The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies Prospects Update

Today here at “The Shop,” we bring you comments from the Phillies minor league prospects followed by some insights on their “ceilings” and potential arrival times in the Big Leagues.

Starting right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson and left-handed hitting outfielder Nick Williams, seems to be the odds-on favorites among the top blue-chip prospects to get the call to the major leagues.

Williams could be helped by the fact that Cody Asche won’t start the season on the Phillies roster and Aaron Altherr won’t be ready until late in the summer.  Both Asche and Altherr were penciled in as starters for the parent club before spring training began.  Because of the ‘numbers’ issue in the outfield—or, more appropriately, LACK of numbers, Williams could be one player that gets bumped up a little earlier than expected.

Plus, Williams had a torrid September last year, during the Reading Fightin’ Phillies playoff run, which the organization’s top brass saw first-hand.  A quick start by Williams might give Phillies fans what they’ve already started clamoring for—and that’s a fast promotion to the Big Leagues for some of these high-profile prospects the team received in trades over the last year.  However, it has usually been the Phillies objective to get young players as much minor-league seasoning as possible before reaching the major leagues.  Given the team is not ready to contend and there’s really no reason to start these players “free agency clocks” (the time teams have players under contract), you probably won’t see many of these players before Memorial Day.

A quick example that supports this theory if Maikel Franco, who got hot in Triple-A to start last season and was promoted while he was swinging the bat well.  Dominic Brown is probably a good example of the ill-effects of rushing a young prospect through a system too quickly.

If a team’s success starts with pitching, Philadelphia should be in good shape when you look at their Triple-A starting rotation.  Joining Thompson are Mark Appel (a former top draft pick), Zach Eflin, David Buchanan and Adam Morgan (the latter pitched well enough to make the Phillies out of spring training but was demoted in favor of power-armed Vincent Velasquez).    The Phillies have so much depth in fact, that two pitchers (Alec Asher and Severino Gonzales) who pitched for the Phils last year will start this season down in Double-A.  While not all of these hurlers may be impact players at the major league level, the team has much needed depth and find themselves in the fortunate situation in which not all of these young arms HAVE TO mature into top-level pitchers in order for the franchise to have continued success.

If a couple of these guys can contribute consistently for the Phillies, they will have a nice pitching staff for years to come.  This is a sharp contract when the team looked at having just a couple blue-chip prospects in the farm system and, when most of these guys fizzled out, the team struggled with very few reliable reinforcements available to help out.

For more insights on the Phillies top minor league prospects, check out our most recent “SportsTalk” podcast, here .

Don’t forget to share your baseball opinions by emailing us (rcnsportstalk@rcn.net) and tune in to hear us read and respond to your opinions on our Thursday “RCN SportsTalk” show live at 7pm and on our weekly podcasts.

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies Minor League Outlook

 

Much has been made about the “advanced” age of the Phillies as the 2014 season commences. Regardless of the degree of success of the parent club, it is essential for the long-term success of the organization that the team produces major league talent through its farm system.

Here are some thoughts and expectations from some of the Phillies minor leagues players themselves and then more insights on players within the Phillies organization to watch this summer.

Here are more opinions on the Phillies’ prospects…

1) Maikel Franco has spoken often about working hard and doing what’s necessary to improve and become a major league ball player. While he is the most advanced, top prospect within the Phillies organization, he is very focused on trying to improve his overall game. He showed no preference to which position he will ultimately play and said he feels comfortable at playing both first and third base, stating that footwork and improving his mechanicals for the pitchers’ throw-overs are his main defensive goals to work on this season. I was impressed by the lack-of-ego persona he’s exhibited in our conversations this spring and he is a very likeable future star that Phillies fans can easily root for.

2) There is now a sign in the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse that says “Respect the Game”, and that message is being echoed by the players throughout the team’s farm system. Cameron Rupp, Steve Susdorf and Andres Blanco have all repetitively made mentions to me about playing the game the “right way” and the need to make good decisions and to play hard at all times.

3) Barry Enright is one of the “older players” (28) that the Phillies brought in to add starting pitching depth. While his numbers last year were not impressive (a ERA north of 7.00 with the Angels’ Triple-A team last season), I was struck by how much he talked about a young pitcher’s ability to pitch when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Instead of complaining or using that as an excuse, he stressed (and I have a feeling new pitching coach Bob McClure has emphasized) the need to try to throw strikes consistently even when you don’t have good stuff on the mound. Eliminating walks is a major need for this organization’s pitchers, and it’s important that the players seemed to be getting that message.

4) The Phillies look to be in good shape behind the dish. At many levels of the organization, the Phillies can boast two solid catching options. Rupp heads the list of catchers and spoke about the importance of having competition to make everyone better. He also identified some solid goals to work on defensively this season, to go along with his impressive offensive potential. Veteran Koyie Hill also started the year at Triple-A and has major league experience with several teams. Two former blue-chip prospects, Tommy Joseph and Sabastian Valle, still have potential and will share time at Double-A. Andrew Knapp has perhaps the highest ceiling of all the young backstops in the organization and Deivi Grullon is looking to build on a solid season in the Gulf Coast League last summer.

5) I continue to have the same opinion of Jesse Biddle as I did midway through last season. Like in the limited times I saw him pitch at Reading last season, he needs to develop that consistency (there’s that word again) in throwing strikes to reach the parent club. I don’t believe he will be the next Cole Hamels, as I’ve heard some fans assume, and I think he’ll be more of a #3 or a #4-type of pitcher in the major leagues. I would love to be proven wrong as the lefty does have impressive stuff.

Which players do you think can be future stars with the Phillies? Which players would you like to see playing at the Big League level right now? Post your comments below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com with your opinions and baseball observations.