Tocci who turns 22 in August, but will start the year in AA. He is not major league ready, but he needs a 40 man spot at the end of the year, or he can walk in free agency. The Phillies have true center fielders ahead of him in Herrera, Quinn, and Altherr, but if things go catastrophic then he could find himself suddenly in line. The dark horse off the list is Jonathan Guzman, who is a small 17 year old shortstop who will be making his stateside debut this year. He fits the Moniak/Sanchez mold as a polished player who is young for their level (Guzman already has a year of pro ball and won’t turn 18 until mid August). However, he could go the way of Tocci and stall out at a level while he adds weight to his frame.
@KeithWinder: Who is smoother in outfield: Tocci or Moniak?
Aaron Altherr. Just to break away from the question for a second, one of the hardest parts of judging defense is how aesthetically pleasing it can be. I know Altherr does not run as fast as Quinn or Moniak, or maybe Herrera, but he runs good routes and his long strides seem to cover miles at a time. Quinn covers a lot of ground, but he tends to not have the same ease. I have not watched too much of Moniak in the outfield, but Tocci is very smooth. He is not as fast as he was when he signed, but he has great instincts on where to go to get the ball and often to position himself for a throw. There have been more doubts about Moniak’s glove after the draft than before it, but there also have been positive reports on him too. I will go with Tocci, because his experience has given him better first steps, but Moniak has the ability to eventually surpass him.
@herefortheb33r: Do you think it’s likely Aaron Altherr gets a starting gig by the 2nd half given his apparent turn around this spring?
It is certainly possible. On raw talent Altherr measures up well with any of the Phillies outfield prospects. He is a great defender in all three outfield positions, and unlike Herrera he has the arm for right field. At the plate, his shorter swing helps to close some of the holes caused by his long arms, but he is still going to swing and miss a decent amount. The problem is that he is 26, and that the Phillies have no shortage of outfield prospects in AAA. The first task will be passing the two veterans, and the problem with Michael Saunders is his contract. If Saunders is bad, it is all easy, the Phillies move him aside and put Altherr, Quinn, Williams, or one of the other outfielders in his spot. If he is good, he presents an interesting conundrum. His contract is a 1 year deal with a very reasonable team option. On one hand, that gives him a ton of trade value, because he won’t be a rental. On the other hand, if he is performing that well in the field, any replacement is going to be a step down. If the Phillies want to compete in the near future, they can’t just trade away every player that looks to be good. So yes, Altherr could get a starting gig by even a month into the season. Is it likely? That is a step too far, given his short track record of success and everything that can go wrong.
@KevinEZRQ: Now that roster is about set. Who is 1st position player call up and when does it happen?
If you said that everything went perfectly, no one struggled, and no one got hurt, the answer is probably Roman Quinn in the late spring. But it rarely works out that way. Quinn probably could have handled an opening day assignment to the majors, but he still has stuff to work on and time to make up in AAA. Altherr’s reemergence this spring probably slows Quinn’s timeline down slightly, but he is ahead of the other outfield prospects as long as he stays healthy. If there is a temporary injury on the infield, Jesmuel Valentin almost certainly comes up, and he might come up if they find having both Stassi and Nava on the bench is unwieldy. So the answer is probably Roman Quinn in mid May or early June.
@Kazuto_Yamazaki: I hope this is intriguing:compare five Phillies players to each member of The Breakfast Club.
The characters in Breakfast Club are defined by their faults, and it felt unfair to label a prospect in the system as the popular princess or the jock who can’t think for themselves. I might come back to this when I have rewatched the movie. I don’t want to leave you empty handed, though. With the 20th anniversary of Buffy and its impending departure from Netflix, we have been watching a lot of it, so here are Phillies prospects as Buffy characters instead:
- Buffy – J.P. Crawford – There really is no other choice for the chosen one burdened with the fate of mankind (or just a city’s World Series hopes)
- Giles – Roman Quinn – He isn’t just a prospect anymore, just like Giles isn’t a Scooby, but he hasn’t quite graduated either
- Willow – Nick Williams – He has all the ability to be great. Just don’t let the power go to his head, because it doesn’t end well for anyone
- Xander – Nick Williams – Prone to spots of greatness, also completely befuddling decisions
- Faith – Nick Williams – You never quite know what you are in for when Faith shows up
- Angel – OH MY GOD NO ONE CARES*
- Dawn – Nick Williams – Got dropped into the group late, was hot shit for a while, but everyone has moved on now that he isn’t the key anymore
- Spike – Nick Williams
- Clem – Brock Stassi – Who doesn’t like Clem?
*This is my significant other’s opinion, but to be fair I have only watched Buffy and found Angel to only be a compelling character when he was Angelus and would have just pretended he didn’t exist