Phillies Building Through Depth – Pitching

I made the statement on Monday that the Phillies might have the deepest farm system in baseball.  Two days later I stand by that statement.  A lot of focus has been put on the premium trade returns and players like Crawford, Nola, and Franco, but that is really not the legacy of the last few years of rebuild.  That is in the depth that was built through a collection of trades, and the sheer weight of talent acquisition without trading away anything.

Before even looking at positional groups, let’s just do a simple input/output of the last 12 months in terms of prospects.  (I am going to stick to guys who have appeared in a Top prospect list or are prominent names in the organization)

In: Williams, Thompson, Alfaro, Asher, Eickhoff, Tirado, Cordero, Pivetta, Randolph, Kingery, Eflin, Windle, Lively, Rodriguez, Ortiz, Araujo*, Herrera*, Arano, Valentin

Out: Morgan, Nola, Franco, Herrera, Araujo, Mecias

*Player was acquiring and went to the majors this season

Just on a basic level that is a good amount more into the system then out of it.  But lets look at which groups this is showing up in.  Starting with pitching.

Starting Pitching:

Notable Players:
AAA: Jesse Biddle, Alec Asher. Jared Eickhoff
AA: Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Joely Rodriguez, Ben Lively
A+: Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto, Matt Imhof, Brandon Leibrandt
A-: Elniery Garcia, Shane Watson, Ranfi Casimiro, Tyler Viza
SS: Franklyn Kilome, Tyler Gilbert, Luke Leftwich, Alejandro Arteaga
Rk: Adonis Medina, Bailey Falter, Nick Fanti, Ranger Suarez, Felix Paulino, Sam McWilliams

It is not a stretch to say that one of the big goals of the Phillies was to acquire pitching.  Between AA and AAA the Phillies have 8 prospects in the rotations with a chance to be big league starters, and that does not include Tom Windle who the Phillies have hinted could make a return to the rotation if he develops in the bullpen (which he has done) and Severino Gonzalez who is on the DL in AAA.  In the majors the Phillies are running out Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, and David Buchanan all are in their 1st or 2nd year in the majors.  Now there isn’t an ace in this group unless Nola takes an unexpected development, but there are a lot of major league pieces.  Some of the pitchers will fail, some will get hurt, some will be relievers, and others will underperform.  The Phillies though have put themselves in a position where they have 13 players vying for 5 spots (or less if they go sign a front end starter in FA).

This is just the top end of the spectrum.  The Phillies have been stocking the back of the farm system with farms as well.  Franklyn Kilome has been the poster child of the Phillies Latin pitching development, but Ricardo Pinto has climbed the ranks and now sits poised to join the big league club within the next year or so.  This year the Latin program has produced Adonis Medina another high upside arm, who joins their last two drafts of HS arms to form an interesting group of projectable upside arms.

Relief Pitching:

Notable Players:
AAA: Nefi Ogando
AA: Jimmy Cordero, Edubray Ramos
A+: Alexis Rivero, Jesen Therrien, Miguel Nunez, Yacksel Rios, Alberto Tirado

The obvious source of relief pitching comes from that group above, as some will transition there as the room isn’t available in the rotation.  However the Phillies have not pinned all their hopes on failed starters.  Ken Giles already has the closer job and is one of the best relief pitchers in majors, Elvis Araujo has started to develop nicely in the majors.  In the minors they have some fireball era waiting in the wings.  Nefi Ogando is sitting in AAA with a mid 90s FB and good slider, in AA they have newly acquired Jimmy Cordero throwing 100 with a quickly developing slider and Edubray Ramos who has struggled some but still runs it up to 95-97 with a wipeout slider.  Ramos has moved up from Clearwater which now seems to be churning out these higher upside reliever.  Former starters Miguel Nunez and Yacksel Rios have taken well to the bullpen, in particular Rios is interesting as he can go multiple innings while running it up 95.  Therrien has finally harnessed his control and can also run it up to 95.  The two intriguing arms are Alexis Rivero and the newly arrived Alberto Tirado.  Rivero was 91-93 early in the year but is now 94-97 but he is moving faster than his feel for pitching and will need to have it catch up again.  Tirado also has control problems, but sits mid-90s and can get to 100 at times, but he has the most advanced secondary pitch of everyone  with a plus to plus plus slider.

Much like the starters, the Phillies aren’t expecting to hit on every reliever, but if they can get 1 or 2 guys to join whoever does make it has a starter to fill in a cheap bullpen around Ken Giles they can save even more money towards buying hitting.

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.

10 comments

  1. Far be it from me to argue with you Matt, but I can’t be quite as sanguine. I’ll take your word for it with the lower level guys, but surely at the AA and AAA levels we can look to outcomes as being important … and the results have been disappointing to me. I see a lot of guys that seem to project as 5th starter/swingman types that are prospects in the sense that “he will play in the majors” but not in the “he looks on track to being an above-average multi-year contributor” way.

    To be specific:

    In AAA, Biddle is walking 5 guys a game as a 24 year old. Asher is another 24 year old, and has an ERA near 5.00. Ogando is 26.

    In AA, Eflin is striking out 4.5 has per 9. Joely Rodriguez has an ERA of 5.00+, and also isn’t striking out people. Lively has dropped from 9.5 Ks in AA last year to 6.6 this year. ISTM these are the kind of things that eventually make players lose their “prospect” status.

    A lot of these guys are only a year or so younger than their leagues, and at least at the upper levels, it seems the only guys who haven’t had disappointing years are the guys we just acquired — Eickhoff, Thompson, Pivetta. Which doesn’t sound very encouraging to me in terms of what it says about the team’s ability to develop players.

    Am I just being unrealistic?

  2. Romus

    Of all the starting pitchers mentioned above…..I see Eflin and Thompson as 3 or 4, take your choice, behind Nola as a the two in the future rotation. Looks like there are plenty of ‘5’ candidates to choose from.
    At the ‘A’ level…agree with you on Pinto, but disagree with Kilome, seems he is already anointed the future ace of the MLB staff and has not pitched over 70 innings in two years….he still needs to crack 50IP this year before I believe the hype.
    But see instead, Victor Arano stepping up next season in the FSL and being the dominant pitcher.

    • Cole M

      Don’t count out Imhof completely. Velo is down sure, but that can come and go depending on a pitcher being totally right. Matt questioned if he was pitching at a 100% in his mid-season rankings. Anyway, its too early to count out a 21 going on 22 for next season pitching prospect that was taken in the 2nd round. Guys surge and fade, and you never know which one may do that by the slightest tweak, or a new training program.

    • Dave47

      Romus , agree with your skepticism on Kilome. I haven’t seen him and I’ve read all the great stuff about him, but so far the results are less than spectacular – I hope I’m wrong. Pinto, on the other hand seems to be supporting the hype around him.

  3. Eric D

    You also have to remember that none of these guys are finished products which means that they are all working on things which def contribute to their numbers. Matt can be more specific as to watch each are working on but I know for a fact that Eflin isn’t throwing all his pitches and either is Biddle . . They are working on things like you see the MLB guys do in the spring (which is why even when pitchers are “ahead” of hitters early in the spring they still usually have higher they normal ERA)

  4. Tim

    We do need 2 aces to come out of this group. The new scouting director is doing a good job so far .

    • USSWasteland

      The system doesn’t *need* to produce any aces. It just needs to produce enough talent to build a base. Aces are rare, and the Phils can use their financial might to get one.

      The farm system puts them in a position where signing a Price or Cueto puts them over the top.

    • Romus

      I expect the so-called ‘ace’ to come out of next year’s draft, especially if the Phillies are picking first, or maybe now second after the Marlins..

      • Philly SF

        Yes on next year’s draft and an ace , but I don’t see Arano becoming much more than a steady contributer

        • Romus

          PhillySF….I already have my sleeper for 2016 Victor Arano…I see him starting over in the FSL and dominating.
          Then a move up to Reading in June/July and then a geyser like climb up the mid-season rankings.
          I, however, can see his floor as a mid-rotation guy at the MLB level, but better then a 5th.