As many of you know, I don’t see a ton of baseball games in person (part of living away from the Northeast) and so I have to rely on the eyes of a lot of people. So in reality these interviews are the real meat of the recaps and my statistical wrap ups are really the companions to these interviews. My goal in this series is to give a large variety of opinions on the Phillies’ affiliates before you enter a winter of hearing a lot of just my point of view. I have learned a lot by talking to people, on topics both on and off the field and I hope you pick up some new ways of thinking too.
We kick off the interviews with the person who has probably scouted the GCL Phillies more than anyone not working for the Phillies. Chris King has written for this site in the past and has been unsurpassed in his coverage of the Clearwater complex no matter who he is writing for. He is also the founding member of the Franklyn Kilome bandwagon as well as many other Phillies’ prospects that should make an impact some time soon.
Let’s start by introducing yourself and where people can read the things that you write?
Everyone is going to be upset if I don’t ask about Cornelius Randolph. So just how good is this kid and can the bat get over the offensive bar in LF?
Randolph is easily one of the more advanced bats I’ve seen in my 5+ years covering the GCL. It’s rare to see a kid straight out of high school come into this league and not only hit right away, but do it by making adjustments so quickly. I’m not talking game to game either. He has the ability to make in-game adjustments and more impressively adjust during at-bats. He swings with purpose and rarely gets cheated. His feel for the strike zone is very advanced and allowed him to find the barrel immediately. He has a strong frame that will produce good in-game power in the very near future. With his IQ, frame, swing plane, and bat speed, there is no reason to think he won’t continue to hit as he advances.
Early in the year you mentioned that the outfielders really intrigued you, most are not household names yet. Who separated themselves from the group over the season?
I would love to go in-depth about every outfielder on this roster, but the guy who really separated himself from the pack as the season went on (not named Randolph) was Juan Luis. Luis is a long and lanky center fielder who has a nice looking swing from the left side. I’m not sold on his body maturing very much, but he definitely has the room to support any added weight. He has long, graceful strides and covers a ton of ground in CF. Luis is also a plus runner who has some hidden pop in the bat. He was one of the more exciting players in the GCL this season on both sides of the field.
A theme up and down the system this year has been pitching growth. What does it look like the Phillies are doing different this year?
The Phillies had so much growth with their pitchers this year. From added velo to much improved control and command. The one thing that really stood out was with their Latin American arms. Every single one of them are all now using a hands over the head windup and the results speak for themselves. The guys who I’m very familiar with looked much more comfortable with this style and they all showed much more fluidity and smooth momentum to the plate. I also noticed they seemed to be focusing on throwing more change-ups, which I feel like is an underutilized pitch for most orgs.
Diving into the draft, it was a bit of a head scratcher at times, between Randolph, Williams, Falter, Pickett, and Cabral does it look like they at least brought in guys with the talent to get to the majors?
Their draft definitely brought in some talent. Whether they are future big leaguers remains to be seen, but Lucas Williams certainly impressed and has tools that will allow him to have a legit chance as big leaguer down the road. He’s athletic at 3rd base with an above-average arm. The bat started slow, but as the season went on, he started putting some very impressive swings on the ball and was able to string together some solid AB’s. He has a very quick bat and should start to hit for some power. Falter showed pretty well. The deceptive lefty has good size to go along with some pitchability. Pickett struggled most of the year. He was dinged up for most of it, so I won’t judge him too hard. He did end the season very strong which was great to see and the power we all know he has finally started to show up in-game. Cabral is another guy who has a shot as a big leaguer. Strong armed and more athletic than you’d think behind the plate. He swings out of shoes sometimes, but made consistent hard contact throughout the season while showing some flashes of being an average to a tick above-average power threat.
Adonis Medina has started getting the press he deserves, who else on the pitching staff should fans be watching?
There are arms like Ranger Suarez, Edgar Garcia, and Seranthony Dominguez, but the guy I’d pick to pay attention to is Sam McWilliams. This kid was easily the most improved player I saw all season at any level. He has ideal size for a starter and his stuff is solid across the board. His low-mid 90’s FB has life and he uses his tall frame to create angles and generate that downhill plane we all like to see. McWilliams is another guy who is now using the hands over the head delivery and his strike throwing ability really took off this year.
The Phillies have finally spent big in Latin America. Jose Pujols, Carlos Tocci, and Deivi Grullon are moving up through the system. But how have the Phillies done with their other big money outputs like Jonathan Arauz, Arquimedez Gamboa, Luis Encarnacion, Jhailyn Ortiz, and Daniel Brito?
I was very happy to see that Sal Agostenilli won the Dallas Green award this year because him and his team of international scouts have absolutely crushed it the past few years. Arauz was a stud this season and I still can’t believe a 16 year old played at that type of level all season. Gamboa is another kid who has some impressive tools. He’s got a very slick glove and can range in either direction with ease. Watching him and Arauz tag team the middle of the field was so fun to watch. Encarnacion is one of the strongest kids you’ll ever see and he’s not done growing yet. The power is very real and his defense at 1st base was excellent this year, but plate discipline will be the deciding factor on how far the bat will carry him. Brito is a guy who could become a household name next year. I’ve only gotten glimpses of him at instructs and spring training, but the Phillies may have found another sure handed glove up the middle. I had the chance to see Ortiz during the spring in North Carolina. He is a massive kid with power that damn near off the charts. There are legitimate body concerns with him, but you’d be very surprised at how well he can move for such a big boy.
Image by Baseball Betsy