Ranking Retrospective: The Evolution of the Top 10

The most scrutinized part of any prospect ranking is the Top 10 and then the last 1-2 spots on the list.  The latter is because we want to argue for someone who missed the list, but the former is what I am interested in.  Everyone ranks at least a Top 10, and this makes the easiest to compare one list against another.  In this case we are going to compare three lists, all by the same writer.  I have been ranking Phillies prospects since after the 2012 season, so here is my 2012 and 2013 published Top 10s and the first draft of the 2014 Top 10 (which is subject to lots of change over the 4+ months until I release it).

201220132014
Jesse BiddleMaikel FrancoJ.P. Crawford
Adam MorganJesse BiddleAaron Nola
Roman QuinnJ.P. CrawfordMaikel Franco
Tommy JosephCarlos TocciRoman Quinn
Ethan MartinKelly DuganJesse Biddle
Maikel FrancoAaron AltherrKelly Dugan
Cody AscheRoman QuinnDeivi Grullon
Carlos TocciDeivi GrullonYoel Mecias
Jonathan PettiboneEthan MartinCarlos Tocci
Shane WatsonCord SandbergMatt Imhof

Lets take a look at this spot by spot and see how it compares over the years:

#1: Jesse Biddle – Maikel Franco – J.P. Crawford

This isn’t even close, Crawford is the best prospect the Phillies have had since Domonic Brown, and the most polished prospect since Cole Hamels.  Biddle was pushed up lists in 2012 because the Phillies list was so bad, and was a borderline Top 100 prospect.  Franco in 2013 was rated #17 by Baseball America a year ago, but overall his average Top 100 position was about 38, which puts him behind Crawford this year, but still a very solid prospect. Advantage: 2014

#2: Adam Morgan – Jesse Biddle – Aaron Nola

Three pitchers ending their year in AA with some amount of questions.  But we are talking two guys with #3/#4 profiles and the #7 pick in the draft with a #2/#3 profile, easily goes to Nola. Advantage: 2014

#3: Roman Quinn – J.P. Crawford – Maikel Franco

Quinn snuck on to the BA Top 100 at #100 in 2012, Crawford averaged a ranking of 53 when he made lists last year, and Franco is coming off a “disappointing” year when he came on strong at the end of the year.  I think Franco is going to settle in a spot similar to where Crawford was last year, but I am going to go with Crawford here because he had more upside at this time last year than Franco does now. Advantage: 2013

#4: Tommy Joseph – Carlos Tocci – Roman Quinn

I am a big Tocci fan, and I was a big Joseph fan before the injuries.  However, a healthy Roman Quinn has really taken to center field defensively and I am getting visions of a defensive profile that is Billy Hamilton-lite.  Quinn still has a lot of growth, and there is sneaky power there.  I am not sure there is a star there, but he will be in AA last year and I see more ceiling and floor than both Joseph and Tocci. Advantage: 2014

#5: Ethan Martin – Kelly Dugan – Jesse Biddle

Ethan Martin was still shiny and new in 2012 and we thought he could be a starting pitcher or at least dominant reliever.  I have always been a Dugan fan, a bunch of average and above average tools makes him really solid.  Biddle is coming off of a down year, but from my Reading recap:

Before Concussion: 63 IP 3.14 ERA 3.7 BB/9 9.14 K/9
After Concussion: 31.1 IP 7.47 ERA 7.18 BB/9 8.04 K/9

His velocity was at 91-93 T94 when he was finally back healthy, and there were whispers of him throwing a couple at 95 and 96.  Biddle is going to slip down a lot of lists, but there is more upside here and just as many questions as Martin and Dugan. Advantage: 2014

#6: Maikel Franco – Aaron Altherr – Kelly Dugan

Franco was way too low on the 2012 list.  Early iterations had him above Quinn but he fell down as I ran to the “safety” of Joseph and Martin.  Franco was coming off a second half in Lakewood where he had shown major adjustments at the plate and was becoming the player he would be in 2013.  Altherr is likely the weakest here as he was on a list of question marks, his centerfield defense kept his #4 outfielder profile above some other question marks.  Kelly Dugan just continues to get better, and I believe he is the most undervalued prospect in the Phillies system.  All that being said, Franco was a better prospect than Altherr and Dugan.  Advantage: 2012

#7: Cody Asche – Roman Quinn – Deivi Grullon

I am not sure you could get 3 more different prospects.  Asche was relatively safe as a second division third baseman with a shot to be a regular, Quinn was a top prospect coming off two horrible injuries, and Grullon is an 18 year old catcher with outstanding defensive abilities.  Some people are going to knock Grullon for his offensive statistics this year, but he started 79 games behind the plate as an 18 year old in 2014 which is nearly unheard of.  He has established himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues.  The bat will never be great, but I will take him over a guy with limited upside and a guy with serious red flags like Quinn did a year ago.  Advantage: 2014

#8: Carlos Tocci – Deivi Grullon – Yoel Mecias

A whos who of my favorite prospects.  Grullon and Tocci were coming off solid GCL campaigns with light hitting and great defense.  I didn’t have the guts to put Mecias in my Top 10 last year, and while he didn’t have the breakout I anticipated, I am still going to take the 21 year old pitcher in low-A with room for a plus FB, has flashed a plus or better changeup, and is beginning to show feel for breaking pitches.  Advantage: 2014, but it is fairly close

#9: Jonathan Pettibone – Ethan Martin – Carlos Tocci

I actually think Tocci is a better prospect than he was a year ago, unfortunately for him, others made more improvements.  Ignoring the fact that both have had shoulder injuries since, Pettibone at the time was a #4/#5 starter and Martin was treated like a high-end reliever.  But that isn’t going to cut is vs a guy who just finished his second season in full season ball and just turned 19 3 months ago. Advantage: 2014

#10 Shane Watson – Cord Sandberg – Matt Imhof

All three coming right out of the draft, all three came into the draft with similar grades.  I still really like Watson’s upside out of the draft, but diabetes and injuries really have derailed his time on the mound.  Sandberg might have the most upside of this group, but he was and still is so incredibly raw that it is hard to count on him here.  Imhof still has a bunch of ceiling, but is a bit safer and less flashy than the other two.  In the end I am going to go with Watson, in what is the closest spot on the list.  Advantage: 2012

What did we learn?

Now all of this is a fairly useless exercise if you think it all goes to 2014 because Nola pushes everyone down one spot.  And if you think that, you are correct.  Actually that is much the point I want to make here.  What has happened from 2012 to 2013 and into 2014 is that everyone keeps getting pushed down.  Carlos Tocci is a better prospect now than he was a year ago, but he drops 5 spots for me.  You are going to see players like Dylan Cozens and Zach Green move backwards on lists when they had good years.  What has happened is that depth is emerging.  For many years as fans we have gotten used to high prospect turnover with new breakout prospects emerging to fill the void.  What happened is that we stripped down to the very core and now we have refilled to see who pops to the surface in the next few years.  The point of looking at the lists is to put names to improvement.  It is easy to say that the top of the system has gotten better, but it is another to really look at it and make that comparison.

Photo by Tom Hagerty

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.

4 comments

  1. Dave47

    Matt an interesting analysis. It’s nice to see the system moving in the right direction with better prospects pushing good ones down a few slots. Overall I think the farm system isn’t as bad as some think, on the other hand it still has a long way to go to be considered in the top group of minor league systems. Another good solid draft in 2015 plus hopefully the emergence of one or two surprises would certainly boost the overall ranking of the Phillies minors. I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t really see any real breakouts or surprises surface this time around.

    • Matt Winkelman

      They did get a breakout of sorts this year, but he is part of why rankings are a bit silly. And that is Ken Giles, he developed skills and polish late and won’t appear on any prospect lists for obvious reasons. But that was a guy outside most Top 10s and he is a true impact pitcher under control for 6 more years.

      • Dave47

        Good point – I didn’t even consider him.

  2. The Original Will

    I tend to think it’s hard to be truly objective in this exercise because each of the players on the prior years’ lists have had 1-2 seasons to prove why they aren’t as good as we hoped, (or in a couple of cases are better).

    For instance, Ethan Martin had a way better age 23 season in AA than Biddle (concussion splits aside), had a very good pedigree (2 prior top 100 rankings) and a huge arm. 2 years later, we know we’ll be lucky if he is a mid-leverage reliever going forward. It’s easy to say that now, Biddle is a better relative prospect, but how much of that is due to biases developed over the past 2 years?

    On the flipside, in 2012, Maikel Franco was a teenager showing really good potential in full-season ball and has subsequently shown we should have put more weight in the performance given the age and level. Fact is, a 19 year old hitting flashing plus power and patience against competition 2-3 years older is pretty unusual. I would posit he should have been at least #4 on that 2012 list, which pushes everyone else down, making that list seem stronger, and I would very likely say he was a better prospect than Quinn is today. Obviously his performance over the past 2 years makes that hard to refute.

    that being said, it is an interesting exercise, and does make me feel a bit better about our system.