Low Money International Signings Leading Low Minors Pitching

There has been a lot written about Phillies leadership mentioning rebuilding around pitching. Given that they received back a combined 17 pitchers in notable trades in the recent phase of their rebuild it is hard to argue against those comments. Most of those trades have brought back pieces in the high minors, what about rebuilding in the low minors. It turns out that the rebuild there has come from unexpected places.

Famously in the 2014 draft, the Phillies signed only one HS player, that pitcher, Sam McWilliams, is now in the Arizona organization. The year before that the Phillies signed 2 HS pitchers, one, Denton Keys, has already been released, the other, 32nd round pick Tyler Viza, has reached AA on the back of a breakout season. In 2015 under Johnny Almaraz the Phillies signed 3 HS pitchers, and in 2016 they signed 4 more to give some reinforcement to the low minors. Of those 7 pitchers, only two were premium picks in 2015 5th rd pick Bailey Falter (Williamsport) and 2016 2nd rd pick Kevin Gowdy (GCL). Of the 7, 6 are in the GCL with only Gowdy and Nick Fanti in true starting roles. Low minors spots are often taken by college pitchers in their first years in the system, and in this case between the GCL, Williamsport, and Lakewood three rotation spots are taken by college pitchers with JoJo Romero and Cole Irvin working in a piggy back situation in Williamsport, where they are joined by Julian Garcia, with Tyler Gilbert being the lone college arm in Lakewood. So all told that then leaves us 11 of the 17 spots between the three leagues occupied by trade returns and Latin American pitchers.

I want to address the trade returns first because they only take one of the spots because another pitcher is on the DL. They represent the same kind of pitcher as the rest, but Alberto Tirado and Harold Arauz don’t fit quite the budget aspect of what I want to emphasize today. What I want to talk about is this group of players: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras, Edgar Garcia, Seranthony Dominguez, Adonis Medina, Felix Paulino, Ranger Suarez, Sixto Sanchez, Mauricio Llovera, and Luis Carrasco. The one thing all 10 of those pitchers have in common is that they were signed for less than $100,000 and their signings made zero ripples in July 2 circles.

At this point it is difficult to not know who Franklyn Kilome and Adonis Medina are. Kilome is a giant pitcher who started putting up big velo numbers and Medina is young and shows a combination of advanced feel and solid stuff, both are top 10 prospects in the system. That does not mean the other players are nothing, in fact there are some arms here that you are going to hear a lot about soon.

  • Seranthony Dominguez (21) – Missed 2015 due to injury but has a low to mid 90s fastball and will show to above average to plus pitches. He has struggled with command at times, but has made big strides this year. He was promoted to Lakewood after 3 starts in the NYPL.
  • Edgar Garcia (19) – Garcia missed my offseason list because the general feeling was that he was probably a reliever, and that been the role he has pitched in the most this year, but he is now in the Lakewood rotation. He has had a very good statistical year (34.2 IP 1.04 ERA 28 H 5 BB 37 K) and features a fastball in the 92-95 range and a swing and miss slider. He still needs to work on a changeup to be a starter, but he could move very quickly as a reliever if that stalls.
  • Jose Taveras (22) – The elder statesman of the group wasn’t signed until he was 20 years old, he then dominated the DSL before having a solid year in the NYPL in 2015. He has been up and down this year, and has the single most dominant start of any Phillies prospect this year (8 IP2 H 1 ER 0 BB 15 K on June 25). He is not walking many and striking out more batter than at any point in his career to date. His arsenal is more polish than upside with a 3 pitch mix topped out by a fastball at 90-92 and solid control.
  • Felix Paulino (21) – The small righty can bring his fastball up to 95, and has a slider and changeup. However, after dominating the GCL last year he is struggling with getting hit around in the strikezone. He will need to improve his command and secondary pitches to start. There were already rumblings in the GCL last year that his future home was the bullpen.
  • Ranger Suarez (20) – Suarez put up silly numbers in the VSL in 2014 before then having a ton of success in the GCL in 2015. He has also seen his velocity rise to where he is more 89-92 T93. Like many young pitchers he needs to move to having more command and not just control, but he could grow into being a back end starter in much the same way we viewed Elniery Garcia a season ago.
  • Sixto Sanchez (17) – Just in case you were starting to worry that this was getting boring we have Sanchez, a small right handed pitcher making his stateside debut. He has been dominant on the mound statistically, but more impressively he is showing a fastball sitting 92-95 and touching 97 or 98 depending on who you talk to. He is still really young and his size is going to be something that will be worried about for a while, but he is very interesting to watch.
  • Mauricio Llovera (20) – Much different from Sanchez, Llovera is a bit older and while he is short he is much more solidly built. He was 92-95 in his last time out with a changeup and curveball, Chris King mentioned that the curveball looked to have more potential. It is pretty easy to throw Llovera in the future reliever bucket, but there is stuff enough to be interesting.
  • Luis Carrasco (21) – Another late signing, Carrasco has projectability and now velocity (92-94). His delivery is reportedly a mess, so there may be a bit more in there if the Phillies clean him up. He is walking more guys than other pitchers on this list, but he is missing bats so far.

Maybe only 1 arm of this last group would make a current top 30 (Seranthony), with a few more pushing for it (Sanchez and Garcia), but these are legitimate arms to watch. It has hard to say if they are a product of circumstance, talent, or great dev, but they are filling the spaces left by poor drafting and development. So while the upper minors are driven by big name trade acquisitions the next generation may be homegrown from a completely different source.

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.

5 comments

  1. It is really remarkable how loaded our system is top to bottom. I’ve never seen a farm with so little org filler. Everybody talks about trading Hellickson for prospects but we honestly don’t have a lot of starting spots to put anybody outside of Lehigh.

  2. andyb

    Clearly the industry has had a reaction against large bonuses for International pitchers. There were only 7 pitchers out of the top 50 BA prospects and that is not a realistic distribution of talent. It is so lopsided that I wonder if the industry has over-reacted and that there is now an inefficiency in the pricing of Latin American arms. Sometimes the top prospects are Felix Hernandez and Anderson Espinoza and are well worth it. Jason Groome may have been risky at $6 million plus, but seems a fair risk/reward at $3.65 million. Which begs the question – should the Phillies and other teams be spending more money on Latin American pitching?

    • Matt Winkelman

      The problem with Latin American pitching is that you are signing 16 year olds. Velocity and physical development often comes later. Kilome was signed at 18 and was only throwing mid 80s, Medina was 88-90 when he came stateside at the end of his age 17 season.

  3. Kurdt Kobeyn

    while the FO is clear with their commitment to build arms (and buy bats) — I want the Phils to be more aggressive on the International market particularly trying to acquire “premium LA prospects”. With the exception of Jhailyn Ortiz, Phils appears to like the strategy of spreading the pool money with mid-level LA prospects.

    Even if the Phils breaks the pool limit Phils can still sign LA prospects for >$300k — a market when Sal A and his team are doing a good job anyway.

    • This “buy bats, grow pitching” approach leaves some room for interpretation. For example, spending 10 million on the GLC outfield, then collecting dozens of developmental arms could still fit this mentality. This interpretation doesn’t suggest a preference for pitching, but rather a quantity approach for pitching vs investing in quality of talent offensively.