2016 Top 50 Phillies Prospects: Primer

This year marks the 4th ranking I have done, and each year some parts of the exercise become easier, while others become more difficult.  Every year there is something else to learn and explore as the Phillies’ system continues to evolve.  Some parts of this become natural and intuitive, but as the system gets deeper, the decisions become more complex.

Like any prospect ranking, this list represents a moment in time.  In an ideal world, the world that exists in most MLB front offices, this list is a living and growing thing, constantly evolving with new information.  Additionally this is my list of players I think have the best chance to provide the most value as major leaguers.  I can only use the information available to me at this time and I cannot assume to know how the Phillies will use any players.

This year the Phillies system was stronger and deeper than it has been in my memory which made comparisons between this year and last year difficult.  There were a lot of interesting players that missed the list this year.  A good way to think about the system is in terms of tiers, where players within a tier are essentially interchangeable with personal preferences affecting the rankings within a tier.  Here are my basic tiers to keep in mind as you go through the ranking.

  • Tier 1: #1
  • Tier 2: #2-#3
  • Tier 3: #4-#7
  • Tier 4: #8-#13
  • Tier 5: #14-#20
  • Tier 6: #21-#34
  • Tier 7: #35-#70 (or so this tier goes on for a while)


Much like last year I will be staggering the release of the list so that you can read the individual parts in a reasonable amount of time (also so more of you will read the bottom of the list).  The schedule for the release is.

Unlike last year I will be doing a “Top 15 Under 25” on Wednesday January 20 because a prospect list on its own does not really communicate the full story of where the Phillies’ youth is.  It won’t be as robust as the rest of list in terms of talking about the players individually, instead it will be focused more on the organization’s direction

The Rankings:

Rather than rewrite the full primer from last year, here is last year’s as I am repeating that structure this year.  To help walk through it this year I am going to give you an example profile for a player that didn’t make the list this year and go through my thought process that lead to the writeup.

Jesse Biddle – LHP (Profile)

DOB: October 22, 1991 (24)
H/W: 6’5” 235lbs
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (#27) by the Phillies in the 2010 draft ($1,160,000 signing bonus).
2015 Stats:

Reading (AA)15157-280.24.2410.00.89.5%15.9%
Lehigh Valley (AAA)992-444.26.2511.50.812.4%14.8%

Role: #4/#5 Starting Pitcher
Risk: Extreme – It is hard to know what parts of Biddle’s struggles in 2015 were related to his elbow, which makes it difficult to know what kind of pitcher he will be post-Tommy John surgery.  Even if Biddle returns to where he was before the injury, he still has some a long list of on field improvements to make.
Summary:  This spring it looked like Jesse Biddle was primed for a breakout.  His velocity was up and he was flashing a new slider that looked to give his arsenal new dimensionality.  After his time in big league camp he was assigned for a third time to Reading.  There the coaching staff began reshaping his arsenal, adding a two seam fastball to add some deception to his straight 4 seam fastball, and began the process of moving the slider to being his primary breaking ball, with the curveball being more of a complimentary pitch.  The results were mixed as Biddle missed less bats, but also walked batters at a career low.  At his best he looked dominant and like a surefire major league starter.  There were still problems with control that would leave his pitch count high and extra men on base.  Overall Biddle’s arsenal by mid season was a fastball at 90-92 touching 93, with a two seam fastball at 88-90, an average changeup in the mid-80s, a plus slider in mid-80s, and a less loopy curveball in the mid 70s (part of the arsenal overhaul was tightening the curveball).  Despite the mediocre results in AA, Biddle got his first taste of AAA in the middle of the year.  Then the wheels came off.  What we now know is that the elbow soreness Biddle felt in Puerto Rico last winter was not an isolated incident.  Instead, after a good spring his elbow bothered him throughout the season, eventually ending up with a tear in his UCL that required Tommy John surgery.  The surgery happened on October 14, meaning that Biddle is not expected to throw a pitch in a game until Spring Training 2017.  He will likely throw some in Fall Instructs in 2016, but overall he should get at least 16 months to recover from the surgery before needing to be ready.  The future is a bit murky for Biddle, but at 25 years old next year he will be similar in age to Adam Morgan this past season, so his career is not over.  Tommy John surgery is not 100% in its success rate, but a new UCL is better than a broken UCL, and Biddle’s body could probably use the rest overall.  If he can come back to the pitcher he looked to be to start the 2015 season, he can be a #4 starter on a good team with his ceiling being a bit higher.  We will just need to wait and see.
2016 Outlook:  Biddle will be out for the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Given his timetable he should be starting to throw over the summer and may see action in Instructional League, but shouldn’t be pitching in any games during the 2016 season.

Previous Rank:  6
ETA: 2017

When I start writing a profile I begin with the Role and Risk to give a quick summary of what I feel about a player.  Given what Biddle showed this year, there is a decent ceiling if everything works out.  However, the problem here is the risk.  Biddle started the list in the back 10-20, on this list and I just never felt comfortable with any place he was ranked.  The risk is overwhelming because we just don’t know what caused all of his problems.  In the second half of the year Biddle’s velocity fell off and his control abandoned him.  We know his arm hurt, but was the arm injury and the velocity drop off connected?  Additionally, the big jump for Biddle this year was the readdition of his high school slider, but we don’t know if that will come back from injury and if it was connected to injury.  The top it all off, even if Biddle returns to his 2015 peak he still will be 25 with needed adjustments to command and control to be a major leaguer.  In the end I just didn’t feel comfortable ranking Biddle.  He would however be in the bottom of the tiers mentioned above.

As with all of my lists I hope I give you enough information to reorder based on your personal preferences because you know I will be tinkering with this list constantly until next season.

Photo by Geoff Livingston

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.


  1. jzack

    Matt – looking forward to your take on the system. Should be a fun year following this group of prospects. Nice overview on how you lay things out and they are very informative.

  2. MLL

    As unbelievable as it may have seemed a couple of years ago, you could now go well past the top 50 and still have prospects with a chance at making it to the MLB (chance, not guarantee).

  3. The time is almost here to move Biddle to the pen to see how he does in that role.

  4. Rei De Bastoni

    Top 70! Haha, just kidding. Looking forward to it.

  5. Gil

    Matt – thanks!

    With so many additions since last year, I’m eagerly looking forward to reading your work.

    PS – believe my brother-in-law, Geoff Livingston, took that awesome photo of CBP.