The Top 30 has become the standard of prospect lists. It is often a natural cut off when systems start to transition into filler. For the Phillies system, the gap from 31 to 30 is not a gaping chasm. However, we start to really get hints at what lies at the top. There are prospects in this section that will have impactful major league careers. Not all of them, that honor is reserved for the top. The depth of the system really shows in the quality here. It starts to make you really wonder what must be lurking ahead.
Videos by Jim Peyton, Mitch Rupert, and Baseball Betsy
26. Drew Anderson – RHP (Profile)
DOB: March 22, 1994 (23)
H/W: 6’3” 185lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 21st round of the 2012 draft by the Phillies.
Role: #3/#4 Starter
Risk: High – Anderson was still showing signs of rust from his Tommy John and has yet to pitch on a full workload since his recovery. With his fastball command, Anderson has an easier path as a backend starter, but he flashed a higher ceiling in 2016 and the Phillies will take their time to develop that.
Summary: This year will mark Anderson’s return to prospectdom after a 1 year hiatus. Anderson emerged in his second year of professional ball (2013) after a solid campaign in Williamsport, where he showed a combination of feel for pitching and average stuff. In 2014 he missed more bats with the same arsenal he had in Williamsport, but injuries limited him to under 50 innings. Rest and rehab were not enough, and Anderson had Tommy John surgery in spring 2015. He eventually returned to a real game in late May 2016. Early in the season, Anderson showed he still had the stuff that put him on the map in the first place, with a 4 pitch mix topping out with a low 90s fastball. He was flashing future command, but he was inconsistent start to start. After 7 starts in Lakewood, the Phillies promoted Anderson to Clearwater. In his first start in Florida he pitched the first 4 innings of a combined no-hitter. He went on to dominate for 8 starts after that. Anderson was still on a pitch count, but he struck out more batters than ever before, while cutting his walks and not allowing a home run. Anderson’s statistics were not the only thing to improve, his fastball was topping out at 95, then 96, and then by the end of the year he was touching 97 and sitting more towards the mid-90s (91-95). His curveball has become his primary secondary pitch, and it flashed plus this year. He has shown feel for a changeup, but it needs work, and his slider is more a short cutter like pitch that has been shoved into being a 4th offering. To be more than a back end starter, Anderson will need to improve his secondary offerings, but they should play up due to his velocity and returning fastball command. While his lower half is a bit more filled out than it was a few years ago, Anderson is still skinny and small framed, and that coupled with his recent injury history might have some looking to put him in the bullpen.
2017 Outlook: Anderson dominated Clearwater in the second half, and his fastball command may already be too good for low level hitters. The Phillies could send him back to Florida, but with an invite to major league camp, he will have the opportunity to prove he belongs in Reading.
Previous Rank: UR
27. Thomas Eshelman – RHP (Profile)
DOB: June 20, 1994 (22)
H/W: 6’3” 210lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft by the Astros. Traded along with RHP Mark Appel, RHP Vincent Velasquez, RHP Harold Arauz, and LHP Brett Oberholtzer to the Phillies for RHP Ken Giles and SS Jonathan Arauz.
Role: #4 Starter
Risk: Medium – Eshelman has the fastball command to be a major league starter when he spots his pitches. The problem is that Eshelman lacks the impact pitches right now to be consistent when he is not perfect.
Summary: It is easy to forget that 2016 was Eshelman’s first full season in pro-ball. Eshelman didn’t pitch much after the draft due to college workload, but the Phillies felt comfortable enough to jump Eshelman directly to Clearwater. Eshelman’s feel for pitching and command of 4 pitches led to success against inexperienced hitters, leading to a midseason promotion to Reading. In Reading, Eshelman struggled for 7 starts (29.1 IP 6.75 ERA 12 BB 23 K) before missing a start due to turf toe. Upon returning, Eshelman was back to his normal self, posting a 3.66 ERA over 6 starts (32.0 IP) with 5 walks to 32 strikeouts. Eshelman then missed playing, but not broadcasting, in the playoffs due to an appendectomy. Eshelman’s profile revolves around his command. At his best, Eshelman can locate a fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball where he wants in the strike zone. Most evaluators think Eshelman will end up with plus command, but for now he still misses his spot occasionally, though he maintains the control to fill the strike zone. The problem is that none of Eshelman’s pitches are overwhelming on their own. His fastball has increased a little bit, and he sits 90-92, touching 93. He has some ability to add movement but not in a meaningful way. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, and he has shown some ability to have it fade. His slider is better than his curveball, but it lacks the sharp movement to miss bats. His curveball is more of a loopy show pitch. If Eshelman is locating all of his pitches, he can keep hitters off balance with the different speeds and movement. When he is not hitting his spots, Eshelman can be exposed, because he is in the strike zone so much and hitters are able to time up his fringe average stuff. Unless Eshelman’s secondary pitches make improvements, his ceiling is limited to that of a backend starter. However, Eshelman’s projected command gives him a solid foundation, and if he can improve any of his pitches to be above average to plus, he could have more impact. Eshelman won’t turn 23 until April, so he could still add to his arsenal. Originally thought of as a fast moving starter, Eshelman has the luxury of time to refine, with the Phillies depth lessening the need for major league starters.
2017 Outlook: The Phillies already have a full AAA rotation, so Eshelman will return to Reading to try and make progress on his offspeed pitches.
Previous Rank: 21
28. Andrew Pullin – OF (Profile)
DOB: September 25, 1993 (23)
H/W: 6’0” 190lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft by the Phillies.
Role: Average Regular
Risk: Medium – Andrew Pullin has proven he can hit and that his power output is not entirely fluky. However, he is still limited to left field, and he will need to not have any offensive setbacks or he could end up stuck fighting for the last spot on a roster.
Summary: For a player with 5 seasons and 1811 plate appearances in the Phillies system, Andrew Pullin is still a huge unknown. After starting his time in the system as a left fielder, Pullin was moved to second base, but after two years at the position he was moved back to left field before the 2015 season. After being assigned back to Clearwater to start the 2016 season, Pullin retired before then returning to the team and playing his first game on May 11. In Clearwater, Pullin showed the ability to make contact at a high rate, and with 17 extra base hits in 36 games, he showed that his power surge might be real. He earned a promotion to Reading, where he continued to mash. He missed a week due to a groin strain, and then at the end of August he sustained an elbow injury that kept him out of the playoffs and the Arizona Fall League. In AA, Pullin hit both at home and on the road and did not show the characteristic splits of many Reading hitters. Pullin has a fairly simple swing and has grown into average to above average power by really embracing pulling the baseball. Pullin makes a lot of contact and never has had a large problem with strikeouts, but he also has never walked at a high rate. Like many AA hitters, Pullin could use some improvement against off speed pitches. Pullin did manage to virtually eliminate his platoon splits in 2016. Pullin’s ceiling is lower than some of the Phillies’ other outfield prospects because he lacks big raw power, speed on the bases, and elite bat speed. Pullin is also limited mostly to left field and is able to play right field, where his arm is not ideal. What Pullin can be, is a guy with an above average hit tool and average power (with maybe another half grade on each of those), which is something like .270-.280 with 15-20 home runs. That is not an all-star ceiling, but Pullin could be an average regular.
2017 Outlook: Given his lack of playing time in 2016, Pullin will probably start in Reading while the outfield logjam in front of him clears up.
Previous Rank: UR
29. Bailey Falter – LHP (Profile)
DOB: April 24, 1997 (19)
H/W: 6’4” 175lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft by the Phillies.
Role: #3/#4 Starter
Risk: High – Falter has the foundation to be an above average starting pitcher. He still does not have all of the velocity and secondary pitch consistency needed to reach that outcome.
Summary: It was easy to see why the Phillies took Falter in the 5th round of the 2015 draft. He had a projectable frame, a feel for pitching, and an advanced changeup. Last year, Falter sat in the high 80s and survived based on his ability to locate his pitches. This season, Falter started in Extended Spring Training before going on to Williamsport. While there, the Phillies worked on him using his lower half more, and by the end of the season his fastball was sitting in the low 90s, touching 94. Falter still shows an at least above average changeup and a curveball that could use more consistency. Falter fills up the strike zone, and he walked 6 in his first two starts (6 IP) and only 11 over his next 11 starts (53.2 IP). Falter still has room to fill out and add a few more miles per hour to his fastball. Without a big increase in stuff, Falter is back end starter, but he has the frame and pitch foundation to breakout if he sees an increase in stuff.
Video of Bailey Falter’s first inning on Thursday pic.twitter.com/3BV9uESSVi
— Mitch Rupert (@Mitch_Rupert) July 29, 2016
2017 Outlook: After being overshadowed by Medina in Williamsport, Falter is likely to be buried even further in what should be a strong 2017 Lakewood rotation.
Previous Rank: 42
30. JoJo Romero – LHP (Profile)
DOB: September 9, 1996 (20)
H/W: 6’0” 190
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft by the Phillies
Role: #4 Starter
Risk: High – Romero is a short, left handed starter without a good breaking ball, so there is a chance he will be moved to the bullpen. Romero is still far from the majors and has had fastball command problems in the past.
Summary: Romero was the first of two left handed starters the Phillies gave $800,000 to in the 2016 draft. Romero transferred after his first year at Nevada to junior college and is actually fairly young, having pitched all of 2016 at age 19. Romero was plagued by fringe control in college, but he was still his team’s ace, shouldering a large load down the stretch. At his best Romero has a fastball that gets up to 94, but sits in the low 90s. His best secondary pitch is a changeup, which could be plus down the line. Romero’s lack of height and bat missing breaking ball cause some to feel his future is in the bullpen. Given that he showed he could handle a starter’s workload, the Phillies will continue to develop Romero as a starter. His upside is as a high end #4 starter or low end #3 starter, but both will require some growth in his slider and fastball command.
2017 Outlook: The Phillies have a lot of starters who look ready for Lakewood and a full rotation of former Lakewood starters ready for Clearwater. A good spring could see Romero staying in Florida, but a shaky spring could see him as the elder statesman of a talented Lakewood staff.
Previous Rank: N/A