Minors : : General
Friday, March 09, 2012

Top Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Al Messerschmidt

General Manager: Ruben Amaro Jr.
Minor League Director: Joe Jordan
Scouting Director: Marti Wolever

AAA: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (International League) 80-64
AA: Reading Phillies (Eastern League) 74-68
Hi A: Clearwater Threshers (Florida State League) 75-63
Low A: Lakewood Blue Claws (South Atlantic League) 68-69
Rookie Adv.: Williamsport Cross Cutters (New York-Penn League) 43-33
Rookie: GCL Phillies (Gulf Coast League) 27-32
Dominican: DSL Phillies (Dominican Summer League) 38-33
Venezuelan: VSL Phillies (Venezuelan Summer League) 32-38

System Overview

While the Phillies have a long way to go to reach the New York Yankees present stretch of 16 out of 17 years of post-season appearances, they have the longest current streak with five consecutive trips to the postseason and won the World Series in 2008. They have improved in the win column in each of the last six years under manager Charlie Manuel and won a franchise record 102 games in 2011.

The Phillies are clearly a team that is built for the present. With long-time staples such as 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley and SS Jimmy Rollins now in their 30s and becoming more injury prone, 29-year old OF Hunter Pence is not only the team’s most dependable offensive threat, but also the youngest player in the everyday lineup. Cy Young Award winning aces RHP Roy Halliday and LHP Cliff Lee will be 35- and 33-years old during the 2012 season, and even new closer Jonathan Papelbon is 31-years old.

And not only is the clock ticking on age, it’s ticking on the free agent clock as well. Pence, LHP Cole Hamels and valuable outfielder Shane Victorino are all on the final year of their contracts and will be free agents after the 2012 season. The Phillies payroll is already among the highest in the game and they won’t be losing any big contracts at the end of the 2012 season to play those three off of.

Maintaining that year-to-year talent level and experience has come at a cost that goes beyond money. The list of players traded to acquire players such as Halliday, Lee, Pence and departed starting pitcher Roy Oswalt is long and deep and represented much of the next generation of Phillies talent.

Among those departed talents are C Travis D’Arnaud (Toronto), RHP Kyle Drabek (Toronto), OF Anthony Gose (Toronto), 1B/OF Jonathan Singleton (Houston), OF Carlos Santana (Houston), IF Jonathan Villar (Houston), LHP A.J. Happ (Houston), RHP Jared Cosart (Houston), IF Jason Donald (Cleveland), C Lou Marson (Cleveland), RHP Jason Knapp (Cleveland) and RHP Carlos Carrasco (Cleveland).

With all that talent leaving the organization, the Phillies minor league system subjectively ranks among the thinnest in baseball. That’s not an indictment on the Phillies scouting and player development departments at all, merely a reflection on the understandable priorities of the Major League team.

2011 Draft

The Phillies have had an unmistakable fixation with raw but toolsy high school outfielders in the draft over the past four years. Here’s a year by year accounting of their picks in that demographic.

Anthony Hewitt (first round/$1.38M) - Drafted as a 3B but moved to the outfield after one year.
Zach Collier (first round comp/$1.02M)
Anthony Gose (second round/$772,000)

Kelly Dugan (second round/$485,000) - The Phillies didn’t have a first round pick this year.
Kyrell Hudson (third round/$475,000)
Aaron Altherr (ninth round/$150,000)

Brian Pointer (28th round/$350,000)

Larry Greene (first round comp/$1M)
Roman Quinn (second round/$775,000) - Drafted as a SS but most scouts project him to CF.

Greene was one of the most physically imposing sluggers in the 2011 draft and has huge power potential from the left side. He’s also likely the type who will take a few years to use his power and is somewhat the opposite as a hitter as former top Phillies prospect, 1B Chris Singleton, now with the Astros.

Just as Greene had one of the best power profiles in the 2011 high school class, Quinn was one of the best projectable speed players. He could go out as a shortstop, a second baseman or a centerfielder, although the fact that the Phillies later drafted and paid very well for two other high school shortstops, Mitch Walding and Tyler Greene (no relation to Larry Greene) indicates that Quinn is likely to start his career at somewhere other than shortstop.

The Phillies gave Walding, a lanky 6-4/180 left handed hitting shortstop $800,000 in the fifth round to buy him out of an Oregon scholarship, the second highest bonus on the Philadelphia draft list.

College third basemen were another strong theme on the Phillies 2011 draft list. Second rounder Harold Martinez was a potential first rounder back in 2008 when he choose to go to Miami, and had a college career marked by flashes of brilliance spread out among longer stretches average play. He has the physical tools to become a solid big league third baseman both offensively and defensively.

Fourth round pick Cody Asche out of Nebraska played third base all through college and impressed scouts with his left handed power, but didn’t sell everyone with his defensive potential. Faced with both Martinez and Asche at the same level and position, the Phillies moved Asche to second base and he performed surprisingly well there defensively. As a left handed hitting power bat, Asche’s ceiling is much higher if he can stay at second.

Philadelphia only drafted three pitchers in the first 10 rounds but SEC left handers Adam Morgan (third round/Alabama) and Austin Wright (eighth round/Mississippi) both had very encouraging professional debuts. Morgan is more of a finesse pitcher who relies on location and his plus slider to get hitters out, while Wright has a power pitcher’s build and stuff. Both should advance quickly through the Phillies system, with Wright already having earned a midseason promotion to the South Atlantic League after signing.

Top 10 Prospects

1. RHP Trevor May
Baseball-reference player profile

The Phillies picked up plenty of pitching value in the 2008 draft without using of their top three picks on pitchers. They selected May from a Washington high school in the fourth round and also picked up Vance Worley, Jonathan Pettibone, Julio Rodriguez, Michael Schwimmer and Jason Knapp (now with Cleveland).

Philadelphia has been very patient with the 22-year old May as well, leaving him in A ball for three seasons despite overpowering strikeout numbers. That has led to May being able to improve his fastball command and the consistency of his offspeed stuff without the pressures of getting AA hitters out. He struck out 182 hitters between the two A ball levels in 2010 and finished third in all of minor league baseball in 2011 with 208 punch outs.

Many lower level minor league pitchers run up their strikeout totals with offspeed pitches that they command well, but May is power pitcher who relies on his fastball to rack up his strikeout numbers. He gets very good heavy life down in the zone on a 92-94 mph heater, but is also able to elevate his fastball with intent when hitters start looking down in the zone. His mid-70s curveball flashes a hard, deep bite when he is commanding it well, and he also throws a workable low-80s changeup.

2. LHP Jesse BiddleBaseball-reference player profile

Biddle is a local Philadelphia product who was the Phillies first round pick in 2010. It wasn’t considered a stretch by the team to pick the local prospect at the time and Biddle’s rapid progress has proven that out.

While Biddle has a power pitcher’s body at 6-4/225 and topped out at 94-95 mph frequently in high school, he hasn’t consistently lit up the radar guns as a professional yet. He throws from an effortless delivery, making his 90-91 mph fastball seem quicker to hitters and his plus changeup slows down hitters bats as well. Biddle made great strides in learning how to command his big breaking curveball during the year. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his first season was that he posted a 1.91 ERA over his last 11 starts, showing both improvement and durability.

3. RHP Phillippe AumontBaseball-reference player profile

The French Canadian version of Bobby Jenks was originally selected by the Mariners with the 11
th overall pick in the 2007 draft. He joined the Phillies after the 2009 season as part of the Cliff Lee trade.

Aumont was looked at primarily as a future closer even in high school, and the fact that he was drafted that high with that profile says plenty about his raw stuff. The Phillies attempt at making him a starter in 2010 failed miserably (3-11, 5.68 in 122 innings) with the positive result being that Aumont emerged from the experiment healthy and with a defined role.

The 6-7/255 Aumont’s multi-part delivery causes command issues occasionally but it also provides deception to hitters, who have a hard enough time catching up with raw stuff. He pitches in the 95-97 mph area consistently with a big, hard knee-buckling curveball that is a strikeout pitch when it’s in the zone. Aumont struck out 78 hitters in 54 innings in 2011, including 37 in 22 innings at the AAA level.

4. RHP Justin De FratusBaseball-reference player profile

De Fratus doesn’t have Aumont’s first round pedigree (he was a 11
th round pick out of a California junior college the same year Aumont was the 11th overall pick) or his intimidating size and raw stuff, but everything else between the two potential closers measures up very well. The two paralleled each other in 2011, serving as tandem closers both in AA for the first half of the season then in AAA during the second half, with De Fratus actually posting the more impressive overall numbers (6-3, 2.99, 15 Saves, 99 Ks in 77 IP). The big difference was that De Fratus made his Major League debut in September and even picked up a win in five appearances.

De Fratus has plenty of velocity on his fastball, generally pitching in the 93-94 mph area. His out-pitch, though, is a big breaking slider that is notable not only for its depth but for how well De Fratus commands it, which enables him to use it early and in conventional fastball counts.

5. RHP Jonathan PettiboneBaseball-reference player profile

The Phillies drafted Pettibone 26 picks before Trevor May in the 2008 draft and the two have spent most of the past two seasons pitching in the same rotation and should start off the 2012 campaign together at AA Reading. Although the results on the field are very similar for the pair (May has a 3.55 ERA in 375 minor league innings, Pettibone a 3.43 ERA in 328 innings), the way they go about getting them are not.

Pettibone’s fastball registers just as much velocity on the radar gun as May’s, topping out at 94-95 mph on occasion, but it’s a flatter pitch with less life, and Pettibone uses it to pitch to contact, whereas May frequently goes strikeout hunting with his fastball. Pettibone’s best secondary pitch is a changeup that shows plus potential at times, while his slider is still a work in progress. How much his slider improves will be key to determining whether he can keep up with May’s progress up the minor league ladder.

6. SS Freddy GalvisBaseball-reference player profile

The switch-hitting Galvis enjoyed the best year of his professional career at the plate between AA and AAA in 2011, hitting .278-8-43/.716 OPS, including 28 doubles and 23 stolen bases. It marked the first time that the then 21-year old Venezuelan had ever posted an OPS over .600, let alone .700.

Galvis is already considered a big league shortstop with the glove and could step in immediately and be an above average defensive player. His ability to keep improving enough with the bat will determine whether he will be able to hold down a regular Major League job, although with Jimmy Rollins signed through 2014 with a vesting option for 2015, that job might not be in Philadelphia.

7. RHP Brody ColvinBaseball-reference player profile

The Phillies paid $900,000 to buy Colvin out of a Louisiana State scholarship as a seventh round pick in 2009. He ranked ahead of Clearwater teammates Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone on most 2010 top prospect lists, but suffered through an injury plagued 2011 season and never showed his previous stuff or command even when he was on the mound.

At his best, Colvin throws in the 92-94 mph range, touching 96, with a sharp curveball and effective changeup. He has lots of energy in his delivery and throws cross-body on release, but is an above average athlete and that hadn’t previously affected his command or consistency.

8. C Sebastian ValleBaseball-reference player profile

A native of Mexico, Valle is only 21-years old but has played five seasons professionally and shown flashes of big league potential in all areas. He has shown quickness, arm strength and athleticism on defense along with the energy and durability to handle the position at the big league level.

Valle hit .307-6-40 in 192 New York-Penn League at-bats in 2009 and followed that up with a .255-16-74 season in the South Atlantic League in 2010. He has the bat speed and strength to hit for at least average power for a catcher at the Major League level. In that context, Valle’s 2011 season in the Florida State League (.284-5-40/.708 OPS) was somewhat of a disappointment. Much of the regression is attributable to Valle’s free swinging approach at the plate, as he walked only 13 times on the season.

9. RHP Julio RodriguezBaseball-reference player profile

While Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone were higher drafts in 2008, and May, Pettibone and Brody Colvin are ranked as better prospects here and on most other top prospect lists, the best pitcher for Clearwater in 2011 was clearly Rodriguez. The 6-4/195 Puerto Rican went 16-7, 2.76 with 168 Ks in 156 innings and allowed only 102 hits. Better yet, that type of performance was consistent with what the 20-year old had already established in pro ball.

Rodriguez pitches with average fastball velocity but has a very advanced feel for pitching, especially with a curveball that he can change the velocity and shape of at will. He is the same age as Pettibone and Colvin and a year younger than May, but has a looser build and arm and still might even have some physical projection.

10. 3B Maikel FrancoBaseball-reference player profile

Franco is different from most young Dominican prospects as the 18-year old is a polished hitter with advanced strike zone judgment and the ability to square up on different types of pitches and drive the ball hard to all fields. He had no problem fitting in with older players in the college dominated New York-Penn League, hitting .287-2-38/.778 OPS with 17 doubles and 25 walks. Franco’s doubles power projects to turn into home run power as he matures.

Although he is a well below average straight ahead runner, Franco should be able to stay at third base as he gets older as he has very quick reflexes and a plus throwing arm. The Phillies have played with the idea of developing him as a catcher in the future as his tools and makeup profile well for that position.

Others in the Conversation: RHP Lisalberto Bonilla, OF Larry Greene, RHP Austin Hyatt, OF Jiwan James, LHP Adam Morgan, IF/OF Roman Quinn, RHP Michael Schwimer, SS Mitch Walding, LHP Austin Wright

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