The Phillies have always liked their live armed lefty pitchers. The system has a large quantity of left handed pitchers with plus stuff. Tops of these arms are two pitchers with mid-rotation ceilings and the proximity to make them relatively safe bets to meet those expectations. The Phillies hope that one of the young pitchers behind them can establish themselves as more than just an arm but a serious pitching candidate. The good thing about left handed starters is that their floors can be relatively high as long as they can master some fastball control and a good breaking pitch. This is because there is always a need for good LOOGYs, and even more important left handed relievers who can get both left handed and right handed batters out. The Phillies have a history of giving these guys the chance to start until they fail before moving them to the bullpen, some of these pitchers may make it to the majors as starters before reaching their ultimate home in a bullpen.
Jesse Biddle (21) – Biddle is the best prospect in the system, a big strong workhorse Biddle has a plus fastball and curveball, and he also has a change up that profiles as at least average as well as a slider and two-seamer that were late additions in 2012. Biddle will face a tough challenge in AA but he has a fairly safe #3 starter profile, but there is plenty of room for him to improve to a #2 starter ceiling if he can continue to make the same size strides he has in previous years.
Adam Morgan (22) – Morgan made huge strides in 2012 as his stuff ticked up across the board. His fastball sits 92-94 and can touch 96, his slider is average now but has plus potential, and his change up is a borderline plus pitch right now. Morgan has above average control which helps his arsenal play up. Morgan has a #3 start profile right now but there is a small chance that he could be more than that.
Austin Wright (23) – Wright has the best fastball of the three lefties who were in Clearwater this past year with the pitch sitting in the low to mid 90s. He pairs it with a sharp slider and a change up that is still well below below average. Wright’s control is fringe average as well. The Phillies will continue to give Wright innings as a starter in Reading, but he will need to improve the changeup and control to stick as a starter long term. If he can’t start Wright has the making of a power lefty who can go multiple innings out of the pen while getting out both righties and lefties.
Ethan Stewart (21) – Stewart is a big bodied left who can run his fastball up to 92, bit the body suggests that there may be some more velocity in there and in addition Stewart has an average changeup and curveball. On the surface Stewart’s 3.89 ERA suggested a decent year but his BB/9 increased a run and a half to 4.98 BB/9 and his K/9 dropped by 2.5 strikeouts, also his ground ball rate sharply decreased. Stewart will need to improve on these if he is going to regain his prospect status, he will be starting in Clearwater in 2013.
Mario Hollands (24) – Hollands pitched on four different levels in 2012 and only had success at his stops in the low minors. Holland as a large collection of pitches which top out with some average offerings. He has had some control and homerun issues over the past three years that have really limited his success. At this point Hollands is bordering between a reliever conversion and org pitcher and will have to show some large improvement to regain any prospect status. There is almost no way of knowing where the Phillies will stick him in 2013.
Line Martinez (20) – Martinez was poised for a breakout in 2012 but struggled greatly in his full season debut in Lakewood. Martinez is not overpowering his fastball sits in the hi-80s touching the low-90s, but he has the feel for a good changeup. The problem has been that he has not really missed bats to the point and hitters have really been able to hit him around. Having pitched all of the year at 19 there is still hope that Martinez can make some improvements going forward. His age makes a return trip to Lakewood in 2013 a high probability.
Ervis Manzanillo (21) – Manzanillo returned to Lakewood to work on his command but injuries cut short his season. Manzanillo has a fastball that sits 90-93 and can touch 95, his secondary offerings (slider and changeup) are fringy and both have plus potential. Manzanillo’s control has been a problem and he will need to improve greatly on it to have a future. Manzanillo has drawn comparisons to Antonio Bastardo, but he will need to show enough improvements in the spring to pitch in Clearwater in 2013.
Hoby Milner (21) – Milner was a reliever in college but the Phillies see him as a starter for now. His fastball sits in the hi-80s but can touch 91, with a little more out of the bullpen. His main weapon is a hi-70s curveball and he has a changeup that is a workable pitch. Milner had a good debut pitching for Lakewood and will likely go on to the Clearwater rotation in 2013. It is likely that Milner will return to the bullpen at some point but the Phillies have tendancy to let pitchers try as a starter until the hi-minors where they will make the conversion if necesarry.
Braden Shull (19) – Shull was a project when the Phillies took him in 2011, his fastball sat in the high 80s in high school, but his 6′ 6″ frame suggests there could be more velocity there. Shull commands his fastball well for a pitcher his size, and his secondary pitches are still a work in progress. Shull lost 2012 to injuries, but he still remains a high upside lottery ticket and he will likely be held back in Extended Spring Training before going on to Williamsport.
Franklyn Vargas (18) – In 2010 the Phillies paid Vargas the highest bonus of any Dominican left hander as a 16 year old who was already sitting in the low-90s with his fastball. Vargas made his stateside debut in 2012 and pitched well, albeit with some control issues though he did miss plenty of bats. Vargas also has a slurvy curveball and a changeup both of which are still developing but have good potential. Vargas’s frame suggests plenty of projection and the Phillies will likely hold him back in spring training before having him pitch him in Williamsport as an 18 year old.
Sergio Velis (17) – Big money bonus out of Latin America, Velis impressed at a young age in his pro-debut. Velis currently has an average fastball, a changeup that shows good potential, that pair well with good control and an advanced pitchability for his age. Velis will likely make his stateside debut in 2013, where we should get a better set of scouting reports on his pitches.
Luis Gonzalez (20) – Another Latin lefty, Gonzalez bounced betweent the rotation and bullpen in Willaimsport with mixed results. He could continue on to Lakewood but he will need to make improvements on the field to continue to stick in the organization as more than an org reliever.
Yoel Mecias (19) – Mecias made his stateside debut in 2012 and was impressive during both the GCL season and Fall Instructs. Mecias has a mid-90s fastball and developing secondary pitches, he also showed good command with an impressively low walk rate for a prospect his age. Mecias will play all of 2013 at age 19 and will likely stay in extended spring training before going to Williamsport. He is definitely an arm to keep an eye on in 2013.
Is there still room for growth in Biddle and Morgan or are they solid #3 starters?
The Phillies have spent quite a bit on Latin lefties, there are some live arms there, are there any real pitching prospects there?
Is it really so bad is some of these guys end up as dominant lefty relievers?
Will Braden Shull ever pitch?