|Age||Likely 2015 Level||Top 50|
|Mark Leiter Jr||24||A+|
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