One of the best prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system is outfielder Carlos Tocci. He is also one of the more enigmatic prospects in all of baseball, not so much from anything he's done but more from the way he's been handled.
The Phillies spent $759,000 to sign Tocci out of Venezuela in 2011. He stood out for his pure athleticism, but he was skinny and scrawny and not physically strong. Despite this, the Phillies promoted him very aggressively: he was in the Gulf Coast League in 2012 at age 16/17, then jumped directly to full-season Low-A Lakewood in 2013 at age 17/18.
Not surprisingly, he struggled, hitting a mere .209/.262/.249 in 421 at-bats. He returned to Lakewood in 2014 and improved slightly to .242/.297/.324, an unimpressive line to be sure but he was still very young for the level.
Scouting reports last summer continued to emphasize his athleticism and praised his excellent defensive skills, but the bat was still very questionable. It was hard to get a sabermetric read on him due to the extreme age differential. There was also mixed opinion from traditionalist scouts, some projecting that he would get stronger and blossom eventually, but others not being so sure.
We have more data now.
Tocci returned to Lakewood this spring and hit .319/.384/.422 with 14 steals in 16 attempts and a 22/35 BB/K ratio in 251 at-bats. He was promoted to High-A Clearwater last week and has continued to hit in his first four games in the Florida State League, going 5-for-17 (.294) with two doubles so far. Keep in mind that he is STILL just 19 years old, more than three and a half years younger than his FSL competition.
Early scouting reports match the numbers: he's gained strength. He's always made contact well with a mechanically sound swing and decent strike zone judgment. Adding some strength behind the swing has boosted his production across the board. He is also using his speed more effectively on the bases and in general just looks less raw.
Pre-season I had him rated as a high-ceiling Grade C+. That would move up to a B- now, and if remains effective in High-A a straight Grade B would be appropriate by the end of the season. We'll need to see the end-of-season scouting reports before thinking about a "+", but overall Tocci is a bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for Phillies fans.