Relief pitcher Justin De Fratus of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Phillies Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Trevor May, RHP, Grade B+: I almost went with an A- here and may revise this. Command remains erratic, but huge strikeout rate is a big positive and he's made progress with his secondary pitches. Looks like a workhorse.
2) Jesse Biddle, LHP, Grade B+: Not as overpowering as May currently, but has a high ceiling of his own and can develop into a number two starter in my view. I'd like to see him lower the walk rate, but overall he's doing just fine. Reports of improved curveball are promising.
3) Sebastian Valle, C, Grade B-: Scouting reports remain more impressive than the numbers and his plate discipline needs work, but he's got good potential on both sides of the ball and is just 21.
4) Brody Colvin, RHP, Grade B-: Went backwards in 2011, dogged by mechanical problems and a back injury, but upside remains quite high and I will cut him some slack for now.
5) Larry Greene, OF, Grade B-: Huge power, although reports differ about how polished the rest of his bat is and we have no pro data yet. Wanna dream? Think Ryan Howard with enough mobility to play the outfield. Stock will shoot higher next year if that is remotely accurate.
6) Justin De Fratus, RHP, Grade B-: Grading relievers is always problematic, but he's overpowering and ready to help now.
7) Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Grade B-: Command still needs some work, but between Aumont and De Fratus there are two potential closers here.
8) Julio Rodriguez, RHP, Grade B-: Scouting reports remain mixed and he doesn't have the physical upside of the pitchers ahead of him, but his statistics are outstanding. This is not some college guy tricking younger hitters: he didn't turn 21 until late August. I'm a believer.
9) Michael Schwimer, RHP, Grade C+: Between Schwimer, De Fratus, and Aumont, the Phillies have plenty of right-handed relief options. The others guys are younger so they rank a tad ahead grade-wise.
10) Maikel Franco, 3B, Grade C+: His .287/.367/.411 line at Williamsport may not look that great, but his OPS was 14 percent better than league average, he was just 18 years old, scouts give him good reviews, and he has a sound glove. He could break through in a big way in '12.
11) Roman Quinn, INF, Grade C+: Speed demon, has some pop as well, intriguing second round pick. The obvious comparison is Jimmy Rollins. We need to see how his tools pan out in actual games, but his ceiling is quite high.
12) Austin Wright, LHP, Grade C+: This is an aggressive ranking but I'm playing a hunch here. I have been keeping track of this guy since he was in high school in Illinois. Erratic in college, he was excellent in his pro debut, with better-than-expected command of a plus fastball and breaking ball. He's big, throws hard, threw strikes this year, and the Phillies have helped similar pitchers succeed. If he maintains this progress he'll rank quite highly next year.
13) Perci Garner, RHP, Grade C+: High-ceiling arm from '10 draft, pitched well in limited action in the New York-Penn League. Former quarterback is inexperienced for a college pitcher, but impressive upside.
14) Lisalberto Bonilla, RHP, Grade C+: Excellent performance metrics in Low-A, doesn't burn radar guns but throws strikes with fastball, slider, and changeup, keeps the ball down.
15) Jon Pettibone, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eater type with good control of average stuff, fine year in High-A although strikeout rates not that impressive. I have nothing objective to back this up but I like him better than the numbers say I should.
16) Austin Hyatt, RHP, Grade C+: Another guy with so-so velocity, but has a terrific changeup and posted excellent component ratios in Double-A. Older prospect at age 25, but another one who could be a useful inning-eater.
17) Freddy Galvis, SS, Grade C: Everyone loves the glove but I remain skeptical about the bat. Other sources will likely rank him higher, but he looks like a utility guy to me.
18), SS, Grade C: Greene was just an 11th round pick but his tools are quite impressive, he runs well, has power potential, shows strong throwing arm, has a chance to remain at shortstop. Needs adjustments to his swing, but upside is considerable. On pure tools he would rank as high as 12 but I want to see him above rookie ball.
19) Mitchell Walding, SS, Grade C: Another pick from 2011 draft, in the fifth round. Bat is highly-regarded but he hasn't played yet, and faces a positional switch. Like Greene and Quinn, his stock has the potential to be much higher a year from now.
20) Jiwan James, OF, Grade C: The Phillies have lots of toolsy outfielders and James is my favorite of the group for no particularly objective reason. Power hasn't developed but I'll give him another year. Other tools types include Aaron Altherr, Zach Collier, Kelly Dugan, Gauntlett Eldemire, Kyrell Hudson, and of course Anthony Hewitt. All of these guys face uphill battles with the bat.
21) Joe Savery, LHP, Grade C: Looks like a nice LOOGY to me, but that's better than being an A-ball first baseman or being released, which are his other options. Good salvage job here.
OTHERS: Aaron Altherr, Garett Claypool, RHP; Tyler Cloyd, RHP; Zach Collier, OF; Kelly Dugan, OF; Gauntlett Eldemire, OF; Harold Garcia, 2B; Kenny Giles, RHP; Tyson Gillies, OF; Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Ervis Manzanillo, LHP; Harold Martinez, 3B; Bryan Morgado, LHP; Adam Morgan, LHP; Colton Murray, RHP; Mike Nesseth, RHP; Cody Overbeck, 1B; Matt Rizzotti, 1B; Darin Ruf, 1B; Ethan Stewart, LHP; Carlos Tocci, OF.
Everyone talks about how the Phillies love tools players on the hitting side and physical pitchers on the mound, and they do focus on those things. But there is more to the farm system than just the athletes. They also mix in polished college players in the middle and later rounds most years, which adds some depth to the system and gives the tools guys someone to learn from. Although they don't dump huge sums into big-bonus Latin American lottery tickets, they don't ignore the area and usually have a steady talent flow from Venezuela and the Dominican.
I'm not really into Harold Garcia and Cesar Hernandez, but you can make a case to rank them more highly than I do, depending on how you want to balance offense and defense. I think they can all be fine utility players but I have doubts they will hit enough to get beyond that.
Graduations and trades have thinned this system out, but there are still a lot of things to like. Several of the Grade C guys are players from the 2011 draft who have higher potential but need to play, so this list could look much stronger next year once we see how they pan out. I'm not convinced that any of the toolsy outfielders are going to amount to much, and they need to start hitting or the new additions will pass them.