|EVALUATING THE PROSPECTS 2016
Since having committed to a full-scale rebuild, the Phillies have prepared themselves nicely for a more sustainable future. Right to the top of their prospect ranks went trade acquisitions Nick Williams, Mark Appel and Jake Thompson. Additionally, a number of second-tier players have given the organization the depth and upside it desperately needed after a few stagnant years with aging veterans. The main weakness of the minor-league group is its lack of immediate help for the rotation, with questions surrounding both Appel’s and Thompson’s viability as starters preventing them from being sure things. After that, there’s a lack of options until you get to the lower levels, where exciting younger pitchers like Franklyn Kilome look to take a step forward and challenge for upper-minors rotation spots.
There shouldn’t be a ton of surprises on this list. It looks like I’m a half-grade higher or lower on few guys than the consensus, but most of the guys after the 50+ group are fairly interchangeable. Medium-upside players at the lower levels of the system are plentiful, making the relative grades more a preference than anything.
Mark Appel’s ranking may stir some discussion, as I make the case here why I don’t think we have a Gerrit Cole-esque breakout to which we can to look forward. It’s not so dire that I don’t think he’s a major league starter, but his ceiling grade is lower here than most are ready to admit.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I communicate scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels. If you prefer the traditional methodologies of other publications, I would suggest averaging the latter two grades together to get a semi-optimistic view of where a player projects.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.
Video courtesy of Baseball America
1. JP Crawford, SS
Current Level/Age: Double-A/21.2, 6’2/180, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 16th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of California HS by PHI for $2.299 million bonus
Previous Rank: 1
Crawford is a tremendous all-around ballplayer who could steal 15-20 bags, get on base at a high rate, and develop close to average power as he gets more comfortable and matures physically. His defense has improved to the point where he is considered a plus defender at short, working closely with Phillies’ staff on the finer techniques at the position.
At the plate, Crawford has spectacular hands and an even better approach, making it very difficult to get him to chase or to fool him with offspeed. At short, he shows a high aptitude for reading batted balls and understanding the pace at which he needs to work on almost every play.
He isn’t a finished product yet. Crawford needs to improve his reads and situational understanding on the bases, and he hasn’t found a setup that allows him to consistently tap into his raw power yet. He has a tendency to let his hips slide around under his swing, leading to many hits that don’t have much lower-half involvement. In Arizona this fall, he took it to an extreme, reaching with his front foot before sliding his entire body forward as he started his swing, leading to poor results by his standard. He has looked better in the past, so it’s just and adjustment to watch for in 2016 as a sign of how soon he will be able to tap into his power regularly.
It’s fairly unlikely we will see Crawford in the big leagues until at least September, even though I think he’s capable of producing there right now. His hands, contact and plate discipline will make him a productive hitter even if he doesn’t drive the ball up to his potential. Add in excellent shortstop defense and his base-running threat, and Crawford is one of the best prospects in baseball.
Hit: 45+/60/65 Power: 40/45/50 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/60/60+ Throw: 60/60/60
2. Nick Williams, OF
Current Level/Age: Double-A/21.2, 6’2/180, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 93rd overall (2nd round) in 2012 out of Texas HS by TEX for $500,000 bonus, traded to PHI in July 2015
Previous Rank: 9 (TEX)
Williams had a breakout year last year in many respects, the most important one being that he showed the best plate discipline of his career. While he’s never going to take a ton of walks, he is starting to prove he can work the count enough to let his excellent swing and barreling skills bring his hit tool closer to its ceiling. He has the bat speed and swing path to be at least a plus power guy, and it’s becoming a matter of when, not if, his power surpasses his hit tool.
Playing center field last year in Double-A, he proved that his athleticism can easily fit there if he commits to shoring up his skill work. He probably fits best in a corner spot, but he has improved defensively to the point where he won’t embarrass you in center. His fringy arm makes right field a stretch by prototypical standards, but regardless of where he plays, the bat is going to carry his value.
Given his history of minimal patience at the plate, it’s probably unreasonable to expect another huge improvement in his plate discipline, which is what holds his hit grades just a tick lower than his power. With a fly-ball path, great bat speed and the physical projection he still has, the balls he puts into play are going to have some serious distance on them. His overall plus hitting ability will allow him to be an excellent player even if his defensive gains stall or regress slightly.
Hit: 50/55/60 Power: 50/60/65 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 45/50/50+ Throw: 45/45/50
Video courtesy of Alec Hickmott
3. Roman Quinn, OF
Current Level/Age: Double-A/22.9, 5’10/170, B/R
Acquired: Drafted 66th overall (2nd round) in 2011 out of Florida HS by PHI for $775,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 8
Quinn’s best asset is his 80 raw speed, but he also has a gift for making contact that should make him a valuable big-league outfielder rather than just a great athlete that you hope finds a way to hit. What he has lacked more than anything in recent years is consistent game experience, with injuries keeping him out of parts of the last three seasons. The switch to center field makes sense on paper, but he needs more time on the field to improve his reads and fully utilize his immense speed.
A switch-hitter since turning pro in 2011, Quinn has put himself on a good path to becoming close to an average bat. Some worry that he puts the ball in the air too much, but I disagree with that assessment on principle. Balls in the gap for him are sure doubles, possible triples, and I have a hard time believing the 5-10 extra infield hits a year he could add by putting the ball on the ground more would outweigh the value of his extra-base-hit power. He has a developing feel for the strike zone, and his ability to simply get the bat on the ball makes him a legit prospect due to his top-flight speed.
If Quinn can find a way to stay healthy and get to the big leagues in one piece, he is at least a solid-average big-league outfielder. That may end up looking conservative if he can turn his speed into better than above-average defense, pushing him into plus or better territory.
Hit: 45/50/50+ Power: 35/35/40 Run: 75/75/80 Field: 50/55/55+ Throw: 50/50/55
Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball
4. Jake Thompson, RHP
Current Level/Age: Triple-A/18.8, 6’4/235, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 91st overall (2nd round) in 2012 out of Texas HS by DET for $531,800 bonus, traded to TEX in July 2014, traded to PHI in July 2015
Previous Rank: 3 (DET)
Thompson has been well-traveled the last couple years. Originally drafted by the Tigers, he was traded to the Rangers for Joakim Soria in 2014, then again to the Phillies last year in the Cole Hamels deadline deal. At his best he throws a low- to mid-90s sinking fastball, a sharp 12-6 curveball, solid slider and a decent changeup. He’s close to contributing for a young Phillies team, though his future role is still a bit up in the air.
Thompson has stiff actions on the mound, but a direct, aggressive delivery makes him tough on hitters and fun to watch. His lack of core flexibility makes him prone to flying open with his shoulders finishing across his body. He then fails to get on top of the ball and leaves a lot of pitches up in the zone.
When he stays on top of the ball, his arm action shows more effort, but his stuff plays up almost a full grade. He will have to find a balance between getting to his best stuff and taking it easy on his shoulder to get his release right. Ideally, he loosens up his core so his arm doesn’t have to do the work getting to the slightly higher slot, but that’s a tougher pattern to change. As a result, his future may be in the bullpen, where his fastball, slider and curve likely play another half-grade higher than as a starter.
In a world where he could pitch in his best role, I believe it would be as a late-innings reliever with near immediate closer potential because of how his stuff scales up. Because he has put up solid numbers in the high minors, the Phillies are likely to keep him in the rotation as long as they can, and it’s hard to dispute that decision. If he can improve his consistency without putting stress on his arm, there’s no reason he can’t be a solid third starter. He has a better chance right now of being a shutdown closer, but the organization has some time to let him find out which role is his best.
Fastball: 55/55+/60 Slider: 45/45/50+ Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/45/50 Command: 45/50/55
5. Cornelius Randolph, OF
Current Level/Age: Rookie/18.8, 5’11/205, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 10th overall (1st round) in 2015 out of Georgia HS by PHI for $3.2313 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA
Randolph was the Phillies’ top draft pick last year, and didn’t disappoint in his first go at Rookie ball. His power was muted considering his build and bat speed, but the swing path and raw power portend bigger upside there. Add in his impressive plate discipline and contact for a young hitter, and Randolph may end up being one of the best all-around hitters to come out of the 2015 draft class.
He was moved immediately to the outfield after signing, where it looks like he will remain for as long as he can. An infielder in high school, he has a strong arm and great hands, but his range and footwork bring his overall defensive potential down enough that he’s likely staying on the low end of the positional spectrum. The outfield may prove too demanding for his abilities, and first base is the probable landing spot long-term, but he does have some athleticism that could make him a viable outfielder as well.
Overall, he’s a bat-first prospect with a potentially very good bat, and he should find a home in full-season ball very quickly if not at the start of the 2016 season.
Hit: 35/55/60 Power: 30/55/65 Run: 45/40/40 Field: 40/40/45 Throw: 55/55/55
Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball
6. Mark Appel, RHP
Current Level/Age: Triple-A/24.7, 6’5/220, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 1st overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Stanford by HOU for $6.35 million bonus, traded to PHI in December 2015
Previous Rank: 2 (HOU)
Appel keeps putting up numbers that bely his raw stuff, and it’s my opinion that the baseball community has glossed over some functionality issues with Appel’s stuff and delivery that contribute to his lackluster results. At his best, he pounds the zone with mid-90s heat, a strong breaking ball and a changeup with a good velocity differential. The problem is a general lack of feel, consistency and true command that makes his fastball too straight and hittable, the shape and location of his slider too unreliable and his changeup too straight.
Watching him on the mound is interesting, because his delivery tells us a lot about how his feel and command project to improve. He has good arm action and a balanced look overall, but he lacks the subtle athletic moves that most top-flight pitching prospects show. He doesn’t get the most out of his strong lower half, landing open with his front leg but leaving his hips closed until his upper body initiates the rotational component of his motion.
At full speed, his delivery has a similar quality to a lot of hitters I’ve discussed in these lists; it’s like everything moves as one piece rather than a sequential unfurling of different segments. His shoulders and arm end up almost dragging his hips into turning, rather than starting the move with the much stronger muscles in his hips and his core. When you ask an arm to provide both the majority of the force needed to throw, and also the precise adjustments for feel at release, it’s nearly impossible to do both consistently.
That type of movement inefficiency is rather difficult to change for the better. It’s not a matter of mechanics, really, since many pitchers have unique movement patterns they use to great success. In a rotational sport like baseball, the ability to properly sequence movements is a fundamental athletic requirement for the exceptional performers in the sport. Some are able to make up for it in compensatory ways, but Appel hasn’t found that key so far.
His ceiling is still that of a solid number-three starter, as his raw stuff compares well to that level of pitcher. Though he has decent control, he will have to find a way to improve his command to reach that ceiling. There’s no reason to think he won’t be able to pitch in a big-league rotation, with the sum of his strengths already being good enough to have some success there. I just don’t see a lot of realistic upside beyond more of a fourth or fifth starter.
Fastball: 50/50+/60 Slider: 50/50/55 Changeup: 45/45/50 Command: 40/45/45-50
Kilome has the huge frame and long limbs that you dream of putting on every pitching prospect, and he’s starting to figure out how to use them a bit. Though the finer details of his motion and his stuff are still a few years from getting to where they need to be, Kilome has started pushing his velocity comfortably into the mid-90s. He has also been around the strike zone enough to be excited about his future, though command is a little foreign to him yet. It is going to take a while to know what the Phillies have here, at least until he really matures physically.
Fastball: 50/60/70 Curveball: 40/50/60 Changeup: 35/40/50 Command: 40/45/55
Pinto could pitch in a big-league bullpen right now, with a solid fastball and changeup and good command. He spent all of 2015 improving his slider, and now it has a decent chance of ending up an average pitch. If he can get it there consistently, he’s easily a mid-rotation starter. He will head to the Double-A rotation and should continue to do well in that environment, but pay attention to his slider progress as the best indicator of his future role.
Fastball: 50/55/55+ Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 55/55/60 Command: 45/50/55
Eshelman’s college stats were borderline hilarious, as he struck out just over a batter per inning in his last year at Cal State-Fullerton while walking only seven. Not seven per nine innings, mind you, but seven per 137 innings. He isn’t just a guy that pounds the, zone either, showing truly impressive command of his fastball, even if it lacks the sort of movement that would separate it from the pack. None of his offspeed stuff looks even above-average in a vacuum, but the command with which he throws it gives everything a bump up a tick or so, grade-wise.
Though I think command-first pitchers are vastly underrated in the scouting world, I’d like to see one of his offspeed pitches step up before buying into Eshelman as more than a back-end starter. With his location, just one of his offspeed pitches showing improvement could have an exponential effect on the rest of his arsenal.
Fastball: 45/50/50+ Slider: 45/50/50+ Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 45/50/50 Command: 50/55/60
Medina is a very intriguing young pitcher who has put together a nice body of work across the Phillies’ two Rookie-level affiliates. With a fastball that gets into the mid-90s with ease and good feel for throwing his curve and changeup already, Medina is a guy who could quickly develop into one of the better starting prospects in the system. Still more of an arm than a pitcher, his control is well ahead of his command at present.
His athleticism on the mound and easy arm action is only limited by some slight mechanical things he needs to adjust, but for a young hurler, he’s way ahead of schedule. There’s no reason for the Phillies to rush him, but his first taste of full-season ball could snowball into experience at a couple levels if he stays on the same track. I already like his chances of being a mid-rotation starter because of his stuff and athletic ability, but I’ll wait for him to mature some more to see where his stuff and delivery goes from here.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 40/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40+/50/55
Canelo came out of nowhere to hit for some legitimate power in the South Atlantic League last year. He has always had decent hands and respectable contact rates, and now team sources attribute a dedication to strength training over the past year getting him to drive the ball with a stronger frame. His approach is still pretty raw, and he still doesn’t have the strength or swing to hit for a ton of power in the big leagues, but he has pushed himself close to starter territory. He’s a definite shortstop at the next level, and if you buy what some say is the best defensive skill set in the org at the position, he could be worth even more.
Hit: 35/45/50 Power: 30/35/40 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 60/60/60
Sweeney is easy to overlook as a prospect on a few counts, starting with his age (he’s 25 years old) and relative inexperience in the majors (where he’s recorded fewer than 100 plate appearances). He has plus speed but it plays down a bit on the bases because of his reads. He wasn’t able to stick at shortstop, so now he plays a little of everything. He hits for power, but it’s mostly in the form of doubles. And, on top of that, he struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances last season.
Don’t mistake his versatility on defense for lack of defensive skill, however, or his lack of homers for a bat without pop. Though strikeouts will be a concern because of some swing-and-miss in his game, he has a pretty good swing from both sides. I expect him to continue hitting a lot of doubles, playing average defense in the aggregate, and remaining at least a 55 runner on the bases. Despite the lower contact rates, he does a great job taking his walks, which should help keep his on-base rate close to average as well. If he’s not a starter in the big leagues, he’s going to be pretty close to one.
Hit: 45/45-50/50 Power: 45+/50/50 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Alfaro’s strongest tool is his arm, which he combines with a quick release to make controlling the running game much easier on pitchers. He still has work to do with his receiving, and his pure hitting ability is limited by pitch recognition and contact issues. His floor is still one of a prototypical catcher – good defense with power – but the hope is he has more potential with his bat.
He has great hands at the plate that give him more time than most to track the ball, but he still seems late to pick up where each pitch ends up. Watch him take a pitch and you’ll see when he’s able to decide whether to swing or not. His hands and overall strength help ensure his power will be formidable for a catcher, but even the best swing can’t prop up below-average pitch tracking and contact ability. His defense is ahead of Knapp’s which gives him the leg up overall, but the questions about his on-base ability make them closer than you’d think.
Hit: 40/40/45 Power: 50/55/60 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/50/50 Throw: 70/70/70
Goeddel is the perfect type of acquisition for the Phillies. In an organization without entrenched regulars in the outfield, he’s the type of fringy-tool outfielder who could play his way into a bigger role if given enough of a chance, which the Phillies should be able to offer him this year. Though he hit for more home-run power in Double-A this past year, he’s still more of a gaps hitter with good contact skills. His flat swing makes him a great high-ball hitter, so his ultimate value will depend on how he adjusts to the lower zone and better command in the big leagues. He’s definitely a fun player to keep an eye on, particularly as the top Rule 5 pick this last December.
Hit: 50/50/50+ Power: 40/40-45/45 Run: 55/55/55+ Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 60/60/60
Knapp couldn’t have had a bigger half-season than the one he put up in Double-A Reading. Anytime a catcher hits for a 1.050 OPS with good contact and power, people are going to look at him differently. Being the first time he’s really shown that kind of production, I’m hesitant to ignore how he looks on the field and his greater body of work in the minor leagues. He still has some issues to iron out, but Knapp has undoubtedly moved up the catching depth chart in the organization.
A couple things make me uncomfortable projecting him to build on his Double-A exploits. On the defensive side, he doesn’t project to be better than a below-average backstop, specifically needing work on his receiving, though he does have a solid-average arm.
His swings from both sides of the plate lack the type of lift and athleticism to support a power hitter’s production, like the sort he showed in his 241 Double-A plate appearances. His hands on the left side work pretty well for hitting line drives, but his power will be limited to mistakes in the top half of the zone, since he lacks any real loft to dig out lower pitches.
His right-handed swing is a one-piece move with a much more dramatic downward chop and a poor lower half. Pitches down in the zone and half-decent offspeed pitches will still be hit hard by Knapp, but they’ll be tough enough on him to take away his power unless he can make some improvements.
With defensive questions and a sudden outburst of power, Knapp isn’t the safest catcher to project for high future production, but his numbers demand respect and attention as a prospect. Look for whether he has smoothed out his hands behind the plate, as well as if he can start to drive a wider variety of pitches into the air to all parts of the ballpark.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 35/40/45 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 40/45/45+ Throw: 50/50/55
It took Tocci two and a half years of A-ball at-bats to earn a promotion, and yet he will play almost the entire 2016 season as a 20-year-old. He has the makings of a solid-average bat with a good gap-power swing that he shows better in batting practice, but he’s been so underdeveloped physically that it actually affects how well his swing translates to game pitching. With plus defense and a decent running game, he doesn’t need to do a whole lot with the bat to be a big-league outfielder, so it really depends on him adding the necessary strength while making sure he doesn’t stiffen his actions when he puts on muscle.
Hit: 30/45/50 Power: 30/35/40 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 55/60/60 Throw: 50/50/50
Lively has around average stuff across the board, with his fastball being the biggest reason he has a future as a back-end starter, possibly more. He has a deceptive delivery with a slow-to-fast timing that makes his fastball play higher than the velocity or movement would suggest.
None of his offspeed pitches really stand out, but his command is good enough to eventually get through a big-league lineup a few times an outing, as long as he continues to work off his fastball. Not much upside, but a useful high-floor arm. He gets bonus points for having a pretty good stick, too.
Fastball: 50/55/55-60 Slider: 45/50/50+ Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 45/50/50 Command: 45/50/55
Cozens did well in 2015 to tighten up his swing without losing the ability to drive the ball around the field. He has enough raw strength that continuing his new approach of just squaring balls up will help him tap into his power better than he ever did trying to hit the ball hard. I want to see Cozens prove he can carry his last season’s improvement with his plan and contact before expecting tremendous things out of his bat, but he has raised his realistic ceiling considerably since last year at this time.
Hit: 40/45/55 Power: 45/50/55 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 50/50/55
Hoskins killed it in Single-A and High-A last year, with an OPS over .900 at both levels and few enough strikeouts to make you excited about him doing the same thing at higher levels. Though he was drafted as a right fielder, the consensus now is he will play first base only as he continues to progress. Expecting him to continue posting a BABIP near .370 is probably unreasonable, and his position will require him to keep mashing at a high level to be a true prospect.
Hoskins has a one-piece, one-speed swing with a lot of raw power. He has a nice fly-ball path that will help him consistently tap into his raw power, and he isn’t going to miss much on balls in or up in the zone. Though his future power is relatively assured, even though it’s been mostly doubles in the early going, it puts pressure on his pitch recognition and contact skills to square enough pitches up, given his lack of physical adaptability.
So far he has more than made it work, but I do think his average will come down a good bit as he faces better offspeed stuff. He has the discipline to take his walks, so he still has a higher hit-tool floor than most all-or-nothing sluggers like him. At worst, he profiles as a lefty-mashing platoon bat, though he has demonstrated enough aptitude for getting the bat on the ball that a higher ceiling can’t be discounted.
Hit: 40/45/55 Power: 45/55/60 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 50/50/50
The Phillies’ second-round pick from last year debuted in A-ball with fine results for his first taste of pro ball. He hit for surprising power in his last year at the University of Arizona, and he shows a more power-oriented swing in batting practice. In games, he’s much more direct to the ball with a line-drive approach, and he’s pretty good at making contact. Though it’s unwise to expect him to develop power, the potential is definitely there.
Hit: 35/50/55 Power: 30/35/45 Run: 60/60/65 Field: 45/45/50 Throw: 45/45/45
Cordero showed an improved walk rate in 2015, which is really the only thing keeping him from being a dominant late-inning reliever. His command still isn’t great despite the positive development. Throwing in the triple digits with an average-ish slider is enough to get people excited, but major-league hitters can hit any velocity if it’s left in the middle of the zone. If he can build on last year’s strike-throwing even slightly, we could see him in the Phillies’ big-league pen very soon.
Fastball: 65/70/75 Slider: 45/45+/50 Command: 40/40/45
Valentin has a solid-average hit tool that will give him a big-league role in some form. Considering his ability to play just about anywhere on the field, utility player is a popular tag to throw on him. If he can tap into his fringe-average raw power in the upper minors, that projection could come a lot closer to being a regular at second base. He lost valuable development time last year with a suspension after a domestic abuse incident. He needs the at-bats to hone his hitting ability if he’s going to challenge for a starting role in the next couple years.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 40/40-45/45 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 45/45+/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Eflin is a sinker-baller who should be able to log innings with his strike-throwing and easy delivery. He has decent movement and command on his fastball, but his secondary stuff isn’t at the same level for both marks. His changeup should play around average, though it has flashed higher. If his command can extend to all of his pitches, he may have upside as an innings-eater fifth starter.
Fastball: 50/50/50+ Slider: 40/45/45 Curveball: 40/40/45 Changeup: 45/50/50 Command: 45/50/55
Tirado makes for an interesting bullpen arm, with the Phillies hoping he can learn to command his plus fastball and slider. If he does, he’s in closer territory, but I don’t see enough feel for his release to think he’ll get there. His command doesn’t project to be even below-average, and his stuff isn’t so good that he doesn’t have to worry about it. Still, he is likely at least a flashy middle reliever with some ground ball and strikeout potential.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Slider: 55/60/60+ Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 35/40/40
Ramos’ best chance to make the big-league pen lies with his mid-90s fastball that can reach the upper-90s. An aggressive delivery with some effort adds to the quickness hitters experience facing his heater. He has three offspeed pitches with which he works, though the slider has the best future, flashing above-average at times. He has kept the ball in the zone very well for a minor-league reliever, though there is work to do there to be more than a middle-relief option for the parent club.
Fastball: 60/60+/65 Slider: 45/45+/50Curveball: 40/45/45 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 40/45/45
Imhof dealt with biceps tendinitis in his shoulder for the first half of the season in 2015 and struggled with his command when he came back. With an average-at-best pitch collection, his command will have to be the carrying skill to keep him in the rotation. A high overhand delivery with shoulder issues isn’t a comforting combination, but there’s just enough athleticism to think he could still be a back-end starter.
Fastball: 45/50/50 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45/45/50
Contact issues threaten to deaden his future as a big-league outfielder, but the tools are hard to ignore. He shows plus raw power in batting practice and has the swing to back it up. Though consistent contact is the biggest developmental need for him, he did well to increase his walk rate and reduce his strikeout rate once he came back from a hand injury he suffered early in the year. Right field should remain his long-term home, putting the onus on his bat to produce enough to reach the majors.
Hit: 25/40/45 Power: 35/50/55+ Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/50/50 Throw: 55/55/55
Arano has a chance for three average or better pitches, and a high enough floor that he should be valuable in some capacity to a major-league staff. His slider is notable more for his ability to spot it than its sharp movement, and it plays up because of similar arm speed and release to his fastball. Not an exciting prospect, but one that has enough present and potential value to slip into the back end of the list.
Fastball: 50/55/55+ Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45/50+/55
Most likely ending up in the pen, Pivetta complements a solid low- to mid-90s fastball with a below-average changeup and fringy curve. He will need to command the ball better than in his stint with the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate to progress further, let alone stay in the rotation. It’s difficult to imagine a big jump in that department or with his offspeed effectiveness, but there’s enough in his kit to see middle reliever or spot starter in a couple years.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/45+ Command: 40/45/45
With regard to those clubs which find themselves in a rebuilding phase, it’s frequently suggested that the best course of action is to “throw things at the wall” in order to “see what sticks.” This was the case for the Houston Astros teams of 2013 and -14, for example, and is also the case for the current iteration of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Cedric Hunter is the sort of player who ought to be thrown (lovingly and with the best intentions) at a wall. Originally selected out of a Georgia high school in the third round of the 2006 draft, the 28-year-old outfielder has recorded nearly 5,000 minor-league plate appearances and just five major-league ones. But there’s a non-negligible collection of skills here: above-average contact ability, some speed, some power. Hunter probably can’t be expected to field center field at an average level, but he’s also a candidate to provide positive returns in left or right.
Signed as a free agent in January after a couple seasons in the Atlanta system, Hunter is well positioned to receive his sixth major-league plate appearance — and even, perhaps, exhaust his rookie eligibility — following a spring injury to Aaron Altherr. It’s improbable he ultimately deserves much more than a bench role, but the Phillies are the precise club to perform the requisite due diligence.
In conclusion, here’s footage of Hunter both (a) exhibiting his wonderful, flamboyant swing and (b) recording a home run this past August:
Lower-level hitters: 1B Kyle Martin (VIDEO) had a decent debut in A-ball after being the Phillies’ fourth-round pick. He is a solid hitter with around average power, mostly to his pull side, and at any other position he would make it onto the list. OF Cord Sandberg (VIDEO) has some contact ability and the bat speed that could lead to average power, but a flat swing plane limits its utility and potential. Stuck in left field defensively, the best he can hope for is a fourth outfield role if everything clicks. C Deivi Grullon (VIDEO) is regarded as a great defensive catcher because of his strong arm, but his receiving isn’t quite up to par. Add in contact issues and enough questions about his bat to cast doubt on even a backup projection, and Grullon has work to do to get on the main list.
OF Jhailyn Ortiz (VIDEO) is a big, powerful kid who is all potential and little present feel for hitting. He has some positive qualities going for his swing, and he has huge potential raw power, but he’s pretty immature in terms of body control and barrel awareness and likely limited to first base long-term. Big-time ceiling, but a low floor as well. 3B Lucas Williams (VIDEO) showed off solid plate-discipline skills in Rookie ball after being drafted in the third round last year, but he has a slight build and doesn’t project to grow into a ton of power. 2B Josh Tobias (VIDEO) has a quick bat, makes contact and shows gap-power potential. He needs some time to develop his approach and second-base defense, but he has some upside in every category.
Upper-level pitchers: RHP Yacksel Rios (VIDEO) isn’t highly regarded in the prospect world, but with a low- to mid-90s sinking fastball, three usable offspeed pitches, and potential above-average command, he is someone to watch in the early going this season. A decent AFL stint and an even better showing last year in High-A could be a sign of things to come. RHP Severino Gonzalez (VIDEO) has below-average stuff and average command. He could eat up innings in the rotation in a pinch or out of the bullpen, but lacks a pitch to consistently get big-league hitters out. RHP John Richy (VIDEO) came over in the Chase Utley deal with the Dodgers. He has average stuff and throws strikes, but lacks projection on account of an efforted arm action and below-average command. He could still develop into a back-end starter.
LHP Daniel Stumpf (VIDEO) throws hard and put up solid numbers in the minors. Might be a decent lefty matchup guy or sixth/seventh inning type if command and/or one of his offspeed pitches improves. Fairly standard Rule 5 pick.
Lower-level pitchers: It’s hard to bet against a young lefty with command and some feel, but I just don’t think LHP Elniery Garcia (VIDEO) has enough projection with his curveball and changeup to be able to get big-league hitters out. He doesn’t look natural enough on the release of his offspeed offerings to see room for improvement, though his strike-throwing should be enough to get him into the upper minors.