With prospects 1-6 in the books, we move on to the back of the top 10. Instead of only doing 3 prospects today, I’ll give you my reports for 7-10. Also, I had the idea that when I am finished with my writeups for all 30 prospects, plus sleepers, if anyone has specific questions about why I ranked so and so in spot X or Y, I’ll do a mailbag. So if I don’t reply to something in the comments in each post (and my time to do so is limited), I’ll handle everything at the end. Now, we move forward.
07. Jesse Biddle, LHP
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2010 Summary: After working his way steadily up draft boards in the spring, the Phillies took the local product at the tail end of the first round. While some people (me too, kind of) viewed this as a bit of an overdraft, it was unlikely he would have made it back to the Phillies with their next pick, so you can’t fault them for taking a guy they liked. He got his feet wet in the GCL before making three very brief appearances at Williamsport.
Strengths: Its been a while since the Phillies have had a lefty with Biddle’s ceiling (Cole Hamels….then go back a while before that), as he is tall (6’6) and well built now (225lbs), and has the chance to add a bit more velocity before he’s done filling out physically. He presently sits anywhere from 89-94, and figures to comfortably pitch in the 91-94 range at his peak, which is above average velocity for a lefthanded pitcher. His delivery is very free and easy, and he gets good extension toward the plate, which makes it seem like the ball is jumping out of his hand right on top of the hitter. He’ll flash an excellent slow curveball with good shape, but inconsistent velocity and sharpness.
Weaknesses: Like a lot of prospects from cold weather states, Biddle doesn’t have a ton of experience, with helps explain his raw command, control and secondary offerings. At 6’6/225, he may be maxed out physically, which means his current velocity may be close to his peak velocity. That said, if he pitches in the 91-94 range, he shouldn’t have a problem, and his fastball has good movement, so it will still be a plus pitch if he can command it.
Best Case: Lefties who regularly sit in the low 90′s with plus secondary pitches are super rare commodities, and if he is able to improve his command and control by repeating his delivery, he has all the makings of an upper echelon starter. His track record is minimal, and because he comes from a non-baseball hot bed, he hasn’t faced the best competition in high school. Still, hes a really intriguing guy, and the pick was definitely not a “just take the hometown kid” pick.
MLB ETA: Wayyyyy off in the distance. 2014? 2015?
Ranking Difficulties: I’ll admit, I briefly considered Biddle for the top 5, as crazy as that may sound. I absolutely LOVE his delivery, which you can see on his profile page here. He’s free and easy to the plate, he’s a bright kid, and he already has plus raw tools. Trevor May has a much deeper track record, but it wouldn’t shock me if Biddle ends up ranked above him on lists next year. In fact, the more I think about it, I can make a good case for putting Biddle above both Valle and May. But again, its personal preference and gut feeling.
Final Thoughts: As I mentioned, I really like what Biddle has to offer, moreso now than when he was drafted. I look at his delivery and see a mix of Barry Zito (before he lost his mojo), Andy Pettitte and JA Happ, just in the way his arm works, his fluid delivery to the plate, and his big breaking ball. His motion should take a lot of the stress off his arm, he incorporates his lower body really nicely in his delivery, and by all accounts is a really smart kid. Add it all up and you get a pretty special package.
08. Vance Worley, RHP
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2010 Summary: After hitting the wall at Reading in 2009, Worley rebounded with a solid effort at two minor league levels before getting his first taste of the majors. All of his peripherals, including strikeout rate, walk rate, and groundball rate went in the right direction, and unlike 2009, he didn’t fade in the 2nd half of the season.
Strengths: Worley’s physical tools don’t overwhelm, but he also doesn’t have a glaring weakness, and while he lacks the ceiling and upside of the pitchers ahead of him, his probability is higher than any of them as well. His fastball sits in the 89-93 range, but he is capable of touching 95 when he needs it, especially up in the zone. His control is excellent, and he showed at least average command, even when battling nerves in his brief big league stint. His breaking ball and changeup are average or very close to it, and as he gets more comfortable at the highest level, both pitches should be consistently average. He generated a good amount of groundballs in college, and has been right around 50% at the upper levels, which will serve him well in the majors. He’s been very durable, and he repeats his simple delivery in fine fashion.
Weaknesses: While he has no glaring weakness, he also lacks a dominating pitch, which means hes never going to be a #1 or 2 starter. His groundball rate isn’t elite, and lefties did have a bit of success against him, hitting .280 at AAA compared to just .243 for RHB.
Best Case: Worley looks poised to fill the #4 or 5 spots in a big league rotation for some time. In the ace-laden Phillies rotation, he’d be the obvious number 5 if not for the best #5 in the game in Joe Blanton. An opening could pop up at some point, and I expect him to handle himself well. Because he can dial up his fastball when pitching in short stints, he could also serve as a solid reliever if needed, where his excellent control would be a required trait.
MLB ETA: He’s already gotten there, but he may have to wait to get back. He looks (to me at least) to be a better long term option than Kyle Kendrick, and could be given spot starts this season or pitch out of the pen if needed.
Ranking Difficulties: I’m assuming most people thought I’d severely downgrade Worley because he lacks huge upside, but I think he has a lot to offer the big league club. He’s never going to be a star, but while hes making the league minimum, he’ll be a really valuable guy to have around. This is his high water mark for sure, and there are a few guys I considered ranking above him, but I like what he can do, and I feel fine with him here.
Final Thoughts: I think some people will look at Worley and think “hes just Kyle Kendrick v2.0″, and I guess I can see the comparisons, but I think Worley is superior to Kendrick in most every way. Worley has great control, but more importantly, he has much better command of his stuff than Kendrick. While Kendrick pitches in the 88-91 range, Worley should comfortably pitch in the 90-92 range as a starter, and while that may not seem significant, it is, especially because he can actually command his fastball and he can touch 95 when he needs it. Like Kendrick he has some issues with lefties, but I think it will be a less pronounced issue once he settles in. His secondary pitches also rate higher than Kendrick’s now, and his K rate in the upper minors is superior.
09. Tyson Gilles, OF
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2010 Summary: The player I was most excited about in the Cliff Lee deal, Gillies had a bit of a nightmare in 2010, starting with injuries early in the season, then a bizarre shirtless incident in Florida while rehabbing that resulted in a drug charge. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, and at this point, you really just have to hope it was all a misunderstanding and he got caught up with the wrong people at the wrong place and the wrong time. Looking at his statistics for 2010 is a pretty meaningless exercise, because he spent much of the season playing on a sore hamstring and also dealt with a hand injury. Like I said, a busted season. But time is on his side.
Strengths: I had one person close to the game tell me last spring that Gillies was one of the most impressive prospects in the entire Phillies system, and Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus quoted a scout as saying Gillies was close to Domonic Brown in terms of pure tools. He’s blindingly fast, which is an asset on the bases and in centerfield. He showed good plate discipline in both 2008 and 2009, and the same person who raved about him to me said that he actually has very good raw power, but it just hasn’t translated to games yet. Basically, he’s got all the tools, and his work ethic was also lauded before his “incident”, in that he is legally deaf, and has had to work extra hard every step along the way.
Weaknesses: Well, you can start with a lost developmental year in 2010, as he logged just 117 PA, and none of them really came when he was 100% healthy. While his tools are excellent, his game is still raw in a lot of ways, and he needs to polish all of his skills, including utilizing his speed on the bases and knowing which pitches to drive instead of just slapping the ball in play. More than anything, he just needs 500+ plate appearances in 2011 to get himself back on track.
Best Case: When writing up last year’s list, I was really excited about Gillies going forward, projecting him as a potential gold glove centerfielder who would hit at the top of the lineup, get on base, and create problems for pitchers once he reached first base. I don’t know why I’d change my mind now, since I don’t have any evidence that his raw skill set has changed.
MLB ETA: He looked to be moving quickly, but essentially losing all of 2010 will slow him down a notch or two. The Phillies outfield situation is fluid right now, as Domonic Brown looks locked into one corner spot, and Shane Victorino remains, but is nearing potential free agency. A big season from Gillies in 2011 means a September callup in 2012 is a possibility, with an eye toward him getting a full time job in 2013.
Ranking Difficulties: Where to start. In my initial ranking I had him in the low teens, then considered jumping him up and above Worley. I settled at #9, which I think is a good spot for him. The raw ability is there, and its tough to really even comprehend his 2010. How he responds will tell us a lot about his prospect status going forward. Obviously.
Final Thoughts: Having just turned 22, time is clearly on Gillies’ side. By all accounts, he’s a good kid who just ended up being somewhere he shouldn’t have been, and I haven’t heard a bad word about him from anyone, either before or after the incident. His makeup was praised at the time of the trade, and he seems to working real hard now to get himself ready for 2011. As with any speed based player, the health of his legs is key, and he really just needs a healthy 2011. There will still be bumps along the way as he refines his game, but the tools of an all star outfielder are there. You can follow him on twitter here.
10. Justin De Fratus, RHP
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2010 Summary: Converted to relief full time in 2010, De Fratus continued to put up excellent numbers, as he’s done since being drafted in 2007. A move to relief allowed his fastball to play up, which resulted in an improved strikeout rate, while also keeping his groundball rate at a solid level. After reaching AA, dominating in the Arizona Fall League and being protected on the 40 man roster this winter, he should get his first taste of the big leagues at some point in 2011.
Strengths: While he probably had the repertoire to remain in the rotation, he shows all of the tools needed to be a successful late inning reliever, starting with a plus fastball that comfortably sits in the 93-95 range in relief, touching 97 or 98 when he needs it. He hides the ball well, which creates deception as the ball comes out of his hand. His slider and changeup are both average pitches now, and they’ve both shown improvement over the last 2 years. If one of his secondary pitches develops further and becomes plus, I see no reason why he can’t close at the next level. His command and control are both very good, which will serve him well pitching in relief, and he has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park throughout his minor league career.
Weaknesses: At the current time, he lacks the one lights out secondary pitch you expect to see from a closer, but I don’t see it as a major concern, especially since he’s shown progress with both his slider and changeup. He’s done a good job against lefties and shouldn’t show a major platoon split, especially if his changeup continues to improve.
Best Case: Its really difficult to figure out the closer role. Some closers in the majors were relievers in college/the minors, some are guys who were just average starters and then converted to relief, some are hard throwers, some have wicked breaking balls, some have great changeups, there’s really no formula. Which is why I think De Fratus can be a big league closer. He doesn’t beat himself with walks, he doesn’t give up the long ball, and he has a near overpowering fastball with good life. If he can consistently sit in the 93-95 range and command it to all 4 quadrants of the zone, he’s going to be tough to hit. At worst, he’ll be a solid setup man.
MLB ETA: It should be this year, depending on need/injuries/ineffective performances on the ML roster. The Phillies seem committed (and wisely so) to building a younger, cheaper bullpen, and De Fratus will get a long look in spring training, and could be the first pure reliever called up when a need arises.
Ranking Difficulties: If you’ve been around here for a while, you know how big a fan I am of De Fratus. I’ve been his biggest supporter since he came into the system, and I’ll continue to be his biggest supporter for years to come. I normally do not place a ton of value in relief prospects, just because of the unpredictable nature of the position, but I feel differently here. He has excellent control and command, a pivotal trait for any successful, consistent reliever, and his raw arm is plus as well. I wouldn’t go higher than 10th, but I couldn’t really see ranking him lower either.
Final Thoughts: 2011 should be an exciting season for De Fratus. Its unclear how the pitching staffs at Reading and Lehigh Valley will work out, but he should end up closing games for one of the two affiliates, and he should get a September call-up at worst, since he is already on the 40 man roster. As long as he maintains his control and command and his changeup and breaking ball show small incremental improvements, I expect him to be a fixture in the Phillies pen, ala Ryan Madson, for years to come. You can follow him on twitter here.