In 2014 the GCL Phillies had a nice pitching staff and some interesting players, but the lack of HS players limited the prospect power of the team. This season has been much different. The lineup has a premium prospect at every position and while the rotation isn’t full of household names, it has carried the team all year and can hold its own on the prospect side. As of this morning the team was 27-13, which was good for second in the GCL behind the 30-13 GCL Red Sox, were 3rd in runs scored, 3rd in OPS, 5th in ERA, 1st in WHIP (thanks to the 2nd fewest walks allowed)
For the sake of brevity I am going to focus on the starting players.
The Phillies signed Duran this past year for $70,000 and then kept the 17 year old catcher over $300,000 man Lenin Rodriguez. Duran has some development left (obviously), but already has a plus arm and some receiving skills. At the plate he has good feel for contact and there might be moderate pop down the line. Duran has been splitting time with 2015 11th round pick Edgar Cabral. Cabral was relatively unknown when the Phillies called his name, and while he hasn’t been a big steal there is a lot to like. He is athletic behind the plate and will show plus arm strength. He has also not racked up many strikeouts while also showing some power. It will be a slow growth for both and catcher is weakest group on paper right now, but either of these guys could work themselves into being a major leaguer.
First base: Luis Encarnacion
It is easy to forget that Encarnacion just turned 18. He also has been under the radar because he is now a full time first baseman. However, this year has seen Encarnacion make big strides. His approach is much better and has squared a lot of pitches up (and many at fielders). He flashes plus game power and hit some bombs to start the year. It won’t carry him to the majors but he moves well and has shown good defense at first base. He isn’t Rafael Devers, but certainly looks like a good $1 million investment.
What do you do with two teenage shortstops who can both play the position and need to play everyday? If you are the Phillies you flip them back and forth in your up the middle positions. Gamboa has fast twitch athleticism that helps him to use an above average to plus glove in the field with ease. At the plate his bat lacks impact and his approach is immature, but there is still physical growth ahead. He is also at least a plus runner.
Arauz is not quite the pure athlete that Gamboa is, but he is the better prospect. Arauz is very young (just turned 17), but plays much older than that. He can handle shortstop defensively and is great at second base. At the plate he takes mature at bats and has a good feel for contact. He has the frame and strength to have average power at his peak physical maturity. He has the pieces to be a first division regular or better.
Antequera is the third wheel behind the two teenagers (he just turned 20 on August 1), but he is in his second year after playing in the VSL last year. He is putting up respectable numbers (.292/.357/.427 13 SB) while playing all around the infield. He doesn’t have the ceiling of the other two player, but the Phillies like him and he is the most likely to jump right to Lakewood next year.
Third Base: Lucas Williams
The Phillies drew a lot of strange looks when they took Williams in the third round of the 2015 draft. It is admittedly a weird profile for third base, Williams has very little power right now, and doesn’t have the frame to a big time power hitter down the road. He is at least a plus runner and has already shown some success on the bases. What really shows with Williams is his athleticism and he shows the signs of being a very good defender at the hot corner. I am not sure what Williams projects at but so far he looks like a 3rd round pick.
Left Field: Cornelius Randolph
You could nitpick things like wanting more power, but that would just be finding fault for no reason. Randolph can really hit. He already has shown the ability to take a walk, take a ball the other way, and square the ball up into the gaps. He isn’t Alex Gordon in left field but he can certainly play it. He is really good, moving on…
There is no shortage of people who rave about Luis. He is lanky and projectable (though it isn’t a frame that suggest a ton of muscle), but has now skills in plus plus speed and good center field defense. He has a good feel for contact at the plate and can put one out of the park occasionally. There is a ton of potential for an above average to plus regular in center field. While he is older (19) this is his first pro year so if he moves quickly he can get back on an age appropriate pace.
Alastre tore up the VSL a year ago at age 17 and is showing some solid abilities in the GCL this year. He is a plus to plus plus runner (though the instincts aren’t great) who can play all three outfield positions. There isn’t a lot of power, but he is worth keeping an eye on because he can play center field and there is some a feel for contact.
Luis Encarnacion was not the only big money signing for the Phillies in 2013 as the Phillies signed Martelo out of Columbia for $230,000. He struggled in the DSL, but has done better as an 18 year old in the GCL this year. He has a typical right field profile with a plus, accurate arm and above average or more raw power. He has some approach and pitch recognition issues, but has plenty of bat speed and a strong base to build on.
Pickett was the Phillies overslot 8th round pick in 2015, and he is super raw and will need plenty of time to reach his ceiling. He missed time due to a knee injury from a collision at first base, and has struggled since returning [EDIT – It was passed on to me by the good people who live in Clearwater (Jim Peyton and Baseball Betsy) that Pickett also suffered a concussion following his knee injury]. But he has big time raw power, but a lot of swing and miss. The big concern is that he is not natural in the outfield and that is long term home is first base where he will need to hit his offensive ceiling.
Last year’s rotation of Kilome/Garcia/McWilliams/Alezones/Keys/Zgardowski was really good, especially by GCL standards. However this year’s version of the rotation is even better. It lacks a player to match Franklyn Kilome, but Adonis Medina is really good. He brings a fastball that is routinely 91-94 and will show a future plus curveball (and some feel to command it) and an above average to plus changeup. To top all of this off (because that is apparently not good enough) he is only 18 years old and in a short burst earlier this year he showed that he can get to 96-97. There is big time upside here.
Making a return trip to the GCL is 2014 8th round pick Sam McWilliams. This year they have rebuild McWilliams’ delivery and this low effort and his velocity is back as he is bumping 94 early in starts before fading to 89-91. He is a giant (6’7″) and he gets a ton of movement on his fastball and has been a ground ball machine because hitters can’t square him up. He has a curveball that has some potential, but his changeup is still way behind. McWilliams has the frame to add more velocity, and while he still has some control issues, the delivery is there to start to add on the secondary pieces.
After taking him with their 5th round pick in the 2015 draft, the Phillies raved about Bailey Falter. There is a lot to like in the lanky lefty because the delivery is easy and repeatable and there is some feel for movement and secondary pitches. However, he is still only 87-90 with the fastball and his secondary pitches are not good enough to overcome the starts when his command isn’t there. That being said, there is good upside here, and it is the type of profile the Phillies player dev team has had a lot of success with in recent years. Check back next spring, Falter could be treading water or shooting up lists.
Left handed pitcher Ranger Suarez was a name that Phillies’ fans may remember from his insane stat line in the VSL last year. Last fall and this spring he was topping out in the mid-80s, however of late he has touched 90-91 and now is worth paying attention to. He throws a ton of strikes and keeps hitters off balance. I was hoping to have heard a recent look on him, but he has missed a few starts due to an unknown injury [EDIT – Per Phuture Phillies Jim Peyton it appears to be a sore elbow].
The “ace” of the GCL staff has been 20 year old RHP Felix Paulino. He has the stuff to watch out (fastball sits low 90s and gets up to 94) and throws strikes with a deceptive delivery. I haven’t heard great things on the secondary pitches, but he does have a three pitch mix to keep hitters off balance. He is probably the “worst” prospect of the group due to his age, but worth watching because the fastball base is solid.
With Suarez down, the newly demoted Lewis Alezones gets his third crack at the GCL. The lanky RHP has yet to see his velocity tick up which limits his whole profile, but he is 19, so his future is far from over. The Phillies have also slowly stretched out LHP Nick Fanti, their 31st round pick. Fanti is another projectable LHP who has experienced some early success while bringing a fastball that has gotten up to 91.
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