2017 Clearwater Threshers Season Preview
Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Clearwater Threshers. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.
The Clearwater Threshers have always been the team out of sight. The other three full season affiliates are within an easy drive of Philadelphia and many public evaluators. This year’s Clearwater team does not feature a lineup that is full of recognizable names, but their rotation should provide plenty of excitement.
The 2017 Clearwater Threshers look a lot like the 2016 Lakewood BlueClaws, a team that rode a couple good hitters and lights out pitching to the South Atlantic League Championship Series. The hitters are highlighted by outfielders Cornelius Randolph and Jose Pujols, both flawed players with big time upside. The real excitement comes from a starting rotation that is topped with 3 young, hard throwing Dominican righties. Franklyn Kilome, Alberto Tirado, and Seranthony Dominguez are all impact arms for the Phillies.
Top Hitting Prospect: Cornelius Randolph
The Phillies took Randolph with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, and after a good debut year, he struggled a bit in 2016. Randolph’s main problem last season was staying healthy. He only played 68 games due to a shoulder injury that took him over two months to recover from. Otherwise, Randolph continues to be the same player he was when the Phillies drafted him. He has a great feel for contact and the strike zone. He still does not tap into his raw power, instead spraying the baseball around. He also is not a particularly good defender in left field, though that may be more attributable to his lack of reps there than innate ability. Randolph does not need to become Dylan Cozens in the outfield, but a .083 isolate power would have been nearly 20 points worse than the lowest qualified left fielder in 2016 (Brett Gardner). This year the focus for Randolph will be on turning on his pitches and getting to his pull power, while not sacrificing his contact abilities. It will be a tough task, but Randolph is fully healthy again and has the youth (he is 19 years old) to accomplish it.
Top Pitching Prospect: Franklyn Kilome
This winter and spring, Sixto Sanchez has gotten all of the buzz among Phillies pitching prospects, but for some, Kilome still remains the top player on the mound for the Phillies. Kilome’s struggles to start the 2016 season are well documented, as is the run he went on to end it (May to end of year 105.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 40 Walks, 123 Strikeouts). Kilome has his issues; he still doesn’t have great feel for his changeup, and his delivery can get out of sync. What Kilome does well, he does really well. His fastball sits 92-97 with heavy sinking action, and he backs that up with a plus curveball in the high 70s-low 80s. By the end of last season, he was able to throw his curveball for strikes looking as well as bury it away from hitters for swings and misses. His command issues and lack of solid changeup have some evaluators penciling him in for a future bullpen role, but he has a chance to be a frontline starter if he can continue to make improvements on the mound.
Breakout Potential: Seranthony Dominguez
This will be Dominguez’s 6th season in the Phillies’ system and his first opening on a full season roster. The short right hander reemerged on the scene last spring after missing a year to injury. After some time in extended spring training, he blitzed through Williamsport before dominating in Lakewood. Out of the rotation, he sits 93-95, touching 96 and has gotten to 97 in short bursts, and much like the other Dominican right handers in the Phillies system, his fastball features run and sink. He also features a breaking ball with future plus potential and feel for an above average changeup. Right now he is better at throwing strikes than locating them, but he shows a good feel for pitching, given his lack of professional innings. Dominguez has the raw stuff to be in the same conversation as Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, and Franklyn Kilome, but for now his limited track record has him ranked behind the others. Much like that group, if Seranthony can’t stay in the rotation, he could be an impact reliever.
Deivi Grullon is still a great defender behind the plate, but even with improvements in 2016, he was not an offensive asset. Grullon just turned 21 years old, and catchers develop late, so Grullon is not under pressure to make a leap this year. Garcia is a catcher by trade, and he hits like one too. He is a high contact, low on base, and low power option at first base. Grenny Cumana is probably 5’4” or shorter, and he has a plus arm and plus plus speed. He makes contact but might have less power than Ben Revere. He might eventually be a utility player, but for now he is just fun. Emmanuel Marrero is a good glove infielder who can’t hit and is starting his third full season after being drafted. Jan Hernandez has not lived up to his draft status (3rd round pick), but he has good raw power and a cannon arm at third base. He is an overly aggressive hitter who will need to be more patient at the plate to tap into his raw ability. Zach Coppola is one of two no power center fielders on this roster. He has a plus arm and plus to plus plus speed, but much like Cumana, he has no power. Outside of the arm strength, he is a Ben Revere starter kit. Jose Pujols lead the South Atlantic League in home runs last year with 24, but his 179 strikeouts were also among the league leaders. He improved as the year went on and was able to draw walks and cut down on his strikeouts, but there is a lot of work still to be done. Pujols has a plus plus arm in right field, but he is not a good route runner or defender in general. Despite all of his flaws, Pujols’ power potential gives him a chance to be an impact player. The Threshers do not have an everyday DH and will likely use the position to rotate in their bench players and give their regulars time off.
- Franklyn Kilome (5)
- Alberto Tirado (23)
- Seranthony Dominguez (24)
- Cole Irvin (37)
- Luke Leftwich
- Jose Taveras (48)
- Tommy Bergjans
For now, the Threshers have a 7 man rotation listed. The expectation is that they will have a 6 man rotation, but it is unknown who gets bumped. Alberto Tirado is the 3rd arm in the hard throwing Dominican trio, and while he has the best raw stuff, he is also the most likely to move to the bullpen. At his best, Tirado will sit 94-98, touching 100 as a starter with a slider that will show plus or better potential. The problem for Tirado has always been throwing strikes, and he was able to do that to an ok degree down the stretch for Lakewood, but not at a level he can sustain in the upper levels. He also has yet to show aptitude for a changeup, at best only throwing a slower, straighter fastball. Even if his future is in the bullpen, the Phillies want him to at least get starter innings to work on things and maybe figure out the missing piece to stay in the rotation. Jose Taveras also moved up from Lakewood. The big righty is a Ben Lively starter kit with fringe average to average pitches across the board, with the ability to throw them for strikes from a deceptive delivery. It is unlikely that Taveras is anything more than a backend starter, but given his success in the rotation last year, he will get a chance to repeat his performance before being moved aside. Luke Leftwich is another bullpen candidate after he struggled following a promotion from Lakewood. The 2015 7th round pick’s lack of impact stuff has caused him to struggle turning over lineups, and he has also has seen his velocity drop over starts. However, he does throw a good amount of strikes and, up until his promotion, was able to suppress home runs. Cole Irvin is the Phillies 5th round pick from the 2016 draft. Irvin was a red shirt junior from a big time college program (Oregon), so a jump over Lakewood makes sense. The big lefty saw an increase to his pre-Tommy John velocity right before the draft, and that continued after signing. He will sit 89-92, touching 93-95 with his fastball, and he mixes in a solid slider and changeup. Irvin stands out for his advanced feel for pitching and ability to throw strikes. He does not have tremendous upside, but he could move quickly as a back end starter. Tommy Bergjans is a small school righty taken by the Dodgers in the 8th round of the 2015 draft and then traded to the Phillies for Carlos Ruiz. Bergjans has a fringe average fastball and two potentially average secondary pitches, and he can throw strikes at a high rate. He might be a middle reliever long term, or he could join some of his fellow rotation mates in their quest to be back end starters.
Mark Laird is the partner to Zach Coppola in center field. He has no power and no arm strength, but he is a good fielder who will make plenty of contact while drawing a decent number of walks. Drew Stankiewicz is a utility infielder with little power who fits the category of grinder or gamer. Damek Tomscha can play first, third, and left with doubles power and hard contact. He is already 25, so he is not a prospect in the traditional sense, but the organization likes him. Austin Bossart is a high contact, good defensive catcher who has the glove to hang around for a while.
The Threshers’ bullpen has as many major league prospects as any in the organization. Blake Quinn was the Phillies 9th round pick in 2016 and is a big righty who can hold mid 90s for 3-4 innings of work. He struggled with command at times last year and needs to improve his secondary pitches, but he has the upside to be a solid major league reliever. Edgar Garcia is only 20 years old, but he sits 92-95 with his fastball, and his slider has been called the best in the organization. The Phillies may experiment with making him a starter again, but he may be another impact relief prospect along the lines of Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. Jacob Waguespack is a giant righty and solid org reliever. Jeff Singer went all the way from Williamsport to Clearwater last year, and with Joely Rodriguez now in the majors, is now the organization’s best left handed pitching prospect. His fastball sits 93-95, and he has a good slider. Austin Davis has missed a lot of time due to injury, but he does get to 94 from the left hand side and was able to strike out batters at a high rate last year while limiting his walks. 2015 6th round pick, Tyler Gilbert, will be moving to the bullpen full time this season. Gilbert has good control, but he lacks impact stuff. Maybe the move to bullpen will see an increase in stuff across the board.
The only prospect missing due to injury is Grant Dyer, who would give the already good bullpen another impactful arm. The Lakewood lineup is fairly young, but they have two prospects in their outfield in Cord Sandberg and Carlos Duran who could force their way up to Clearwater. Outside of those two, the only hope is that Sixto Sanchez and Mickey Moniak are advanced enough to make their way to Clearwater by the the All-Star break. The Threshers are not going to hit for much power, but with their rotation they could have a very successful season, even without scoring much.