If you didn't get a chance to read my primer on the series, click here to get the recipe to my "secret sauce" and how I go about ranking prospects. Here is a quick review on how the grading system works.
The Grading System
My grading system will be familiar to those who keep up with college football recruiting or played the MLB2K video game series as I use a star rating system from one to five stars with half grades in between. An outline of what each level would represent looks like this, but remember these are examples and not definite.
The cream of the crop. A five star rating is reserved for the elite talents of the minor leagues. These players do not have a glaring weakness and if there is a blemish on their record, it is miniscule. Don't expect to see many of these, as this is reserved for players with the best chance to become super stars or top of the rotation stalwarts. Call this a 75-80 or A rating.
The rest of the elite. A 4.5 star rating encompasses players that are still elite, but not the potential mega stars a five star player would have. Receiving a 4.5 star rating means the player has all-star caliber potential with a good chance of being in a contending team's starting line up and have a long career. A 4.5 star pitcher could be generalized as a future #2 or 3 starter. Equal to 65-70 or A-/B+ type.
Garnering a four star rating means the player has the potential to be a productive major leaguer with an all-star season or two in his career. Four star players should develop into regulars in the lineup, dominant relief arms or a mid-rotation starters. This kind of player may have a true talent level higher but injuries may hold him back from reaching their full potential. Similar to a B/B+ or 55-60 rated player.
A player receiving 3.5 stars projects to see time as starters in the majors, but more than likely on a team out of the playoff picture where a below-average season once in awhile won't kill them. Innings eating strike throwers would fall into this category, as would set up men and defensive-oriented starters. This would be a 50 or B-/C+ type of player.
Three star players are your back end starting pitchers and 4th outfielders. Relievers with live arms and control problems would fall into this category as would hitters who may lack enough tools to hold down a starting gig. Futures as a platoon player and swing men type capable of spot starting would be three star players. Recent IFA's with little or no track record usually are included here. A 45 grade or C+/C type player would fall here.
Not every one gets to collect MLB paychecks, but some get them every once in awhile. 2.5 star players are your up and down guys who shuttle between the big leagues and AAA. September cups of coffee cielings fall here, as are the injury replacements and players riding the waiver wire. These players aren't expected to make any serious impact. 40 grade players and C type or lower organizational filler.
Anything below 2.5 stars is someone who doesn't project to be a major league player, therefore they are not mentioned.
Without further adieu, the Top 20 Prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, sorted by star rating. All ages are for the upcoming 2015 season and the affiliates mentioned are where I expect them to begin the upcoming season.
1. SS JP Crawford - 20 years old, AA Reading
Photo courtesy of Bryan Green
2014 A stats -
2014 A+ stats -
The Phillies received a huge year out of Crawford when they needed it the most. Moving into rebuild mode, Ruben Amaro and company were impressed enough by JP to deal away their stalwart at short, Jimmy Rollins. The 6'2, 180 pound left handed hitting, right handed throwing short stop used his premium athleticism to reach A+ by the age of 19. He showed a great approach at the plate with a line drive stroke, plus wheels, and surprising pop, especially once he reached the Florida State League in the second half. While not in the upper echelon of defenders, Crawford does still have soft hands, great range to either side, and an excellent arm. There has been word that he sometimes lets the game speed up on him, but experience and more reps in the field can fix that.
2015 Outlook -
All signs point to Crawford becoming the long term solution at short stop for the Phillies. In the short term though, look for him to kick off the 2015 season at AA Reading as he takes his first shot at the upper minors. Depending on how well he adjusts, he could get a promotion to AAA by the All-Star break, similar to the timetable when he was promoted last year. That could leave him with an outside shot at a cup of coffee in September to get his feet wet. If the transition isn't as smooth, he could spend the whole year with Reading as Philly doesn't have any reason to try and rush him through the system.
2. 3B Maikel Franco - 22 years old, AAA Lehigh Valley
3. RHSP Aaron Nola - 22 years old, AA Reading
4. CF Roman Quinn - 22 years old, AA Reading
5. RHSP Zach Eflin - 21 years old, AA Reading
6. RHSP Ben Lively - 23 years old, AAA Lehigh Valley
7. LHSP Jesse Biddle - 23 years old, AAA Lehigh Valley
8. LHSP Tom Windle - 23 years old, AA Reading
9. C Deivi Grullon - 19 years old, Low A Lakewood
10. LHSP Yoel Mecias - 21 years old, A+ Clearwater
11. 2B Jesmuel Valentin - 20 years old, A+ Clearwater
12. RHSP Franklyn Kilome - 20 years old, Low A Lakewood
13. RHSP Mark Leiter - 24 years old, AA Reading
14. CF Carlos Tocci - 19 years old, A+ Clearwater
15. LHSP Matt Imhof - 21 years old, Low A Lakewood
16. RF Dylan Cozens - 21 years old, A+ Clearwater
17. 2B/CF Odubel Herrera - 22 years old, MLB Philadelphia
18. RF Kelly Dugan - 24 years old, AAA Lehigh Valley
19. RHSP Severino Gonzalez - 22 years old, AAA Lehigh Valley
20. LHSP Brandon Leibrandt - 22 years old, Low A Lakewood
Honorable Mentions (other 3 star players) - RHSP Tyler Viza, LHSP Elniery Garcia, RHSP Victor Arano, RHSP Drew Anderson, LF Jiandido Tromp, RF Brandon Pointer, C Andrew Knapp
Team codes: AAA - Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, AA - Reading Fightin Phils, A+ - Clearwater Threshers, A - Lakewood BlueClaws, A- - Williamsport Crosscutters, R - GCL Phillies, DSL - Dominican Summer League Phillies, VSL - Venezuelan Summer League Phillies