A Holiday Phillies Prospect Mailbag

With the holidays and the Top 50, writing time is getting scarce, so rather than find topics, I am letting you all do the job.  So I asked for your questions, and here are my answers.

Corrine (@Ut26) – Who is Harold Arauz?

I see we are starting off hard here.  The truth is that no one really knows.  Baseball America has him throwing a cutter in the low 90s and flashing feel for secondary pitches.  He was Rule 5 eligible this past year because he signed back in 2011, but he will only be 20 years old on opening day.  For now I am assuming they are letting him start, but he sounds like some sort of reliever.  The Phillies have had success in developing young Latin arms, so maybe they see something here.

Keith Winder (@Keith Winder) – If you could set the MLB, AAA, AA rotation right now, what would they be?

I am not 100% sure whether Keith wanted me to have the power or to predict, but I will take the power, so here are my rotations:

MLB: Nola/Hellickson/Eickhoff/Morton/Oberholtzer
AAA: Velasquez/Thompson/Appel/Eflin/Morgan
AA: Pinto/Pivetta/Lively/Leibrandt/Richy

I wouldn’t go with 6 man rotations anywhere, and someone is almost sure to be hurt so Asher and Buchanan won’t be on the outside very long.  Otherwise I am sending all the prospects to AAA for seasoning.  I will note that I would send Victor Arano to the A+ rotation to start, but I wanted to put him in AA.  Eshelman might be able to handle AA right now, but some time in Clearwater wouldn’t hurt.  There is a lot of pitching, that is for sure.

Jesus Zoidberg (@Jesus Zoidberg) – Maybe talk some about next year’s 40 man roster and rule 5 with all the new players they got?

In terms of new players, Mark Appel is Rule 5 eligible next year, Eshelman won’t be eligible until after the 2018 season, and Arauz was Rule 5 eligible this winter.  The list of guys that need protection next year is kind of intense, some guys that won’t be in the majors but will need protection include Malquin Canelo, Dylan Cozens, Jose Pujols, Deivi Grullon, Ricardo Pinto, Elniery Garcia, Nick Pivetta, Carlos Tocci, and Alberto Tirado.  There are others but they will already be promoted.

Clutchlings (@Clutchlings77) – What does the future hold for Tirado?

This is a really great question.  Joe Jordan indicated this summer that they would try starting him again.  Since then they have acquired like 10 starting pitchers and I am not sure if that makes them more patient with trying to start him or if they just throw him in the Reading bullpen and let him just air it out.

Keith Winder (@Keith Winder) – What would you rather experience: 2009-2011 Phillies again with same outcome or 2016-2018 Phillies not knowing the future?

I will take 2016-2018, and it hurts to say that because I loved those teams.  But you always want to win the series and we know those teams didn’t and they might in the future.  I would re-experience 2008 forever, I don’t think I fully appreciated the ride.

ScottC (@CracktheYank) – Prediction on starting 9 on opening day 2017? The year Phillies are relevant again 🙂

CF- Herrera
SS – Crawford
3B – Franco
LF – Williams
1B – Hoskins
RF – Altherr
C – Knapp
2B – Hernandez
SP – Strasburg

dickey moe (@dickey_moe) – Most innings pitched?

Aaron Nola – 202 innings, he pitched 187 innings last year with them trying to keep his innings down.

Hog Campbell (@Maximum_Hog) – Who is your favourite player to watch play/cover that will likely never make the big leagues?

There is a theme to guys that fall into this category, they all tend to 2B/Util who can’t play SS in the majors and can hit, but don’t have a major league bat.  In this case it was the Reading second base group, so Carlos Alonso, KC Serna, and Brodie Greene.  Greene is probably the worst fielder of the group and he has no power, but he worked an AB well in the 8th or 9th spot.  Serna can also work and AB and he can play anywhere while being really good at second base.  Alonso was starting to grow on me before he got hurt.  He can really work an AB and hit at the AA level, he is also a good defender at second base.  None of them will reach the majors, but Reading really struggled when 2B was a black hole on defense and a zero in the lineup.

Tyler Smith (@TylerSmithEtown) – How would you rate the Phillies minor league system 5 years vs now. A weak top 10 for sure in 2011. From D to A?

The post 2011 farm system was one before I started writing up prospects, but here is the BA Top 10 that year and this year (with the addition of Mark Appel).

 

20112015
Trevor May”]”>Trevor MayJ.P. Crawford”]”>J.P. Crawford
Jesse Biddle”]”>Jesse BiddleNick Williams”]”>Nick Williams
Sebastian Valle”]”>Sebastian ValleJake Thompson”]”>Jake Thompson
Jonathan Pettibone”]”>Jonathan PettiboneMark Appel
Phillippe Aumont”]”>Phillippe AumontAndrew Knapp”]”>Andrew Knapp
Freddy Galvis”]”>Freddy GalvisJorge Alfaro”]”>Jorge Alfaro
Justin De Fratus”]”>Justin De FratusCornelius Randolph”]”>Cornelius Randolph
Brody Colvin”]”>Brody ColvinFranklyn Kilome”]”>Franklyn Kilome
Jiwan James”]”>Jiwan JamesRoman Quinn”]”>Roman Quinn
Maikel Franco”]”>Maikel FrancoAdonis Medina”]”>Adonis Medina

That 2011 system is dreadful with May and Biddle making the back of the Top 100.  Franco looks low, but at the time he had just turned 19 and had hit .287/.367/.411 in Williamsport and had floundered in Lakewood over 17 games.  The Top 10s don’t even tell the story as there are players in the 20s of the 2015 list like Darnell Sweeney that might make the 2011 top 10.  D to A is probably fair, though the current system might be more B/B+ with an A once expanded to the majors.  It is a giant improvement.

Grumpy (@Matt Grubmbrecht) – Wouldn’t mind a little more in depth look at Appel since he seems like the surprise of the Giles trade.
Joel Irvine (@joelirvine97) –  Any hopes any coaches in our organization can help out Appel?
Phillies Mind (@PhilliesMind) – what are the chances that Mark Appel turns into the really good starter he was drafted to be?
Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1) – Is the Phillies development staff good enough to harness the talents of guys like Alfaro and Appel?

So Mark Appel.  Mark Appel has had a lot of problems in his pro career and really the key is to try and figure out what is Appel and what was from the Astros.  It is clear that he didn’t mesh with the Astros’ player dev staff and the expectations that came from being #1 overall pick, so the hope is that those are both improvements.  But on to stuff that is bad and will need improvement.

  1. His consistency – This is on Appel to fix, by the team you reach AAA you need to be the same guy on the mound every single game, you aren’t going to last long in the majors if one day your fastball is 89-92 and the next it is 93-95.
  2. The Delivery/Pitch Arsenal – These two are very intertwined.  His delivery is real easy and without funk, which leaves the batter with a great view of what is coming at them.  His fastball is also straight, so it doesn’t matter if it is 97 because if the hitter knows what it is and can track it, they are going to hit it.  His changeup has also gone backwards which prevents any sort of pitch type deception.  The rumor is that the Astros took away his two seam fastball, and the Phillies love the two seam fastball for their pitchers, so adding that back will give him some movement to keep batters guessing some.  The changeup needs improvement and that is something the Phillies can work on.
  3. Command – Appel has poor command on nearly all of his pitches.  He can throw strikes, but he leaves way too many pitches in hittable spots.  Given the ease of the delivery this is something you would expect to have grown, but it hasn’t.  Command is tough to teach, but it is something he will need to learn.

I think there are certainly a lot of fixable pieces here, but there are some constraints in the system due to what Appel is as a pitcher.  The big thing will be making him feel comfortable and relaxed, because that will allow for a better growth environment.  However, it is important to realize that good coaches can’t make everyone better, the player has to make adjustments too.

DANGERDANGER (@thisisgump) – I know you usually focus on minor league players, but are there minor league (pitching?) coaches to watch for?

Judging coaches is always hard because you don’t know all the details.  Ray Burris gets a lot of the press (deservedly so) and has always been great with all the pitchers and prepping and working with them in games, but he has been promoted more to a roving role (rehab pitching coach), so I am going to go with someone on the ground in Dave Lundquist.  A lot of the Phillies pitching development will rest with Lundquist as he moves up with his AA group of pitchers to take Burris’ spot as the AAA pitching coach.  I don’t know if he is great at teaching a pitch or “fixing pitchers”, but the players love him and it seems to be for good reason.  In the limited things I have seen and heard he has been good and instilling trust and confidence as well as working to meet what they want.  He was part of bringing back the slider for Biddle and the curveball for Eflin.  So less that I think he is some genius, but the Phillies are trusting him with a lot of their future and we will see what happens.

Scott (@PhillySportsSM) – Potential breakout prospects in 2016 that could move way up the ranks but currently off radar

I always conceptually dislike this question because I never know where the radar is for others, but let’s go with some guys who are not household names.

On the hitting side Juan Luis is a toolsy center fielder who played the 2015 season in the GCL at age 19.  He is on the old side for Dominican signees (2015 was his first pro season), but there is a lot of upside here.  He is a plus plus runner with plus centerfield defense.  His frame is one that could grow into more power, he is also starting to show some feel for contact, though the approach can be lagging.  He is a guy that everyone raves about as someone to watch going forward.

On the pitching side, LHP Austin Davis is a guy who is way off lists (including mine), but is really intriguing.  He is a big guy (6’4″ 245) who was inconsistent in his draft year, and has been inconsistent as a pro too.  But he is a lefty who can throw up to 94 and will show quality off speed stuff at times.  He looks like a reliever (even when he starts), but he missed more bats and walked less in the rotation.  While Nicaragua is not the pinnacle of winter league action he is currently posting a 1.12 ERA over 40.1 innings with 23 hits 6 walks and 46 strikeouts this winter.  The upside is not huge here, and his optimistic outcomes is probably up and down reliever, but he has arm strength and sometimes it just works.

Nautical Capital (@nauticalcapital) – One can see the future in the OF, 3b, SS, C, SP ( ace missing), RP, what’s the future of 2B and 1B?

In general second base and first base are at the bottom of the defensive movement ladder, so it is not surprising that there aren’t many on prospect lists.  Adding to this is that first base prospects tend to rate lowly because they are fairly risky.  So in general I am not too worried about what is lacking, but here is how it could play out.

Second base is likely to be a rotating group until someone sticks.  So this year it will be Hernandez, and with Crawford coming Galvis is in the mix.  Then you have Jesmuel Valentin, followed by Scott Kingery and Malquin Canelo, and then Josh Tobias and Grenny Cumana.  We can keep going deeper, but the idea is that it might be a competition until someone gets it.

First base might be clearer.  Rhys Hoskins just keeps hitting and if he continues doing that he should get a shot.  I like Luis Encarnacion as a long shot down the road.  We also can’t rule out the Phillies getting a 1B in free agency (or a 3B and moving Franco).

Let’s go lightning round here, sorry for the short answers, we will do this again soon.

Jonathan Murray (@jmurz) – Which Phillies prospects outside of the top 10 do you think have the highest ceiling?

Pitcher – Adonis Medina

Hitter – Jose Pujols

Utley1217 (@6r33nday8008) – Everyone talks about Oberholtzer as a throw in but he looks like he can be around average and a #4 on a ws team. Am I crazy?

No, that is optimistic but he has shown that ability before and he was well worth the chance.

Drew (@NotSoFamousDrew) – Realistic comp/future projection for Cozens?

Poor man’s Brandon Moss, realistic projection is that he is a 4th/5th outfielder/platoon bat, but he might just be a AAAA guy.

Dan M (@dannmaal) – Lehigh Valley will be loaded with top prospects. How good will that team be and could they contend for the league title?

Talent wise they are the top AAA team in baseball and should be leading the IL by midseason.  Whether they can contend for a AAA title depends on who fills the spots of the graduated prospects.

.Steve K. (@SAKrawczyk) – What are your projections for Andre Knapp? Also, where do you foresee him ending the 2016 campaign?

Major league regular, offense centric catcher.  He has an above average to plus hit tool , below average power, and below average defense.  That works at catcher and I think he is the majors to end the year.

Dan Meloche (@danmeloche1) – how did Appel go from #1 pick to ‘maybe back end of rotation’ guy in 2 years? Did every scout miss? Did astros screw him up?

Stuff regressed, he never made adjustments, scouts missed on how easy the ball was to pick up (not every scout liked him at #1), the development has not been ideal.  Pretty much everything that could go wrong outside of injuries, went wrong.

Stephen Sparks (@StephenASparks) – Phillies first baseman in 2017? Your best guess please

Rhys Hoskins or Edwin Encarnacion

adam schaetzle (@adamschaetzle) – with all the recent additions, where would you rank the Phillies Farm system overall in MLB?

It is really hard to really do this exactly, so I won’t, also remember that Vincent Velasquez does not qualify.  But here is how I would break it down.

Above Phillies (3) – Braves, Pirates, Rangers

Around the Phillies (5) – Red Sox, Rockies, Astros, Dodgers, Twins

Below the Phillies (21) – Orioles, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Angels, Marlins, Brewers, Mets, Yankees, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, Cardinals, Rays, Blue Jays, Nationals

So that is like 4 to 9 range, or easy top 10 system.

Photo by Baseball Betsy

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.

14 comments

  1. I guess we’ll put Severino Gonzalez in the pile with Asher and Buchanan–which guys from that group would be most likely to end up in the bullpen? I suppose Joely Rodriquez already is, and MAG is no longer worth discussing. I’m not being sarcastic–it’s just not worth it.

    As much as I’ve referred to Burris as the “slider whisperer” I’ve called Lundquist the “mechanics whisperer”–Time and again I’ve seen guys go down from AAA, struggling, and come back reporting that they worked things out mechanically with Lundy and were then more accurate and consistent in their delivery. I don’t watch pitchers closely enough to be able to tell what, exactly, he fixed in each case–but the results were there and it’s what the players told me. I plan to ask Lundy about it if I get the chance. And we’ll see how he does with the staff day to day this year in Allentown.

  2. jeff

    What this leavesout is that the Phillies have the number 1 pick in the draft in June. That should push them up in the rankings

  3. Kurdt Kobeyn

    I can see 2 of Buchanan, Asher, SevGon will be a bullpen and other will start in AAA but with short leash. Eflin will probably start in AA for a month and join Pinto, Lively, Pivetta and Leibrant (over Eshelman being a LHP). I can see Eshelman and Richy start at CLW until Eflin is promoted to AAA.

    I like the depth in SP but I hope the Phils can be creative to make of package of pitching prospects to get a potential top of the rotation starter. This is where I like the Appell trade. The stats are underwhelming but the potential to be a solid back end bullpen or TOR starter cannot be overlooked.

    • I think Eflin has done enough at AA to earn the proportion–unless there’s something specific you want him working on there. Plus his coach is moving up. I think Buck/Sev are what they are. Asher? We’ll see

    • Why? Eflin is far ahead of the guys you mention for AA. He had a very solid year at Reading last year, and in the end of the season pressure of the playoffs, he was simply outstanding.

    • Anonymous VOR

      I don’t see the purpose of starting Eflin in AA. Theoretically, I think Mattwinks AAA rotation makes sense. But with the talk of Appel needing to bring back his 2-seamer, I could envision Appel being sent to AA early, to work on that pitch. In that case, I could see Asher in AAA.

    • Kurdt Kobeyn

      Kram/Allenown/VOR – my comment is not looking down @ Eflin. I have him as the 4th best SP prospect behind Thompson, Appell and Kilome.

      My reasoning is just because of the numbers (assuming that Asher, Buch and Sev will remain in 40-man roster and LHV will not employ a 6-man roster) and note also that i stated “for a month”. If Eflin will be in AAA, there will be 8 SPs (or 9 if you add MAG) so they numbers may not work since LHV will only keep 12 pitchers.

      The Phils are not winning, so I don’t see them moving Thompson after the trade deadline, thus, they will keep Sev and Buch in AAA.

      Whatever they Phils will do, Eflin will force his way to AAA.

  4. Tim

    Hernandez 2nd base 2017 what about Galvis ? Hernandez likely gone no options I think this is his 2nd wrist / hand injury. Really nice to have , log jam now with pitching . Who’s in line for future closer Ramos, Huckleberry etc .

    • Is Huckleberry even still in the system? He is more a minor-league vet type. The future closer is likely Cordero. Tirado quite a bit farther away, but possible. Some suggest Velasquez may not be able to consistently give the 180 IP you expect from a starter and could be pen bound. If so, he is a strong closer candidate.

      • Anonymous VOR

        With Velasquez reportedly having a plus change-up and plus fast-ball, Id hop he can get a usable breaking ball to stay as a good starter. I wouldn’t waste him in the Bullpen if he has any chance physically, to compete as a starter.

        The one guy that I think could be a good closer, that never gets mentioned, is Eickhoff. He has a good Fastball and wipe-out curve. He needs a lot of work on his change-up, to get through ML lineups multiple times per game.

  5. Tim

    Hernandez 2017 2nd baseman what about Galvis ? Hernandez is out of options plus a thumb injury. Who is the Future closer Ramos, Huckleberry etc .

    • Steve

      Second that. Hernandez starting at 2b in 2017 is a travesty unless one of our prospects really progresses to the point where Hernandez is only a one year stop gap. The rest of the lineup is nice, and cheap. if we can really field a productive OF, 3/4 of the infield, and a catcher from within, money needs to be spent on someone better than Cesar. Some veteran experience may be nice also.

  6. Anonymous VOR

    Jose Pujols still getting love here, while doing nothing in 3 seasons of short-season ball.

    • Matt Winkelman

      Except improve his swing and approach and draw rave reviews from scouts and evaluators