I’ve had the chance to pick the brain of Kevin Goldstein, minor league guru over at Baseball Prospectus, and he was kind enough to take some time and answer some Phillies related minor league questions. Kevin’s coverage at BP is quite extensive, and if you aren’t a subscriber, I’d highly recommend it, as the site has a plethora of baseball information, covering just about every aspect of the game. I’ll add a tag on the left side to keep this interview at the top in case you’d like to come back and check it out at a later date and don’t want to dig to find it. Thanks again Kevin for taking the time!
PhuturePhillies: What is your overall impression of the Phillies system right now? They’ve obviously graduated a ton of major league talent in the last 5 years, with guys like Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, but they appear thin in the minors, especially in AA and AAA.
Kevin Goldstein: Yes, they’ve graduated some fine, fine players, but taken as a snapshot right now, the system is pretty bad – I ranked them 26 th in my most recent organizational rankings. If there is any good news I ranked their pitching talent 12th in the minor leagues, but their hitting talent 29 th. You’re also correct in saying that there’s not a lot of upper-level talent. They have a good number of toolsy high-ceiling guys at the lower levels, and they need some of them to live up to their promise.
PP: Would you say it’s been bad luck or bad planning to explain the Phillies lack of top echelon talent in the system? It seems the Phillies have taken their share of “toolsy athletes” that haven’t learned to play baseball.
KG: I do think they’ve had some draft mistakes, and they’ve also lost a good share of picks by signing free agents. I don’t have a problem with them taking tooly guys, that’s where a lot of stars come from – you just have to accept the inherent risk.
PP: In your recent “State of the Systems” review of the Phillies, you mentioned you were high on D’Arby Myers, a personal favorite of mine. When you look at him physically and toolswise, and then look at his performance in the GCL, what do you see in his future for the next few years?
KG: Obviously you have to love the body and the athleticism and what he did in his debut, but he’s anything but perfect. He’s still very raw, particularly in his approach. In two years he could be a top 50 prospect, in two years he could be all but forgotten about – he’s one of those guys.
PP:. On the flip side, you aren’t as high on Edgar Garcia, another favorite of mine. You cite lack of strikeouts, but how much does his solid command and feel for his changeup offset the lack of K’s? Could we see him develop more as he learns to pitch instead of throw?
KG: It offsets it a bit, but not a ton for me. There’s still plenty of ceiling in Garcia, he’s just not there yet. I want to see a consistent, dependable, go to out pitch. In general, great pitchers put up monster K rates in the minors – you have to blow people away. I’m not saying Garcia can’t become that pitcher, I’m just saying he’s not there yet.
PP: Of the guys not mentioned in your latest writeup and your Phillies top 10, who is the one sleeper we should pay close attention to this year?
KG: I like Jason Donald much better than his disappointing junior year at Arizona would indicate. He’s one of those players where the biggest strength is a lack of a discernable weakness. Not a star by any means, but should get there.
PP: What are your thoughts on Jason Jaramillo? Since being drafted, most Phillies minors fans always assumed he’d be a .250 or so hitter, but with great defense. Has that changed? I’ve read some reports that his defense was spotty in the AFL. The Phillies still seem high on him.
KG: I think that’s an accurate assessment of him. Most scouts I’ve spoken to see him as a solid defender, with a good arm. I think the majority of his career will be as a backup because of the bat, but he’ll start here and there.
PP: What can you tell us about Latin American signing Freddy Galvis? And is it spelled Galvis or Galvez? I’ve seen both.
KG: It’s Galvis. He’s an absolutely lights-out defender, with not only remarkable fundamentals for such a young players, but the athleticism to make the spectacular plays as well. Just a special, special player. Notice how I haven’t said anything about the bat? There’s a reason for that. That said, he’s very young, and has the tools to hit, he just needs to figure it out.
PP: One of the more intriguing young arms for me is Heitor Correa, who made his GCL debut last year at age 16. Can you give us any insight on him?
KG: Him I have little on. He seems like a nice find for the Phillies as a young kid who can throw hard, but it’s much easier to get info on the Dominican and Venezuelan amateurs, not so easy to get info on Brazilians.
PP: Though he’s had a rough spring, it seems that James Happ has done more to strengthen his prospect stock than most in the Phillies system. The knock on him seemed to be lack of velocity, but he’s now in the 90-92 range, so does that make him more a middle of the rotation prospect or still on the back end/bullpen?
KG: Well, he sure looked good in his AAA debut with five no-hit innings. I think 90-92 is a little generous. Not that he can’t throw that hard, but more realistically he’s 88-92. I do think he’s a solid middle-to-back starter and innings eater – but that’s not a bad thing. Based on this winter, those guys are worth 7-10 million a year, no?
PP: I wanted to ask you a question more related to the process of looking at a prospect. I know you value statistics and numbers, but also the virtue of tools. How do you factor those together, roughly speaking? Is it, say, a 60/40 mix? Is it different in each case? It seems like the “tools” guys more often than not never fully develop, and we know that all too well with guys like Jeff Jackson and Greg Golson. At some point, doesn’t performance on the field trump what you MIGHT be able to do, based on your arm strength, or speed?
KG: It’s totally different in each case – it’s always something that you have to deal with on a player-to-player basis. Jeff Jackson is obviously the example of the kind of tools guy that busts out, but always remember that EVERY high school pick is based on tools, not statistics. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Delmon Young, etc. – all those guys where drafted based on their tools just like Jeff Jackson.
PP. Of the guys who won’t be regulars come opening day, who do you think has the chance to be the biggest impact player for the big league club this year? Joe Bisenius? Happ?
KG: This year only, I think you’re really looking at a pretty set squad. As it is, the Phillies can’t find enough innings for the starters, so I can’t see Happ getting much more than a looky-loo. Bisenius might be the right call.
PP: Give us one guy that you have a gut feeling on, but can’t really back it up with numbers or tools, either good or bad.
KG: Michael Dubee.