I like writing a Top 50 because the players in this group don’t get left out. Almost everyone here is flawed, and many of them will fail. However, there are real prospects here, and there are players who will see limited major league roles as well. Most of this list would make the Top 30 in a normal year, but all of the trades have pushed everyone down.
31. Dylan Cozens – RF (Profile)
DOB: May 31, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’6” 235lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#77) by the Phillies in 2012 ($659,800).
Role: Second Division Regular
Risk: High – Despite reaching AA, Cozens still has major impediments to major league success. His swing remains stiff, and he lacks the ability to adjust mid-swing to make solid contact. His approach improved in 2015, but it remains a liability, and Cozens adds little defensive value in the outfield.
Summary: In 2015 Dylan Cozens reached the AA level for a brief and bright appearance, but remains a one dimensional player. There is no denying that Cozens has big time raw power, and he has the strength to hit the ball out to all parts of the ballpark with ease. During the 2015 season the Phillies tried to make him a more complete hitter, resulting in a decrease in strikeouts and walk rate, to go along with a temporary decrease in power. Cozens was passable at the plate in Clearwater. He then mashed in a 19 game sample in Reading (including the EL playoffs), and had success in Puerto Rico’s winter league (a minor injury kept him out of the Arizona Fall League). At the plate Cozens has a naturally long swing due to his size. His pitch recognition is still fairly poor, and he can be fooled by spin and elevation. His bat speed is average at best which means he can lack the time and ability to adjust. Despite his limitations, his power is good enough that he can hit balls out of the park that have no business being anything but lazy fly balls. Cozens’ power output depends on his hit tool improving, because he will face fewer mistake pitches at higher levels. Cozens has been a good base stealer despite below average or worse speed. Consequently, his stolen base numbers are likely to decrease dramatically at higher levels. However, Cozens is stealing bases by having good instincts and reading pitchers, so he should still be able to steal a couple off of pitchers at higher levels. It’s more likely that the good instincts on the bases should allow Cozens to take extra bases in other situations. Cozens is not a liability in the outfield, but his glove doesn’t provide additional value either. He has an above average to plus arm that works in right field, but he will likely move to left field in deference to better defenders. Due to his size, stiffness, and already below average speed there are some that think Cozens will eventually have to move to first base. If Cozens can get to his power in games, the position he plays will be less relevant. However, his current swing and pitch recognition limitations leave a lot of questions about the amount of contact Cozens will make. Cozens’ defensive shortcomings put pressure on his bat to reach its full potential. It is more likely that Cozens can carve out a role as a second division regular or platoon bat, but there is a fine line between that and a AAAA player.
2016 Outlook: Reading should amplify Cozens’ power, however he is going to face the best pitchers of his career. Better pitchers will be able to locate and throw good secondary pitches, and he will need to build a good approach to succeed. He is Rule 5 eligible after the season, so a good year could place him in contention for a September call up.
Previous Rank: 18
32. Tom Windle – LHP (Profile)
DOB: March 10, 1992 (24)
H/W: 6’4” 215lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (#56) by the Dodgers in 2013 ($986,500 bonus). Traded to Phillies with Zach Eflin for Jimmy Rollins on December 19, 2014.
|Desert Dogs (AFL)||10||0||0-0||10.1||1.74||7.8||0.0||9.1%||15.9%|
Role: High Leverage Reliever
Risk: Low – Windle moved to the bullpen in the middle of the 2015 season, and didn’t see an increase in velocity until the Arizona Fall League. Windle still has issues with command and control that could hold back his immediate success.
Summary: Tom Windle was the second piece that came back for Jimmy Rollins last winter. Windle was a reliever in his first two years of college before moving to the rotation in his junior year and then into the pros with the Dodgers. The general thought was that he would eventually have to move back to the bullpen, because his changeup remained poor, but with his velocity from the left side, it was worth giving him a shot in the rotation. In many ways Windle’s 2015 season proved this point. In the rotation his fastball was 89-92 touching 93, but his control was poor and his changeup unusable. This eventually forced him to the bullpen by the middle of the year just to get consistent work. The transition to the bullpen was an improvement, but not without struggles with his stuff only ticking up to 91-93. The Phillies then sent Windle to the Arizona Fall League, where he finally showed his full potential. Windle’s delivery has issues with consistency, but his velocity is easy. His stuff ticked up to 93-95 touching 96 with natural cut, and he demonstrated an improved better ability to throw strikes. Windle’s slider has a wide range of velocity and movement from about 82 to 89 and will vary from loopy to a cutter. Windle has scrapped his changeup from games, but is still using it in the bullpen. It looks like Windle is in the bullpen to stay and he should be quite good there. He lacks the command and elite stuff to be a closer, but he is good enough to handle both righties and lefties, so he won’t be a LOOGY. Ultimately, with some more polish he could be a 7th or 8th inning arm for a good team.
2016 Outlook: After his success in the AFL, Windle will probably start in AAA. Given the Phillies’ lack of impact left handed pitchers, Windle won’t have to wait long if he performs. He should join a young evolving bullpen for the Phillies by the end of the 2016 season.
Previous Rank: 12
33. Ben Lively – RHP (Profile)
DOB: March 5, 1992 (24)
H/W: 6’4” 190lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round (#135) by the Reds in 2013 ($350,000). Traded to the Phillies for Marlon Byrd on December 31, 2014.
Role: #5 Starter/Middle Reliever
Risk: Low – At this point Ben Lively is what he is. He can make some command improvements but his stuff can come close to making his major league debut.
Summary: In the Reds organization in 2014, Ben Lively showed a fastball at 90-92 touching 94, a plus slider, and an average curveball and changeup. In Reading, Lively did not seem to be consistently fooling batters with his deceptive delivery. His fastball spent much of the year at 89-91 touching 92, and while it will show some run it straightens out at higher velocities. His slider flashes plus, but has been mostly average to slightly above. His changeup shows average potential, but lacks movement. His curveball is more of a below average pitch, but it works as a change of pace to keep hitters off balance. With the slight decline instuff, Lively needed to better locate his pitches. His control is ok, and he can throw the ball in the strikezone fairly well. However, Lively lacked command of his pitches this season. He was unable to hit the corners with his fastball and would often leave the ball in the middle of the zone. Without a return to his previous stuff, Lively’s upside is fighting for the last spot in a rotation. There is some hope that his stuff ticks up in relief, and he can become an above average middle reliever. He would be able to use primarily his fastball and slider and not have to worry about developing his changeup or curveball. He will need to separate himself from the Phillies’ other back end starter types to get a shot at the majors, as there is a log jam already forming.
2016 Outlook: Lively will need to fight for a spot in what looks to be a crowded AAA rotation, otherwise he could be looking at another year in Reading. He is Rule 5 eligible after the year, so a good year could get him to Philly, and a poor year could get him buried.
Previous Rank: 11
34. Aaron Brown – RF (Profile)
DOB: June 20, 1992 (23)
H/W: 6’2” 220lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (#81) by the Phillies in 2014 ($750,000 bonus).
|Desert Dogs (AFL)||13||47||1||2||8.5%||21.3%||.200||.277||.350|
Role: Second Division Regular
Risk: High – The 2015 season was Aaron Brown’s first full season as a hitter, and it showed at times. He still has large holes in his game that could hold back his development and ultimately his chance at the majors.
Summary: In college Brown was a good pitcher and hitter, but when the Phillies took him in the 3rd round, they put him in the outfield. It is easy to see why Brown is intriguing as a hitter. It starts with his defense, which is average in center field and above average to plus in right field. He matches good range and instincts with a plus arm carried over from his pitching days. At the plate, Brown has plus raw power, but has yet to tap into it. Brown’s swing is a bit stiff, and this adds some swing and miss to Brown’s game. He can also get caught up trying to hit everything out of the ballpark. Brown’s approach and pitch recognition were putrid in his first season, and he made big strides to make them playable in year 2. Something worth watching going forward is that Brown has shown a knack for getting hit by pitches. Additionally, Brown is an above average runner, but he has yet to have success on the base paths. Brown has the raw tools to be a major league regular, but there are a lot of things standing in his way. While Brown lacks ABs, having split time pitching in college, he is also a bit older. A move from center field to right field puts a lot of pressure on Brown’s bat. Even if he can’t make the improvements to be a regular, he may be able to carve out a future as a 4th outfielder, because he can play center right now and is good in a corner.
2016 Outlook: Brown more specific in Clearwater in 2015 that he should move to Reading in 2016. Brown should show more power, but it will be important to separate growth from park factors.
Previous Rank: 26
35. Arquimedez Gamboa – SS (Profile)
DOB: September 23, 1997 (18)
H/W: 6’0” 175lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Phillies in July 2014 ($900,000 bonus)
Role: Major League Regular
Risk: Extreme – Gamboa is physically underdeveloped and lacks feel for the game at the plate. He has plenty of upside and talent, but it has not yet manifested.
Summary: Gamboa was the Phillies top international signing in 2014 when they gave him $900,000 out of Venezuela. At the time he was rated as one of the best talents available, with a potential plus glove, plus speed, and a swing that generated a lot of good contact. That wasn’t quite the Gamboa of 2015, as he struggled greatly at the plate. Gamboa will never have big power and is lacking strength, but that wasn’t really the problem this season. His approach was bad, leading to an unseemly strikeout rate, especially down the stretch. When he was able to get on base, Gamboa flashed his speed and its potential long term impacts on his game. In the field Gamboa shows the defensive abilities that got him signed. He can lack focus at times, but is also capable of pulling off highlight reel plays. Gamboa spent some time at second base while sharing a team with Jonathan Arauz, but he is a shortstop going forward. He is likely to rack up high error totals in the minors, like many young shortstops, because the consistency is not there. It was a tough year for Gamboa, but he is still the kind of player that oozes upside. He is a potential defensive asset at shortstop, and has all of the quick twitch athleticism you want. Gamboa’s risk has certainly increased, but he remains a very intriguing prospect going forward.
2016 Outlook: Gamboa will almost certainly stay in Extended Spring Training to start the year. The path is clear for him to be the everyday shortstop in Williamsport, but he will need to claim it. Otherwise it will be a return trip to the GCL with a new double play partner like Daniel Brito.
Previous Rank: 31
36. Lucas Williams – 3B (Profile)
DOB: August 9, 1996 (19)
H/W: 6’1” 180lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (#83) by the Phillies in 2015 ($719,800 bonus)
Role: Major League Regular
Risk: Extreme – For Williams to reach his potential, he needs to develop physically. Until he puts on strength he will remain a high risk prospect and a bit of a mystery.
Summary: The Phillies went far off the public boards to take Williams in the third round, and then surprised everyone by paying him slot money. Williams was a shortstop in his senior year, but most evaluators didn’t expect him to stick there, and with plus speed and good athleticism the logical position was center field. The Phillies put him at third base in the Gulf Coast League. His is a weird profile at third base, because Williams lacks the power and build most expect for the position. Williams does bring speed (some rate it as plus plus) that is uncommon for the position, and he is athletic at the hot corner. His arm has plus strength but has had some consistency issues. He has the tools to be a plus defender at the position long term. At the plate, Williams is just as weird. He lacks power due to present strength, but he does have the frame to grow into below average to average power down the road. The most surprising part of Williams at the plate was his approach. He struck out a decent bit, but he also walked way more than anyone expected. He will obviously need to add strength to provide any value, but there is a base here to be a decent hitter. Williams’ speed does help out on offense too, and he could steal 30 bases a year as a pro. It is hard to project Williams’ future because his profile is so abnormal. If he never adds strength, he just isn’t a major leaguer. But if he can be an above average hitter with below average power, he is intriguing. He is a bit older for a 2015 high school draftee, so there is some added pressure for him to improve quickly. However, he may need some time to settle in at his new position and get physically larger.
2016 Outlook: Jan Hernandez has the inside track at the 3B job in Lakewood, which could force Williams to stay back in Extended Spring Training. The added time to build strength is probably a boon before facing the Lakewood stadium. If he does go to Extended Spring Training, Williams should be the starting third baseman for the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Previous Rank: N/A
37. Luis Encarnacion – 1B (Profile)
DOB: August 9, 1997 (18)
H/W: 6’2” 185lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Phillies in August 2013 ($1,000,000 bonus)
Role: Major League Regular
Risk: High – Moving to first base full time puts a lot of pressure on Encarnacion’s bat. However, he has all of the raw tools to make it work, and he is young enough to make it to the majors with incremental improvements.
Summary: If Carlos Tocci’s signing in 2011 brought the Phillies back to the international market, Luis Encarnacion’s signing in 2013 let everyone know that the Phillies are there to stay (not that everything has gone wonderfully for Encarnacion). Once mentioned in the same breath as Red Sox prospect Rafael Devers, Encarnacion is now two years in and is sliding down this list. Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Encarnacion is now a first baseman with all of the baggage and expectations that come with that. As a first baseman, Encarnacion has to really hit, and so far he has only done it half way. His power flashed, but then sputtered, and he walked less than you expect from a first baseman. Onto the good, Encarnacion played almost the entire year at age 17, turning 18 in early August. His swing is fine, and he hits the ball hard. He also made huge strides with his approach; while the walk rate is suboptimal, he took a huge chunk out of his K rate. Overall this year, he stopped looking overmatched and started to show a plan. The power is going to be there in the future, as he has shown at least plus raw power — it just needs to show up more in games. As an added bonus, Encarnacion has turned out to be a good defender at first base. He moves well around the bag and has been good at picking low throws. A good glove won’t carry him to the majors, but it does add some future value. There are easy criticisms against Encarnacion’s future profile. He is a right/right first baseman, with a body that is going to require a lot of maintenance. Now this doesn’t exclude him from success, but the bar is high. He has the tools and skills to make it work, and he is young enough that time is firmly on his side.
2016 Outlook: It is hard to predict where Encarnacion will go in 2016. He is young enough that another year of Extended Spring Training and then a trip to Williamsport is not unreasonable. You can also argue that in his third year, with more experience now under his belt, that he can make an attempt at full season ball. Either way he is going to need to show some results on the field in some aspect of his offensive game.
Previous Rank: 27
38. Jesmuel Valentin – 2B (Profile)
DOB: May 12, 1994 (21)
H/W: 5’9” 180lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st supplemental round (#51) of the 2012 draft by the Dodgers ($984,700 bonus). Traded to the Phillies with Victor Arano for Roberto Hernandez on August 28, 2014.
Role: Second Division Regular/Utility Infielder
Risk: Medium – Valentin missed almost all of the 2015 season due to an arrest for domestic violence, which set back his development. His bat is not a sure thing at second base, and his glove is not good enough for shortstop, making it a tough path as a regular. However, Valentin can play nearly every position on the field giving him a good floor as a utility player.
Summary: Jesmuel Valentin set his season back after being arrested for domestic violence in spring training. The Phillies suspended him until July 31. Valentin was solid upon returning to the Clearwater lineup, playing second base for the team through the playoffs. On the field Valentin has the stereotypical “grinder” skillset. He is a good hitter who can work a count and draw a walk. He has an average to slightly above hit tool, but poor power which may limit his ability to draw a walk at higher levels. He is not a great baserunner despite above average speed. It is more of the same on defense. Valentin can play every position but catcher, but does not have enough glove (or arm) to be a regular at shortstop or center field. He also lacks the bat to play the corners as anything more than a defensive replacement. That leaves second base as the only position where Valentin has any chance of being an everyday regular. However, to make it work he will need to reach his hitting potential. There is a chance that Valentin can be the Phillies’ long term answer at second base. However, as was alluded to earlier, the second base only profile is tough, because there is not really room to be a regular elsewhere. In the case of Valentin, he avoids the other pitfall of being a second base prospect, because he can be a utility player due to his positional flexibility. Valentin is part of the Phillies big crop of Rule 5 draft eligible players, meaning he will need to put up a good season to get protected, but also could earn a major league audition late in the season if he succeeds.
2016 Outlook: The Phillies and Valentin have moved on after the arrest and suspension, and there looks to be no lingering impacts to Valentin’s place in the organization. Valentin had a good enough campaign in the FSL and then in the Puerto Rican league that he should be the everyday second baseman for Reading. Due to his lack of power he should not have hugely boosted numbers from the Reading park, but it will be important to watch the doubles to home run ratio over the season.
Previous Rank: 22
39. John Richy – RHP (Profile)
DOB: July, 28, 1992 (23)
H/W: 6’4” 215lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (#98) of the 2014 draft by the Dodgers ($534,400 bonus). Traded to the Phillies with Darnell Sweeney for Chase Utley on August 19, 2015.
|Racho Cucamanga (A+)||22||18||10-5||124.1||4.20||10.4||0.8||6.3%||19.4%|
Role: #4/#5 Starter
Risk: Medium – Richy is fairly finished in terms of growth, outside of building on his command. He should be in AA to start 2016, which puts him not far from a major league role if the Phillies want him.
Summary: Darnell Sweeney will get the honor of being “the guy the Phillies got for Chase Utley”, and Richy will probably go down as “who?”. However, Richy was a nice little pickup in the deal for the Phillies. None of his pitches are really much above average, and his fastball was mostly 89-92 this season. He does throw all of his pitches for strikes and was able to miss bats in the tough Cal League with them. Richy immediately joined the Clearwater rotation for the playoffs and was solid in his starts, and he experienced a boost from pitching in the Florida State League vs the Cal League. His experience in keeping the ball in the park while pitching in a hitter friendly league (0.8/9 in the Cal League) will serve him well in both Reading and Philadelphia. He was also able to generate ground balls all year (51.8%) and had limited platoon splits, walking slightly more left handed batters while also striking them out at a higher rate. The ceiling for Richy is not large, he has the stuff to be a backend starter. That, coupled with a large frame, make him potentially valuable as an innings eating arm for the Phillies at some point soon. He was thought to be a quick mover when the Dodgers drafted him, but he is in a log jam in the Phillies’ system, so his ETA may not reflect his major league readiness.
2016 Outlook: Richy performed decently well at the hi-A level, so he should move up to the Reading rotation. He does not have a ton of growth left to make, but he has time to fine tune, as he is the last in a list of backend right handed starters in the Phillies’ system. His success will hinge on finding command over control to compensate for the lack of overpowering stuff.
Previous Rank: N/A
40. Alexis Rivero – RHP (Profile)
DOB: October 18, 1994 (21)
H/W: 6’0” 180lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent by the Phillies in November 2012.
Role: High Leverage Reliever
Risk: Medium – As a reliever Rivero, can move very quickly with his fastball/breaking ball combination. If the Phillies want to try Rivero in the rotation, then both the role and risk go way up.
Summary: Rivero came out of nowhere to have an impact in the lower levels in 2015. In 2014 he was a 19 year old GCL reliever who had a good ERA, but missed zero bats. This spring he was 91-93 with a good curveball, and his performance forced his way to the Lakewood bullpen. He just kept improving from there, working his way to the back of the BlueClaws bullpen, getting some saves before being promoted to Clearwater. While in Lakewood, Rivero added a harder slider to the curveball, and it quickly became his primary offspeed pitch. After a rough start in Clearwater (6.14 ERA in July despite 1 walk to 9 strikeouts in first 7.1 innings), Rivero dominated down the stretch, going as many as 3 innings in high leverage games (August to end of year, including playoffs 21 IP 9 H 3 ER 6 BB 24 K). Alexis Rivero is a bit on the shorter side, but he is young and solidly built and has shown he can handle a decent workload. He also no longer throws 91-93. He was 94-97 for the Threshers down the stretch and his slider has become a real weapon in the mid 80s. He still has the curveball and a changeup that is poor. Like most A-ball pitchers, he is more control than command, but there are signs of positive command growth. There were some rumors this fall that the Phillies might stretch him out as a starter. So far that hasn’t happened, but it is certainly an interesting path, because he developed so quickly that there might be good upside in a rotation, depending on how the stuff plays over longer outings. If the Phillies leave him in the bullpen, he could move very quickly as an impact two pitch reliever.
2016 Outlook: If the Phillies do indeed want to try him in the rotation, a repeat of Clearwater seems likely. If not, he should start in Reading and will be right on the verge of the major leagues if he can continue to build.
Previous Rank: UR
Photo of Dylan Cozens by Baseball Betsy