November 10, 2016
Philadelphia Phillies Top 10 Prospects
The State of the System: Almost all the same names as last year, but another young Latin arm and a first-overall pick have boosted an already strong system in Philadelphia, and the top guns here are all ready to contribute to the major league squad in 2017.
The Top Ten
The Big Question: How much should we care about ‘makeup'?
Makeup is almost certainly the hidden factor as to why some seemingly similarly situated prospects bust while others succeed. Some players have an incredible ability to learn and develop. Some stagnate in situations they should conquer. Yet we have very little ability from the outside to determine which players are high makeup and which ones aren’t.
We’ve often tried. Over the years in these pages, you’ve seen makeup as a column in our live reports. You’ve seen it as something we’ve talked about extensively in prospect lists. Sometimes, it’s a euphemism for things we’d rather not talk about, trouble with the law or drug issues or things of that nature. Sometimes it’s based on industry scuttlebutt, or information we have off-the-record. Sometimes we hear bad things that we very much believe, but without enough specificity to say exactly what, and the easiest crutch is to talk about the player’s bad makeup in somber tones. Sometimes we hear that a player is a sponge and the hardest worker on the planet, and we talk about his great makeup in excited tones. Sometimes, it’s just based on a player’s posture on the field, or his effort during one play, or other visual cues you pick up around the ballpark.
All of this is probably more useful information to you, the reader, than absolutely nothing, even if we can’t always say exactly what we’d like to say. These are absolutely things that we should be using to inform our judgments about prospects—to a degree. Because while we have some information on a player’s makeup, it’s often very limited. Even major-league organizations can get lost in the fog with makeup, since it’s all subjective and we’re all human with human biases. And the organizations have the best information possible about their own players.
Which brings us to Nick Williams. As early as 2014, then-BP writer and now Astros scout Tucker Blair obliquely referred to “makeup concerns” in a BP scouting report on Williams, then in the Rangers system, after noting “curious” body language. In one of those moments that makes you realize why certain evaluators get hired by teams, Blair also predicted “it may be portrayed in the wrong light by some in the future.”
Williams, after being dealt to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade, was assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the 2016 campaign under the tutelage of veteran minor-league manager Dave Brundage. Brundage publicly benched Williams multiple times over the course of the season, for sins such as not running out routine grounders, showing up opponents, and failing to take an extra base on a flyball. In all honesty, these sorts of benchings are quite common in the minors, but what was uncommon was that the drama played out in the media. Typically, the manager disciplines the player quietly, and the local minor-league press is either kept in the dark or things are kept off the record. Here, both Brundage and Williams gabbed to the media early and often, turning Nick Williams’ “bad makeup” into one of the more interesting running plots of the 2016 Phillies, even though it was 70 miles up the Blue Route from Philly in Allentown.
Lost in much of the commentary was another simple truth, that very few players in the majors run out routine plays all the time. Heck, very few players in the minors do either. It’s eyewash, fake hustle on plays where 99.9 percent of the time it couldn’t matter less whether you run your fastest or put in a representative jog. Moreover, there are times when it’s clearly wrong to run everything out, where it puts you at risk of pulling a hamstring, or aggravating an existing injury on a play that doesn’t matter. Sure, once in awhile you might lose that extra base when the outfielder drops that routine fly, but what never gets mentioned when we talk about all this is that you also might get thrown out trying to advance if said outfielder recovers quickly enough.
What does all of this say about Nick Williams as a prospect? A few more hints emerged after the season ended—Brundage was not retained by the Phillies for 2017, but Williams was also bypassed for a September call-up. It’s certainly possible that there are greater underlying issues here that the Phillies organization, or even Brundage, was privy to that us here at Baseball Prospectus are not. But from behind the backstop, I’m much more worried about Williams’ late-season regression back to extreme hacker than I am whether he plays with too much flair or too little hustle down the first base line. —Jarrett Seidler
1. J.P. Crawford, SS
The Good: Crawford is a polished, near-complete baseball player on both sides of the ball. He is a plus shortstop, borderline plus-plus, who could compete for Gold Gloves. He won’t wow you with the spectacular as much as, say, Francisco Lindor, but he makes everything look easy through outstanding instincts, plus actions, and a plus arm. At the plate he had an advanced approach and works at-bats as well as anyone in the minors, and he is comfortable hitting in any count. He’s a potential plus hitter who will get on base more than enough to write him in at the top of a lineup. He is a solid runner, if not a particularly aggressive base-stealer.
The Bad: Crawford’s 2016 “feels” disappointing for a top prospect, although I don’t know if that is entirely fair. He was a 21-year-old in the International League and did struggle at times against advanced arms with major-league experience and a major-league plan of attack. He’ll flash average pull-side power at times, but his swing/approach is geared to line the ball back up the middle, leaving him more of a four-tool than five-tool shortstop.
The Irrelevant: Before Crawford, you have to go back to 2007 and Joe Savery to find a Phillies first-round pick that made that majors. Maybe that actually isn’t so irrelevant, at least not to why the Phillies are near the top of our running order for prospect lists.
OFP 70 — All-star shortstop
The Risks: Crawford is the lowest-risk prospect we will cover that hasn’t already accrued service time. His defensive profile and strong approach give him a high floor as a major-league contributor, but if his occasional struggles with the bat this year were more than just a blip or an adjustment period against advanced arms, he may “only” be a good regular.
Major league ETA: 2017, post super-2
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Crawford is a better MLB prospect than a fantasy one, but he’s still a really good fantasy prospect. Shortstop is a bit deeper than it used to be, but there will always be room for players like Crawford, who could contribute materially across all five fantasy categories and significantly in two of them (AVG, R). If you want to get optimistic, we could be looking at a .300-plus average with 15 homers and steals apiece in his prime, and Crawford’s top-of-the-order profile and favorable ballpark factors should aid his runs scored and power stats even more. He’s a lock to stay at short, a lock to appear in the majors soon, and a near-lock to hit well. That also makes Crawford a lock for a top-15 spot when our Dynasty 101 list hits later this winter.
2. Jorge Alfaro, C
The Good: His throwing arm is as good as anyone in the game. His raw power is legendary, going back to whispers from Jason Parks (R.I.P.) on Arizona backfields shortly after he signed. His overall hitting ability plays well given the position, and he’s specifically improved his ability to hit the ball to all fields. He’s unusually athletic for a catcher, and possesses average-to-above speed. Notice that there’s no caveat there, because he runs well in general, not just for a catcher.
The Bad: Alfaro’s elite raw power hasn’t yet translated well into game power. While that can come late, especially for catchers, his power output in Reading was dwarfed by lesser prospects like Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins. His defensive game has improved greatly since Philadelphia acquired him, but he’s not Jonathan Lucroy yet either, and it’s still a little up in the air if he ultimately lands at a new position.
The Irrelevant: If Alfaro cracks the BP 101 again this offseason, it’ll be his sixth consecutive list.
OFP 60 — he could make some All-Star teams
The Risks: Without that power, the hit tool is just playable and not a carrying tool. He could end up as a medium-pop catch-and-throw guy, or even worse if he ultimately moves off catcher. He’s athletic enough to play somewhere like third or right, but would the bat play up enough there? Also, catchers are weird. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If you stuck with Alfaro through his disappointing 2015 season, your patience may soon be rewarded. Catcher remains fantasy’s shallowest position. Welington Castillo was the 10th-best fantasy backstop last year per ESPN’s Player Rater, and he hit .264 with 14 homers and 68 RBI. Alfaro should eclipse that power output if he gets the playing time, and while he may not aspire to such an average, he could add a few steals to help compensate. There’s substantial risk here thanks to the hit tool and less-than-certain defensive future, but given the sad state of fantasy catching and Alfaro’s proximity to the majors, he’s well worth the gamble.
3. Nick Williams, OF
The Good: The entire tool set still flashes average or better in large part due to Williams’ pronounced athleticism. While it is a corner outfield profile, the band of variance for questions around his defense and arm narrowed, showing range and advancement in his arm strength. Before wearing down in the last month of the season, Williams put together a very respectable offensive season in his first trip through Triple-A. His bat speed is plus with quick wrists and a short path to the ball. When locked in, he possesses a special ability to barrel balls and make quality contact.
The Bad: After glimpses of improved plate discipline in 2015, the impatient, free-swinging approach at the plate returned. This was especially evident in his susceptibility to expanding the zone on off-speed offerings with two strikes. There was a severe decline in offensive performance in August, though fatigue was more a factor than his skill set being overmatched. Any optimism for a future in center field is likely dwindling given some of the inefficiencies in his routes and reads.
The Irrelevant: Despite having what you’d think would be a fairly common name, Nick Williams has a pretty good chance to be the best Nick Williams to play baseball. It is fortunate that like many Texans he goes by his middle name, rather than his first name. The best Billy Williams is a little bit higher bar to get over in baseball terms.
OFP 60 — First Division Outfielder
The Risks: The band of variance is still a band of variance; there’s boom and bust to the offensive profile and some questions still exist for the defense. On the plus side, he’s still young for Triple-A, and, while he will go on the 40-man this winter, there is still time to iron things out. Another trip through the International League should give a better sense of which way the pendulum will swing. - Adam Hayes
Major league ETA: Late 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Williams is the reverse Crawford; he’s an even more enticing fantasy prospect than he is a future IRL big leaguer. I’ve been president of the Nick Williams fan club since I fell in love with his swing in Arizona a few spring trainings ago, and nothing he’s done or I’ve seen since has changed my mind. I will always bet on bat speed and hit tool first in fantasy, and I’m a believer in Williams’ potential five-category fantasy future. He’ll bring less value to those of you in OBP leagues, but Williams is a potential high-end OF3 in standard formats, capable of mashing 20 homers, stealing double-digit bases, and flirting with a .300 average. I’m all in, and you can’t stop me, though I reluctantly acknowledge that his floor is pretty low.
4. Mickey Moniak, OF
The Good: Moniak might not have been the consensus best talent in the draft, but the Phillies got a relatively safe high school bat at 1-1. Moniak’s hit tool was among the best in the draft, featuring a line-drive swing with good barrel control. He is a plus runner with a good shot to stick in center field.
The Bad: He’s not a lock to stick in center and doesn’t project as a plus defender there. He may not have the arm for right field or the power to be an impact bat in left.
The Irrelevant: Mickey is not short for “Michael,” rather “McKenzie,” which makes more sense if you actually think about it.
OFP 60 — Above-average center fielder
The Risks: Moniak is a prep pick with no professional track record outside of the complex. Hit-tool guys aren’t seen as traditionally “risky” profiles, but Moniak doesn’t have much to fall back on if he is “only” an average hitter in the end.
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Safe doesn’t always mean boring! Moniak has the tools to hit .300-plus with 20-plus steals and enough homers to matter in a few years, sort of like Adam Eaton ratched up 10-20 percent. The long lead time and relatively modest upside make him a non-elite fantasy prospect, but still one you should be perfectly content drafting or bidding on as 2016 draftees become eligible in your dynasty league (if they haven’t already).
5. Franklyn Kilome, RHP
The Good: All of the individual pieces are present for a top pitching prospect—when he’s on his game. He possesses a fastball that can sit 92-97 and touch a little higher, a curve with easy plus potential, and a change that flashes as more than just an interesting third pitch. He’s a tall drink of water with a great power-pitcher physique. If you catch him on the right day, you might see a top-of-the-rotation starter kit. There were more right days than wrong days later in the season, which gives hope for in-season progression.
The Bad: When not on his game, Kilome can look like an organizational player. If you show up on the wrong day, you’re liable to get a fastball flagging down into the high-80s, off-speeds that won’t impress anyone, and brutal command problems. As you might suspect, he’s often unable to repeat his mechanics. When it goes bad, it goes really bad.
The Irrelevant: Three players have been named Franklyn in baseball history—two were Dominican relievers from the 2000s (Franklyn Gracesqui and Franklyn German), and the third (William Franklyn “Bill” Wolff) pitched one game for the Philadelphia Phillies in September 1902.
OFP 60 — Mid-rotation starter/back-end reliever
The Risks: Absolutely enormous. If anything, OFP undersells the upside, because if it somehow all clicks there really are top-of-the-rotation pieces here. And the likely role oversells the floor, because sometimes these guys can’t repeat their mechanics in relief, either. Also, he’s a pitcher. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: 2019
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: The “Dominican Clay Buchholz” vibe one gets from reading Kilome’s breakdown above might be off-putting, but upside is what we’re after when we talk fantasy starters, and Kilome has it. In his Top 101 list from last year, Bret Sayre referred to Kilome’s upside as an SP1 and his downside as “The Mariana Trench.” That still sounds right to me, though Kilome’s strong second half and move into the mid-minors elevates him to borderline top-50 dynasty prospect status.
6. Adonis Medina, RHP
The Good: In hindsight, I should have just pulled the trigger on Medina as a top-10 prospect in the system last year. He sports a heavy fastball that regularly touched 95 as a starter in Williamsport and even higher in short bursts. It’s a heavy pitch and he shows advanced command of it for a short-season arm. He can pitch just off the fastball when he is going well. His mechanics are repeatable and among as low-impact as you will see for a guy who can dial it up into the mid-90s.
The Bad: While not to the same extent as Kilome, Medina’s stuff does vary from outing to outing. His fastball was 89-92 when I saw him, for example, and reports have him as low as 87-90 during the season. His secondaries (curveball and change) are still mostly projection, and until at least one of them turns into a consistent bat-misser, there will be questions about how the profile will fare at higher levels. He doesn’t have ideal size for a starting pitcher (although I suspect Medina is now a bit bigger than his signing height and weight listed above).
The Irrelevant: There are currently 11 active Adonises in affiliated baseball. Yeah, more than I thought too.
OFP 60— Mid-rotation starting pitcher
The Risks: Very High. Medina only has a short-season resume, and has to find more consistent velocity and more consistent secondary offerings to reach even his likely outcome. He does have a precocious level of polish and pitchability, more than the young Latin arms on either side of him on this list. But like those two, he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: 2019
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Wait until Medina is closer to the majors or until he starts profiling as someone with a higher ceiling to bite. You don’t want to eat up a roster spot for four or five seasons to end up with an SP6. Dave Stewart does not understand that last sentence.
7. Sixto Sanchez, RHP
The Good: Sixto has premium arm strength and velocity for someone his age, touching 98 while routinely sitting 93-96. He has a clean, well-balanced delivery with plus arm speed and a smooth arm action. He has good feel for his curveball and, while inconsistent at times, shows above-average potential with 12/6 shape with premium bite and action. He has a good feel for the strike zone and was able to throw his entire arsenal for strikes.
The Bad: Sixto lacks prototypical size for a starting pitcher as he looks closer to 5-foot-10 than 6-feet. His changeup is clearly a third pitch and was only used against lefties sparingly. He has a limited professional track record. While he shows feel for the curveball, he struggled to finish batters with it, leaving it in the zone far too often.
The Irrelevant: After an almost 13-year drought of players named Sixto in affiliated baseball, 2015 saw Sixto Sanchez and Sixto Torres sign professional contracts.
OFP 60— Mid-rotation starting pitcher
The Risks: Relatively high. While he is still quite young, he has not been challenged against better competition. His lack of size will always be held against him as he moves up the ladder. Also, he’s a pitcher. —Steve Givarz
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Wait until Sanchez is closer to the majors or until he starts profiling as someone with a higher ceiling to bite. You don’t want to eat up a roster spot for four or five seasons to end up with a middle reliever. Terry Ryan does not understand that last sentence.
8. Roman Quinn, OF
The Good: Roman Quinn is fast. Like really fast. Like sub-4.0 from both sides of the plate fast. Like fastest real prospect in baseball fast. And he is a real prospect, as he should hit enough, get on base enough, and play well enough in center field to make him an ideal table-setter for your lineup. It’s a slash-and-dash swing, and he has the speed to beat out almost anything into the 5.5 hole or bunt for a base hit. His speed covers for any sins in the outfield (and we’ll get to those), and he has a strong enough throwing arm to handle right field if he ends up in more of a fourth-outfielder role.
The Bad: Despite 80 speed, Quinn is still a little rough in the outfield, especially at tracking balls in the air. He’s a slap hitter without much in the way of power, which might be an issue if he ends up in a corner. He has yet to play 100 games in a season, losing time over the years to a ruptured Achilles' tendon and a fractured wrist, along with the usual array of sprains and strains. He strikes out a bit more than you’d like out of this profile, and more than you’d expect given his simple hitting mechanics. He will expand the zone and chase.
The Irrelevant: Even an unspectacular major-league career should earn Roman more money than 1989 Denzel Washington vehicle, The Mighty Quinn, which pulled in just $4.5 million at the box office.
OFP 55 — Solid-average center fielder
The Risks: Quinn has already debuted in the majors and he’s hit wherever (whenever) he has played. But anytime you have as checkered an injury history as Quinn’s, you are going to get a reputation as brittle. The injuries haven’t sapped his athleticism yet, but it is fair to wonder if his body can handle the rigors of a 162-game major league season.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Comping Quinn to Billy Hamilton is super lazy, but what about playing fantasy sports isn’t lazy? Hamilton hit .260 with 69 runs (nice) and 58 steals last season, good for a finish as fantasy’s 15th-best outfielder. Quinn may not play enough or be quite fast enough to reach such a lofty SB total, but 40-plus steals are well within his reach if he manages to stay on the field. The risk is that Quinn won’t be healthy enough to rack up counting stats, but one-trick fantasy ponies can be pretty useful if their one trick is good enough. Jarrod Dyson only got 337 PA this season, but he still swiped 30 bags and finished as a top-60 OF. That seems like a perfectly reasonable median fantasy outcome for Quinn.
9. Cornelius Randolph, LF
The Good: Randolph shows quick hands at the plate and a really good feel for hitting. He’s also got a very good sense of the strike zone and an overall idea of what he wants to do at the plate. He kept his head above water at Low-A in his first full season despite battling a bad shoulder injury. Because of the hit tool and overall knack for offense, Randolph has an unusually high floor for a Low-A prospect of his caliber.
The Bad: There isn’t much present power, even raw and even in batting practice. Lack of physical projectability might open some questions how much is coming. He’s already a LF-only player at age 19. The profile might limit overall upside.
The Irrelevant: If Randolph makes the majors, he’ll become just the second MLB draftee out of Griffin High School in Georgia to reach The Show—and both will have been top-10 overall picks (2008 first-overall pick Tim Beckham).
The Risks: Low-to-medium power corner projections are tough unless you hit, and Randolph might only hit. Shoulder injuries can linger and hamper hitting development. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Randolph’s hit tool makes him worthy of our attention, but his lack of power or speed and his distance from the majors make him a fringy bet to appear on our top-100 dynasty list. A future as an OF3 who grows into some pop and uses AVG as a carrying tool is in play, but so are less inspiring fantasy outcomes, such as, oh, I don’t know, Lonnie Chisenhall?
You awake from a fitful sleep. You were dreaming, you think. It wasn’t a nightmare, but the forms that seemed crystal clear in your mind a moment ago, are now abstract shapes, the connections between them growing more tenuous by the second. You groggily assess your surroundings and realize you are no longer in the bedroom where you laid down to sleep some hours(?) ago. Your bed is the same, but it’s four brass posters are now sitting in an empty cave, the rock formations that surround you an unnatural shade of purple.
You should be confused, scared even, but you feel like you have been here before. Are you still dreaming? You get up out of bed, and your legs feel like jelly, but you are strangely compelled to walk toward an eerie green light at the far end of the cavern peaking out from around a dilapidated wooden door.
The door is unlocked and find yourself in a well-appointed library. The floor is old oak, the many bookshelves the same. In the center of the room, behind an almost comically-oversized desk sits a man, his face buried in stacks of paper. He’s a young man, about your age, well-dressed in the style of a Ivy League finance major, or maybe economics. His reams of notes are spread across the surface of the desk in a not-quite-haphazard manner, although you imagine it would take you weeks to figure out his filing system. You are trying to decide how best to announce your presence when he dramatically looks up from his work. He doesn’t seem surprised that there is a visitor before him. The young man pushes his glasses up further on his nose and begins to assess you.
“Ah, you have arrived. Good we are nearing our deadline. I am Klentak. You are now on my island of prospects. I am compiling a list. The first nine names were a simple enough task, but I need your help for the last spot. I have many prospects now, and frankly once you get to this point, it all depends on what you want to value. But be warned, the last person to come to this place selected Ben Lively. He now lies at the bottom of a very deep pit.”
If you want to take the safe major league future, proceed to “Scott Kingery”
If you don’t want to know the terrible truth about this player’s hit tool, and just want to sock some dingers, proceed to “Dylan Cozens”
If you are intrigued by Dylan Cozens, but prefer he was older and more Australian, proceed to “Rhys Hoskins”
If you prefer to roll the dice with an 18-year-old pitcher, proceed to “Kevin Gowdy”
10. Scott Kingery, 2B
This 2015 second-round pick spent 2016 mimicking the trajectory of his middle-infield counterpart at the University of Arizona, Kevin Newman. Kingery features a short-to-the-ball bat path and a reactive, all fields approach at the plate. There was more swing and miss at Double-A than the approach should allow for, but Kingery possesses the athleticism to adjust. That same athleticism is on display through his plus-plus speed and plus defense. This small-statured second baseman will see major-league time on the strength of that speed and defense, and could prove to be a solid starter if the bat comes along. - Adam Hayes
10. Dylan Cozens, RF
There’s always been at least 70 raw power here, and it jumped forward into games this year. Cozens hit a minor-league leading 40 homers at Double-A Reading, turning the projectable into actual. He hits the ball really hard and far when he squares it up. He has a decent idea of what he wants to do at the plate, especially against righties. He’s way more athletic and quick than you’d think given his size, having stolen at least 20 bases each year he’s been in full-season ball, and he has a strong throwing arm. While Double-A pitching was no match for him, there’s a chance he’s not able to handle major-league velocity and premium breaking stuff.
And 29 of his 40 homers came in the Reading bandbox, so the power actualization, while still real, is less dramatic than it outwardly appears. He doesn’t seem to be able to recognize spin against lefties, and they currently eat him alive. He’s limited to the corner outfield spots already, and his size might ultimately push him to first base. Cozens could be one of those dudes who hits .220 and strikes out 200 times while still helping you, but managers often don’t like to play them. - Jarrett Seidler
(They especially don’t like to play them when they coldcock teammates in the locker room- JP)
10. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
In 2016, Hoskins tied the previous Reading franchise record for home runs (38) in a single season, yet he does not sit atop that franchise leaderboard as he was outpaced by his teammate Cozens. Hoskins’ power spike—he hit 17 across two levels in 2015—was the product of feasting on Eastern League fastballs and playing half of his season in Reading’s launchpad, so expectations for a repeat power performance should be tempered. His raw power is above average, but tapping into that power in the future will be heavily dependent on adjusting to off-speed offerings. His hit tool shares the same question of off-speed adjustments, though he has shown patience at the plate and an ability to get on base. It is a first base-only profile, given his slow foot speed and below average arm, and a fringy defensive ability at that. - Adam Hayes
10. Kevin Gowdy, RHP
Gowdy went two picks after Joey Wentz in the 2016 draft and has a similarly attractive mix of polish and projection in a prep arm. He sits 93-95 now, but you don’t have to squint hard to see him ticking up even further as he fills out his lean, 6-foot-4 frame. His slider is a potential plus secondary offering that he can already spot or bury. He carries the usual caveats you’d expect in this profile. He’s a long way from the majors, and as an elite prep arm, he hasn’t needed to worry all that much about his changeup or command. But despite the lack of a professional track record, there is upside here not all that far off the arms in the top 10 proper.
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take(s): Gowdy is boring as hell for our purposes. Kingery has enough speed that he’s worth monitoring, but the rest of his prospect package is underwhelming enough to limit him to a flyer-type you can land for cheap. Hoskins’ proximity and power make him interesting, but he’s badly overhyped as a fantasy prospect at present thanks to his prodigious (and unsustainable) Double-A output. That leaves Cozens, who’s got power and some speed, but who probably just swung and missed at something as I typed this. I’d bet that Triple-A and MLB arms arrest his development, making this another Cozens you Maeby want to stay away from. Wow that reference is old now.
Others of note:
Signed for $900,000 as part of the Phillies' 2014 J2 class, Gamboa comes straight out of central casting for teenage Venezuelan shortstop. He’s an advanced defender with above-average physical tools for the 6 and has the ability to make the difficult play look routine, although he is prone to the occasional head-scratcher on the routine ones. He was overmatched at the plate as an 18-year-old in the Penn League, but there is bat speed from both sides, and enough foot speed to grab an extra base on a ball in the gap. Gamboa is a long ways from contributing to a major-league team, and playing at a low level, so all I am looking for is a glimpse or two of something that doesn’t look out of place at higher levels or even in the majors. Gamboa gave me more than one or two, and I’ll be keeping an eye on him in Lakewood next year.
Jhailyn Ortiz, RF
Signed for $4 million as part of their 2015 IFA spending class, Ortiz skipped the DSL and went straight to the GCL to start his professional career. Ortiz is a massive human being, listed at 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, and he could become bigger, in both a positive and negative light as he played the season as a 17-year-old. The calling card here is the power: he has massive amounts of it that is already starting to play in games, albeit at an unchallenging level. He has impressive bat speed to go along with it and shows a good idea for the strike zone, as well as consistency with his swing. Pitchers who have shown the ability to sequence have gotten him to chase and it remains to be seen how he adjusts going forward. Ortiz’s arm is above average, but his lack of foot speed and currently poor defensive skills leaves one to wonder about where he ends up on the defensive spectrum. The profile isn’t as desirable if he moves to first base, but right field is still in the realm of possibilities if it all goes swimmingly. - Steve Givarz
The guy you were going to ask about in the comments
Jose Pujols, RF
After droning on in my intro to these lists about "upside" you’d think I’d at least include Pujols in our ode to R.A. Montgomery. If you were designing a top prospect from scratch, you could do worse than making him look like Jose Pujols, but in field testing he is more of a Minimum Viable Product. The frame still oozes projection. He’s tall, lean, and athletic, and when his swing mechanics are working in time, he can put on a show in batting practice. In games the swing is rarely as pretty, with his upper and lower halves often out of sync. And anytime he saw stuff better than your run-of-the-mill Sally League arm, he appeared overmatched. He is awkward in the outfield, and generally his athleticism doesn’t play up in between the lines as much as you’d expect. You can forgive a bit of rawness in A-ball, more than a bit even, but I just don’t see meaningful major-league upside in the package at present.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/91 or later)
You’ll forgive me, as a Phillies fan, for being surprised and baffled at the embarrassment of 25-and-under riches I have to work with while writing this list. I only got five deep into Jeff’s prospect list before I had to start making room for the major leaguers, and that’s without promising first baseman (and now, after the release of Ryan Howard, presumptive starter) Tommy Joseph, as well as two just-over-the-hill breakout candidates in Jerad Eickhoff and Aaron Altherr. So to say this was painful is one part melodramatic and two parts accurate—you have to kill a lot of your babies to get to the 10 best.
So to get there, I tried to be a real Matt Klentak about this. The Phillies’ second-year GM has made quite a few moves based on upside—drafting Moniak first overall, trading for Mark Appel (who also missed the top 10 here in his last year of eligibility)—and perhaps an equal number of moves based on floor—drafting Nola, trading for arms like Thompson and Eickhoff. The result is a fairly balanced farm system that, unlike the Phillies’ farms that came from the drafts of 2007-2012, does not rely on lottery tickets reaching their 10th-percentile result, but on a balance of risk and reward. As a result, the Phillies of the future shouldn’t be abysmally bad even in their worst years, and while that might not bring Cubsian excitement, it’s not a bad strategy for contention either.
So with that in mind, balance: at the top of our list I took safety over upside. Understand, though, that Crawford and Odubel Herrera are basically 1A and 1B on this list. One is, as Jeff has noted, a potential All-Star shortstop, the commodity every team dreams of procuring, and the other is a speedy, high-OBP and low-power center fielder. Herrera—the latter, not the former—is yet another successful Phillies Rule 5 pick up the middle, joining Shane Victorino (who memorably stuck with the team) and Ender Inciarte (who memorably did not). He has decent patience, doubles power, speed, and strong defense (just ask Cole Hamels about how he maintained his 2015 no-hitter). He’s been roughly a four-win player for two years now, and a late-season spell likely brought on by fatigue notwithstanding, he is likely to be a cog in the Phillies' lineup for years to come. He won’t be a star, probably, but a four-win outfielder that you can bank? You want one of those.
Below Crawford, but ahead of the quixotic and risky Alfaro, I slotted two starting pitchers who—hyperbole here—will largely determine if the Phillies succeed in their rebuild or not. Velasquez is the riskier of the two, though also the pitcher with the higher ceiling: a double digit K/9 paired with an acceptable walk rate of around 3.0 per nine, Velasquez is exactly the kind of pitcher that, once it clicks for him, could be dominating the NL and in contention for a Cy Young. His stuff is that good. He could also get a shoulder injury or Tommy John and be relegated to a bullpen or fall out of the league entirely. I’d bet more on the former than the latter, but not a lot.
Nola follows Velasquez as his strange mirror image. Slightly lower K/9, slightly lower BB/9, significantly lower HR/9, Nola is the Maddux-arm you can dream on when you’re not being realistic about his ceiling, but who is more likely to turn into Kyle Hendricks over the long haul. The thing is, Hendricks—a middling strikeout, elite command/control pitcher—is not just useful, but can be extraordinarily valuable. Nola seems destined to be part of the completely obnoxious “Is he a 1 or a 2?” conversation for his career, but let’s just say right now: being a 1 or a 2 as a 24-year-old is a pretty darn good outcome.
Then, after Alfaro and Williams, who are, ultimately, all upside until they show that they can do it in the majors for alternate reasons that Jeff has covered above, we have Maikel Franco. Franco, if you remember, was supposed to hit .280/.350/.560 this year. That uh, didn’t happen. Franco’s low walk rate deflated his OBP, as did his lack of speed on the basepaths. And while he acquitted himself decently at third base, it's unclear if he really has the ability to stick there, particularly with the influx of middle and corner infield prospects the Phillies love to stockpile.
And suddenly, you’re looking at a .255/.306/.427 first baseman and softly whispering “Ryan….?” But Franco isn’t Howard, and if he can build on his 2015, he could make this low ranking look pretty foolish. How he builds on it, I’m not sure, as it involves outpacing his troubling BABIP and turning outs into hits. So his upside is murky, but it’s still upside in the majors, as opposed to Moniak, who has all-world potential but a ton of obstacles to clear before he gets there.
And then, after Moniak we have Jake Thompson. Thompson is hard to figure out, but he has tantalizing ability, largely in the mold of the aforementioned Kyle Hendricks-like pitcher. He did not fare too well in his first taste of the big leagues, but had a pretty nice year in the minors, and 53.2 innings does not a career make. He could totally bottom out and become a mop-up guy or a swing starter, or he could make good on his potential and become a solid no. 3 starter. That ceiling, combined with major-league readiness make him worth putting above higher variance guys like Kilome, Medina, and Sanchez, however much pause it gives me.
Klentak has really overhauled this system, though many of the early moves that started him along this path were Ruben Amaro Jr. specials. Still, Amaro’s due aside, Klentak’s fingerprints are all over this team, and the balance between safety and risk in this exciting 10-under-25 is remarkable when you see it all in one place. Here’s hoping there’s more upside and less down for the Phillies and Klentak moving forward. —Trevor Strunk