The Phillies are an easy target for the Internet and you’d expect the system to not be very strong, given the way the organization is characterized online. The system isn’t great and the production from the draft hasn’t been very strong, which is a big reason why they recently hired a new scouting director.
It is worth pointing out that the Latin program is propping up the system right now, despite not having huge budgets, producing 6 of the top 16 prospects in the system. Of the other ten, one is from a trade, eight were first or second round picks and the last one was a third round pick. The Latin program run by Sal Agostinelli is propping up a system that only stands out right now because of two recent first round picks in Crawford and Nola.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including a five-part on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is at the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the growth assets that the Philies have in the majors that aren’t eligible for the list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next in the series are the Rays.
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
The Phillies have finally admitted that they’re in full-on rebuilding mode, and now their task is to try and turn some of their veterans into building blocks for the future. With few good young assets in the big leagues, the team looks to be several years away from contenting again, but their revenue streams give them a significant advantage; if they hit on just a few prospects in trade, they should have the financial resources to ramp back up pretty quickly once things are headed in the right direction. Turning the ship around is the hard part, and Ruben Amaro needs to not screw up that aspect this winter.
50+ FV Prospects
1. J.P. Crawford, SS
Current Level/Age: Hi-A/19.9, 6’2/187, L/R
Drafted: 16th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of a California HS by PHI for $2.299 million bonus
Hit: 20/55, Raw Power: 45/50, Game Power: 20/45+, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: J.P. Crawford is a cousin of Carl Crawford but you could just watch J.P. play and already know he’s a premium athlete without knowing about his bloodlines. Crawford is a plus runner with smooth hands, good range and an above average arm, giving him a very good chance to stick at shortstop long-term. Some scouts suggest he could be above average defensively and the Phillies pointed out a few areas (backhand, not circling every ball) where he’s improved since signing.
Crawford has some pop and will add some muscle (he’s already added about 10 lbs. since turning pro), so scouts knew he would be a player with some pop that could hit 15-18 per year if he fully fills out and gets to all of his power in games. The question on Crawford was if he would make enough contact. In high school, he loaded his hands very high and deep and, combined with his longer limbs, it created length to his swing. He had a power hitter’s swing approach and shouldn’t be that sort of player, so a hand position adjustment was necessary.
Crawford has shifted his load lower, but still keeps his hands relatively deep. He has plus bat speed, which appears to have improved in pro ball, and the feel for his swing to stay inside the ball, rather than hooking and creating length by trying to pull the ball. He’s now focused on his timing and when his foot his the ground, in an effort to keep his longer limbs in sync consistently.
Summation: Scouts are pleasantly surprised by how well Crawford has hit since turning pro and he’s now on the fast track. He turns 20 soon and will get a taste of Double-A next year, possibly to start the year, with a 2016 big league cup of coffee in range if Crawford keeps progressing.
Upside: .280/.350/.440, 15-18 homers, above average defense & baserunning
FV/Risk: 60, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Hi-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA, 2017: AAA/MLB
2. Maikel Franco, 3B
Current Level/Age: MLB/22.3, 6’1/210, R/R
Signed: IFA on January 13, 2010 out of Dominican Republic by PHI for $100,000 bonus
Hit: 40/50, Raw Power: 60/60, Game Power: 50/60, Run: 30/30, Field: 40/45+, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Franco signed out of the Dominican in January 2010 and became more physical after signing, turning into a real prospect. His breakout was in 2013, between High-A and Double-A, when he went from a high contact hitter with some raw power to a monster hitting over .300 with 30 homers between two levels. Franco is limited physically by his slow feet and will never be more than fringy at third base, but has the plus arm and good hands to figure out a way to make it work over there. The ultimate fit is likely first base, but that’s years away.
Franco’s raw power is plus and should play up in Philly’s stadium, but Franco;s ultimate projection comes down to what kind of hitter he wants to be. Franco has the plus bat control and bat speed to square up a lot of pitches and he hasn’t struck out in over 15% of his plate appearances at any full-season level. That said, his plate discipline is a little suspect and his swing can get out of control at times. There’s always a question as to whether this type of hitter will just keep succeeding in the big leagues or be forced to make some adjustments when reaching for that curveball turns from a bloop hit into a swinging strikeout a couple too many times. The tools are here for a 50+ bat with 60 game power, which would fit everyday at third base or first base.
Summation: There was a bit of an adjustment period in the big leagues for Franco: AAA pitchers gave him much more trouble this year than High-A and AA pitchers did in 2013, so this was a bit expected. The Phillies think Franco will learn to stop getting himself out in the next year or two and that adjustment will dictate what kind of career he will have. If he breaks with the big league club should come down to his and Cody Asche’s performances in the spring and if Ryan Howard is still on the roster.
Upside: .270/.330/.470, 22-25 homers
FV/Risk: 55, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB
3. Aaron Nola, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/21.5, 6’1/195, R/R
Drafted: 7th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of LSU by PHI for $3.3 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 50/60, Changeup: 50/60, Command: 45/55
Scouting Report: Nola was a smaller righty that threw 85-88 mph from a low slot with some feel in high school, then he exploded onto the scene at LSU, throwing 91-94 mph as a sophomore and hitting 96 mph pretty often in his draft year. Nola creates above average life on his fastball and changeup with the spin he puts on the ball from the low slot; normally this means he would have trouble throwing a breaking ball but Nola’s three-quarter tilt curve flashes plus just like his fastball and changeup.
The other concern the low 3/4 slinging slot creates is injuries and left handed hitters seeing the ball too clearly. Nola’s plus changeup does the heavy lifting here and his above average command and aggressive approach helps him keep hitters off balance. He’s never been hurt before and while his stuff was a tick worse after signing, that’s expected with pitchers throwing the longest year of their young careers. Nola fits in my freak theory that I’ve discussed in other places: he’s double-jointed, has never been hurt, has an amazing feel to pitch and is smaller than every other successful big league starter that throws from that slot (Madison Bumgarner, Carlos Zambrano and Justin Masterson are all 6’5 or 6’6).
Summation: All three pitches were more 50-55 after signing, but showed flashes of 60 on the right night, so there doesn’t appear to be a reason for concern. If Nola comes out performing in 2015 like he did at LSU, he could be in the big leagues before September, but it’s always good to see an unconventional pitcher succeed in pro ball a bit before I go all in. That being said, I had Nola 5th on my 2014 draft board, one spot ahead of #2 overall pick Tyler Kolek, so I’m already higher on him than most (and almost put him ahead of Franco for this list).
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Low (2 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB
45 FV Prospects
NOTE: While the 55 FV for Nola and 45 FV for Imhof make appear to suggest they are somewhat close in prospect status, they are not. Nola is a borderline 60 and Imhof wouldn’t be the top 45 FV in almost any other system. This is an enormous gap; you could shuffle most of the names from here on down in a lot of different orders.
4. Matt Imhof, LHP Video: Imhof certainly isn’t your typical 2nd round pick: the 6’5/220 lefty has three solid average pitches and above average command and deception from a funky crossfire delivery. His stuff may flash 55 on the right day, but Imhof isn’t a stuff guy. His numbers have always been fantastic and he’s young for his college class, just turning 21 in October and he’ll go to High-A for his age-21 season. The Phillies made some minor delivery adjustments with him, but this is a guy you don’t want to tweak too much, at least until he fails, which hasn’t happened yet.
5. Jesse Biddle, LHP Video: Biddle was a 1st rounder out of a local Philadelphia high school in 2010 and has had an up-and-down minor league career. The 6’5/220 lefty put a lot of pressure on himself being the highly touted hometown kid, and, after a bizarre concussion from a hailstorm in May, had some mental struggles that followed him onto the field in 2014 at Double-A. He went to the Puerto Rican Winter League to regain confidence and get some innings, but got a sore elbow after a few outings and was shut down. When he’s right, Biddle sits 89-92 and hits 94 mph with am above average curveball and changeup that flashes above average. His delivery and command have been wavering in recent years and he has no plus pitch, so he’s more of a potential back-end starter that needs to get back on track next year.
6. Yoel Mecias, LHP Video: Mecias was in the middle of a breakout 2013 campaign when his elbow popped; he returned late in 2014 from Tommy John surgery. The athletic 6’2/160 lefty hasn’t lost any of his stuff: he sat 91-93 and hit 95 at his best before the injury and is already up to 93 mph afterwards. His changeup is above average and his curveball is still a third pitch, more below average to fringy now, but there are flashes of average. He shows the requisite starter traits you want to see at his age and Mecias should spend his age-21 season in High-A.
7. Deivi Grullon, C Video: Grullon turns 19 next February, he’s a glove-first backstop and the offensive level of catchers in the big leagues is very low, so you have to evaluate him in that context. In the video, you can see Grullon is leaning back and barring out with his lead arm, fooled on each of the off-speed pitches he’s facing. He has a mature frame, can get pull-happy and isn’t a runner but oh boy can he defend. He’s got at least a 70 arm and the tools to be an above average defender; he’s making progress on the finer points like learning English and calling a game. Grullon is facing pitchers much older than him, but with his defensive chops, a .240 hitter with 8 homers is probably still a low-end starter.
8. Roman Quinn, CF Video: The 5’10/170 Quinn was a 2nd rounder out of a Florida panhandle high school in 2011 that hit right handed at the time and, as an 80 runner, had multiple high level D1 football offers. He signed for $775,000 and started switch-hitting full-time in pro ball for the first time. Quinn started at shortstop but moved to center field this year in part because he wasn’t getting enough reps to make progress in the infield, due to multiple injuries, including a torn achilles last fall. Most scouts now prefer his swing from the left side and he predictably doesn’t have much raw power, but more than you’d expect given his size. Quinn would be well served to focus more on putting the ball on the ground and letting his speed play, as he hits the ball in the air too often given his skill set. The Phillies like his makeup and think moving to center will give him more time to focus on his offensive game, but scouts are dubious that he has enough feel to hit to make the most of his tools, seeing more of a speed demon reserve.
9. Dylan Cozens, RF Video: The 6’6/235 lefty was recruited to play defensive end at Arizona before he turned pro out of high school as a 2nd rounder in 2013. His size/long arms will obviously create some contact issues and Cozens didn’t have a lot of reps on the showcase circuit in high school, so he’s just now getting used to facing pro pitching. He’s fluid and direct enough at the plate to give him a chance to make contact when he’s fooled and he projects for plus raw power to all fields, so the offensive upside is tempting. Cozens has a middle-of-the-field, power-focused approach and some trouble with off-speed stuff; he’ll always strike out but he needs to hone his approach. He’s a right fielder for now with an above average arm and fringy speed, but he’s rough defensively and may move to first base as he develops. There are concerns about the confrontation with his high school coach that got Cozens kicked off his team in his draft year, but the Phillies have no complaints since he turned pro. He’s one of the most exciting prospects in the system and the switch could flick on at any point, as he’s racking up the at bats to catch up with his one-sport peers.
10. Kelly Dugan, RF Video: The Dugan family is most known for Kelly’s father Dennis, who is a director that’s been involved in multiple Adam Sandler movies. Dugan went in the 2nd round out of high school in 2009 but isn’t even the most notable baseball alum from Southern California’s Notre Dame High School, with Giancarlo Stanton eclipsing him in that regard. Dugan is a 6’3/195, athletic lefty bat with classic right field tools that he’s slowly grown into: a smooth swing with solid average raw power, average speed and an above average arm. He’s just growing into his frame on the field but has missed a lot of developmental time with various injuries, including a broken bone in his foot late in 2014. Dugan showed the ability to make offensive adjustments this year, making more contact in exchange for game power. He looks like a sure big leaguer, but it’s unclear if he’ll have enough offensive impact to be an everyday player.
11. Victor Arano, RHP Video: The 6’2/200 Arano was the prize in last summer’s deal that sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers, who found another solid prospect from the same Mexican club they bought LHP Julio Urias from the year before. The trade was so late that Arano only pitched for the Phillies in instructs, but he impressed. In the outing I saw, he sat 90-93 mph with a solid-average two-plane slider that can sometimes turn into a fringy to average curveball at lower velocities. Arano has been up to 95 mph in the past and I didn’t see a changeup, but I’m told it’s shown flashes of average at times. He’ll turn 20 just before the season starts and will go to High-A. Arano has performed well so far with strong peripherals and groundball rates, so he could get to his back-end starter upside sooner than some of his peers.
40 FV Prospects
12. Zach Green, 3B Video: The 6’3/210 Green was a 3rd rounder in 2012 out of a NorCal high school and is still learning to tap into his potential plus raw power at the plate. He showed improvement in Low-A in 2014 at age 20, but there’s still some contact issues due to spotty plate discipline. His 2014 was abbreviated due to leg/back problems stemming from one leg being shorter than the other, which is now fixed via orthotics. The Phillies think he may have the best makeup in the system he has some of the elements to stick at third base (above average arm and good hands), but he’s a below average runner with limited range; he likely slides over to first base at some point with a longshot chance in the outfield.
13. Franklyn Kilome, RHP: The super-projectable 6’6/175 Kilome was a complete unknown that popped up this year in the GCL, sitting 87-90 in some early appearances, eventually working up to 90-93 and hitting 94 mph in instructs this fall. He already flashes an above average slider and average changeup. He has some feel to command his stuff and also has broadness to his frame, so he could add a lot of strength and potentially velocity as well. Everyone that’s seem Kilome pitch raves about his upside: he could become almost anything in the next few years.
14. Ricardo Pinto, RHP: The 20-year-old Venezuelan righty stood out this year in the New York-Penn League versus older competition and he’ll get a taste of full-season ball in 2015, possibly starting the season in High-A. He’s only 6’0/170, but scouts described Pinto as “having huge balls” and being “mean as shit.” By the end of the year, he was sitting 91-94 and hitting 95 mph with an above average changeup and slider that flashes average, but is still inconsistent.
15. Andrew Knapp, C Video: Knapp was the 53rd overall pick in 2013 out of Cal as a right fielder with some experience behind the plate that the Phillies wanted to make a full-time catcher. His elbow popped in instructs last fall and he got Tommy John surgery, slowly easing into full reps behind the plate this year in Low-A at age 22. Knapp is a switch-hitter and his bat is ahead of his glove by a good margin, though he hasn’t tapped into his solid average raw power yet in games. His arm is fringy right now, but the Phillies expect it to get back to or close to the 55 arm he had before surgery. Knapp has the tools to catch but still needs some work, particularly with his feet, but the Phillies are confident he has the mindset to take on the task.
16. Severino Gonzalez, RHP Video: Gonzalez signed out of Panama for $14,000 in 2011 at age 18, then shot through the Phillies system on the heels of a velo spike, reaching Double-A at age 20. He’s only 6’1/155 and the stuff isn’t big, but the command and feel to pitch are enough that Gonzalez could become a 5th starter. The Phillies took away his cutter to help him develop his changeup, but Gonzalez will get it back for 2015 and the Phillies expect his numbers to improve after a tough 2014 campaign. The big lesson he learned in Double-A was that pitching backwards and throwing off-speed pitches out of the zone doesn’t work with his stuff against advanced hitters, but he appears to have made the adjustment. Gonzalez sits 88-91 and hits 93 mph with a fringy to average curve, slider and changeup but above average command. There’s some projection to his skinny frame, so there could be more velocity and durability in the tank, with one scout comparing him to Rodrigo Lopez.
17. Cord Sandberg, LF Video: The 6’3/215 Sandberg was a four-star dual-threat quarterback commit to Mississippi State with Tim Tebow comparisons, but he turned pro in baseball for $775,000 in the 3rd round in 2013. Due to football, Sandberg had limited at bats versus top arms on the showcase circuit and is just now getting that experience in pro ball, with an expected full-season debut next year at age 20. For someone with his dual-threat QB background, Sandberg doesn’t run (solid average) or throw (fringy) particularly well. He’s a left-field fit with solid average raw power from the left side, so he’ll have to hit to profile everyday. He showed some signs of turning the corner in instructs but Sandberg is yet to break out in the regular season; he’ll need to produce in 2015 to stay on this list next year.
18. Jesmuel Valentin, 2B Video: Valentin, son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, was acquired from the Dodgers this summer in the Roberto Hernandez deal, along with Arano. The 5’9/180 Valentin was a sandwich round pick of a Puerto Rican high school, but doesn’t have the flashy tools you might expect. He has a steady lefty bat, good feel for the strike zone and at least average defense at second base but below average speed and raw power. He didn’t play much shortstop in high school since his teammate was Carlos Correa and scouts don’t think he an option there long-term even as a backup. Scouts that use the 2-8 scale for overall prospect grades often say that a non-shortstop utility infielder that’s a 4 (backup) is actually a 3 (up/down MLB filler) since there isn’t room on a big league roster for a backup second baseman; Valentin is right in this area and he’ll have to hit his way out of it
19. Aaron Brown, RF Video: Brown was a highly-coveted two-way standout in high school but his rawness and price tag pushed him to Pepperdine, where he became the Phillies 3rd rounder last June. Brown has a legit backup plan on the mound with a potential 55 fastball/slider combo, an average changeup and enough feel to try him as a starter. In a split situation, a prospect normally goes out as a hitter and Brown has the tools to entice as a bat: plus raw power from the left side to go with fringy speed, good defensive instincts and an above average arm. He has good bat speed and some feel to hit, but the approach has always been a problem, due in part to an inconsistent timing mechanism; 7 walks and 60 strikeouts in his pro debut (versus younger competition) suggests it’s still a problem.
20. Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Video: Gonzalez is a 28-year-old Cuban defector whose first season in the states was 2014. He initially signed for six years and $48 million last offseason before alleged shoulder issues in his medical led to a marked-down three year deal worth $12 million. He sits 91-93 mph as a starter and a tick better in relief, mixing in a slurve, cutter and splitter that all grade around average, while the command is a bit below. He’ll have a chance to break camp in the rotation, but it’s more likely he ends up as a 7th/8th inning multi-inning relief type.
21. Carlos Tocci, CF Video: Tocci has had a high profile most of his career due to his feel to hit and the $759,000 bonus in 2011 he got as one of the top Venezuelan bats in his July 2nd class. He’s still young and has been young for his level each year (he’ll go to High-A next year at age 19), but hasn’t OPSed over .629 in any of his three pro seasons, due to a lack of strength in his 6’2/160 frame. The Phillies are making a concerted effort to put weight on him this offseason after seeing where his raw talent would take him in prior years. He’s a plus runner and defender in center field with great instincts and feel for the bat head, though his approach is still too aggressive and right now he can’t punish mistake pitches.
22. Elniery Garcia, LHP Video: Garcia took a step forward this year, showing slightly better stuff and more starter traits. The 19-year-old Dominican lefty sits 89-92 mph with limited projection and a solid average changeup that he doesn’t throw enough. Garcia prefers his slider and curveball, which both only flash average every now and then, but he has enough feel to project as a possible back-end guy and he should get a taste of full-season ball in 2015.
23. Nefi Ogando, RHP Video: Ogando was acquired from Boston on August 31, 2013 for John McDonald and is pretty straightforward, recognizable relief type: the high-90’s flamethrower with an average slider and just okay command. I saw him recently in the AFL and he sat 95-99 mph with a short, hard 89-90 mph cutter/slider. He should go to AAA next year and is limited to a 7th inning type upside, but a slight command improvement is all that’s needed to become a contributor.
24. Andrew Pullin, 2B Video: Pullin was a low-profile prep product that went in the 5th round in the 2012 draft and has delivered well so far on his grinder-type, offensive second baseman profile. The former outfielder has taken well to the new position and all five tools project as fringy or average, with the bat possibly ending up above average.
Willians Astudillo, Batsman
Astudillo’s flaws as a prospect are obvious merely by means of visual evidence. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 180-something pounds — but also probably less and more than that, respectively — Astudillo has a body type that might best be described as “amorphous.” It’s an uncommon shape for a ballplayer. But Astudillo is a physical outlier in another, less obvious way, too — which is to say, he features curiously excellent hand-eye coordination. In 2014, for example, he featured the lowest strikeout rate among all qualified hitters in affiliated baseball while playing for Class-A Lakewood. Steamer projects him to post, in 2015, the third-lowest strikeout rate in the majors (or the minor-league equivalent) among all hitters everywhere. His physical limitations preclude him from playing nearly any defensive position, but his offensive skills — if not likely to be the most productive — are certainly among the most notable.
Others of Note
As mentioned above, the Phillies Latin program has done a great job under Sal Agostinelli and they have a fresh crop of intriguing bats in the lower levels that could jump onto this list early next season. 1B Luis Encarnacion (Video $1 million bonus from 2013 July 2nd class and young for his class but will be bat-only, so plus raw power needs to show up in games), SS Arquimedes Gamboa (Video top July 2nd signing this year for $900,000 is 55-60 runner that can stick at position but no enormous tools), SS Grenny Cumana (tiny 5’5/145 shortstop is a 70 runner with a 60 arm and an advanced glove; there’s no power but he knows what he is and he’s exciting), LF Carlos Duran (like two players in the next paragraph, another lanky 55 runner with 4th outfielder profile, some pop and some feel to hit), RF Jose Pujols (Video lanky 6’3/180 kid is all projection, but plus power is there with right field profile and lots of swing and miss), SS Daniel Brito ($650,000 bonus this year out of Venezuela: very skinny kid that is solid at short with feel to hit from the left side) and SS Jonathan Arauz ($600,000 bonus to third notable shortstop in this year’s July 2nd class could be a sleeper: Panamanian shortstop has great hands and 50-55 tools across the board)
Other bats to watch in the system include RF Aaron Altherr (Video last cut from the list has lost his prospect luster: above average speed and raw power in a 4th outfielder type profile but had massive contact issues in Double-A due in part to long 6’5/220 frame), RF Cameron Perkins (Video average across the board with a funky swing and a 4th outfielder profile that’s a lankier 6’5/195 and could hit his way into a big league role), C Cameron Rupp (Video husky 6’2/250 backstop offers very little at the plate but is steady receiver with a plus arm and already has big league time) and RF Rhys Hoskins (Video 2014 college draftee has above average raw power and right field profile but swing is a little stiff)
Things are a little thinner of the pitching side of things, but the names to watch there are RHP Ethan Martin (55-60 stuff, huge command/delivery issues; found consistency late in season, will go to Venezuelan Winter League to try to re-find it), RHP Colton Murray (Video somewhat generic upper level reliever has 55-60 fastball and 50-55 slider that could work in 7th inning role), RHP Chris Oliver (Video 2014 4th rounder from Arkansas had huge command issues after signing and was enigma in college: plus fastball up to 97 mph, above average breaker, average changeup), RHP Sam McWilliams (6’7/190 righty popped up late at Tennessee high school for 2014 draft, sits 90-92 and hits 95 mph but still pretty rough) and LHP Brandon Leibrandt (6’4/190 lefty was 2014 pick from FSU, is son of former big leaguer Charlie and had leg injury in draft year, but stuff ticked up to touch low 90’s with above average off-speed).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.