The Top 30 seems to be the standard for long prospect lists, and so it becomes the standard of comparison across multiple lists. Given that we started at 50 we can see the transition into the Top 30 is fairly gradual, but as we start to really climb up the list we see real quality players emerge. This group from 21 to 30 has some players who may help the Phillies in the far future, but there is also a nice group of players here who should see major league time in 2015. They won’t be the core of the next good Phillies team, but they do profile to fill out many of the complimentary pieces on a good team. This sort of depth is something the Phillies haven’t had on the farm for as long as I can remember, and this section is where my excitement of the future of the team really starts to build.
21. Zach Green – 3B/1B (Profile)
DOB: March 7, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’3″ 210lb
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (#125 Overall) in the 2012 draft by the Phillies ($420,000 bonus)
Role: Solid Regular
Risk: High – There are still some questions on Green’s approach, and the injury has reopened the debate over whether Green will need to permanently move across the diamond to first base.
Summary: It was a weird year for the 2012 third round pick. A year after setting the Williamsport home run record, according to his full year stats, his power dropped off sharply, as did his walk and strikeout rates. But when you just look at just his second half, you see that he hit .282/.322/.443 over the second half of the year. While this points to a big drop in walk rate, it shows that a lot of the power is still there and the drop in strikeout rate might be for real. The cause for all of this weirdness was a problem with one leg being longer than another one, which was causing back and hip problems. The problem has been corrected with orthotics, but the missed time certainly did not help his season. Green played first base for Lakewood after returning from injury due to the presence of Mitch Walding (who is a good defender at the hot corner), and the Phillies’ effort to let him rest his injured hip and stay on the field. Green has all of the things he needs to be able to stick at third base. While some question his range, his arm is plus and his glove is at least average. Coaches praise Green’s work ethic and think he can overcome many of his issues. At the plate he can have problems with offspeed pitches, and his bat speed is nothing that is going to make jaws drop. He has plus or better raw power, and he has been able to periodically tap into it. Currently though, all of that power is to the pull side, as only 2 of his 19 home runs over the past two seasons have been to the opposite field. At third base, Green can be a solid regular, and possibly a bit higher if he can really tap into his power. At first base there would be a lot of pressure on the bat to get to its ceiling in order for him to be a regular. This next year in Clearwater will go a long way to determining his profile, but the key will be his ability to stay on the field all year long.
Previous Rank: 16
22. Jesmuel Valentin – 2B (Profile)
DOB: May 12, 1994 (20)
H/W: 5’9″ 180 lb
Acquired: Drafted in the 1.5 round (#51 overall) in 2012 draft by the Dodgers ($984,700 bonus). Traded on August 16, 2014 along with RHP Victor Arano to the Phillies for RHP Roberto Hernandez.
Role: Solid Regular
Risk: Medium – Despite his lack of high minors experience, Valentin’s versatility gives him a lot more room for error than most second base prospects.
Summary: When it was announced that Valentin would be the first of two PTBNL for Roberto Hernandez. the trade was already leaning in the Phillies favor. Valentin brings a lot of potential versatility to the field as he can play nearly every position outside of pitcher and catcher. However, that versatility may not be needed as Valentin has the profile to be a second baseman going forward. Valentin is a switch hitter, but is better from the left handed side of the plate (his OPS was .162 higher vs RHPs). His power potential is below average, but he makes hard contact to the gaps. While the 25 steals might point to a speedy baserunner, he is more of an average runner that has good instincts. The hitting abilities sum up Valentin’s profile overall; he likely doesn’t have a single tool that is above average, but he makes up for that with very good baseball instincts, starting with a very mature approach at the plate. Unlike some players on this list who are fairly raw (and you wonder whether they will get the most out of their abilities), Valentin has shown that he can maximize his profile. In most cases I am very hesitant of second basemen, because the profile doesn’t lend itself well to a major league bench if the player is not a starter. Average arm strength makes it unlikely that Valentin can play third base or shortstop over any extended period of time, but he can fill in at those positions better than Cesar Hernandez can. In addition to the left side of the infield, Valentin can play first base and both outfield corners. Although the bat doesn’t play at any of them, he has enough versatility to stick on a major league roster. Valentin will enter 2015 as the best second base prospect in the Phillies’ system. He should open 2015 in Clearwater, but he could move quickly up to Reading and free up space at second base for Andrew Pullin
Previous Rank: N/A
23. Andrew Knapp – C (Profile)
DOB: November 9, 1991 (23)
H/W: 6’1″ 190lb
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#53 overall) in the 2013 draft by the Phillies ($1,033,100 bonus).
Role: Solid Regular
Risk: High – Knapp will need to prove he can stick behind the plate, and he still has a lot of work to do since returning in early 2014 from Tommy John surgery.
Summary: It was a fairly static year for Knapp in 2014 as he returned slowly from Tommy John surgery, first just hitting and playing DH, and then by slowly easing into catching. He got off to a very slow start with the bat in Clearwater before he was demoted to Lakewood. He didn’t get off to a great start in Lakewood, but after the South Atlantic All-Star Game (62 games) he hit .297/.359/.462 for the Blueclaws. He was much better as a left handed batter (.309/.371/.487) than a right handed one (.250/.317/.337), which is consistent with his results in 2013. Either way, the bat is more than enough behind the plate, where the hit tool could play close to average with room to be a little better. The power, almost entirely from the left handed side, is in the below average range, and there will be more doubles to the gaps than large home run numbers. The question is whether he can do enough defensively to stick at catcher. Behind the plate, the arm has not returned all the way yet, but the Phillies think it will come all the way back to above average. Knapp’s footwork isn’t great, and he still is raw on his receiving. This keeps him from being a lock to stay behind the plate, and if he has to return to the outfield it is hard to see his bat putting up numbers to be more than a 4th/5th outfielder. Despite the fact that Knapp will be 23 on opening day, the Phillies are content to take their time with him to let him gain the skills he needs behind the plate. If it all works out, Knapp could be an offensive catcher with average defensive skills behind the plate, and that would be well worth the wait.
Previous Rank: 13
24. Joely Rodriguez – LHP (Profile)
DOB: November 14, 1991 (23)
H/W: 6’1″ 200lb
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on March 25, 2009 by the Pirates. Traded on December 10, 2014 to the Phillies for LHP Antonio Bastardo.
Role: #4 Starter
Risk: Medium – Although Rodriguez is coming off a down 2014 regular season, he flashed a higher ceiling this fall in a small sample size. He will start the year in AAA so he is right on the cusp of the majors.
Summary: Rodriguez was the return for left handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, and at first glance it is hard not to see another Bastardo in Rodriguez. Much like Bastardo, Rodriguez brings a fastball that sits 91-93 and can reach up to 95, though in short stints he has been clocked as high as 97. He adds a low 80s slider and a changeup in the same velocity range. What gets scouts excited and is mentioned in each scouting report I have seen, is that everything in the arsenal moves. The result has been huge ground ball rates (57.3% in 2014 regular season), but low strikeout rates (12.7%). However, Rodriguez seems to have taken a step forward in the Arizona Fall League, which he then carried forward into winter league. Under the tutelage of IronPigs pitching coach (who was the Scottsdale pitching coach), Rodriguez attacked batters more, and the results were impressive. His GB% declined a bit (down to 51.1%), but his strikeout rate skyrocketed up to 21.7%, at the same time his walks also slightly declined. The lack of dominating secondary pitches likely caps his upside around a #4 starter, but the Phillies really liked what they saw in fall league, and if Burris can coax more out of the slider there might be a bit more upside here. If Rodriguez is unable to be successful in the rotation, the bullpen fall back is still pretty exciting, with the fastball possibly sitting more in the mid-90s and the two secondary pitches keeping hitters off balance in the short stints. He likely will never reach the strikeout rates of Bastardo, but he may be able to be 90% of the pitcher that he was traded for. Rodriguez won’t be topping any Phillies prospect lists or heading up their rotation, but given that he cost a year of a solid left handed reliever the potential return here is something to get excited about.
Previous Rank: N/A
25. Aaron Altherr – CF (Profile)
DOB: January 14, 1991 (24)
H/W: 6’5″ 220lb
Acquired: Drafted in the 9th round (#287 overall) in the 2009 draft by the Phillies ($150,000 bonus).
Role: Second Division Regular
Risk: Medium – Altherr is a major leaguer based on his skillset, but to be a regular of some sort he will need to make improvements to his approach and close some holes in his swing.
Summary: There is little doubt that Altherr has a major league role – the question has been how big that role is. Altherr has proven over the past few years that he can handle center field, and the lanky center fielder seemingly glides with plus speed around the outfield. The problems for him is his bat. Some of his poor 2014 can be explained by a wrist injury he suffered in the fall of 2013 that needed offseason surgery, but the injury does not explain all of the negatives. The swing itself is fine, but his long arms add length to the swing path, which consequently opens up holes in his swing. This, coupled with a questionable approach and not great pitch recognition, leads to a lot of questions about how much contact Altherr will make. The questionable hit tool hurts one of his biggest strengths – his plus raw power. If Altherr can make enough contact to have the power show up in games, then he could be a major league regular in center field as long as his range holds up. More likely though he can be somewhere between a platoon and solid 4th outfielder. This past year saw a big drop in Altherr’s stock, and it has been an up and down minor league career for Altherr. A good year in 2015 will put him close to a longer stint in the majors. Given the recent minor league free agent signings by the Phillies, Altherr probably will at least start back in Reading, likely moving to right field because of Roman Quinn. A good start in AA could get him to Lehigh Valley quickly, and given the Phillies major league outfield situation, he could see major league time.
Previous Rank: 6
26. Aaron Brown – RF (Profile)
DOB: June 20, 1992 (22)
H/W: 6’2″ 220lb
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (#81 overall) in the 2014 draft by the Phillies ($750,000 bonus)
Role: Solid Regular
Risk: High – Despite his current loud tools, Brown’s approach is really concerning and represents a potential roadblock.
Summary: For a 22 year old 3rd round pick, there is a lot more risk and upside with Brown than you would expect. He had a chance to be drafted fairly highly as a pitcher, but it looks like the Phillies’ decision to let him hit has the bigger chance for a large payoff. Brown can handle center field, but he fits best in right field where he brings a cannon of an arm and above average speed. At the plate he has a fine swing that needs some minor cleanup. He has plus raw power and will show above average game power. The big problem I have with Brown is his approach and pitch recognition. In professional ball, Brown came to the plate 252 times and struck out 60 times, which is not an alarming rate. However, the fact that he walked only 7 times is very concerning. This is not a new thing for Brown, as he walked 9 times to 52 strikeouts in his junior year at Pepperdine. Brown is only just now starting to hit full time, but many prospects have been derailed by poor plate discipline. If he can find a middle ground where he can still be aggressive without wild hacking, he could be a good player for the Phillies. Everyone who meets and sees Brown raves about his makeup, and he plays the game at warp speed with a great a work ethic on and off the field. I might be very wrong on Brown, but given the risk in his profile, I am willing to be a year late to elevate him up my list. After getting a short audition at Lakewood to end 2014, Brown could get a chance to break camp with Clearwater in 2015, where he would likely play right field and share the outfield with Dylan Cozens and Carlos Tocci.
Previous Rank: N/A
27. Luis Encarnacion – 1B/LF (Profile)
DOB: August 9, 1997 (17)
H/W: 6’2″ 185lb
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on August 29, 2013 by the Phillies ($1,000,000 bonus)
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: Extreme – As a first baseman or left fielder the bar for Encarnacion’s bat to reach is very high. He is still very young, so there is plenty of room for it to go right or wrong.
Summary: Encarnacion was one of the youngest players playing stateside in 2014, and his youth showed. At times Encarnacion looked overwhelmed, but at others he hit the ball hard enough to remind everyone why he was one of the top Latin prospects in 2013. The question when the Phillies signed Encarnacion was whether he could hit enough to overcome his defensive profile. This is still the overwhelming question as Encarnacion is now locked in as a first baseman or left fielder. In left field he has shown some natural aptitude for fielding though the transition is still in its early stages. He has enough bat and raw power to make it work, possibly enough to be special. Right now Encarnacion has plus raw power, and despite his youth, there is not a lot of space for further physical projection, but he has plenty of strength right now. When he was an amateur, Encarnacion recieved high praise for his natural hitting ability and he has the potential for a plus hit tool, but he will need to find a better approach at the plate to get his bat in a good position for hard contact. In recent years the Phillies have challenged their top Latin prospects by sending them to Lakewood with a fall back to Williamsport if needed. But given the fact that Encarnacion will spend almost the entire 2015 season at age 17, it is more likely that he goes to Extended Spring Training before going north to Williamsport.
Previous Rank: 15
28. Odubel Herrera – 2B/OF
DOB: December 29, 1991 (23)
H/W: 5’11” 200lb
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on July 3, 2008 by the Rangers. Selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Phillies on December 11, 2014.
Role: Second Division Regular
Risk: Medium – Herrera will be making the jump from AA to the majors, and while the bat has been above expectations, there are still a lot of questions about which positions he can handle.
Summary: It is really hard to rank Herrera in the Phillies’ system. The Rule 5 pick lacks a real set position; his numbers seem to outstrip his tools, and he is about to be thrust into the major leagues. Herrera was a bit of a sleeper in a Rangers system that is full of Latin middle infielders. In 2014 he won the Texas League (AA) batting title before going to the Venezuela Winter League, where he won the batting title and put up a blistering .372/.432/.556 line in the regular season. Herrera is passable at second base, but the glove and arm are more towards fringe average, possibly reaching average. However, he has taken to the outfield this winter, first in left field and now center field. There have not been any reports on how good the defense has been in winter league, but it has been positive enough that the outfield is where the Phillies see him getting the most time. Herrera has made good strides toward a better approach and saw a big jump in his walk rate in 2014. Despite his showing in winter ball, Herrera has yet to show anything above 30 power potential previously, and while he has plus speed, he has not been a productive base runner up to this point. Herrera has a good feel for contact and scouts love his hit tool. It looks like the Phillies are committed to working Herrera into the 2015 team. The big question for Herrera is whether he can actually play the outfield. If he can, the fall back is a utility role. If he can’t then he is going to be on the tough road of hitting at second base. Given how Herrera has outhit his tools so far, there is a chance he will outhit the second division label I have above and can carve out a career as a major league regular.
Previous Rank: N/A
29. Nefi Ogando – RHP (Profile)
DOB: June 3, 1989 (25)
H/W: 6’2″ 185lb
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on June 14, 2010 by the Red Sox. Traded on August 31, 2013 to the Phillies for SS John McDonald.
Role: High Leverage Reliever
Risk: Medium – Despite his proximity to the majors, Ogando’s control and slider are far from finished products.
Summary: Bullpen arms are volatile, and normally this describes the risk of burnout associated with the profile. However, in the case of Nefi Ogando the opposite was true, and he started making the jump from org arm to impact reliever. Between when he was acquired for John McDonald and the start of the 2014 season, his fastball went from 93-95 touching 96 to 96-98 and routinely hitting 99 and even up to 100. At the beginning of the year his slider was still poor, but by the end of the Arizona Fall League he was flashing a potential plus pitch. His Reading ERA was a bit deceptive as he had one of the worst months ever with a 9 IP 25 H 19 ER 6 BB 8 K nightmare. In July and August he was much more solid with a 23 IP 17 H 9 ER 11 BB 24 K line. He continued this success into the AFL, where he turned the head of scouts and coaches and earned himself a spot on the 40 man roster. His upside is not quite to the level where Ken Giles has established himself, especially when it comes to the control of his pitches. However, Ogando has the upside and stuff to be a dominant reliever for the Phillies going forward. He should break camp with the IronPigs and will be in contention to be one of the first relief arms the Phillies bring up to the majors.
Previous Rank: UR
30. Severino Gonzalez – RHP (Profile)
DOB: September 28, 1992 (22)
H/W: 6’1″ 153lb
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on April 27, 2011 by the Phillies ($14,000 bonus)
Role: #5 Starter
Risk: Low – There is not a lot of growth left for Gonzalez, but he has proven that he has enough stuff to pitch in the majors. From here on out it will be about him using his arsenal as precisely as he can.
Summary: Severino Gonzalez was not the dominant pitcher that his 2013 numbers suggested, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a solid pitching prospect. The most impressive part of Severino’s season was that he managed to pitch 158.2 innings, with only a single start skipped, and his numbers were fairly solid at the end of the year. The Phillies limited the use of Gonzalez’s best pitch, his cutter, and forced him to develop a changeup. Continuing to develop the changeup will be key for Gonzalez going forward, because he is going to need to rely more on a complete arsenal of pitches as he lacks a single dominating pitch. Severino is still fairly young and has a slight frame, however there is not a lot of room for a lot more muscle so I wouldn’t expect any big velocity gains. Severino will bring a fastball in the 89-91 range and will get up to 92, and he can move it around and command it in the zone. He adds that to the earlier mentioned cutter, a changeup, a slider, and a curveball, all of which are fringe average, possibly getting to average (with the cutter maybe a half grade ahead of the others). Due to this, Severino has struggled to miss bats and has been home run prone. If he can keep mixing his pitches and avoid walks, then he could be a #5 starter with an outside chance at being a #4. It isn’t a big ceiling, but Severino has positioned himself where he could get a shot at the major leagues fairly soon.
Previous Rank: 19