Friend of phuturephillies Kevin Goldstein recently released his Top 15 Phillies prospects list, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for the site. As always, he provides some excellent insight into his rankings, as well as talking about a few guys who didn’t appear on the list. His answer on Phillippe Aumont gave me a bit more confidence in him, actually. So check below the fold for a Q/A with KG
phuturephillies: The Cliff Lee deal has been debated for hours on end, and the consensus opinion seems to be that the Phillies didn’t get enough back. The Phillies have countered and said they love the three guys they got back from Seattle. From the scouts you talk to, is the consensus that all 3 players (Gillies, Aumont, and Ramirez) have a chance of having at least average big league careers? Has the reaction among the scouts you frequently talk to been that the Phillies valued these guys higher than most everyone else?
Kevin Goldstein: Way to kick things off with a tough question. My first gut reaction to the trade was definitely “Is that it?”, but at the same time, all three guys are in the Top 11, with Gillies and Aumont in the top five. They’re good prospects, no doubt, but when you trade a guy like Lee, you want a stud, while this seems in some ways like more of a quantity over quality move. As far as the Phillies valuing these guys higher than others, it always goes back to the old scouting cliché of, “it only takes one.”
phuturephillies: Last year you considered Domonic Brown a 3 star prospect, this year he’s made the jump all the way up to 5 stars. In your writeup this year, you highlight the immense tools and projection he still has left. Having reached AA, how much better do scouts expect Brown to get? It seems his single biggest issue remains his outfield defense, but does that tool project to be at least average in the future? If he doesn’t show an uptick in power, does he profile in the 18-20 HR a year range, or more in the 12-15 HR range? Will his speed enable him to swipe 20 a year, or more in the 12-15 SB range?
KG: I don’t think his outfield defense is an issue at all. He’s a solid right fielder with a very good arm – no issues there. I think the issue is the power ceiling. You can look at him, and you can say that he certainly should hit for power, and while there’s been steady growth there, it’s also been slower than expected. I have a hard time projecting massive power for a guy who hit three Double-A home runs in 37 games, and scouts are very, VERY mixed in this department. It requires a lot of dreaming to see him as a 35+ home run guy, so I think he’s more of a 20/20 guy than a 30/30 one.
phuturephillies: Tyson Gillies is a guy I was really interested in when he came aboard, and the more I read about him, the more I like him. He seems to understand his strengths and weaknesses and gets a lot out of what he has to offer. He stole “only” 44 bases in 2009, but do you think with an improved technique and more experience he can steal 50+ in the majors? I know his numbers were inflated by the Cal League and High Desert, but his translated line still would have looked good in Clearwater. Would projecting him out as a .290 hitter with a .360ish OB% and 50 SB a season with excellent outfield defense be a stretch?
KG: Sure, with improved technique and more experience he could steal even more than that. He really is one of the fastest players in the minors, period. But that doesn’t always work out. I remember Erick Aybar when he was here at Low-A, and the Angels thought he could be a 30-40 stolen base guy. Therefore, when he got to first, he was running, PERIOD. And he was just really bad at it, bad reads, bad jumps, and he just never really got it. The progress was minimal, and that’s why he only stole 14 bases last year despite having the wheels to steal 30. As for the second part of your question, I think that’s a pretty solid perfect world projection.
phuturephillies: Phillippe Aumont seems like one of the more polarizing prospects among Phillies fans right now. On the plus side, you have the big arm strength and great sinker, which will play well in Citizens Bank Park, but on the downside, I’ve seen some criticisms of his mechanics, and he does throw across his body. How much should we worry about him breaking down, and will it be better for his arm to potentially be pitching 3 days in a row, or once every 5 days? With his fastball being as good as it is, can he be a mid rotation starter even if his curveball and changeup are just average big league pitches?
KG: I’m not saying his mechanics are perfect, but unless you are talking to a scout or listening to a pitching coach, I wouldn’t worry too much about what people say about a pitcher’s mechanics. Again, I have NO IDEA where these criticisms you mention are coming from, so I might be totally barking up the wrong tree, but there’s a lot of people out there masquerading as some kind of mechanics expert, and it’s all quite silly. Does he throw across his body? Absolutely. Is he off-balance on landing? Absolutely. Will he get hurt? Maybe. But that’s the life of the pitcher. You a big Felix Hernandez fan? You think he’s good? I sure do, but those are hardly pretty mechanics either, but what can you do? You start messing with it, and you don’t have Felix Hernandez anymore. Pitchers get hurt – a LOT. Like a crazy amount. It’s part of the game, and it’s just something we might be better off accepting. Watching grainy YouTube videos in an attempt to figure out who and when is a fool’s errand. Ok, now that I’m done ranting, back to Aumont. I think he could definitely be a mid-rotation guy, but I also think he can be much more if some things work out. The fastball really is a special pitch. I’ve seen the guy in person on multiple occasions, and it’s very, very hard to find that kind of velo/movement combination in a fastball, and he will flash a plus breaker. There’s a lot of upside here, it just comes with some risk. How many high-upside prospects don’t come with a lot of risk? You don’t need more than one hand to count them. Man, I went on way to long there.
phuturephillies: Mike Stutes and Vance Worley both had nice debuts in 2008, and the Phillies chose to aggressively promote both of them to AA to start 2009. Both guys had uneven seasons, but both showed flashes of promise. Does either guy project as a #4/5 starter, or would you say both of them are middle reliever types going forward?
KG: I wouldn’t give up on either, but at the same time, I’m not especially high on them either. I think we can step back and say they might have been better served by pitching at Clearwater, but we might be totally wrong about that. Sometimes these aggressive assignments can help immensely as a teaching tool if the kid is mature enough to handle struggling. A guy like Worley one hopes learned that he needs more than just the fastball, while a guy like Stutes, you hope he learns that even if you have a nice arsenal, you have to locate pitches.
phuturephillies: Former first round pick Zach Collier had a bit of a nightmare in 2009, struggling at both Low A and Short Season Williamsport, but was it a case of him just being much more raw than the Phillies initially thought? Having only turned 19 in September, I’m assuming there is still hope here. Did scouts mention anything specifically about his struggles, or was it more just a case of things getting away from him early and not being able to rebound?
KG: Sure, there’s plenty of hope there. Scouts universally talked about how impressive the raw tools are, but as a hitter, he’s really just a mess. One scout thought his swing needed a complete overhaul, just wanted to break him completely down and start from scratch. If he does make it, it’s going to take awhile, and the fact that he’s going to need that much more work means he’s that much more risky, but you can’t give up on a teenager with that kind of athleticism.
phuturephillies: I’m curious about the prospects for two guys who haven’t hit much since coming into the organization in Anthony Hewitt and Freddy Galvis. You listed Hewitt as your sleeper this year, and while his approach still seems very crude, he at least showed some raw power. Will a move to the outfield benefit him at the plate? Have his raw tools remained in tact since being drafted? On Galvis, we’ve heard for ages about his defensive mastery, but do scouts think his bat will show enough to be a second division starter at SS, or is he a poor man’s Adam Everett, if there is such a thing.
KG: The Phillies definitely hope that taking some of the defensive pressure off of Hewitt will help him take a step forward with the bat. I know his numbers were still ugly in 2009, but scouts absolutely saw some very real progress in his game. The raw tools are definitely still insane. I think his chances of exploding are about 8% or so, but at least there’s a number there, no? Galvis obviously is a very different story. When you have a guy like that, all you are hoping for is that he can hit .260 or so and become that Adam Everett type of guy. He’d be much better served with a more patient approach, and if anything, that approach went backwards last year.
phuturephillies: Domonic Brown made the jump from 3 star to 5 star prospect in 2009, if you to pick one of the 8 guys you listed as a 3 star prospect for 2010 to emerge and jump up to a 5 star prospect next year, which guy would it be and why?
KG: I’m going to get in trouble here, as my first answer is, “none.” A five-star guy is generally an elite-level guy, a Top 50 in baseball type of guy, and the three-stars aren’t even Top 100 prospects. I could see May with the best chance of being Top 100 next year.
phuturephillies: Among the 2009 draftees, Jon Singleton had arguably the best debut of the bunch, showing excellent patience at the plate as well as some power in the GCL. The Phillies haven’t had a legit 1B prospect since Ryan Howard, so people are excited on the early results. Does Singleton get good reviews from scouts? The reports on him after the Phillies drafted him seemed promising, and his brief pro debut may have raised expectations even more. Is the excitement warranted?
KG: The fact that he did well in his pro debut is certainly better news than him doing crappy in his pro debut, but either way, it doesn’t mean very much. He’s a big kid with a big swing and big raw power, but it’s way too early to classify him as anything more than a sleeper. Obviously, the draft isn’t perfect, and yes, great players are found in the late rounds on occasion, but there really is a reason 256 players were drafted before Singleton came off the board. I’m certainly intrigued, but it’s way too early to start thinking of him as a big league first baseman. Plus, as a basic rule, first base prospects are terrifying. They have to MASH to be prospects, as all of their value is in the bat.
phuturephillies: The Phillies have a number of arms that don’t really project as impact guys, but who could fill in down the road. Could you give some quick hits on Justin De Fratus, Matt Way, Michael Schwimer, and futures game representative Yohan Flande?
KG: DeFratus: Big strike thrower with sink; stuff plays WAY WAY WAY batter (like crazy better) out of the pen. I actually think he has very real big league relief possibilities.
Way: 45 fastball, but great command and control and a plus changeup. Those guys can put up some SICK numbers at the lower levels, but big league upside is limited.
Schwimer: Classic fastball/slider reliever. Both pitches are a tick above average, so he’s a relief prospect, just not a late-inning one.
Flande: Future LOOGY? Scouts like him, but mostly as a reliever. I think the Futures Game appearance may have created some unrealistic expectations.
Thanks again to Kevin for his insight and answers!