There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth this year about the Phillies development process, and inability to develop a homegrown reliever. This past week, the Phillies promoted their best relief prospect in a while to the major leagues in Ken Giles (where he joined fellow homegrown relievers Bastardo, De Fratus, Diekman, and Hollands). Giles has generated a ton of buzz from spring training to now due to a blistering fastball, but it has been the formation of the complete product that is truly interesting.
Giles was first drafted in the 44th round of the 2009 draft by the Marlins, he did not sign, but this was Baseball America’s review on his stuff:
Giles showed good velocity this spring, sitting 91-92 mph, and has touched 94 in the past. He throws only a fastball and changeup now and has dealt with tendinitis this spring.
Giles then spent two years at Yavapi JC, before the Phillies drafted him in the 7th round of the 2011 draft. At the time he was widely considered an arm strength project. With BA noting:
He entered the year as just a thrower, having shown arm strength but little control or secondary pitches in the past. He turned a corner this spring, though, sitting 92-96 mph and touching 99. His fastball can get straight, but he has commanded it well and worked to improve his tempo on the mound. Giles also developed a splitter and has shown an 87-88 mph slider in bullpens and competitive batting practice sessions.
Giles spent the entire 2011 season with the GCL Phillies where he showed both the ability to miss bats and walk a ton of batters.
In 2012 the Phillies sent Giles to Lakewood where he spent some time as a starter to get innings in. In 2012 the Phillies began the process of shelving his splitter and curveball, this forced Giles into being a primary fastball slider reliever. Here is Giles pitching for Lakewood (out of the windup), you can see a delivery with a ton of moving pieces and max effort on the arm and body, there is also a dramatic pause and rock before delivering the ball.
Giles ended the year in Clearwater. Baseball America named him the #19 prospect in the system noting a fastball that was 94-98 that touched 100, but more so they noted that with his other pitches taken away Giles slider had moved to solid average with plus potential.
Here is Giles out of the stretch in the spring of 2013, you can see a more fluid delivery and a slider that he good movement. Overall it is still max effort, but Giles looks much more in control.
Giles had his 2013 regular season marred by oblique injuries, but during that time the Phillies continued to build the delivery and improve the slider. After returning, Giles’ numbers weren’t pretty for Clearwater, but he showed dominant and disastrous outings as the delivery came and went. The Phillies sent him to the AFL where he touched 101 and showed a plus slider. Baseball America “dropped” him to 20th after the season, noting he needed to throw more strikes.
This spring Giles showed an elite fastball and a slider that had improved from mid-80’s to the high 80’s with tight movement, prompting some to give it a chance to have plus plus potential. He went to Reading, where you can see from this video that the delivery has gotten even smoother as he has his momentum heading towards the plate.
Giles still has plenty to improve upon as the delivery is still max effort and he can lose it at times. He is not a big guy and the fastball is straight, which means fastballs up in the zone can leave him home run prone. The slider has been devastating so far, but he needs to continue to command it in and out of the zone. He may at some point add the splitter back in as a show me pitch, but it is a long way off. In the end the Phillies took a raw arm strength guy have molded him into a potential dominant reliever. They deserve a ton of credit in the process, along with Giles for working together to make noticeable improvements.
Lastly, here is his first career major league strikeout.