2017 Williamsport Crosscutters Season Preview (Pre-Draft Edition)
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 WIlliamsport Crosscutters. 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 Williamsport Crosscutters kick off their season Monday night. The Phillies are still triaging and signing draft picks, so the Crosscutters will start with a roster in transition. There are a bunch of teenagers here, not all of which will be on the roster long term. We will have a full update when all of the draft assignments have been made.
The Williamsport roster is lacking in star power, with Kevin Gowdy lagging behind and the 2017 draft players still signing and working out in Florida. What it does have is a bunch of teenagers, both on the field and on the mound. The offense lead by four million dollar man Jhailyn Ortiz should have plenty of power. The pitching is not as well known, but features the remainder of a dominant 2016 GCL rotation, including the lanky Kyle Young and the loose armed Luis Carrasco. The team should see reinforcements soon, but for now there is a lot of young talent that could breakout on this roster.
Top Hitting Prospect: Jhailyn Ortiz
In the summer of 2015, the Phillies gave Jhailyn Ortiz $4,010,000, one of the largest signing bonus of the year. What the Phillies were paying for was big big raw power. Ortiz delivered that at age 17 in the GCL last year. He faded down the stretch, and he still needs to work on his breaking ball recognition, but it was an encouraging start. Ortiz is a huge for an 18 year old, but he also is fairly athletic and for now can stick in right field where he has a big arm. He still has a long way to go, but Ortiz has the tools to be a feared middle of the order slugger.
Top Pitching Prospect: Kyle Young
In the 2016 draft the Phillies took a 6’10” lefty in the 22nd round. Unlike most towering starting pitchers, Young showed solid control and feel for pitching in his GCL debut. Young is still growing and showed up to camp this year and measured in at 7’0”. The word for Young is projectable. His frame has plenty of room for added muscle and velocity. Right now he is still mostly 88-90, but he has touched 92. Long term, the Phillies think he will sit in the mid 90s, but he may be a few years off from that. Young throws both a slider and a changeup. Both show promise, but are not real weapons yet. It is going to take a while for Young to reach his potential, but the potential is ridiculously high.
Breakout Potential: Jonathan Guzman
Jhailyn Ortiz was the big name in the 2015 signing class, but at the same time the Phillies signed a slight shortstop for under $100,000. Guzman was one of the youngest players signed during the 2015 signing period and one of the youngest in the DSL last year. Guzman has a great feel to hit, but he is still too skinny to have any impact with his bat. He is a great defender at shortstop and projects to stay there long term. He won’t turn 18 until August 17, and probably won’t light the world on fire offensively, he might not even stick in Williamsport when the draft picks arrive. If he can replicate his plate discipline numbers from the DSL in the GCL or with Williamsport, he will be shooting up prospect lists.
Placement on my Phillies Top 50 prospect rankings indicated in parentheses next to each player.
1B/DH Greg Pickett
1B/DH Luis Encarnacion
2B Jesus Henriguez
SS Jonathan Guzman (39)
3B Cole Stobbe (20)
LF Josh Stephen (46)
CF Juan Luis (45)
RF Jhailyn Ortiz (17)
The 19 year old Duran played a couple of game with the Crosscutters last year before spending the year in the GCL. The small (5’9”) catcher had surprising pop and a strong arm. Like many young players, he needs to improve his approach. The Phillies took the hulking Greg Pickett in the 8th round of the 2015 draft and signed him to an overslot bonus. After missing all of 2016 due to injury, Pickett is back, this time at first base. He has huge raw power from the left side, but last time we saw him for an extended period of time he had trouble with offspeed pitches. Luis Encarnacion will be making his second trip to Williamsport, but is still only 19 years old. He is reportedly in better shape and still has plus or better raw power. Given his poor track record, there are few expectations for Encarnacion’s season. Jesus Henriquez is a no power, good hit middle infielder making the jump from the DSL. He likely doesn’t stay with Williamsport when the draftees arrive. Manning third for Williamsport will be 2016 3rd round pick Cole Stobbe. Stobbe played SS last year, but his foot speed forced a move to the hot corner. He projects to have an average hit tool and at least average power. He could be an above average regular down the line. Josh Stephen was part of the 2016 draft haul brought about by Mickey Moniak‘s underslot bonus. Stephen has a great hit tool, but there are a lot of questions about other parts of his game. His lack of speed and arm strength have forced him to left field. Because of the loss in defensive value, Stephen’s entire success will depend on his offense. Many scouts doubt his future power projection, which makes it a tough path to value for Stephen. Juan Luis is also making a return to Williamsport. The toolsy center fielder will need to show that he has a feel for the game and not just raw ability.
Kyle Young (43)
To start the year, the Phillies will be backing Kyle Young with a bunch of unknown arms. Gustavo Armas pitched well for the 2016 DSL Phillies and will be making his stateside debut at age 21. I have a year plus old report of him touching up to 93. Will Stewart is a young lefty drafted back in 2015 out of high school. He won’t turn 20 until July and has turned from a guy sitting 87-88 to one who sits 90-91 touching 93. 2016 10th round pick, Julian Garcia, will be returning to Williamsport as a starter. He had success out of the bullpen last year with a fastball that can get up to 93. Carrasco is the interesting arm here. He is old (22) for the level, but he has a live arm and a fastball that has been up to 97. He struck out 50 batters in 41.1 innings last year with a 73% ground ball rate. He struggled with his command at times, and his delivery was all arm. If he can be more consistent, he could be a good power arm, even if it is eventually in a bullpen.
OF Malvin Matos
The Phillies acquired undrafted free agent Lovett this offseason for cash. He is 23 and played in 3 games for the GCL Marlins last year. Gregori Rivero makes a return to Williamsport for the third straight year after hitting .291/.330/.437 there last year. He will probably split time with Duran unless he is bumped to Lakewood in the great roster shuffle. Jesus Alastre was a NYPL All-Star last year and is a no power, good approach center fielder. Malvin Matos is another late signing toolsy Latin American outfielder. He started off hot last year, but faded over the course of the season.
The bullpen is a bit of an unknown for the Crosscutters. Randy Alcantara walked 1 and struck out 16 in 16.1 GCL innings last year. I don’t have a velocity reading on the short righty. Right handers Andrew Brown and Justin Miller were taken out of high school by the Phillies last year. Neither has really separated themselves from the pack. Both mostly sit in the high 80s, but have touched up 91. They still need more time, and I would not be surprised to see them demoted to the GCL. Melendez is another unknown DSL reliever, a short lefty who just turned 22. Jhon Nunez is still only 19 after signing for $90,000 with the Phillies in 2014. The short lefty was throwing in the high 80s early in Extended Spring Training. Ramirez is another short DSL reliever coming off a good year. Ramirez is slightly different in that he is 19 years old and coming off his first professional season.
The Crosscutters should be one of the most talented rosters in the New York-Penn League, especially if they get high level draft picks like Adam Haseley. The relative youth of the team and a thin pitching staff may be the undoing of this team record wise. It will be hard to judge until we see the final roster, but as always in the low minors it will be more about individual growth, which may not always be related to winning.