Forgotten Prospects Surprising in Winter Ball

No one will fault a Phillies fan for losing track of prospects during the rebuild.  There have a lot more arriving than leaving between signings, trades, and the draft.  The most common outcome for any baseball player is failure, so it is not surprising with so many shiny new things coming in, that we lose track of some players in the shuffle.  Now these winter ball stats do not a career make, but it is good to see players starting to figure things out, even if it is small sample size.

Joely Rodriguez, LHP – Gigantes del Cibao

4 G 3 GS 1.26 ERA 14.1 IP 9 H 2 ER 6 BB 17 K

You might remember Rodriguez as the guy they got back from Pittsburgh for a year of Antonio Bastardo.  There is no way around saying that Rodriguez had a bad year in 2015.  He couldn’t miss bats, but he could sure miss the strikezone.  His stuff fell off some, and he was eventually demoted to the Reading bullpen.  He was promoted back to the rotation on July 26 and then rattled off 5 solid starts (27.1 IP 22 H 9 ER 5 BB 15 K) before just imploding for 3 starts and then ending on a very good start vs Richmond.  By the end of the year, Joely’s velocity was back, even if the results weren’t.  Despite the high ERA, from July 26 to end of year he posted a 7.5% BB%, 16.0% K%, and most impressively a 58% GB%.  Joely has always been at his best when he is pitching in the low 90s (he touch 95+ as well) with good sink and movement on all his pitches.  It looks like that is back in the Dominican so far.  He is missing bats and having hitters pound the ball into the ground.  It is still unknown if the Phillies will be able to get a 4th minor league option for him (his first year of full season ball was in his 5th season), but Joely could be in a fight for a rotation or bullpen spot because he is left handed.  He just turned 24, so a turnaround would not be unheard of.

Victor Arano, RHP – Yaquis de Obregon

15 G 0.54 ERA 16.2 IP 12 H 1 ER 2 BB 15 K

Victor Arano is easily the highest ranked prospect mentioned on this list, so he isn’t entirely forgotten.  He is coming off a poor season where he posted a 4.72 ERA over 124.0 inconsistent innings in the Florida State League.  He is now back in Mexico, and for the second year in a row he is working out of the bullpen (remember the goal of winter teams is to win, not to develop) and he is excelling in the role.  There have always been whispers that the bullpen was a better long term home for Arano because he struggled turning over a lineup as a starter and that his stuff played up out of the bullpen.  It certainly looks like at least the latter is true as Arano is dominating the Mexican League.  His walk rate is really impressive, especially when you account for one of the 2 walks being intentional.  Given how good his stuff is (mid-90s FB, potential for 2 above average to plus secondary pitches) and his youth (he will turn 21 in February) the Phillies have every bit of motivation to continue to develop him as a starter.  However, if they ever go the bullpen route, they could have themselves a dominant reliever fairly quickly.

Cord Sandberg, OF – Canberra Cavalry

14 G 42 AB 1 2B 1 HR 1 sB 6 BB 10 K .310/.396/.405

Australia is an offensive league, so a 14 game sample size of good numbers is not a huge prospect boost for Sandberg.  However, after a poor year in Lakewood, his prospect stop is badly need of a positive swing to build on.  Sandberg began to show a bit more pop in the second half in Lakewood and this weekend launched a 3 run home run for the Cavalry.  He also has been walking at solid rate so far, but it is way too early to call anything a trend.  That being said, Sandberg desperately needs at bats and so there is some hope that he can build something and have some momentum coming into 2016.

Tom Windle, LHP – Glendale Desert Dogs

9 G 1.93 ERA 0.1 IP 8 H 2 ER 4 BB 6 K

The ERA is better than the component numbers, but the AFL is not just about numbers.  Tom Windle is finishing up his transformation from back end starter to the best left handed relief prospect in the Phillies’ system (he has an argument for best left handed pitcher still too).  Windle was 90-92 touching 93 as a starting pitcher with Reading this year, that is now 93-95 touching 96 as a reliever.  He is still doing some manipulation in the size and shape of his slider but can run it anywhere from 82-89, sitting mostly 85-87 with tighter movement, but he has also gotten it up where PitchFx was picking it up as a 88-89 cutter.  He has shelved his worse pitch in his changeup as part of the switch.  There are still some inconsistencies in his delivery leading to some control issues, but he now looks like a potentially dominant reliever.  He has likely earned himself at least a visit to minor league camp and could be up by midseason.

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.