I could talk for days about how a player on the fringes of this list could contribute to a major league team some day, but the reality is that the future of the Phillies is really built on these ten players. This year, many of them will join former top prospects like Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco in forming the core of the next competitive Phillies team. They may not all be stars, and they may not contribute immediately, but they have the talent to be impact players. Collectively they show the wide range of resources that have gone into rebuilding the roster, with 4 home grown draft picks (2 1st round, 2 2nd round), an international signing, and prospects from trades that sent out Cole Hamels, Ken Giles, and Jimmy Rollins. This is what we are excited about.
1. J.P. Crawford – SS (Profile)
DOB: January 11, 1995 (21)
H/W: 6’2” 180lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (#16) by the Phillies in 2013 draft ($2,299,300 bonus).
|Desert Dogs (AFL)||5||22||0||0||9.1%||27.3%||.250||.227||.150|
Risk: Medium – To reach his full ceiling, Crawford will need to get stronger and add more power to his game. He did struggle to make quality contact against left handed pitching, but that should improve with more reps.
Summary: The non-graduation of Corey Seager and Byron Buxton means that Crawford will not be the #1 prospect in baseball this offseason, but he should still be an easy Top 5 on any list. Crawford’s raw tools are not going to jump off a scouting report — no 70 or 80 grade to be found. What is there is a plus hit tool, coming from good bat speed and a great feel for contact. That plays into average raw power, which should show up more in games as Crawford grows stronger. He is also an average to slightly above runner, though he can struggle to get up to speed at times. At shortstop Crawford has a plus glove with excellent actions, especially turning the double play. His arm has plus strength and accuracy, even if he is prone to making simple errors when he rushes a play. All of that combined at shortstop is probably a first division player, but Crawford is elite at what comes in between the raw tools. His pitch recognition and approach at the plate might be the best in the minors, and in 2015 he walked (63) more than he struck out (54). It isn’t just patience that makes Crawford elite; he takes close pitches and works counts into favorable positions, while not being afraid to attack juicy pitches. His two-strike approach is amazing, with the ability to wait back and use his quick hands and strong wrists to line pitches to all fields. This means that while he lacks the elite bat speed of Nick Williams or loud raw power of some his contemporaries, Crawford gets more out of his physical tools at the plate, and they will likely play in games above their raw grades. Crawford is not without flaws, however. He is prone to simple mental errors in the field, all of which are correctable, but he will need to clean them up before reaching the majors. On the bases, Crawford struggles to get good jumps and has not been an efficient base stealer yet. In Reading, Crawford struggled vs left handed pitching, only posting a .227/.289/.327 line against them with an un-Crawford like 1:2 BB:K ratio. All of these things are not career threatening, and are more just oppurtunities for improvement that will determine whether Crawford is an elite superstar or just merely very good. Crawford’s season ended on a bit of a down note, as he had a rough 5 games in the Arizona Fall League and then exited the league with a broken thumb. The injury bookended Crawford’s season with missed time, as he missed April with an oblique injury, but Crawford has already been declared 100% healthy and there are no lingering concerns. All of the Phillies’ trades during the rebuild have brought talent into the organization, but no future superstars. Crawford is that superstar and the core building block of what is hopefully another World Series team.
2016 Outlook: The Phillies could send Crawford back to Reading if they wanted, but it seems like the organization would like to keep their top group of prospects together. That would likely mean a trip to Lehigh Valley along with Williams, Thompson, Appel, Knapp, Eflin, and others. That whole group should be pushing for the majors by the middle of the season. When he is ready, the Phillies shortstop job will be waiting for Crawford.
Previous Rank: 1
2. Nick Williams – CF (Profile)
DOB: September 8, 1993 (22)
H/W: 6’3” 195lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#93) by the Rangers in the 2012 draft ($500,000 bonus). Traded with Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, Jorge Alfaro, Alec Asher, and Matt Harrison to the Phillies for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman on July 31, 2015.
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: Medium – Nick Williams is on the cusp of the major leagues, but he will still need to improve his approach at the plate at some point to have everything work.
Summary: With the top tier of hitting prospects off the table in Cole Hamels trades this winter, Nick Williams represented the best hitter available in trade this summer. It easy to knock Williams, because there are obvious flaws to his game, but his upside and ability are so huge that they may only knock him from being a superstar to just kind of average. At the plate, Williams has incredibly quick hands and feel for contact that allow him to make hard contact even when he is fooled. The bat speed, strong wrists, and strength give him at least plus power with some evaluators thinking there might be another grade there based on his batting practice performances. The big problem here is his approach at the plate, which leads to Williams watching hittable pitches go by and then swinging at the unhittable. His natural hitting ability has allowed his batting average to remain high even during these struggles. He made improvements in 2016, cutting his strikeouts way down, but his walk rate remains low. In the majors he is going to need to walk a bit more to provide value, but more than that he will need to improve his approach to maintain his high quality of contact. The other big stride Williams made in 2015 was making himself into a good defender in center field. With plus speed and a solid arm (plus strength and average accuracy and consistency) he has the makings of at least an average defender with room for a bit more. His routes can still be non-direct, but he has made noticeable improvements. If center field does not work, he could move to right field with his arm, but many think that left field is the best long term fit. In left he would be one of the better defenders at the position. Nick has the speed to steal 15-20 bases a year, but he still has struggled to have success on the base paths. Improving his instincts on the bases (both stealing and taking extra bases) will be a big part of his success going forward. Nick’s upside is immense as there is room for an Adam Jones like high average 30 HR 15 SB a year bat. Many of his struggles are reminiscent of Maikel Franco coming into the 2015 season, where his raw ability allows him to get away with making mistakes. Williams will need to work to channel his aggression and approach into hitting pitches that work for him. If he can do that, he should see his walk rate rise as pitchers respect his ability to hit almost any pitch, anywhere.
2016 Outlook: Williams will face the same test Franco had to in the soft tossers of AAA, and he will need to learn to lay off junk and crush mistakes. The Phillies would like to see him continue to play center field, even if his defense rates behind players like Herrera, Altherr, and Quinn, so he should have the everyday job in Lehigh Valley. Given his raw abilities, Williams should be forcing his way to Philly by the middle of the season, where he should be an important part of their future core.
Previous Rank: N/A
3. Jake Thompson – RHP (Profile)
DOB: January 31, 1994 (22)
H/W: 6’4” 235lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#91) by the Tigers in the 2012 draft ($531,800 bonus). Traded along with Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria on July 31, 2014. Traded along with Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, and Matt Harrison to the Phillies for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman on July 31, 2015.
Role: #2/#3 Starter
Risk: Medium – Jake Thompson’s stuff has stepped back enough that the front of a rotation ceiling might be a bit out of grasp, but he is some changeup improvements and a tick better command from being a major league starter in 2016.
Summary: Jake Thompson was the last name of the Cole Hamels deal to come out, and the trade marked his third organization in his young career. Thompson looked to make a dramatic improvement after the trade, but in reality he kept his BB% and K% steady before and after the promotion. However, that doesn’t take into account his two good Eastern League playoff starts, including a complete game shutout against Bowie. Just looking at walks and strikeouts doesn’t show the improvements that Thompson made, as he should a large uptick in ground ball rate and drop in line drive rate, to go with a drop in his home run rate. On the mound, Thompson throws his fastball at 88-94 and can touch 95, however the lower end of that range is dominated by his two seam fastball. He mixes in a changeup that is fringe average to average, depending on the day, and an average curveball that has some loopiness to it and is more of a change of pace than a bat misser. The real weapon here is his slider, which is at least plus, with some evaluators in the past throwing a plus plus grade on it. The pitch is a bat misser, and he is not afraid to throw it in any count. For the most part, Thompson has better control than command, though he does command his slider well and has started to really keep the ball down in the zone. It has been noted that he does have some delivery inconsistency that can lead to worse command and bouts of wildness. Outside of the command, it will be important to see how he sequences and uses all of his pitches when his arsenal is geared towards winning and not development. There are some that think Thompson is best suited for the bullpen, where his fastball and slider would make him dominant. However, the strides he has made with his changeup and command make him much more valuable in a major league rotation. If everything progresses he can work as a #3 starter, with the fastball and slider leading the way and the changeup/curveball keeping hitters off balance. Given his workhorse frame, Thompson may be able to work as a #4 starter off of just the fastball/slider if he can keep his control together. Thompson has the upside of a #2 starter, but it will take one of part of his game taking a step forward. This gives him a bit of volatility, but also safety, because no matter the evaluation, it seems likely that he can be a starting pitcher.
2016 Outlook: Thompson will join a stacked Lehigh Valley rotation in 2016. It is hard to predict who will make the majors first, but the Phillies rotation is not stacked enough that Thompson won’t be able to force the issue if he shows that he is ready. He could be on a path that will have him in the majors at a similar pace to Aaron Nola during the 2015 season.
Previous Rank: N/A
4. Mark Appel – RHP (Profile)
DOB: July 15, 1991 (24)
H/W: 6’5” 220lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (#1) by the Astros in the 2013 draft ($6,350,000 bonus). Traded along with Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Thomas Eshelman, and Harold Arauz to the Phillies for Ken Giles and Jonathan Arauz on December 12, 2015.
|Corpus Christi (AA)||13||13||5-1||63.1||4.26||9.7||1.0||8.4%||17.8%|
Role: #2/#3 Starter
Risk: High – Mark Appel is currently in AAA but lacks the command, changeup, and pitchability to be an impactful major league starter. His pre-draft ceiling is still intact, but he will need to make major adjustments to hit that upside.
Summary: It is difficult to really know what Mark Appel is right now, and even more difficult to know what he will be in a new organization. In back to back years, Appel was considered by some to be better than Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, and then he was taken over Kris Bryant in the next year. In reality though, none of that matters, because for the Phillies, he is merely the second best prospect they got for Ken Giles. That does not make Appel any less of an enigma. Appel has a fairly standard arsenal (fastball-slider-changeup) and a clean delivery, and he can throw strikes. The fastball at its best is 92-96 touching 97-98, his slider show at least plus, and his changeup shows above average to plus. It is the raw stuff of a #2 starter, yet he has been hit around at every stop in the minors. There have been a lot of theories as to why Appel has struggled, especially when it comes to the mental aspects of the game, but there are plenty of on the field reasons to go around. The biggest is his consistency; while he will show at least 3 plus pitches, he rarely will show 3 plus pitches in the same game. Then there is the fastball, which has velocity but little movement. With Houston, Appel threw a four seam fastball almost exclusively, and he got almost no natural movement on the pitch. In college he threw a two seam fastball almost exclusively, which added some movement to his arsenal. His delivery is clean and easy, but lacks any deception giving the hitter great view of the ball out of his hand and making a straight fastball just that much more hittable. Topping all of this off is his fastball command, where he leaves the ball up in the zone and struggles to get the ball down in the zone for weaker contact. It is too early to know what issues the Phillies will look to fix and how they may try to fix them, which leaves Appel’s future outcome a mystery. At the high end, Appel could be a very good #2 starter with 3 plus or better pitches, and at the low end, he could be a reliever that teams constantly are passing around looking to fix. The most likely outcome is somewhere in the middle, as a usable starting pitcher who will flash dominance and ineffectiveness in consecutive starts. We really don’t know what Appel will be, but he has as much upside as any player in the system outside of Crawford.
2016 Outlook: While he ended the year in AAA, Appel is not really major league ready, so he will likely return to AAA. Due to the trade he will get to pitch in the pitcher friendly International League instead of the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. The Phillies have no need to rush Appel, but they can create major league a opportunity if he can make adjustments in 2016. A late 2016 call up is probably the likely outcome for his journey to the majors.
Previous Rank: N/A
5. Jorge Alfaro – C (Profile)
DOB: June 11, 1993 (22)
H/W: 6’2” 225
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Rangers in January 2010 ($1,300,000 bonus). Traded along with Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, and Matt Harrison to the Phillies for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman on July 31, 2015.
|GCL Phillies (Rk)||3||6||0||0||0.0%||0.0%||.500||.667||.750|
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: High – Despite spending 2015 in AA, there are many questions still surrounding Alfaro’s future. The first is that he is not a sure thing to stay behind the plate, despite his strong arm and athleticism, and may need to eventually move to an outfield corner. The second is his bat, where an overly aggressive approach give him a poor hit tool and prevents his huge raw power from playing in games.
Summary: Ever since Alfaro signed with the Rangers, his potential has intrigued everyone. He has a weird profile for a catcher, because he is an amazing athlete, which makes it easier to project superstar potential onto him. The 2015 season was his 6th minor league season, and yet he still has not been able to actualize his tools at the plate and in the field. The rumor was that the Phillies under Ruben Amaro had wanted a catcher to come back in a Hamels deal, and Alfaro filled that need as the 3rd best prospect in the deal. Alfaro played a couple of games in the GCL for the Phillies, after missing most of the season to an ankle injury suffered while he was in the Rangers’ organization. At the plate, Alfaro has elite level raw power, but it has been limited mostly to batting practice, because his approach issues have limited his contact, which has been poor throughout his career (though Kiley McDaniel said after the trade that some scouts thought Alfaro looked better in games this spring). Otherwise, Alfaro has good bat speed and could get to an average hit tool if he can fix his approach, but more realistically, he is going to end up somewhere below that. His approach is not Alfaro’s only problem; there is plenty going wrong behind the plate. Alfaro is athletic enough to stick behind the plate, but he struggles in receiving and blocking. He has made strides, but he remains rough in his actions and instincts. Alfaro’s arm strength is among the best in the minors, but slow transfers and reactions have limited its usefulness. He has started to make it work, but it remains inconsistent. Unlike most catchers, Alfaro has at least average speed, though he has slowed his stolen base totals in recent years. This speed does make Alfaro a right field candidate if catching does not work out for him. He can also play first base if needed. Alfaro has a huge variety of outcomes. If he can stay behind the plate, there is not a lot of pressure on his bat to perform. In right field he would need to hit and get to his power in order to be a major league regular. His ultimate upside is at catcher, with an arm that shuts down the running game and a bat that can hit 25-30 home runs, which would be a perennial All-Star. On the other end of the spectrum, if his approach never improves he will be a AAAA OF/1B who can only hit mistakes. Luckily the Phillies have plenty of time to let him develop.
2016 Outlook: With Andrew Knapp likely going to AAA and given Alfaro’s struggles in AA, Alfaro should get the Reading catching job for most of the year. He will only be 22 to start the year, so there is plenty of time for him to develop as a catcher. Alfaro is already on the 40 man roster, so he could see major league time late in the year if he find success.
Previous Rank: N/A
6. Cornelius Randolph – LF (Profile)
DOB: June 2, 1997 (18)
H/W: 5’11” 205lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (#10 overall) by the Phillies in the 2015 draft ($3,231,300 bonus).
|GCL Phillies (Rk)||53||212||1||6||15.1%||15.1%||.302||.425||.442|
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: High – Randolph has an advanced feel for contact at his age. However, all of his experience so far has been at the complex league level. While the move to left field has put him on a faster track to the majors, it has also added pressure on his bat to perform.
Summary: Randolph was not talked about as a top 10 pick in the draft until the week of the draft. The consensus when the Phillies drafted him though was that he was the best pure high school hitter in the draft. The big problem was that he was positionless. Randolph played shortstop in high school, but he wasn’t going to stick there. Third base seemed like an option, but his arm and reactions were not great in the infield. The Phillies immediately moved him to left field in an effort to eliminate this problem all together. The key for Randolph will be his bat. Randolph has a great left handed swing with plus bat speed and advanced feel for contact. In the Gulf Coast League, he was able to line the ball to all fields and showed power to the gaps. He needs to work on punishing pitches when they are in his power zone, and the Phillies are confident that he will grow into his power over the next few years. He has the chance for a plus or better hit tool and at least above average power. The most impressive aspect of Randolph’s pro debut was his approach, as he walked as much as he struck out. His contact abilities allow Randolph to work deep into counts without sacrificing his hitting position. It is hard to see him keeping up his debut rates, but he should maintain good walk and strikeout rates throughout his career. Randolph should be average in left field going forward. It took some time for Randolph’s arm to transition to the outfield, and it should play as average in the long term. On the bases, Randolph is a smart runner, but will likely have below average speed by the time he makes the majors. Moving to left field puts a lot of pressure on Randolph’s bat, but he has the hitting projection to still end up a first division regular. Despite the added pressure, the Phillies move of Randolph to left field allows him to progress at the speed of his bat, not his glove, so he could get to Philly quickly.
2016 Outlook: Randolph should open the year in Lakewood. Much like J.P. Crawford in his first year, Randolph could move to Clearwater by the middle of the season if he can repeat his 2015 season at the higher level.
Previous Rank: N/A
7. Franklyn Kilome – RHP (Profile)
DOB: June 25, 1995 (20)
H/W: 6’6” 175lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Phillies in January 2013 ($40,000 bonus).
Role: #2/#3 Starting Pitcher
Risk: High – Kilome has flashed all of the raw stuff to be a top of the rotation pitcher, so while there is room for more growth, it isn’t required. However, he has yet to pitch in full season ball and he lacks the command to start at present.
Summary: Franklyn Kilome entered the 2015 season as a trendy sleeper. His fastball was touching 94-95 by the end of 2014 after starting the year at 89-92, and his big frame hinted at more. Early in 2015 Kilome was touching 96-97 with his fastball while sitting 93-95. Even with the increase in velocity, Kilome’s fastball has kept its movement, and the pitch has good sink and this combines with his height to give him huge ground ball tendencies (57.3% in 2015) and makes it difficult for opposing batters to square him up. Given his size, there is room for Kilome to add at least another 2-3 mph to his fastball, and there were unsubstantiated rumors out of Williamsport that he hit 100 when amped up. It is easy to see the fastball growth, but it probably showed the least growth of Kilome’s pitches this year. The big leap was in his curveball, which evolved from somewhere in the slurve-slider range into a true downward breaking curveball in the 76-80 mph range. The pitch shows plus potential with good shape and bite. More impressively, he showed at times the feel and ability to manipulate the shape and pace on the pitch, moving it at times back towards a more slider like pitch in the low to mid 80s. Kilome flashed a lot of his potential before going north with the Crosscutters, but what he didn’t flash was his changeup. Early in the year he was throwing his changeup in the hi-80s even up to 90-91. He was overthrowing the pitch and it was mostly a slower fastball with worse command. Over the spring and summer, Kilome began throwing the pitch with a slightly different grip, and the resulting pitch was 84-86 with more fade and deception. He still is very inconsistent in his control and feel for the pitch, but there is the foundation for an above average pitch as he grows into it. Overall Kilome’s delivery is smooth and easy, which points to future command and control. However, he still has a tendency to overthrow and force pitches, which can cost him some command. He is at his best when he pounds the bottom of the strikezone as hitters struggle to square up his pitches. His control suffered in the middle of the 2015 season when he hurt his ribs and missed some starts. He was fully healthy to end the season and pitched in Instructional League. If Kilome’s velocity continues to progress and he gains feel for the curveball, his ceiling is that of a front of the rotation starter. It is more likely to bet on some progress, but not enough, and he will be more of a mid rotation starter. Kilome is a very cerebral pitcher with a good understanding of the game, so don’t be surprised if at some point he starts adds new wrinkle to his arsenal (like the return of a true slider). There is a lot to like and a lot to dream on here.
2016 Outlook: Kilome will almost certainly go to Lakewood to start the year. He is nearing the point where his stuff will dictate that he will need to move quickly to continue to be challenged. With a good start he could get to Clearwater by the middle of the season.
Previous Rank: 15
8. Roman Quinn – CF (Profile)
DOB: May 14, 1993 (22)
H/W: 5’10” 170lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#66) by the Phillies in the 2011 draft ($775,000 bonus)
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: High – Roman Quinn might start the year in AAA, but he has yet to have a full healthy season. Much of Quinn’s game is based around speed and if his speed slips he could come in below his ceiling. Quinn does get some safety from plus defense in the outfield, which takes some pressure off of his bat.
Summary: This season was supposed to be Roman Quinn’s big breakout year. He had fully recovered from his Achilles injury and was now finally settled in as a full time center fielder. He started by ripping through AA, showing a better feel for contact and power, to go along with his electric speed. He then tore his quad and was out until mid August, when he played backfield games in Clearwater. Roman Quinn is a natural right handed hitter and had put up his best average against lefties, however scouts always liked his left handed swing more, because he got power and dynamic contact (though with worse overall numbers). This season, the two swings seemed to find a happy medium, with his left handed swing making more contact while his right handed swing saw a large uptick in power. Overall, his swings are fairly quick and more geared for line drives than fly balls, with the left handed swing still having more pop, but less contact, than his right handed swing. Quinn has also shown a good approach (it is better from the right handed side) and cut his strikeout rate in 2015. He won’t hit for a ton of power, but he could hit 10 home runs a year at his peak, while peppering the gaps with extra base hits. Quinn’s defense in 2015 was a big reason for his early season hype. The former shortstop took well to the outfield, showing the ability to be a plus defender in center field. His arm also translated to the outfield, becoming a weapon in center field, with him gunning down 8 runners in his 58 games. Quinn still does not take the most efficient routes in center, so some improvement could make him an elite defender when coupled with his speed. The speed is what brings everything together for Quinn. On the base paths he is a terror, and his stolen base efficiency should rise as he picks his spots more. However, there is room for him to steal 50+ bases a year. Additionally, the speed allows his hit and power tools to play up by turning groundouts into hits and singles to doubles. On defense, he has enormous range, and his speed allows for him to make up for mistakes in route running. The tools are there for Quinn to be a highly impactful major league player. The big problem is that he just completed his 5th pro season, and his career high for games played is 88 (or 112 if you count fall/winter ball). Up to now, none of his injuries have been recurring, and he has come back from each one, but there is a lingering hesitancy that he might be injury prone. That coupled with a smaller frame gives pause as to whether he can hold up over a full season. A completely healthy Quinn would rate 4 or 5 spots higher on this list.
2016 Outlook: Quinn might get a return to Reading as the Phillies look to balance the center field reps between him and Nick Williams. Quinn is already on the 40 man roster, so a call up is not a huge inconvenience for the Phillies if they need a center fielder in a pinch. The biggest obstacle to Quinn reaching the majors might be the other outfielders in the system, of which three (Williams, Altherr, and Herrera) play a comparable center field.
Previous Rank: 7
9. Andrew Knapp – C (Profile)
DOB: November 9, 1991 (24)
H/W: 6’1” 190lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#53) by the Phillies in the 2013 draft ($1,033,100 bonus).
|Desert Dogs (AFL)||15||64||0||1||17.2%||25.0%||.235||.375||.294|
Role: Major League Regular
Risk: Medium – Knapp has improved his defense enough that it should be playable, but it is not good enough to make up for his bat not hitting its ceiling. Knapp’s track record of hitting is still fairly short, and he has shown some weaknesses, especially against left handed pitching.
Summary: Andrew Knapp went from being the top college catcher in the 2013 draft into relative obscurity fairly quickly when he lost much of his second year to Tommy John surgery. He then proceeded to be solid with the bat in low-A while struggling behind the plate. The first indication that a breakout may have been coming happened this spring, when Knapp was the top hitter in minor league camp for the Phillies. Knapp then hit ok in Clearwater before exploding in Reading, posting one of the greatest minor league months ever, hittingt .404/.469/.758 in August. It turns out that in Clearwater the Phillies had him working exclusively on catching, and while he was still rough at times behind the plate, he was much improved on his 2014 performance. It wasn’t just the ability to focus on hitting that propelled Knapp’s second half success, however. He suddenly became a true switch hitter without giant platoon splits, here is his line against LHPs over his career:
Now the improvements against lefties is obviously small sample size and BABIP fueled, but by making it an asset, Knapp improved his overall results dramatically. He did regress against left handed pitchers in the Arizona Fall League in a very small sample, so it is worth watching in the future. Knapp’s swing from both sides is relatively simple, with a feel for solid line drive contact. Knapp has also shown a good approach and solid pitch recognition, and while he will miss some, he will also work deep counts for a good share of walks. Reading has a tendency to inflate offensive numbers, and in the case of Knapp, it greatly increased his power numbers. At home Knapp hit 7 doubles and 8 home runs, and in a similar number of road games he hit 14 doubles and 3 home runs. The road numbers match the scouting report better, as Knapp is more likely to hit balls to the gaps than out of the park. Long term, Knapp is probably going to be more of a 10-15 home run a year player. Behind the plate, Knapp has improved his defense to passable. He is athletic and is starting to get a feel for framing pitches. However, he still struggles to block balls in the dirt and passed balls will likely always be a problem. His arm is back to having above average strength now 2 years removed from surgery, but he will need to shorten his transfer and release to not be a liability in the running game. Knapp getting to average defense is probably the ceiling here, but just sticking at the position gives him value. Knapp’s future is as an offensive catcher with a good batting average, solid on base abilities, and some power. If he can hit his ceiling offensively, he should be a solid major league contributor. If he can’t catch, he probably will go to left field or first base, which will be a tough bar for his bat to reach, so there is a lot riding on him continuing to improve on defense. Despite his detours on the way, he is really not too far from the major leagues and well on pace for a second round pick in the 2013 draft.
2016 Outlook: Knapp won’t need a 40 man spot until after the year, and Jorge Alfaro needs more AA time, so a trip to AAA seems in order. If Knapp continues to hit like he did in AA, he will force the Phillies to make a decision about Rupp or Ruiz in the middle of the season. Otherwise by late summer or September, Knapp should get his shot to be the everyday major league catcher.
Previous Rank: 23
10. Zach Eflin – RHP (Profile)
DOB: April 8, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’4” 200lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st supplemental round (#33) by the Padres in the 2012 draft ($1,200,000 bonus). Traded along with Yasmani Grandal and Joe Wieland to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp and Tim Federowicz on December 18, 2014. Traded along with Tom Windle to the Phillies for Jimmy Rollins on December 19, 2014.
Role: #3/#4 Starter
Risk: Medium – Eflin has all the pieces you want in a mid rotation starter, but he has yet to put all of his pitches together with command.
Summary: Zach Eflin looks the part of a good starter due to his large frame and easy delivery. Coming into the year, Eflin mostly pitched at 88-92 touching 94 plus, with the bottom range being dominated by his two-seam fastball. The fastball was paired with a changeup showing plus potential and a below average short slider. He didn’t strike out many, but he also did not walk many and kept the ball in the park. Eflin showed a lot of the same early in the year, allowing no runs in his first three starts. He was still pitching at 88-92, with the Phillies emphasizing throwing strikes and developing his slider. As the season went on, Eflin posted solid lines and kept the walks down, but he didn’t miss bats. In mid July, Eflin went away to the Pan Am games and then struggled upon his return. However, a few starts after his return, Eflin’s arsenal went through some changes. The first was the reintroduction of his curveball, a pitch he had not used since high school. The other was a move away from his 2 seam heavy approach to one featuring more 4 seam fastballs. The result was fewer ground balls, but Eflin missed more bats and walked less Here is the actual split (first documented use of CB was Aug 8, also includes two playoff starts, IBBs removed from BB%).
That is still not domination, but it does start to look like a positive trend. The curveball was the new pitch in Eflin’s arsenal, but the reintroduction of his 4-seam fastball allowed Eflin to get up to 95-97 at the high range to blow a pitch past a hitter. Combined they gave Eflin a larger velocity range and more tools for fooling hitters. These new developments do not suddenly make Eflin an elite prospect, because they are still just additional pieces of a large puzzle that is far from solved. Eflin pitched all of 2015 at age 21, while posting a career high in innings, missing nearly a month for the Pan Am games. His current arsenal is a two seam fastball at 88-92, a four seam fastball at 91-94 touching 95-97, an above average changeup with solid deception and fade, an average short slider in the upper 80s, and a below average loopy curveball in the mid 70s. Eflin still has more control than command, and he has yet to mix his arsenal in a way that leads to better results on the field. Altogether there is room for Eflin to be a mid rotation workhorse, because he can handle a heavy innings workload. It is going to take at least another year of development and polish for Eflin to become a useable major league pitcher. Eflin may end up being a pitcher who has a longer developmental timeline upon reaching the majors, so he could be more of a #4 or #5 early in his career.
2016 Outlook: Eflin will almost certainly start in the AAA rotation, and he will be behind Thompson and Asher for a call up if needed. He will almost certainly spend almost the full year in AAA, but could see the majors late in the year if they need innings, because he will need a 40 man spot after the season. Not reaching the majors in 2016 won’t represent a failure for Eflin, because he does need more minor league time.
Previous Rank: 5
Image of Crawford and Quinn by Chris LaBarge