The list everyone was waiting for. The Reading team was stacked this year, as was the whole Eastern League. Before jumping into the names from the Phillies, Zach Eflin and Roman Quinn did qualify for this list, but Nick Williams and Jake Thompson did not. Once again I want to emphasize that this list was stacked, 4 of the top 20 have already made major league impacts, and the #20 prospect (Pirates 1B/OF Josh Bell) will likely make some Top 100s this offseason, so don’t feel bad about players missing the list.
2. J.P. Crawford (SS)
Crawford placed second on this list to Nationals’ RHP Lucas Giolito a decision that can come down to how one values different types of prospects. Outside of that, Crawford is the same class of player as the rookies that took the majors by storm this season. At 20 years old he didn’t light the Eastern League on fire, but as the youngest player he did put up a .354 OBP in 3+ months of work while playing outstanding defense. Crawford is going to grow into more power has he ages and already flashes average in game power. His feel for the game would be advanced even if he was a major leaguer. At some point in 2016 he will put on a Phillies uniform and will be the centerpiece of the Phillies’ future.
6. Aaron Nola (RHP)
Before showing his potential in Philadelphia, Aaron Nola put up a 1.88 ERA over 77 innings in the Eastern League. There aren’t a lot of new things to write about Aaron Nola, but let’s use the past to explain his growth. In the Eastern League he showed amazing fastball consistency, sitting 90-94 with good run and pinpoint command. He was still working to find consistency with his curveball and it often lacked the downward plane we saw in the September and would be more slurvy. His changeup lack consistency and he would throw some plus ones with good fade, but some lacked the movement and flattened out. By the end of his time in Reading, Nola was showing flashes of the curveball that he showed in the majors with two plane movement where he starts it in the right handed batters box and hits the inside corner to right handed batters. Nola’s major league stats won’t pass as a rotation leader going forward, but he is now only finishing up his first full pro season and just scratching the surface of what he can do.
14. Andrew Knapp (C)
Knapp was definitely the breakout performer for the Phillies in 2015. The 2013 second round pick found his right handed stroke in AA to go with an already solid left handed swing. That combined with a favorable home park (that turned some doubles into home runs) led to a .360/.419/.631 line in his two months in Reading. Knapp shows a plus hit tool from both sides with a simple line drive swing and solid ability to work a favorable hitting situation. His power is still below average (40 grade) because the swing is more line drive than lofty, but he could still hit 12-15 a year with a large number of doubles. His defense is improving but is definitely the weak part of his game. His arm is average, his receiving needs work, and his blocking is still horrendous. Overall the profile works as an offensive catcher who won’t kill you behind the plate. After his time in fall league he should go to AAA next year with an eye on racing Jorge Alfaro to the major league catcher job.
Notes from Josh Norris’ chat:
Greg T. (West Philly): Is J.P. Crawford the #1 position prospect left in the Minors heading into 2016?
Josh Norris: You can make an argument for him, but Byron Buxton and Corey Seager will still qualify, too.
nb (Philly): Hey Josh - Thanks for the chat. As a Phillies fan, I'm pretty excited about the prospects We had in Reading this year. 2 Questions: 1) Is it safe to assume that Crawford, Thompson, and Williams will be in the bigs in 2016?
2) Who is more likely to move out from behind the plate - Knapp or Afardo? Thanks!
Josh Norris: I think there’s a good chance all of those guys see time in MLB in the second half if they progress as they should. Alfaro strikes me as the guy most likely to move from catcher. If that happens, he’s got enough arm and the power profile to play right field. I’ve personally seen him play center field in instructs and throw out a runner at second base.
Blake (Lake Central): What about Roman Quinn? Dude is electrifying! Did his injury/lack of AB's keep him off?
Josh Norris: Quinn is definitely a Top 10 guy in the Phillies system, but man, look at this league. There are ton of good guys who got left off. If he reaches his ceiling, he could be a Ben Revere/Bip Roberts-type of guy with a touch more power and the obvious running ability to cause havoc.