Positional Overview: Starting Pitching (Low Minors)

Depth Chart:

AgeLikely 2015 LevelTop 50
Victor Arano20A+14
Miguel Nunez22A+46
Mark Leiter Jr24A+
Matt Imhof21A+13
Yoel Mecias21A+4
Brandon Leibrandt22A+48
Yacksel Rios21A+
Alejandro Arteaga20A-
Drew Anderson21A-49
Ranfi Casimiro22A-
Shane Watson21A-
Chris Oliver21A-36
Ricardo Pinto21A-20
David Whitehead22A-
Mitch Gueller21A-
Elniery Garcia20A-16
Josh Taylor21A-
Tyler Viza20A-
Jason Zgardowski21SS
Lewis Alezones19SS
Denton Keys20SS
Franklyn Kilome19SS15
Sam McWilliams19SS
Ranger Suarez19Rk

Positional Overview:

The upper minors shows the immediate response to a dearth of pitching in the system following the 2013 system, the low minors shows the sustainable solution.  This group includes high draft picks, late high school picks, trade acquisitions, non-drafted free agents, and a resurgent Latin American program.  Particularly the latter has infused the system with some very interesting talent, from top prospect Yoel Mecias, to previously unknown players like Ricardo Pinto.  The infusion of talent has been staggering in the past year.  There is no pitcher here you can turn to and say they are the ace of the next great Phillies team, but there is a list of guys here that you can point to as having bright major league futures if they continue on their growth from the 2014 season.  Beyond the projection here, the sheer numbers are something we have not experienced in the low minors in a long time.  There are more pitchers ready for Clearwater and Lakewood than those rotations can handle, and while the Williamsport and GCL rotations look empty now, they will be bolstered by an influx of talent this summer from the draft.  Trying to find a place for everyone to play will be a good problem.  Last year Clearwater was a wasteland of a rotation, this year Joe Jordan has mentioned (and I agree) it can almost match the vaunted Reading rotation in terms of very interesting arms for the future of the Phillies.

Best Prospect: Yoel Mecias
Mecias first came to prominence as a whisper out of instructs in 2012 as a projectable left with a fastball up to 94 and feel for a changeup.  He was dominant after joining the Lakewood rotation in 2013, but then Tommy John surgery cost him a year.  Mecias is now healthy and showing all his previous stuff.  His upside is immense especially if the fastball velocity creeps up as he fills out, because his changeup is a dominant pitch.  Mecias will need to master a breaking ball and get some innings under his belt.  Mecias should open the year in the Clearwater rotation, and should spend the whole year there as he rebuilds his strength.

Quick Riser: Matt Imhof
Much like the guy taken ahead of him in the 2014 draft, Imhof is more feel that overpowering stuff.  His secondary pitches need work, but scouts liked his breaking ball out of college and his changeup showed some feel in pro-ball.  The selling point here is the fastball, which is only 89-92, reaching as high as 94, but he has great deception and movement on the pitch, while being able to command it in the zone.  Unless the off speed pitches jump forward, it is unlikely that Imhof’s ceiling jumps, but he has the stuff to dominant Clearwater and end up in Reading before the end of the year.

Sleeper #1: Ricardo Pinto
Pinto has been getting a lot of helium as the offseason has gone on.  The small righty pitched in relative obscurity in 2014, as he came late to Williamsport following an injury.  His fastball is solid and is normally 90-93 and can get to 97, but will routinely touch 95-96 in his starts.  He has a changeup with plus potential, but the Phillies have mostly shelved so he has to develop his slider.  Pinto pounds the strikezone and is not afraid to attack batters.  If Pinto can repeat his 2014 performance, he could move quickly from Lakewood to Clearwater, and could make a large jump in profile.

Sleeper #2: Victor Arano
The Phillies seem to like Arano more than the industry, but I tend to agree with the Phillies.  Arano lacks future physical projection, but with a fastball that is routinely up to 94 as a starter (that can go even higher in relief) he doesn’t really need projection.  Arano’s secondary pitches flash good potential, but lack consistency, but when they are on he can keep hitters guessing.  Arano will only be 20 this year in Clearwater, and shows enough feel for pitching that he could put up a really solid season and cement himself as a starter.

Player of Interest: Franklyn Kilome
Given the hype he has gotten this offseason Kilome can’t really be called a sleeper.  Also it isn’t assured that 2015 will necessarily be his breakout year.  However, what is clear is that Kilome has a ton of upside due to near limitless projection.  His fastball isn’t lighting up radar guns yet and he doesn’t have a hammer curve or gorgeous changeup that has scouts’ mouths hanging open.  What Kilome has his an incredible foundation on which to build.  His size and frame give him room to add plenty of strength and muscle, and right now the delivery is easy and controlled and he drives it from his lower body and not his arm.  His size means that he gets great plane on his pitches and he already knows how to pound the bottom of the zone.  Kilome is already starting show feel for secondary pitches, and he has developed a sinker to pair with the fastball that leaves hitters with little choice but to pound the ball into the dirt.  It is unlikely that Kilome jumps up into the upper echelon of prospects in 2015, as it appears the Phillies will take it slow with him, but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue adding pieces that could lead to a meteoric rise.

Photo of Elniery Garcia 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.

9 comments

  1. phillysf

    the future is so bright I gotta wear shades, seriously though, it always seems to be the case that hope springs eternal with the young ones and then the fizzle out, need we be reminded about the baby aces again. Got my fingers crossed that these youngster can be different

  2. Love Kilome. Who he is in 3 years is anyone’s guess, but he seems to have great coordination and movement for a guy his size. He’s got projectability for days….

    • phillysf

      @ Mutley
      love the handle

  3. MLL

    I agree that these lists are not loaded with superstars. But, after following Phillies minor league teams for 40 years, I assure you that there were many years where the list couldn’t even go 5 deep with potential major leaguers. I agree with Matt that this is the best depth that we have seen in pitching for the Phillies minor league teams in a long time. Furthermore, as has been pointed out many times, scouting- and prospecting- is an inexact science. If you put together a big enough collection of 2/3 and 3/4 starting pitching prospects, there is a good chance that someone will surprise you and take a big leap forward to potential #1. Sure I would much rather have a system full of projected #1’s, but considering where we are coming from, this is not a bad start. Combine that with a couple of years of high first picks ahead of us, and likely increased spending in the Latin market, I would not be surprised if we are raving about our system a couple of years from now. And yes- more prospects will flame out than become stars, but that is not unique to the Phillies. I think that we are just starting to see the silver lining behind the dark clouds that have covered the Phillies minor leagues for the past few years.

  4. Romus

    Five that I have hope for and want to follow this season- Imhof, Arano, Mecias, Garcia and Kilome.
    But who knows, Liebrandt could be the guy down the road who actually ends up having a productive MLB career.

  5. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    I saw Kilome over at the minor league complex last week. They were just running drills so all I can say about the guy is that he is enormous. Kind of built like CC Sabbathia, although I don’t know of he is that tall.

    • phillysf

      Really Kilome looks like CC not sure that is good or bad and which CC are we talking about . But Sabathia is pushing 3 bills and Kilome according to the site says he is pushing 2 bills. and I believe Kilome is 6 foot 6 inches

      • Romus

        phillysf….concerning accurate weight recordings….Maikel Franco was 180 lbs from Mar 2010 until Feb 2015….this month he is now recorded at 215 lbs….must have been one tremendous weight-lifting program this off-season!
        Not sure accurate weights are not published on their site, since every spring they are weighed-in at the complex.

        • Romus

          …not sure ‘why’ accurate weights are not published…..