2017 GCL Phillies Season Preview

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 GCL Phillies. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into the full roster.

The Gulf Coast League season started almost 3 weeks ago, but with the draft signing deadline passed the roster has finally settled. The league serves as the first stop for domestically drafted players as well as the first organized stateside league for the organization’s international signees. The level of baseball is often very low, but it is also a league of teenagers just trying to figure out what it takes to make it professional baseball.

Quick Pitch

The Gulf Coast League is an important league. It is our first look at high school draftees and big international signings. We have been spoiled the last few years, as the GCL Phillies have played host to Mickey Moniak, Jhailyn Ortiz, Sixto Sanchez, Daniel Brito, Arquimedes Gamboa, Jonathan Arauz, Adonis Medina, Cornelius Randolph, Elniery Garcia, and Franklyn Kilome. This year’s version lacks the star power from the draft, but a quartet of Latin American players make this year’s version just as intriguing, even if it lacks in domination.

Top Hitting Prospect: Jonathan Guzman

Guzman looked slated to play the year in Williamsport, but the Phillies drafted a few shortstops a few weeks ago and Guzman was forced down to the GCL. Guzman is a slight shortstop who will need to put on more strength as he matures. He hit a home run in Williamsport, but he will be more of a gap to gap doubles hitter. He is precocious and won’t turn 18 until later this summer. He profiles has a shortstop long term, and his glove should carry him while his bat catches up.

Top Pitching Prospect: Francisco Morales

The Phillies have a long track record of success with developing Latin American pitchers without making a big splash, but last year they signed the best 16 year old pitcher available. Morales has the size (6’4”) and frame to mimic Franklyn Kilome more than Sixto Sanchez. In addition to his future projection, Morales is already touching 95-96 and sitting a bit lower than that. He has gotten much better at repeating his delivery since signing, but like many 17 year olds, his command needs improvement. He shows feel for a good changeup and has flashed a plus changeup. He is still a bit of a project, but he is already ahead of most of their other pitchers at this point.

Breakout Potential: Brayan Gonzalez

Francisco Morales was the top pitcher available on July 2, 2016, but he was not the Phillies’ top signing that year, as they gave $900,000 to shortstop Brayan Gonzalez. Gonzalez is not as toolsy as Arquimedes Gamboa, but he gets praise for his feel for the game. He has the tools to stick at shortstop but is playing second base in deference to Guzman, and his glove is excellent there. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but he should make plenty of contact. Gonzalez will need to get bigger, but he could move quickly for a teenager.

The Roster:

Placement on my Phillies Top 50 prospect rankings indicated in parentheses next to each player.

Hitters:

Catchers: Rafael Marchan, Nerluis Martinez, Kipp Moore, Lenin Rodriguez

Marchan was signed in 2015 alongside Jhailyn Ortiz. He needs some work behind the plate, but his calling card is going to be his bat. He has a simple swing and feel for contact. Nerluis is a bit old for the GCL, but the Phillies seem to like his glove. Kipp Moore was an undrafted free agent. The Phillies signed Rodriguez in 2014 for $300,000. There are some questions about his glove, but he has a good approach at the plate.

Infielders: Gunnar Buhner, Brayan Gonzalez (40), Jesus Henriquez, Jonathan Guzman (39), Quincy Nieporte, Jake Holmes, Edwin Rodriguez, Keudy Bocio

Buhner comes from a major league family and was an undrafted free agent. Jesus Henriquez is a good glove infielder with a light bat. Nieporte was a college performer with big power who profiles as an org first baseman. The Phillies went overslot for Holmes in the 11th round this year. He is an athletic shortstop with a projectable frame that might force him to third base eventually. Rodriguez is a first baseman with a good approach, but he lacks the power to profile at the position. Bocio has a great approach and can play all over the field. He is fast, but lacks power.

Outfielders: Yahir Gurrola, Kevin Markham, Danny Mayer, Simon Muzziotti, Ben Pelletier

Gurrola, Markham, and Mayer were all late round picks by the Phillies this June. Muzziotti had his contract with the Red Sox voided in a punishment by major league baseball and then signed with the Phillies. He has a similar combination of hit tool, speed, and defense as Carlos Tocci, as well as his lack of physicality. Pelletier was drafted by the Phillies in 2015 at 16 years old out of Canada. He got a late start in pro ball, but he has a projectable frame and profiles as a prototypical right fielder.

Pitchers:

  • Francisco Morales (38)
  • Manuel Silva
  • Jose Jimenez
  • Jhordany Mezquita
  • Aaron Brown
  • Ben Brown
  • Rafael Carvajal
  • Bailey Cummings
  • Alex Garcia
  • Jakob Hernandez
  • Anton Kuznetsov
  • Ethan Lindow
  • Oscar Marcelino
  • Denny Martinez
  • Robinson Martinez
  • Justin Miller
  • Sandro Rosario
  • Sati Santa Cruz

There are a lot of names here, and I don’t know a ton about a bunch of them. Joining Morales in the rotation has been Manuel Silva, Victor Sobil, and Jose Jimenez. Sobil can get up to 95, and Jimenez is more 90-92. 2017 8th round pick Jhordany Mezquita has now gotten two starts, and the 19 year old lefty sitting 88-92. Aaron Brown has converted from outfielder back to pitcher and has been wild and in the upper 80s. Recent high school draftees Ben Brown (33rd rd) and Ethan Lindow (5th rd) have yet to get into games and are bit more of long term projects. Russian lefty Anton Kuznetsov has been in the mid to high 80s so far this season. The Phillies added some college relief prospects in Bailey Cummings (29th rd), Alex Garcia (15th rd), Sati Santa Cruz (32nd rd), and Jakob Hernandez (21st rd) to the roster. There is some velocity in that group, but also a lot of polish needed for any of them to be anything. The rest of the roster consists of a collection of mostly international relievers (2016 12th round pick Justin Miller is also back). None have stood out yet, but it can take time for reports to filter out as well as for pitchers to find their footing.

Season Expectations:

The pitching isn’t good. Unless Lindow, Brown, and Mezquita turn out to be dominant in their limited innings, there just isn’t the firepower to to keep the offense from having to carry this team. Francisco Morales is probably the “ace” of this staff, but he is still 17 and prone to bad outings, even if he looks like the next breakout arm in the system. The offense doesn’t have the power or hitting ability of last year’s roster. However, Jonathan Guzman and Simon Muzziotti have gotten off to a good start putting their contact abilities to work, and Nieporte and Pelletier give them some power in the middle of the lineup. Where this team should shine is defensively. Guzman and Gonzalez are probably as good a double play combination as you will see on this level, and Muzziotti is good in center. Third base is likely to be manned by a shortstop, and the outfield has a few center fielders playing the corners as well. I doubt this team makes the playoffs, but they should finish above .500 on the season.

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