Philadelphia Phillies Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) J.P. Crawford, SS, Grade A-: Age 20, hit combined .285/.375/.406 with 11 homers, 24 steals between Low-A and High-A. Fine defensive tools, sound contact hitter with developing gap power, young, athletic, strong makeup. One of the top shortstop prospects in baseball without question.
2) Aaron Nola, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick out of LSU, posted 2.93 ERA with 45/10 K/BB in 55 innings in pro debut between High-A and Double-A. Advanced college pitcher will need little time in the minors thanks to sharp command of 92-95 fastball, slider, change-up. Excellent pitchability and confidence, number two starter potential.
3) Maikel Franco, 3B, Grade B+: Age 22, slow start in Triple-A but heated up as summer progressed, hit .257/.299/.428 with 16 homers for Lehigh Valley, .179/.190/.214 in 56 at-bats in the majors. Will need adjustment time but overall track record keeps him in premium prospect territory. Glove is under-rated.
4) Ben Lively, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, acquired from Reds for Marlon Byrd, posted 3.04 ERA with 171/52 K/BB in 151 innings, 117 hits between High-A and Double-A. Low-90s fastball, slider, curve, change, none of his pitches are outstanding but they are all solid and he usually throws strikes. Deceptive but repeatable delivery plays everything up. Number three starter potential and a personal favorite for this analyst.
5) Jesse Biddle, LHP, Grade B/Borderline B-: Age 23, posted 5.03 ERA with 80/44 K/BB in 82 innings in Double-A. Was pitching decently early in the year but was struck in the head by a large piece of hail during a thunderstorm in late May, giving him a concussion. He tried to pitch through the neurological damage with disastrous results and was eventually sent down to extended spring training to recuperate. Some sources have questioned his mental fortitude, but it is completely unfair to criticize Biddle for not pitching well under those conditions. You can't makeup your way out of a concussion. He should have never been rushed back in the first place. He gets an injury mulligan from me; concussion sufferers stick together.
6) Zach Eflin, RHP, Grade B/Borderline B-: Age 20, posted 3.80 ERA in 128 innings in Cal League, 138 hits. Acquired from Padres in Jimmy Rollins deal. Potential number three starter with low-90s fastball, change-up, curve, gets grounders. Somewhat hittable and projects more as a workhorse than an ace, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
7) Roman Quinn, OF-INF, Grade B-: Age 21, hit .257/.343/.370 with 38 walks, 32 steals in 327 at-bats in High-A. Renowned for outstanding speed, lacks power and needs to boost on-base skills for speed to maximize value at higher levels. Power questionable.
8) Jesmuel Valentin, 2B, Grade B-: Age 20, acquired from Dodgers last summer in Roberto Hernandez trade, hit .273/.341/.412 with 25 steals in 451 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. Solid tools across the board, has made progress with hitting, could develop more power in time, works well at second base. Under-rated prospect who deserves more notice.
9) Matt Imhof, LHP, Grade B-: Age 20, second round pick out of Cal Poly, posted 2.98 ERA with 40/11 K/BB in 42 innings in pro debut at three levels, 40 hits. Classic finesse southpaw with 87-91 heat, curve, change-up, nothing spectacular but knows how to pitch and probably won’t need long in the minors. Potential fourth starter due to command.
10) Kelly Dugan, OF, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 24, hit .296/.383/.435 in 253 at-bats in Double-A, playing time limited by an oblique injury. Lefty hitter with power, effective defense at either corner. Often overlooked but this is a toolsy outfielder who has actually developed well. Should get a trial sometime this year.
11) Aaron Brown, OF, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 22, drafted in third round out of Pepperdine where he was also an excellent pitcher. Phillies want him to hit due to left-side power and overall tools, hit .268/.310/.383 with seven walks, 60 strikeouts in 235 pro at-bats. Impressive power, 20-homer potential but his approach has serious holes currently and he must improve sense for the zone. Could return to pitching if necessary.
12) Tom Windle, LHP, Grade C+/Borderline B-: Age 22, acquired from Dodgers in Rollins trade, posted 4.26 ERA with 111/44 K/BB in 139 innings in Cal League. Some see him as more reliever than starter due to solid low-90s fastball/slider combination but need to improve change-up.
13) Odubel Herrera, 2B, Grade C+/Borderline B-: Age 23, rule 5 pick from Rangers system, hit .315/.383/.388 with 52 walks, 21 steals in 479 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Blocked by other players in Texas system, can play second base and outfield with mediocre results at both spots. Has always hit well, .294/.354 OBP in his career. Useful bat off the bench.
14) Yoel Macias, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, recovering from Tommy John surgery, posted 3.21 ERA with 23/9 K/BB in 34 innings in Low-A. Low 90s, good change, still working on breaking stuff, projectable. Seen as breakthrough candidate now that Tommy John is in the past, number three starter upside.
15) Dylan Cozens, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, hit .248/.303/.415 with 16 homers, 23 steals in Low-A. Huge, strong at 6-6, 235 but has a big strike zone to manage. Right field throwing arm, mobile for his size, considerable upside as a power hitter but contact/average will be an issue.
16) Carlos Tocci, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .242/.297/.324 with 10 steals, 25 walks, 96 strikeouts in 487 at-bats in Low-A. Extremely young for his levels, very good fielder, has no power at all and may not develop much. High risk, high upside player. Other analysts are more enthusiastic so YMMV.
17) Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 28, Cuban defector slowed by shoulder problems in pro debut, posted 3.11 ERA with 54/26 K/BB in 46 innings at three levels. Should be solid bullpen contributor if healthy.
18) Victor Arano, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, nice pickup from Dodgers in Hernandez trade, posted 4.08 ERA with 83/20 K/BB in 86 innings in Low-A. Midwest League sources like his pitchability and chance to develop into a solid workhorse starter. Good addition of depth to system.
19) Aaron Altherr, OF, Grade C: Age 24, marvelous athlete, hit .236/.287/.399 with 14 homers, 12 steals, 26 walks, 110 strikeouts in 449 at-bats in Double-A. Still trying to turn his tools into baseball skills, impressive with glove but bat is highly questionable.
20) Deivi Grullon, C, Grade C: Age 18, hit .227/.267/.297 in 273 at-bats in short-season A, low-A, high-A. Draws rave reviews for his defensive ability but is currently a very poor hitter. Young enough for that to improve, but very much a long-term, high-risk investment.
Ethan Martin was originally listed as a prospect but is, in fact, no longer a rookie.
OTHERS: Drew Anderson, RHP; Elvis Aruajo, LHP; Willians Astudillo, C-1B; Luis Encarnacion, OF (high ceiling); Arquimedes Gamboa, SS (high ceiling), Elneiry Garcia, LHP (high ceiling); Franklyn Kilome, RHP (high ceiling); Andrew Knapp, C; Brandon Liebrandt, LHP; Colton Murray, RHP; Neifo Ogando, RHP; Andy Oliver, LHP; Cameron Perkins, OF-INF; Ricardo Pinto, RHP; Jose Pujols, OF (high ceiling); Andrew Pullin, 2B; Edubray Ramos, RHP; Joely Rodriguez, LHP; Cord Sandberg, OF; Jiandido Tromp, OF
There seems to be a very wide difference in opinion about the Phillies system. Everyone seems to agree that the system is thin but has been improved by recent trades. Beyond that, however, there is a large disparity among various pundit lists about which prospects, beyond the obvious top few, are the most interesting.
The Phillies are in the midst of a long-needed rebuilding effort and reinvigorating the farm system is a key step. Recent trades have brought in prospects Zach Elfin, Ben Lively, Jesmuel Valentin, Tom Windle and Victor Arano, greatly boosting system depth. Good steps were also taken in the 2013 and 2014 drafts, with J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola looking like sound decisions in the first round. The Phillies have been well-known for liking raw players but they have diversified their approach recently and are bucking that stereotype. The 2014 draft was strongly college-oriented.
The Phillies currently lack impact depth. Crawford and Franco are the best bets for regular duty but most of the position players behind them look more like role players and extra parts than people you build your team around. Loud tools (speed with Quinn, power with Brown and Cozens) are available but these aren’t multi-dimensional players for the most part. There are some very youthful wildcards, products of international scouting including Carlos Tocci, Luis Encarnacion, and Jose Pujols, but so far these guys haven’t shown much, although the money spent to sign them (Arquimedes Gamboa is the latest example) shows commitment spent on player development.
Pitching revolves around Aaron Nola, the LSU ace who won’t need long in the minors. Jesse Biddle’s 2014 was ruined by a concussion and it is way too soon to give up on him. There’s depth in the C+/B- territory with several projected mid-rotation arms including 2014 draftee Matt Imhof and trade acquisitions Eflin, Windle, Lively, and Arano. Young Latin American arms like Yoel Mecias, Elneiry Garcia, and Franklyn Kilome are all highly projectable but are several years away.
Overall, this system is not as weak as you might think. They do have some decent prospects around but need to focus on building more depth.The front office seems well-aware of this.