The State of the System: Long a laughingstock for prioritizing athletes who couldn't hit, the Phillies are now as loaded at the top of the system as any team in baseball. The rebuild started later than it should have, but it might not take long.
The Top Ten
- SS J.P. Crawford
- OF Nick Williams
- RHP Jake Thompson
- RHP Franklyn Kilome
- OF Roman Quinn
- OF Cornelius Randolph
- RHP Mark Appel
- C Jorge Alfaro
- C Andrew Knapp
- RHP Ben Lively
1. J.P. Crawford, SS
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 16th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, Lakewood HS (Lakewood, CA); signed for $2,299,300
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #1 (Org), #36 (Overall)
2015 Stats: .288/.380/.418, 7 HR, 12 SB between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading
Key Tools: 65 hit, 60 run, 60 glove, 60 arm, 50 power
Role: 70—All-Star shortstop
There might not be a more complete prospect in the game. Crawford is an assured defensive shortstop with soft hands and smooth actions. He can make all the plays. He knows this too, and will show off in infield drills. He moves well to both sides and around the bag. The arm strength is only plus, but plays up due to his quick trigger and overall accuracy from multiple angles.
At the plate he shines just as brightly. It's a pretty swing from the left side with good extension and rotation. He has excellent feel for getting the barrel to the ball, and has enough bat control and strong enough wrists to get hits when fooled. The approach is excellent. He is comfortable working deep into counts, and won’t expand the zone when behind. Even if the hit tool doesn't play to the full projection, he should be an above-average-OBP bat at the top of a lineup. The one quibble is that the raw power still hasn't truly shown up in games. Crawford will show 55 raw to the pull side in batting practice, and I've seen him turn major-league velocity onto the berm in right-center in Lakewood, which is not an easy place to park one. Fifteen-plus home run power is in that swing, but he might need to physically mature to fully tap into it.
Crawford is an elite shortstop prospect. The glove and approach should make him a good regular for the next decade on their own, with star potential if the bat reaches its ceiling. He doesn't have Francisco Lindor's top-of-the-scale defensive tools, but the rest of the profile is similar, and Crawford is clearly no slouch with the leather. He has also already seen some success at Double-A at just 20 years old, so it is possible he debuts sometime in 2016. The Phillies will be in no hurry to start his clock, but it will be tough to keep him out of a major-league uniform much into 2017.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The fantasy floor for Crawford may be the second highest in the minors right now, next to Corey Seager, but don’t let that lead you to believe the ceiling isn’t exciting in its own right. He’s not going to give Carlos Correa a run for top fantasy shortstop, but a .280 hitter with 10-12 homers and 20-plus steals (along with plenty of runs if he hits atop a lineup), is enough to give him an inside track to the top-five. And as Jeff noted above, there may be more power to come.
Major league ETA: 2017
2. Nick Williams, OF
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 93rd overall in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers, Ball HS (Galveston, TX); signed for $500,000, traded to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels deal
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #7 (Org) #71 (Overall)
2015 Stats: .303/.354/.491, 17 HR, 13 SB between Double-A Frisco and Double-A Reading
Key Tools: 60 hit, 60 run, 50 power
Role: 55—Above-average major league outfielder
Williams has always tantalized with his tools, but in the past has looked more athlete than baseball player. Last year saw him translate those tools onto the field, and more impressively, he did so during his first extended look against more advanced arms in Double-A. Williams’ swing is a little unorthodox, as he starts and loads his hands very high, but he always gets the barrel of the bat where it needs to be. It might not always look pretty, but it works more often than not. He keeps everything tight in the swing, which gives him excellent coverage on the inner half, though pitchers can beat him away when he doesn't uncoil in time. He is also still very much a free swinger and will expand the zone in just about every direction. The K/BB rates will never be pretty, but he should make enough contact, and more importantly enough good contact, to be an above-average major-league hitter. Williams will show plus raw power as well, but his approach may cut into its in-game utility. He might end up only a 15-18 home run hitter in the majors, but they will be the type of bombs that make you wonder why he isn't hitting 25 every year.
Even without plus game power, that offensive profile (toss in 20 steals or so once he pairs his plus speed with better feel on the bases) is an easy plus regular in center field. However, while his tools played up at the plate this year, the glove is still a bit raw. His athleticism lets him make up for the more-than-occasional “interesting” route. And while his instincts are improving out there, the glove may play best in a corner, and his merely average arm would limit him to left field in the majors. His bat can still carry that profile to everyday regular, but it's not nearly as exciting as the center field version.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The offensive tools border on drool-worthy for dynasty league owners, and while the risk remains high, it’s markedly lower than it was last year. A much stronger investment in AVG leagues than OBP or points leagues, Williams could feel his way into a near .280-.290 hitter capable of reaching 20 homer and steals (especially with half his games coming in Citizens Bank). And even that may understate his upside (while also implicitly overstating his floor).
Major league ETA: Late 2016
3. Jake Thompson, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4” 235 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 91st overall in the 2012 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers, Rockwall-Heath HS (Heath, TX); signed for $531,800; traded to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels deal
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #5 (Org), #47 (Overall)
2015 Stats: 3.73 ERA, 132.2 IP, 127 H, 112 K, 42 BB between Double-A Frisco and Double-A Reading
Key Tools: 60 slider, 55 fastball, 50 change
Role: 55—No. 3/4 starter
Thompson is a big, burly bear of a starting pitcher. The 235 he is listed at is significantly light at this point, and he is very thickly built, especially in his lower half. He dresses for the part of innings eater, and while the stuff is better than that profile, command issues dampen the overall projection. Thompson works primarily off his 91-94 mph four-seam fastball. The pitch can be a bit true out of his hand at times, but at others it will show late zip arm-side. He can spot it well enough to either side of the plate, but will struggle to get it down in the zone. He’ll incorporate a two-seamer occasionally for a different look. His slider is his best secondary—a true plus offering—arriving in the mid-80s with sharp, late tilt. Thompson can backfoot it to left-handed batters, and will play with the shape to spot it or bury it as needed. He is very comfortable throwing it in any count or situation.
Thompson's change offers good velocity separation and looks like the fastball out of the hand, but lacks any real tumble. It only shows mild arm-side fade, but the deception is strong enough to complement the slider as an adequate third pitch. He struggles to stay on top of a show-me curveball as well, leaving it up in the zone far too often to project much future utility for the offering at present.
Thompson's top three pitches suggest a better profile than the ultimate role projected here, and that is due largely to a below-average command profile. He uses a full overhead windup and turns the ball over relatively late in his delivery, which affects his release point consistency. He knows how to get the baseball into the strike zone, but he can be wild within it, and both his fastball and curve tend to ride high. Thompson should be a solid, if often frustrating, starter, with days of easily strolling through a major league lineup interspersed with outings where he fails to stay away from enough barrels.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The big right-hander is just about ready to miss some bats in the majors; and while the upside may not be elite, those bats he will miss could make him an SP3 in time. Initially, he’ll be in danger of riding a WHIP well north of 1.30, but could balance in wins and strikeouts, once he’s let loose by the Phillies. If the command comes, he’s a darkhorse for 200 strikeouts one day.
Major league ETA: 2017
4. Franklyn Kilome, RHP
Height/Weight: 6'6” 175 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed January 2013 by Philadelphia out of the Dominican Republic for $40,000.
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2015 Stats: 3.28 ERA, 49.1 IP, 41 H, 36 K, 21 BB
Key Tools: 70 fastball, 60 curve
Role: 55—No. 3 starter/high-end set-up guy
Kilome exploded onto the scene in 2015, as the projectable right-hander added some serious velocity over the previous offseason. The fastball sits in the mid-90s, touching higher, and shows good downward plane from a lanky 6-foot-6 frame. It's easy velocity out of his hand, and he could still add another tick or two as he smooths out his mechanics and continues to fill out his frame. He pairs it with a power curve that will flash plus, but is quite inconsistent at present. The change is a non-factor right now, as you would expect with a pitcher of his experience level.
Kilome has more ceiling than any arm in the Phillies system, and it's not all that close. He has an ideal power pitcher's frame, the arm strength is already plus-plus, and if so inclined, you can dream on a bit more projection. The OFP here is in no. 2 starter territory, but Kilome is almost a half-decade from that projection, and the risk is extreme. It's easy to see the rawness, lack of present-day command, and changeup, and throw a reliever projection on him. If he does end up in the bullpen, he has a borderline closer profile. The predicted role here is a safe-ish hedge, but if I had to bet on a non-Crawford prospect currently in the Phillies system heading up their 2017 list, my money goes here.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Investing in pitchers with upper first-quadrant risk/reward isn’t quite as attractive in fantasy as doing so for hitters, but that upside still makes a big difference. Even if a potential SP2 future is around 4-5 years away, that’s much more potential than most pitchers on a given farm team have. It’s too soon to know what he’ll be, but it’s definitely not too soon to invest—and Kilome is making a case as a top-100 fantasy prospect (though he likely will fall short).
Major league ETA: 2019
5. Roman Quinn, OF
Height/Weight: 5'10” 170 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 66th overall in the 2011 draft, Port St. Joe HS (Port St. Joe, FL); signed for $775,000
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2015 Stats: .306/.356/.435, 4 HR, 29 SB for Double-A Reading
Key Tools: 80 run, 60 glove, 60 arm, 50 hit
Role: 55—Above-average everyday player
Quinn has a simple, line-drive stroke that plays well gap-to-gap. He isn't a home run threat, but there is enough doubles power here to punish pitchers who fall behind and want to challenge him in hopes of keeping him off the bases. And with elite speed, his doubles power is really triples power, anyway.
The speed helps in center too, where Quinn is still rough around the edges after shifting from shortstop in 2014. His reads off the bat need further refinement, but he is fast enough to outrun any mistakes right now, and any improvement in jumps and routes will have a multiplicative effect. His strong, accurate arm is an asset as well, and it’s not hard to see a future plus defender in center as he gains more polish.
The biggest concern in Quinn's profile lies in his inability to stay on the field for a full season. A tear in his hip flexor cost him most of 2015, which followed a broken bone in his wrist in the middle of 2013, and an Achilles tear later that same year that cost him the beginning of the 2014 season. It's a stretch to call him fragile, but you do wonder if any further injuries might start to cost him some of that top-shelf athleticism. All Phillies fans can do is hope Quinn gets a full season under his belt in 2016, because he is not far from being a meaningful major-league contributor at the top of the Philadelphia lineup.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you pay attention to prospects, it’s easy to spot players like Quinn going from overvalued to undervalued in dynasty league circles. However, it’s far less common that the now-undervalued player has 50-plus stolen base ability. If he can find himself in an everyday role, he could hit .260-ish with category-changing speed—and if not, well, Jarrod Dyson has stolen 126 bases over the last four seasons and is plenty sought-after in roto leagues.
Major league ETA: 2017
6. Cornelius Randolph, OF
Height/Weight: 5'11” 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 10th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Griffin HS (Griffin, GA); signed for $3,231,300
Previous Ranking(s): Not Applicable
2015 Stats: .302/.425/.442, 1 HR, 6 SB in the Gulf Coast League
Key Tools: 60 hit, 50 power, 50 arm
Role: 50—Average regular, likely in corner outfield
Randolph was a bit of a surprise when the Phillies popped him with the 10th overall pick in last summer's draft. Our own Chris Crawford said, quite bluntly: “I don't understand this pick at all.” Randolph marks a departure from the type of unrefined, athletic prep schooler that used to dominate Philadelphia’s draft boards. Where the organization had tended towards big-tool, questionable-hit types in recent history, there were few questions about Randolph’s bat leading up to the draft. He’ll hit, and he’s an easy scout that way. A half dozen batting-practice swings, and you get it. It's a swing of controlled violence and the contact just sounds different. Randolph is already a strong kid, but the swing plane is not presently designed for loft, which might limit the ultimate power projection. Still, this is a very promising bat.
The offensive projection is good news, because the glove is much less certain. Randolph played shortstop in high school, but his infield actions are awkward and at 18 he's already built like a corner player. The Phillies ran him out in left field in the Gulf Coast League, which is a strong possibility for his long-term home, as the actions won’t even be good enough for third. He does move better in cleats than you'd think, but he's already a fringy runner, and the body is going to require some maintenance.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The lack of a definite position is a detraction for Randolph, but not nearly enough to cause him to fall out of the first round of dynasty drafts this winter. The raw skills are there for him to be strong in both average and power (think .290-25 if it comes together), and having a final destination as hitter-friendly as Philadelphia doesn’t hurt. There’s a lot of lead time here, which is the reason he’s merely a back-of-the-top-100 type name right now.
Major league ETA: 2019
7. Mark Appel, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 220 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted first overall by the Houston Astros in the 2013 MLB draft, Stanford University; signed for $6,350,000; traded to Philadelphia in the Ken Giles deal
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #2 (Org), #35 (Overall)
2015 Stats: 4.37 ERA, 131.2 IP, 135 H, 110 K, 51 BB between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno
Key Tools: 60 fastball, 55 change, 50 slider
Role: 50—No. 4 starter/low-end setup man
We are only a scant few years away, one imagines, from all information on the internet being conveyed through emoticons and memes in some sort of corgi-centric re-imagining of the Star Trek: The Next Generation classic, “Darmok.” Fortunately, my future Mark Appel report will lose nothing in translation when under the key tools and role, there is just a ¯\_(ãƒ„)_/¯ .
Appel is a confounding prospect to pin down, even after three seasons in the minors. At their best, his pitches will flash 7/6/6 potential, but those are flashes and they’ll rarely do so in the same game. His fastball generally sits in the low 90s now, only occasionally showing the near-elite velocity it had in college–well, except for that one start when he was popping 97 on the gun, but maybe you caught him on a different one when he was 89-92 and everything was flat. See, this is the problem.
The changeup is his best secondary offering. It's deceptive out of his hand and shows late fade and dive. If you catch it on a good day, it looks like a potential plus offering. The slider is his third pitch at present. It has above-average velocity and occasionally will show some short, hard tilt, but it lacks the true two-plane break needed to consistently miss bats.
The mechanics here are good: clean, simple, and repeatable. All his pitches come out from the same three-quarters arm slot. Yet you frequently hear that the ball is easy to pick up out of his hand. He shows it briefly behind him in during his delivery, and batters do seem quite comfortable timing his fastball. His command is fine, if not above average, but the limited deception leaves him with a thinner margin for error.
It's easy to see Appel as a change-of-scenery candidate, but the raw stuff is down from college (most of the time), and he will be 24 next season. It's not hard to see him turning into a similar—if not more frustrating—type of starter as Thompson, where the profile doesn't quite play to the level of the stuff. There is also a chance he ends up in a bullpen where the top end velocity might show up more frequently in short bursts. Hell, he still might turn into a no. 2 starter, but that is looking more and more like a longshot worthy of no more stake than the ol' crafty quid.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: On one hand, I’m mad at Jeff for using the shruggy face. On another hand, if there were ever a prospect worthy of two shruggy faces, it’s Appel. There’s no more likely prospect to have been traded in your dynasty league over the last 18 months, and for good reason—valuations are all over the place and everyone’s worried they’ll be holding the bag when we all realize it won’t work. However, the raw stuff remains and there’s top-25 fantasy starter upside with an easy-to-visualize fallback as a closer. Just remember you have to squint when you say that.
Major league ETA: Late 2016
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
Height/Weight: 6’2” 225 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed January 2010 out of Colombia by the Texas Rangers for $1,300,000, traded to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels deal
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #3 (Org), #31 (Overall)
2015 Stats: .258/.324/.438, 5 HR, 2 SB between the Gulf Coast League and Double-A Frisco
Key Tools: 80 arm, 60 power, 50 run
Role: 50—Average major-league regular in…right field?
It's borderline apostasy at Baseball Prospectus to have #TheLegend this low on an organizational list, even one as deep as Philadelphia's. And I get the appeal, I really do. You just don't find major-league catchers with Alfaro's catalog of raw tools. And he's still only 22, and performed well enough in Double-A before suffering an ankle injury. That's not nothing. At a certain point, though, the improvements projected both at and behind the plate have to start manifesting in games, especially given the large gap between present and future when it comes to how we've written about Alfaro.
You know the good by now. It's an elite arm behind the plate, though it can play down when he isn't mechanically right coming out of the crouch. The raw power is an easy 70, but the approach and swing issues will limit how much it plays in games. Alfaro might be a .230 hitter in the majors, which is fine for a catcher with some pop, but the skills behind the plate still play as well below average, and that was before his fairly severe ankle injury in 2015. His best defensive fit might be right field, where he has more than enough arm strength and athleticism to handle the position, though the bat is much less exciting there.
This looks to be a bit of a make-or-break year for Alfaro, coming to a new organization and off a significant leg injury. Like Appel, it is possible he benefits from a change of scenery, but until the tools start to play more in games, some conservatism is warranted.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Catching prospects are a fickle breed in dynasty leagues, and yet we still gamble on the upside of having that elite option—a shark among a sea of plankton and pollution. Alfaro once held that upside, and as he’s gotten larger in the microscope, the warts have grown larger. There’s still plenty of value in a .260 hitting catcher with 20 homers (only one catcher did that in 2015, and it wasn’t who you think), we just all need to re-adjust our expectations.
Major league ETA: 2017
9. Andrew Knapp, C
Height/Weight: 6’1” 190 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 53rd overall in the 2013 draft, University of California, Berkeley, signed for $1,033,100
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2015 Stats: .308/.385/.491, 13 HR, 1 SB between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading
Key Tools: 50 power, 50 arm
Role: 45—Second-division starter/good backup catcher
Knapp was trundling along through the 2015 season, not looking like much more than perhaps a future backup catcher when he broke out in a big way in the second half at Double-A Reading. He posted a 1.050 OPS across 55 games in the Eastern League, and while he won't be close to that kind of hitter going forward, there's enough to like in the bat now that a real major-league role has come into focus for the switch-hitting backstop. Knapp's swing has one gear: hard. If anything it is more violent from the left side than the right. The power he showed in the second half comes from length and strength, and you can get him out on the front foot with soft stuff. There's also a bit more swing-and-miss within the zone than you'd like to see from an everyday player, even a catcher, but Knapp can punish the ball when he makes contact. Overall, the approach isn't too bad, and he should draw enough walks to buoy his low batting average a bit.
Knapp is thicker than his listed 190, and the body is a little soft. Consequently, he can be stiff and awkward on balls in the dirt to either side, tending to stab at them when he has issues getting his body in front. His arm is strong and accurate enough to keep runners honest, and his receiving is adequate. It's a fringy defensive profile overall, but he could catch every day and you'd live with it. A comp that came up internally was John Ryan Murphy, but with the hit and power tools flipped. There is no real carrying tool here, but Knapp offers enough across the board to be a useful member of a major-league roster. My one concern would be the mustache he was sporting toward the end of the season. I don't like to dock guys for makeup without good evidence, but the facial hair raises a red flag with regard to his decision-making ability. Yikes.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s just not enough potential here to invest heavily in Knapp, despite the gaudy stats in Double-A. In fact, if someone in your league likes a good stat page, you should float Knapp to him/her. The proximity and power is enough to make him someone who should be owned in leagues that roster 200 prospects, but don’t get carried away—there’s nothing wrong with .250 and 15 homers, but most of those stats are available on the wire in mixed one-catcher formats.
Major league ETA: 2017
10. Ben Lively, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4” 190 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, University of Central Florida, signed for $350,000; traded to Philadelphia in the Marlon Byrd deal
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #7 (Org)
2015 Stats: 4.13 ERA, 143.2 IP, 160 H, 111 K, 45 BB,
Key Tools: 55 fastball, 55 slider
Role: 45—No. 5 starter/low-end setup man
Lively is the consignment shop version of Jake Thompson, and I sort of mean that as a compliment? Like Thompson, he looks the part of a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. If I had to use an adjective, I would pick “Joe Blantonish.” (Which is also a compliment. I think.) Lively throws his low-90s fastball often, and it will show good arm-side run and a bit of sink down in the zone. He is more confident spotting it glove-side than arm-side, but overall the command is average. The pitch does flatten out up in the zone and become quite hittable.
Lively offers the full standard four-pitch mix, but of his secondary offerings, only the slider is particularly noteworthy. It will show the same late two-plane bite as Thompson's, but Lively’s is a less consistent offering. It will get a little sweepy at times, and he throws the occasional cement mixer, but the pitch will flash plus often enough to warrant some optimism. The curve and change, on the other hand, are both below average at present. The curve has a short break, and Lively struggles to get it to move down and out of the zone. He might be able to sneak the occasional first-pitch strike with it against righties, but that is the limit of its present utility.
Lively has a simple, compact delivery that he repeats with some consistency in spite of an arm action that involves significant effort. He hides the ball well behind his large frame, giving a bit of deception to the arsenal. There are concerns that the effort in the delivery might erode his effectiveness as a starter, but he's been very durable throughout his minor-league career. The bigger hurdle to his becoming a back-end major-league starter is the lack of an average third pitch. Lively's stuff might end up playing best as a sinker/slider relief arm.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: And finally we get to the “there’s nothing to see here” portion of this top 10. The fact that it took this long to get here just shows how strong this system has gotten. Maybe Lively can fake it long enough to be a back-end starter in mixed leagues, but that is the very definition of damning with faint praise.
Major league ETA: 2016
Five who are just interesting:
Carlos Tocci, OF – The Phillies under Ruben Amaro were very aggressive with minor-league assignments, and thus Carlos Tocci has seen a lot of Lakewood the past few years. On its face, a 19-year-old hitting .321/.387/.423 in A-ball is a fine accomplishment, but this seems to be more a case of a player figuring out a league on his third attempt. Tocci is an advanced center fielder for his age, with the foot speed and arm to be a plus defender there in the majors, but he still isn't physical enough to be much of a force at the plate. (It's been a bit of a running joke that he could wear my 30/34 slim fit jeans in some sort of Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants scenario.) His frame may eventually add enough strength to keep more advanced arms from knocking the bat out of his hands, but he is still very much a work in progress, and I don't know that his 2015 season was the “breakout year” some have been positing.
Deivi Grullon, C – Grullon is a potential impact defender behind the plate, but you have to wonder if the bat will ever play enough to to unlock his destiny as a grizzled backup catcher and on-field manager in 2033. It's a true 80 arm, the kind that pops sub-2.0 times in between innings when he's just going through the motions. He moves well behind the plate despite his fireplug physique and should turn into a solid receiver with more reps. It's a potential Gold Glove defensive profile, even if, at 19, he is a half-decade away from realizing it. His glove might have been ready for full-season ball, but the bat is still struggling there. He is a strong kid and will show average raw in batting practice, but he wants to pull everything, resulting in struggles with spin and sequencing. His approach issues will probably keep the power from playing to any more than fringe-average in games, and may completely undo him at the plate in general. It's tough to get a complete read on Grullon, as he probably should have spent the past two seasons in extended and then short-season ball, but until he shows more with the bat, he has to drop out of the top 10.
Adonis Medina, RHP – If you want to look for the next Kilome, Medina is one to keep an eye on. Like Kilome, he was merely a five-figure arm (the Phillies paid $70,000 for him), and while he doesn't offer the same size or projection as our no. 4 prospect, he was showing similar top-end velocity with the fastball in 2015. It's unlikely Medina will be able to add too much more strength and velocity to his 6-foot-1 frame, so there is less to dream on here when compared with Kilome. It's easy to see a “short” Dominican righty with a big arm and toss a bullpen projection on him, but for his age and background Medina has a fairly advanced repertoire and feel for pitching. There is only a complex-league resume here, so he isn't a top-10 prospect yet (though there were strong arguments made for him internally), but he may only be a year away from being a big name in this system.
Zach Eflin, RHP – If you wanted to swap in Eflin for Lively at no. 10, I don't think I could argue with you too strenuously. It's a similar profile: a big, durable righthander with Double-A experience who works off a sinking fastball in the low 90s. Lively got the nod because I am more confident the slider will give him a bat-missing offering at higher levels, and if the starting pitching profile doesn't come together, his fastball/slider combo is better suited to the bullpen than Eflin's fastball/change. But both are similar back-end starting pitching prospects.
Scott Kingery, 2B – Kingery is a good example of the changing priorities in the Phillies player development system. In past years this would have been a toolsy prep outfielder with a blistering 60 time and power that only showed up at 5 p.m.. And they wouldn't have had a first-round pick to spend on Randolph, because they would have surrendered it to sign Ervin Santana. Kingery is a polished college second baseman who can both hit and run a bit, enough to even play center if the Phillies are inclined to try that (though he'd be about sixth on the organizational depth chart right now). In past years he'd have easily made a Phillies top 10, even though the profile probably plays more as good utility player than second-division starter. He had a case for it this year, but slots in behind the closer-to-the-majors arms for me.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/90 or later)
- J.P. Crawford
- Aaron Nola
- Maikel Franco
- Odubel Herrera
- Nick Williams
- Jake Thompson
- Franklyn Kilome
- Roman Quinn
- Cornelius Randolph
- Mark Appel
Strapped with an aging and expensive roster that was not meeting expectations, the Phillies have done a nice job of dealing pieces away and accumulating talent to help build for the future. The Cole Hamels and Ken Giles trades have buoyed a system that saw blue-chip prospects Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco graduate to the major-league level.
Nola, while talented and a potential no. 3 starter, doesn’t hold a candle to Crawford, one of the best prospects in the entire game. Though some scouts have long questioned Nola’s durability thanks to his slight frame, he looked the part during his big-league debut and should be a workhorse in the Phillies’ rotation for the next several years.
Slotting right behind Nola, third baseman Maikel Franco has exceeded expectations against the stiffest competition of his career. Franco isn’t just aggressive at the plate; he’s a full-on hacker who has a knack for making contact. Given the approach, his ability to consistently drive the ball borders on remarkable, and the early returns suggest a player capable of producing a strong offensive career in spite of an ugly chase rate. Defensively, he’s going to be stretched at third base despite excellent hands and a strong arm, but once Ryan Howard is out of the way, Franco should be able to slide across the diamond to first base.
Herrera managed to stick with the Phillies in 2015 after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, thanks almost entirely to outstanding production while manning center field every day for a rebuilding club. After transitioning to the outfield full time during winter ball last year, Herrera looks solid in center field throughout last season, thanks to plus speed and instincts that improved rapidly as he gained experience. Offensively, the high batting average was nothing new for Herrera, as he has long projected as a strong hitter, but the emergence of some pop to the gaps was a revelation that enhanced his stock. Most scouts are somewhat skeptical that his strength and swing will allow him to maintain those gains, but even if he picks up a fair number of doubles, and manages to improve his stolen base rate some, he should be a positive contributor.
Slotting Herrera behind Franco on this list despite the dramatic difference in defensive value – both current and projected – speaks volumes of the offensive skill set that the players bring to the table. While Herrera’s offensive game is of good quality, it is also a package that can be found more regularly in today’s game, while Franco’s ability to hit for some average and leave the yard with regularity is much harder to come by.
Outfielder Aaron Altherr entered the discussion toward the back of the list, garnering some consideration ahead alongside Mark Appel for the tenth spot. Altherr has tools to spare and has never quite put everything together the way the Phillies hoped he would, but he could still be a useful part-time player.
Similarly, both Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez were heavily considered toward the end of this list. Eickhoff’s raw stuff belies his strong MLB performance to date and because I am still a believer in Mark Appel’s potential as a mid-rotation starter, I could not bring myself to slide him onto the list. Many in the scouting community continue to maintain concerns about Velasquez that led to his exclusion, as well. Namely his ability to stay healthy and a still-evolving arsenal that some believe could ultimately land him in the bullpen where he spent time in 2015.
After a rapid descent from contention to the cellar, the Phillies have rebuilt their major-league roster and the upper levels of their system in a hurry. Though they may still be a ways from true contention, a roster that includes Crawford, Nola, Franco, Williams, Thompson, Herrera, Velasquez, and Appel should be highly intriguing even in the short term, and gives hope to Phillies fans that they could rejoin the hunt sooner rather than later. —Mark Anderson
President of Baseball Operations: Andy McPhail (hired 6/29/15)
Vice President and General Manager: Matt Klentak (hired 10/28/15)
Director, Amateur Scouting: Johnny Almaraz
Director, Player Development: Joe Jordan
The Phillies put an end to the Ruben Amaro era in 2015 and started the rebuilding process in earnest after McPhail’s hiring, dealing Cole Hamels and Ken Giles in separate trades for four of their current top 10 prospects. Klentak joined four months later from the Angels, where he was serving as an Assistant General Manager. Klentak has worked in baseball for over a decade despite being only 35, and he worked with McPhail when the latter was GM of the Orioles. Klentak has said all the right things to distance himself from the Amaro regime, committing to a build-out of an analytics department (the Phillies were one of the last teams to hire a full-time analytics employee), and continuing the rebuild.
Amaro didn't leave the office in as bad of shape as has been implied, though. Though it took some time for him to pull a trigger, the eventual Cole Hamels deal brought back three top prospects and some starting pitching depth for a team that gave 93 starts last year to Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, and Sean O'Sullivan, which, if you believe in a particularly vindictive deity, would be the video track damned Phillies fans will be subjected to, A Clockwork Orange-style, for all eternity. Amaro also graduated Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, and Aaron Altherr from the system in 2015, and nabbed Odubel Herrera in the Rule 5 draft. All four look like they will be contributors on the next good Phillies team.
So McPhail and Klentak have inherited a team with a suddenly interesting young core, a deep farm system, and the no. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. They also work for an ownership group that is willing to spend to put a competitor on the field, and they play in a division that looks winnable in the medium term. The rebuild has finally begun in Philly, but it need not be a long one at all.