|Age||Likely 2015 Level||Top 50|
*Andrew Pullin was moved from 2B to shortstop during the making of this series
When they went to the World Series in 2008 the Phillies had Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth manning the corners. The following year they plugged in Raul Ibanez for Burrell and returned to the series. Meanwhile in the minor leagues Domonic Brown and Michael Taylor were making themselves look like the future. Flash forward 5 years and Taylor is out of baseball, Brown was one of the worst starters in major league baseball, and the Phillies have spent plenty of resources on cycling through replacements (Hunter Pence and Marlon Byrd). This year Brown gets what might be his last shot at the right field job, while left field is up for grabs between Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera and veterans Grady Sizemore and Darin Ruf. There isn’t a big power threat on the verge of the major leagues either, though Kelly Dugan could be solid. In the low minors the Phillies have some intriguing power prospects, but they come with big risk.
Best Prospect: Kelly Dugan
Dugan lacks the flashy tools of some of the other corner outfielders in the system, but the Phillies top pick in 2009 does a lot of things very well. I think Dugan can really hit, and while his average over the years has been boosted by a high BABIP, he has not posted a season average under .284 since his signing year. His power was down in 2014 as he dealt with an oblique injury and then worked on driving the ball the other way. However, he does have the raw power to hit 15-20 home runs a year during his prime. He is a solid fielder who relies on good instincts more than speed. The big question for Dugan has been his health. He mostly answered those question in 2012 and 2013 when he played 117 and 112 games, but in 2014 he broke his foot and pulled his oblique, before breaking his foot before Spring Training. If he can stay healthy, he can be a solid major leaguer.
2014 Impact: Cameron Perkins
Cameron Perkins just mashed in AA but it was more flash than substance. Perkins can make a ton of contact, but much like Maikel Franco the quality is not always there. The hope was that Perkins would fill out his lanky frame and develop above average power, but so far it has not come. He is a solid defender in both outfield corners and a first base. This should serve him well as he should be a good bench piece, possibly as the opposite pairing to Cody Asche. Perkins will make a return to AAA where it shouldn’t take much for him to rise above the AAAA retreads.
Sleepers: Jose Pujols and Cord Sandberg
Pujols and Sandberg both made their debuts in 2013 and rejoined each other in Williamsport late in 2014. Outside of their similar level, both sport game changing tools with Pujols having the best raw power in the system and Sandberg brining a 5 tool mix to the table. Both have made strides in a non-linear pattern, showing flashes of greatness followed by valleys of horrible performance. The pair need at bats more than anything as both have limited exposure to sequencing and solid offspeed pitches. For Pujols, his swing and approach still has problems, but coming into 2013 he had a huge uppercut that they smoothed out while keeping power, and in 2014 he took a pull heavy approach and showed that he can use the full field. Sandberg has struggled with consistency, and the Phillies worked hard to get him to go the other way, and he showed some aptitude late in Williamsport and in Fall Instructs. Lakewood may not be the best place for breakout stats, but Pujols has power that shouldn’t be hurt by the park and Sandberg’s all around skill set could lead to good results even in the suppressed offensive environment. It would be a risk to overlook either at this point.
Players of Interest: Aaron Brown and Luis Encarnacion
You couldn’t have two outfielders with more different profiles. Encarnacion is the very young former third baseman who is going back and forth between first base and left field, because his range and arm are suspect. Brown is old for a college junior (turns 23 in June) and is a former center fielder who can still play the position some, and has good range and a cannon arm. Both have profiles that rely on power, but Encarnacion is known as a guy with a good approach (though it wasn’t always evident) and Brown is over aggressive at the plate, racking up large strikeout numbers with low walk rates. Encarnacion will need to become a complete hitter to have value going forward as his defensive profile won’t give him anything to fall back on. Brown has his defense to fall back on and should be able to survive if he doesn’t become the best hitter possible. Both players could shoot up rankings with a good 2015 and have the tools to be impact major leaguers. The clock is ticking more for Brown than Encarnacion, but Encarnacion will need to show growth this year to not fall more off prospect radars.