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December 22, 2008

Future Shock

Phillies Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Michael Taylor, RF
3. Kyle Drabek, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Travis D'Arnaud, C
5. Lou Marson, C
6. Jason Donald, SS
7. Dominic Brown, OF
8. J.A. Happ, LHP
9. Zach Collier, RF
10. Jason Knapp, RHP
11. Anthony Hewitt, 3B

Just Missed: Travis Mattair, 3B; Drew Naylor, RHP; Joe Savery, LHP

Ranking Challenges: There were many. How real was Michael Taylor's season? How do you rank so many unproven talents with so much raw ability? How to balance the two Double-A stars who have scouting reports that fall below the kind of numbers they put up?

1. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
DOB: 3/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2003
2008 Stats: 4.32 ERA at Double-A (114.2-109-45-109), 5.42 DERA; 1.72 ERA at Triple-A (36.2-37-13-46), 4.14 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The top prospect in the system recovered from a slow start at Double-A to pitch well down the stretch, and he was dominant at times in a late-season stint at Triple-A.
The Good: Carrasco is the total package, combining a power frame with three above-average pitches and plus command. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 94 mph, but his best pitch is an outstanding changeup with plenty of late life. He also has a nice curveball that he can throw for strikes or use as a chase pitch.
The Bad: Carrasco doesn't have a real out pitch in his arsenal, as none of his offerings are plus-plus. He's had a career-long habit of turning bad innings into horrible ones; in clutch situations he tends to shy away from contact and falls behind in the count.
Fun Fact: Carrasco is from Barquisimeto in Venezuela, home of the Divina Pastora, which takes place every year on January 14, when up to a million people participate in a procession carrying a mobile statue of the Virgin Mary with child through the city to a cathedral in neighboring Santa Rosa. Legend maintains that the statue played a primary role in ending a 19th-century cholera epidemic in the area.
Perfect World Projection: A good third starter, perhaps a bit more.
Glass Half Empty: One of those back-of-the-rotation guys who drives you nuts because on paper he looks like he should be much better than that.
Path to the Big Leagues: It was blocked somewhat by the signings of Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park.
Timetable: Carrasco is on the verge of making the big leagues, and while the Phillies want him to put in more time at Triple-A, they think he can play a large part in what will hopefully be another playoff run in the second half of the season.

2. Michael Taylor, RF
DOB: 12/19/85
Height/Weight: 6-6/250
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2007, Stanford University
2008 Stats: .361/.441/.554, .282 EqA at Low-A (67 G); .329/.380/.560, .287 EqA at High-A (65 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: He was a disappointment in college, but had the biggest breakout season in the Philly organization, producing big numbers with both A-level teams.
The Good: Taylor offers an intriguing combination of massive size and impressive tools. The Phillies got him away from the contact-oriented "Stanford swing," and it paid immediate dividends, as he went back to a more natural stroke, showing an ability to hit for average and power while still having plenty of untapped potential in the home-run department. He's a good athlete for his size, an average runner, and he has enough of an arm to succeed in right field. The Phillies love his makeup and work ethic, and saw him becoming a role model on both teams that he played for.
The Bad: Taylor remains rough around the edges, with his instincts both on the basepaths and in the field less than what you'd expect from a college product. The pop he has displayed to this point is purely a result of his raw strength, and he still needs to work on how to recognize drivable pitches and utilize his pull-side power.
Fun Fact: Taylor attended Apopka High School in Florida, the same school that produced Zack Greinke and former NFL star Warren Sapp.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes an everyday right fielder who can beat you in numerous ways.
Glass Half Empty: The steps forward end here, and he settles for being more of a Quadruple-A player.
Path to the Big Leagues: Raul Ibanez and Jason Werth are both solid, short-term solutions rather than roadblocks, and Taylor's arrival is still quite a ways off.
Timetable: Taylor will face his big test at Double-A in 2009, and scouts are fascinated at the chance to see just how real last year's explosion was.

3. Kyle Drabek, RHP
DOB: 12/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2006, The Woodlands HS (TX)
2008 Stats: 2.25 ERA at Rookie-level (12-6-6-6); 2.21 ERA at Short-season (20.1-11-6-10)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: The 2006 first-rounder came back late in the season from Tommy John surgery, and generated some outstanding scouting reports this winter pitching in Hawaii.
The Good: Drabek has a power arm and two outstanding pitches in his arsenal. While in Hawaii, the velocity on his fastball reached a level he hadn't shown since high school, routinely sitting at 91-95 mph, and he regained his signature pitch, a plus-plus power curveball that is the best in the system. Philadelphia coaches have spent a lot of time smoothing out Drabek's delivery, and early results have been promising.
The Bad: Drabek is still adjusting to his new mechanics, with one scout noting that you can still see him thinking about each part of his delivery as he comes toward the plate. There have been many questions about his makeup in the past, and while the Phillies express no concerns and openly discuss how professional he was during his rehab, he still wears his emotions on his sleeve while on the mound. His changeup needs improvement; there are times when he tends to overthrow it, and it loses its separation in velocity from his other pitches.
Fun Fact: In the first five innings of games in Hawaii this winter, Drabek allowed just two hits over 14 1/3 scoreless innings.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a right-handed Scott Kazmir.
Glass Half Empty: He's too small and too injury-prone to be a starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Phillies would like a full, healthy, and successful season out of Drabek before they begin to chart out a path for him.
Timetable: Drabek's spring performance will dictate his opening day assignment. Even if he doesn't begin the year at High-A Clearwater, the Phillies would like to get his timetable back on track by having him finish there.

4. Travis D'Arnaud, C
DOB: 2/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Lakewood HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .309/.371/.463 at Short-season (48 G); .297/.357/.469, .247 EqA at Low-A (16 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: Held back in extended spring training due to his youth and a numbers game, D'Arnaud displayed highly advanced offensive skills and had no problem progressing to a full-season league by the end of the year.
The Good: D'Arnaud is a prototypical catching prospect, with size, athleticism, and plenty of projectable talent. He has an excellent understanding of the strike zone, a feel for contact, and gap power that should increase as he learns to add loft and backspin to his swing. He's also a plus defender who moves well behind the plate and features an above-average arm.
The Bad: D'Arnaud undermines his arm strength with throwing mechanics that cost him both time and accuracy. Right-handers found some success against him by busting him inside, and his swing is not really built for in-game adjustments.
Fun Fact: In the first two innings of games for Williamsport, D'Arnaud went 17-for-46 (.370), with six doubles, a triple, three home runs, and a .739 slugging percentage.
Perfect World Projection: He'll end up as a catcher with above-average value on both offense and defense.
Glass Half Empty: If the power doesn't come, D'Arnaud could end up as merely average.
Path to the Big Leagues: At the very least he should be a defense-first backup.
Timetable: D'Arnaud will return to Low-A in 2009, and the Phillies believe he has breakout potential.

5. Lou Marson, C
DOB: 6/26/86
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2004, Coronado HS (AZ)
2008 Stats: .314/.433/.416, .271 EqA at Double-A (94 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: This offense-oriented catcher continued his push to the majors, leading the Eastern League in on-base percentage and playing on the Olympic squad.
The Good: Marson is the perfect combination of patience and aggressiveness. He almost never swings at a bad pitch and rarely lets a good one go by while making solid contact to all fields. He's a very good athlete for a catcher, and has a durable frame.
The Bad: Marson's single-plane swing doesn't allow for much power now or into his future, so he'll need to retain his high batting averages and walk rates to maintain any offensive value. He's no more than a solid defender with an average-at-best arm, and still needs to improve upon some of the nuances that come with the position.
Fun Fact: When leading off an inning for Double-A Reading, Marson reached base at a .510 clip, going 31-for-79 with 18 walks.
Perfect World Projection: A unique everyday catcher who fits in well as the number two hitter in the lineup, and one who extends many innings with his ability to get on base.
Glass Half Empty: He's not a run producer, so if he can't hit .300, he fits in better at the bottom of a lineup.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Phillies made some minor moves, such as trading for Ronny Paulino, to shore up their catching in 2009, but Marson is clearly their catcher of the future.
Timetable: He'll begin the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, with plans for a late-season call-up and his installation as the big-league starter in 2010.

6. Jason Donald, SS
DOB: 9/4/84
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2006, University of Arizona
2008 Stats: .307/.391/.497, .274 EqA at Double-A (92 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: He had an outstanding year at Double-A, played for the Olympic team, and continued to shine in the Arizona Fall League.
The Good: Scouts are universal in their praise for the way that Donald plays the game. He has a big-league approach, a fundamentally sound swing, and he drives balls into the gaps with ease. He's an excellent baserunner and a solid defender.
The Bad: Donald has average tools that play up due to his effort and instincts. He plays three infield positions, but does not profile well as an everyday player on the left side; he lacks range at shortstop and the arm or power profile for the hot corner.
Fun Fact: In the seven Arizona Fall League games where Donald was inserted into the third spot in the lineup, he went 15-for-29 with four home runs and a 1680 OPS.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid everyday second baseman.
Glass Half Empty: He becomes a valuable utility player and an occasional starter at multiple positions.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's a rather complicated route in an organization that has two recent MVPs in the middle infield.
Timetable: Donald will begin the year at Triple-A, and he could end up as their top trade chip if the Phillies need to bolster their roster this summer.

7. Dominic Brown, OF
DOB: 9/3/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/204
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 20th round, 2006, Redan HS (GA)
2008 Stats: .291/.382/.417, .248 EqA at Low-A (114 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 9

Year in Review: This high-ceiling outfielder had a solid pro debut followed by a winter in Hawaii where he showed signs that he may be ready for a breakout season.
The Good: Brown simply oozes upper-level projection due to a long, wiry frame, and most scouts give him credit for above-average power and speed. He makes good contact with a quick swing that generates significant power when he gets his arms extended. He covers a lot of ground in the outfield with long, gliding strides, and he has makes solid throws.
The Bad: There's still a lot of untapped potential here. He tends to be overly focused on contact which can sap him of his power, and scouts would like to see him try to drive the ball more often as opposed to simply poking it the other way. His jumps and routes in the outfield need work as well.
Fun Fact: While Reds infielder Brandon Phillips is the only player drafted out of Redan to reach the majors, the minor leagues are loaded with candidates to become the second, including Brown and Rockies infielder Chris Nelson.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a five-tool, 20/20 outfielder with on-base skills.
Glass Half Empty: He doesn't have the instincts for center, or enough power for a corner, which makes him a fourth outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: Brown is a one-step-at-a-time player who is at least two or three years away.
Timetable: Brown will begin the year at High-A Clearwater in the Florida State League-not an environment that is conducive to big numbers.

8. J.A. Happ, LHP
DOB: 10/19/82
Height/Weight: 6-6/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2004, Northwestern University
2008 Stats: 3.60 ERA at Triple-A (135-116-48-151), 4.43 DERA; 3.69 ERA at MLB (31.2-28-14-26), 4.91 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The most polished arm in the system excelled at Triple-A, and made some key September starts in the big leagues.
The Good: One scout put it best by saying, "once you see him pitch, you're not surprised that he went to Northwestern." He succeeds on deception and location, placing his 88-90 mph fastball in all four quadrants of the strike zone, adding and subtracting speed to keep hitters off balance, and altering his release to add sinking or cutting action. His changeup is a plus offering with late fade that's hard to read, and his curveball is solid.
The Bad: Happ will never by an overpowering hurler, and his style of attacking hitters with marginal stuff offers little margin for error. His curveball still flattens out now and then, and when he focuses solely on his two best pitches, his game loses its vertical aspect.
Fun Fact: With his first big-league win on September 17 this year, Happ moved into a second place tie for wins among players drafted out of Northwestern-matching Chris Nichting and sitting only four behind former Brave Marty Clary's five.
Perfect World Projection: He may be an innings-eating fourth starter.
Glass Half Empty: He pans out as an occasional starter, and an occasional long reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: Happ is a finished product. Any time spent in the minors would be to keep him fresh as opposed to making any improvements.
Timetable: He'll will compete for the fifth slot in the rotation this spring. Even if he doesn't make it, he could make the team as a long reliever/swingman.

9. Zach Collier, RF
DOB: 9/8/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Chino Hills HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .271/.347/.357 at Rookie-level (37 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: One of many top-tier athletes drafted by the Phillies last year, Collier showed more polish than any of them in his pro debut.
The Good: All of his tools rank as average or above. He's broad-shouldered, with plenty of power potential, and he showed a surprising understanding of the strike zone. He's a solid runner with an above-average arm.
The Bad: Collier's game needs a good deal of refinement. He struggles against breaking balls and his outfield play is sloppy. He's very young and still growing, and most think he'll lose some of his athleticism as he fills out.
Fun Fact: He played all three outfield positions in the GCL after signing, hitting .344 when playing right field, but only .247 from the other two slots.
Perfect World Projection: An athletic, power-hitting right fielder in the mold of Jermaine Dye.
Glass Half Empty: Still a long, long way to go before one can safely predict any kind of stardom.
Path to the Big Leagues: The only one he has right now is the path to the full-season leagues.
Timetable: The Phillies think that Collier may be ready for an assignment to Low-A, but he'll have to earn it this spring.

10. Jason Knapp, RHP
DOB: 8/31/90
Height/Weight: 6-5/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, North Hunterdon HS (NJ)
2008 Stats: 2.61 ERA at Rookie-level (31-26-12-38)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: One of the top high school arms in the Northeast this spring, he signed for nearly $600,000, and went on to shine brightly in his pro debut.
The Good: Knapp is a pure power pitcher with as much ceiling as anyone in the system. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, touching 96-97 mph consistently, and his big strong frame alludes to significant promise.
The Bad: Knapp lives off of his fastball right now; both his slider and his changeup are below-average pitches that need plenty of work. His arm action is clean, but his multi-part mechanics are hard to repeat and could use smoothing out.
Fun Fact: North Hunterdon High's most famous alumnus is Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Buckett in the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
Perfect World Projection: A teenager with a big body and a big fastball are the starting blocks for stardom.
Glass Half Empty: Too many aspects of his game are behind the curve, and he might profile best in a relief role.
Path to the Big Leagues: Right now, all the Phillies want to do is get him innings.
Timetable: Knapp's 2009 destination is undecided at this point. He may be best served by some instruction in extended spring training to try making him more comfortable with his secondary pitches.

11. Anthony Hewitt, 3B
DOB: 4/27/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Salisbury School (CT)
2008 Stats: .197/.256/.299 at Rookie-level (33 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: No player in this year's draft generated more widely varying opinions than Hewitt. The Phillies selected him 24th overall, and it was no surprise that he struggled in his pro debut.
The Good: On tools alone, Hewitt is an elite prospect. His combination of a squarely built frame and incredible athleticism drew the occasional comparison to Bo Jackson as an amateur. He's an above-average runner with a cannon for an arm, and his raw power ranks as a pure, easy 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
The Bad: There is arguably not a single player in professional baseball with a larger gap between his tools and his baseball skills. Hewitt's swing is long and his pitch recognition non-existent, which led to 55 strikeouts in 117 at-bats during his pro debut. The Phillies wasted no time in moving him from shortstop to third base after signing him, and his footwork there is sloppy, as are his throws.
Fun Fact: In his brief 33-game pro career, Hewitt already has four three-strikeout games, two four-whiff games and one five-strikeout contest.
Perfect World Projection: If everything works out, he's a gold mine...
Glass Half Empty: ...and the same thing could be said about that lottery ticket you just bought.
Path to the Big Leagues: You're joking, right?
Timetable: Hewitt is nowhere close to ready for a full-season assignment. He'll begin the year in extended spring training before reporting to a short-season circuit in June.

The Sleeper: Right-hander Julian Sampson didn't put up especially impressive numbers at Low-A in 2008, but scouts saw a promising arm with a 92-95 mph fastball and a solid breaking ball that both rate as plus pitches.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Cole Hamels, LHP
2. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
3. Michael Taylor, RF
4. Kyle Drabek, RHP
5. Travis D'Arnaud, C
6. Lou Marson, C
7. Jason Donald, SS
8. Dominic Brown, OF
9. J.A. Happ, LHP
10. Zach Collier, RF

The Phillies just won a World Series, so who cares if they're not especially young? That said, they're not especially old either, at least offensively, where their best hitters are in their late 20s and early 30s peak years. To speak to the number one player on the Top 10 list above, Cole Hamels is an ace-but you already knew that.

Summary: While the Phillies' system lacks talent at the top, they do have as much high-ceiling young talent as anyone, and they need to hit gold on just one or two of them to see the organization take a dramatic step forward.

Up next: the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Kevin Goldstein takes a look at the world champion Phillies and tells us why the rich may only be getting richer as we check in on the Top 11 Prospect Lists at BPR.

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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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