We are now into the Top 30, which for whatever reason has become our traditional unit of longer prospect lists. The back of the Phillies’ list is stronger than it has ever been, as new trade additions continue to force players further down the list. For the first time, this list takes a turn towards certain major leaguers, with two players already making their Phillies’ debuts. While this part of the list lacks the sexiness we will see in the Top 20, it does include some players that could see big breakouts in the next few years, but they come with risk. This group of 10 represents some of the most intriguing players in the system to watch in 2016.
21. Thomas Eshelman – RHP (Profile)
DOB: June 20, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’3” 210lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#46) by the Astros in the 2015 draft ($1,100,000 bonus). Traded to the Phillies with Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Harold Arauz, and Brett Oberholtzer for Ken Giles and Jonathan Arauz on December 12, 2015.
|GCL Astros (Rk)||2||2||0-1||4.0||4.50||6.8||0.0||11.8%||17.7%|
|Quad Cities (A-)||2||2||0-0||6.1||4.26||13.5||0.0||10.3%||17.2%|
Role: #4 Starter
Risk: Medium – Eshelman has major league above average to plus command right now, so the risk of stumbling on the way to the upper minors is low. However, there are a lot of questions about how well his average stuff will fare against high level competition.
Summary: Eshelman put up ridiculous control numbers in college, which got him drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Houston Astros (7 walks to 139 strikeouts in 2015, 18 to 321 strikeouts over his 3 years). Eshelman did not go higher in the draft, because his stuff has remained rather pedestrian. He has an average fastball at 88-91 that has touched 93, but it lacks life. His breaking ball and changeup are also average. This pitch combination allowed him to get college batters out, but many express concerns about how it will work against more advanced batters. After pitching 137 innings in college Eshelman pitched very little in pro ball in 2015 for the Astros, so there is little to glean from his first year statistics. Because he was traded to the Phillies during the offseason, we don’t have any information from Instructs to go off of either. The feeling around the draft was that Eshelman would move quickly to start his career, because he would be able to carve up the lower levels with his control, so it would make sense that the Phillies see him that way as well. Eshelman’s future profile is interesting, as his current stuff would indicate a ceiling as a #4 starter and a likely outcome as a #5 starter. However, his command is so good that his ceiling could jump if he can improve any of his pitches. While we cannot predict with any certainty that his pitches will improve, it does make him intriguing to a major league organization that thinks they can bring that out of him.
2016 Outlook: Given Eshelman’s polish, he should start the year in Clearwater and shouldn’t be on too much of an innings limit. The Phillies are likely be aggressive with him until he is challenged by the level. Only then will we really start to see where he projects going forward.
Previous Rank: N/A
22. Jhailyn Ortiz – LF (Profile)
DOB: November 18, 1998 (17)
H/W: 6’2” 260lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Phillies in July 2015 ($4,000,000 bonus)
2015 Stats: Ortiz did not play in professional ball during the 2015 season.
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: Extreme – Ortiz’s raw power makes his upside immense, but he is a big bodied 17 year old who has no pro at bats. Reportedly Ortiz has shown a good approach, and he moves well for his size, so the risk may go down in future years, but it is a tough profile.
Summary: The Phillies spent a lot to get Ortiz. They traded two pitchers to get the slot money and locked in their 2015-2016 International signing period in the Fall of 2014. At the time, Ortiz was possibly the top player in the July 2 class By the time July rolled around and he got to officially sign he had slipped well down public rankings (he also sat there not getting to play games for like 6 months). The Phillies still gave him a $4M signing bonus (the largest among J2 players), and despite the industry skepticism, I trust Sal Agostinelli. What the Phillies paid for is a unique young player. He is a massive 17 year old, with massive power. In addition to the power being prodigious he has the ability to use it in games. However, as you would expect from a guy his size, there is some swing and miss, especially with soft away. Like many 17 year olds, the approach can leave a lot to be desired at times, though he was solid in Instructs vs older talent. It can be a bit rough in left due to his routes and instincts, but the range is there. Despite his size, Ortiz is a present average runner and has a good amount of athleticism. The Phillies will likely keep in left field for a while. Ortiz is not a small man, but while he could certainly lose some extra mass, he is not fat. The key will be keeping the weight off while maintaining his athleticism. Overall you just don’t see teenagers shaped like Ortiz very often, and with differences from the norm you get a lot of concern. The upside potential for Ortiz is a 40+ home run left fielder, and if the bat develops, a move to first base won’t harm him much.
2016 Outlook: Given the Phillies’ investment in Ortiz, it is almost assured that Ortiz will go to Extended Spring Training and then the GCL. Ortiz is on the older end of the spectrum for a July 2 signing so there will a lot of pressure to perform.
Previous Rank: N/A
23. Darnell Sweeney – 2B/OF (Profile)
DOB: February 1, 1991 (25)
H/W: 6’1” 195lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 13th round (#416) by the Dodgers in the 2012 draft ($100,000). Traded to the Phillies with John Richy for Chase Utley on August 19, 2015.
|Oklahoma City (AAA)||116||522||9||32||8.0%||22.2%||.271||.332||.409|
Role: Second Division Regular/Utility Bench Player
Risk: Medium – Even though he has reached the majors, there is a lot of risk with Sweeney, because the contact quality is still low and the strikeouts are high. To top it off, his best position is probably left field — where his bat is well below average — though he can play almost anywhere on the diamond.
Summary: Darnell Sweeney was a raw toolsy athlete when he was drafted, and now four years later in his second organization, he is still a toolsy athlete who is slightly less raw. The big problem with Darnell Sweeney the prospect is the confluence of different aspects of his game, specifically his offensive and defensive profiles. Sweeney is fine from both sides of the plate, with a willingness to work the count. However, there is some swing and miss, and big league pitchers are able to fool him. Sweeney hits the ball hard for his size, but does have the tendency to overswing at times, which lead to awkward contact in his short time in the majors (infield flyballs). He is also a plus runner, but he has struggled to be an efficient basestealer. Sweeney’s batting line is not always going to be attractive (though better than his major league debut), and a team will need to live with some inconsistency at the plate, but there is enough potential there that he won’t be a complete liability. Sweeney was a shortstop in college, but has also played second base, third base, center field, right field, and left field in the pros. Sweeney has the athleticism and the arm to handle any infield position, but he lacks the natural instincts. This makes shortstop a long shot and third base tough. Second base is an option as long as you are ok with the occasional mistake and spectacular play, but overall he is a below average defender. Sweeney’s speed would indicate that center field could be an option, but his route running makes it difficult. His best position is left field, where his speed and arm are defensive assets and his route running missteps can be covered up by his speed. The problem is that the bat does not play as a regular in left field, and his problems with his glove make it hard to play him everyday where his bat does play. This leaves Sweeney very much caught in the middle. However the defensive flexibility and decent offensive tools do make him an interesting bench option. Sweeney would be able to give a team extra bench flexibility, because he can fake shortstop and centerfield while being a true backup in both outfield corners, as well as second base and third base. There is still a small chance that he can improve his defense enough at second base to be a second division regular there, but it will take some large improvements.
2016 Outlook: Sweeney has already made his major league debut, but he is not guaranteed to start there in 2016. It is in the Phillies’ best interest that he become a better defender at second base, both for his potential as a regular and as an utility option. Sweeney has all of his minor league options, so the Phillies could get him regular playing time in Lehigh Valley to start the year. He will likely get a chance to win a big league job in Spring Training, but a return to the minors might not necessarily be a demotion.
Previous Rank: N/A
24. Victor Arano – RHP (Profile)
DOB: February 7, 1995 (21)
H/W: 6’2” 200lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Dodgers in April 2013. Traded to the Phillies along with Jesmuel Valentin for Roberto Hernandez in August 2014.
Role: #3/#4 Starter
Risk: High – Arano has a risk of being a reliever due to his struggles in the rotation, but he has the stuff to start. Arano has yet to show the ability to do more than just throw strikes. He has also had trouble working through a lineup a 2nd and 3rd time.
Summary: Victor Arano continues to be a bit of an enigma. The right handed pitcher came over in the trade that sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers, and before that was one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. This year, Arano got off to a late start after some arm trouble in Spring Training before joining the Threshers rotation. Arano struggled in the first half in the rotation, being especially prone to the big inning and turning over the lineup. However, in the second half, Arano was able to put together better starts while both walking less and striking out more. In the rotation Arano features a solid three pitch mix with three at least average pitches with the fastball (91-94 T95) and the breaking ball showing the most potential. What makes Arano reallyenigmatic is that, while he’s been just ok in the rotation, he has been dominant relief. In Mexico this winter, Arano has worked exclusively as a reliever and the results have been fantastic. Arano is reportedly more comfortable in the bullpen, and his stuff has been more impactful there. This winter Arano has reportedly been throwing more 94-97 with improved life on his fastball. The easy path for Arano would be to put him in the bullpen and fast track him towards the majors, but continuing to use him the rotation has more potential payoff. With his feel for three pitches, the hope is that the velocity will translate from bullpen to rotation and allow Arano to be a mid rotation starter. The stuff is not the only thing holding Arano back. Right now he has more control than command, which means he is not walking batters, but he still doesn’t have the ability to place pitches where needed. This plays into his problems turning a over lineup, and just overall keeping hitters off balance. If Arano cannot stay in a rotation his future is as a high leverage reliever in a bullpen. The fastball-breaking ball combination should allow him to repeat his winter ball performance of missing bats and keeping men off of the bases.
2016 Outlook: For now, Victor Arano will almost certainly stay in a rotation somewhere. It appears that the last few spots in the Reading rotation may come down to spring performance, so Arano could make a return trip to Clearwater in 2016. If the Phillies do put Arano in the bullpen, he could move very quickly.
Previous Rank: 14
25. Jimmy Cordero – RHP (Profile)
DOB: October 19, 1991 (24)
H/W: 6’3” 215lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Blue Jays in January 2012. Traded to the Phillies along with Alberto Tirado for Ben Revere on July 31, 2015.
|New Hampshire (AA)||17||0||0-1||24.2||2.92||5.8||0.4||13.3%||21.0%|
Role: High Leverage Reliever
Risk: Medium – Cordero took a good step forward in both his slider and control in 2015. However, his control is still below average, and he is prone to outings where he can’t find the strikezone.
Summary: Jimmy Cordero was one of two pitchers that came back to Philly for Ben Revere. Cordero is one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the minor leagues, with a fastball that can reach 102. In most games he sits 98-101, but it can take a few pitches to warm up that velocity. In addition to the velocity, Cordero’s fastball has some natural cut to it, though it can flatten more at the higher velocities. Cordero has more than just a fastball, featuring both a slider and a curveball. The slider is a much better pitch and flashes plus or better potential. Late in the season, he started to show feel for command, able to both throw it for a strike and break it out of the zone. However, the slider’s consistency still lacks, and he often got awkward swings in AA by it just not being his fastball. There are some that believe that Cordero can be better than Ken Giles, but Cordero has not made the command improvements that Giles did in 2014. Cordero has the ability to find average command, but it might take a bit to get there. Cordero is unlikely to step into the bullpen ready to close from day 1, but there is elite upside in his right arm.
2016 Outlook: Cordero will likely go to AAA, where he will work on throwing strikes on a consistent basis. He was added to the 40 man roster in November, so once he is ready he will get his shot to contribute in a weak bullpen.
Previous Rank: N/A
26. Alberto Tirado – RHP (Profile)
DOB: December 10, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’0” 180lbs
Acquired: Signed by the Blue Jays as an international free agent in July 2011 ($300,000 bonus). Traded to the Phillies along with Jimmy Cordero for Ben Revere on July 31, 2015.
Role: #2 Starter/High Leverage Reliever
Risk: Extreme – Even when effective in relief, Tirado has been unable to find the strikezone. If he can’t find the strikezone, he does not have a major league future in any role. If he finds his control, he could be a top end starting pitcher or lights out closer.
Summary: There is probably no prospect in the Phillies’ system with a wider gap between floor and ceiling as Tirado. His stuff is absolutely electric, his fastball sits 94-97 and will touch 98, but has shown the ability to get to 100. His slider is a wipeout pitch that is plus to plus plus. Tirado did not throw his changeup much in the bullpen, but in starts it showed the potential to be a plus pitch. He has the raw stuff to be a frontline starter, but raw stuff is not everything. This year saw Tirado move to the bullpen to try and jump start a struggling career. While his control was still atrocious, he was able to miss enough bats and generate enough weak contact to still be successful. The bullpen is Tirado’s likely final destination, because the control leaps needed to be a starter are enormous. However the Phillies have indicated that they are going to stretch him back out as a starter. Tirado turned 21 this winter, so there is time to give the experiment a chance, because the payoff could be immense. If Tirado can’t stick in the rotation, his ceiling in the bullpen is still high, and he could develop into a dominant back of a bullpen asset.
2016 Outlook: If the Phillies are trying Tirado as a starter, he will likely to join the Clearwater rotation where he can work with the bulk of the Phillies player dev staff. If the Phillies just want to throw him in the bullpen, he could start in AA and would arrive as fast as his control allows him to.
Previous Rank: N/A
27. Edubray Ramos – RHP (Profile)
DOB: December 19, 1992 (23)
H/W: 6’0” 165lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Cardinals in March 2010. Released by the Cardinals in February 2011. Signed as a free agent by the Phillies in November 2012.
|Desert Dogs (AFL)||8||0||1-1||9.2||7.45||13.0||0.9||0.0%||27.9%|
Role: High leverage reliever
Risk: Medium – Ramos has the control, but he still loses his command at times. The line between a middle reliever and a high leverage stopper can be a thin one.
Summary: Ramos had a lot of helium last year when he made the top 50 as a reliever, without appearing in a full season game. In 2015 he exceeded even those lofty expectations when he dominated the Florida State League before ending the regular season in Reading (he would also pitch in both the Arizona Fall League and Venezuelan Winter League). His numbers were not as good in AA, as his control faltered, but the control bounced back in Fall League, when he did not walk a batter in any of his appearances. In addition to Ramos’ success against higher level competition, his fastball ticked up from 92-94 touching 95 to sitting 94-97. He still throws a breaking ball that goes from a power curveball to a short, cutter like slider. There is more control than command as he tends to fill the strikezone more than work the edges, but there is room for the command to continue to grow. With two plus pitches and solid control, Ramos projects as a good middle reliever with back end impact if he can grow his command. He was added to the 40 man roster this offseason and should see the majors at some point soon.
2016 Outlook: By being on the 40 man roster Ramos will get an invite to big league spring training, but there is very little chance that he will open in the big league bullpen. His performance there will determine whether he makes a repeat trip to Reading or moves on to Lehigh Valley. Either way he will be close to a major league call up.
Previous Rank: 38
28. Juan Luis – CF (Profile)
DOB: March 23, 1996 (20)
H/W: 6’4” 175lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in September 2014.
|GCL Phillies (Rk)||39||142||2||14||6.3%||21.1%||.244||.321||.382|
Role: Above Average Regular
Risk: Extreme – Juan Luis is mostly just a bunch of raw tools right now, but he has also had a limited time to put those tools to use on the baseball field. Luis’ defensive upside does give him a high enough base that good growth at the plate can give him a high upside overall.
Summary: It is rare to see an International Free Agent start their career at age 19. Juan Luis came pretty much out of nowhere, but everyone who sees him raves about his upside. Despite his inexperience, the base tools for Luis make him exciting. It starts with him being an above average defensive center fielder with plus plus speed. That defensive ability will give him time to work through his other issues. At the plate, Luis is long and lanky, but his swing is good. There is room for physical projection in his body, however it is limited by a frame that doesn’t have a ton of places for the muscle to develop. He does have some present power, though it is mostly doubles to the gaps until he adds strength. His approach is still immature, but he does flash an understanding of the strikezone and pitch recognition. The ultimate upside for Luis is a plus defensive center fielder with a solid hit tool and below average power. That is close to a first division regular, but odds are that both the hit tool and power come in below that. The defense does give him a good base to build on in a similar way to higher regarded prospects like Carlos Tocci and Roman Quinn. Depending on how good his defense can be, he may be able to carve out a reserve role long term that can provide power and speed off of the bench if the bat comes in below expectations.
2016 Outlook: Due to his age it is more likely that he will start in Lakewood than Williamsport. Luis got a bit of a pass on his stats in his first year, but there will be less forgiveness next year.
Previous Rank: UR
29. Alec Asher – RHP (Profile)
DOB: October 4, 1991 (24)
H/W: 6’4” 230lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round (#156) by the Rangers in the 2012 draft. Traded to the Phillies with Matt Harrison, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, and Jake Thompson for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman on July 31, 2015
|Round Rock (AAA)||12||12||3-6||64.2||4.73||9.9||2.2||6.9%||19.5%|
|Lehigh Valley (AAA)||4||4||2-0||26.0||2.08||9.3||1.0||2.8%||11.3%|
Role: #5 Starter/Long Relief
Risk: Low – Despite his struggles in limited major league time, Asher is essentially major league ready. He could use more polish in his offspeed, as well as an increase in command, but it is mostly down to execution.
Summary: Alec Asher is about as generic a backend starting pitcher as they come. He succeeded at the minor league level by mixing 5 pitches and throwing strikes. The result of all of this has been a propensity for the long ball and hard contact in AAA and the majors. Asher features a 4 seam fastball at 90-93 that can reach 95, a sinker at a slightly lower velocity, a below average curveball, a potential average changeup, and an above average slider with plus potential. Asher still lacks the command to place his pitches where he needs to. To keep hitters off balance, Asher will need to command his arsenal and be able to expand the zone. Despite his initial struggles in the majors, Asher does have the stuff to be a #5 starter on a major league team, with a ceiling a little above. The margin of error is low, because his secondary stuff lacks the bat missing ability to survive non-optimal command. The lack of a dominant second pitch also limits Asher’s upside in the bullpen, and there are concerns that his stuff will not play up in short stints. With the Phillies’ pitching depth, there may not be rotation spots in the majors or AAA for Asher to start this year, so he will need a strong spring to carve out a spot. Because he has the pitches and stamina to start, he may fit as a long reliever. He willmost likely be an up and down arm until he is out of options.
2016 Outlook: It is hard to get a grasp on where Asher fits into the rotation picture in 2016. The Phillies are deep enough that Asher does not have a path to starting the 2016 rotation, but if he can carve out a rotation spot in AAA, he could jump to the front of the call up line. He will need to perform in his opportunities in order to keep a spot in the rotation going forward, as more of the top pitching prospects become major league ready.
Previous Rank: N/A
30. Elniery Garcia – LHP (Profile)
DOB: December 24, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’0” 155lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Phillies in December 2011.
Role: #4 Starter
Risk: High – Garcia’s lack of impact stuff gives him a small margin for error on his way to the major leagues. His advanced feel and stuff should help him continue to climb, but he has no room for stumbles.
Summary: Garcia has been easy to overlook in a system full of new arrivals, with a small frame, average fastball, and low strikeout rate. However, Garcia is left handed and has an advanced feel for pitching, which is a good base for any pitcher. Arsenal wise, Garcia pitches with his fastball at 89-91 and can touch up to 92, and the pitch features solid movement. He matches that with an above average curveball that could get to plus with growth in its command and consistency. Garcia’s worst pitch is his changeup, which is still fringe average, but it does have average long term potential. There are some concerns with Garcia’s lack of strikeouts, however the Phillies forced their pitchers to work fastball command and changeups this year, which limited the bats they missed. It is worth waiting to see if his numbers rebound with his full arsenal available, because Garcia does lack a true knockout pitch. Even with a statistical rebound, Garcia’s stuff does not indicate that he will ever be truly dominant at the major or minor league level. If Garcia can continue to grow, he could be a solid #4 starter because of his three pitch mix.
2016 Outlook: Garcia will likely move up to Clearwater to start 2016. He is polished enough that he could reach AA by the end of the year, but a year in hi-A would not be a problem given that he will pitch the entire year at age 21.
Previous Rank: 16