This is a retrospective back on the Top 30 prospects list I wrote before the start of the season. My opinion is that anyone who puts their opinion out there should be accountable for that opinion, in this case rather than just ask whether I was right or wrong, but more why was it right or wrong. The goal is to explore things in the development of a prospect that can point to growth or regression. Additionally just because a prospect fails to live up to or exceeds expectations does it mean the base analysis was wrong when it was written.
When I wrote up the Top 30 I had Biddle and Morgan in their own tier followed by Quinn and then a bunch of names you could have argued in any order. In that scenario I find the ranking to not provide a lot of information, because at the time the difference between 3 and 7, and as far down to Tocci at 10 was miniscule. It is the problem with doing a numerical ranking is that you create an artificial hierarchy where none exists. So the emphasis is much more on the reports and analysis than the order in which the names appear. As always the initial list can be found here http://phuturephillies.com/top-30-prospects/mattwinks-top-30/2013-top-30/
10. Shane Watson
Watson is very polished with two plus pitches and an average changeup under development. He should easily handle a full season assignment and could move quickly through the system. Watson’s limited debut due to diabetes should be behind him and he impressed in instructs. With a good year Watson could be near the top of this list.
Even before the injury it was not the best full season debut for Watson. He did keep the walks down but was homer prone at time. The Phillies limited his use of the curveball and forced him to use the changeup and develop fastball command. It might have been optimistic with the polish and fast moving part of the analysis but he has shown a true plus fastball and curveball this year. If the home run rate is more fluke than there is little reason to be worried if he is allowed full use of his arsenal. His most likely ceiling is mid rotation starter.
9. Jonathan Pettibone
The more I looked at Pettibone, the more I realized that without the plus fastball or an out pitch, his ceiling is limited. The good news is that he is ready now, and the changeup is a legitimate plus pitch and it is plus command (at least in Reading). Pettibone will have to miss a lot more bats or generate more weak contact to have higher upside and I just cannot reasonably project that growth.
The only thing surprising about Pettibone’s year was his 4 starts in AAA where he had a ton of bad luck. Pettibone came up and pitched like something between a #4 and #5 starter for 100 innings. He might improve a little as the control gets better and he gets more efficient with his pitches. Pettibone should be locked into the back of a rotation for years to come and that is a pretty good outcome.
8. Carlos Tocci
I believe in Tocci as a plus defender in centerfield with plus plus speed. That means that the pressure on his bat is much lower. It is unlikely Tocci will develop average power given his frame, but if he can add enough strength to allow his good instincts to play up then he could be a monster player.
I have spoken my piece multiple times on Tocci so I won’t delve too much in here. The numbers and strength below where I expected but his baseball instincts are off the charts. I have heard nothing but great reviews about his feel for hitting and defensive abilities. He is clearly exhausted, and he personally thought he was destined for Williamsport midseason but the org showed faith in his abilities. For someone his size you would expect a ton of ground balls and he hits a ton of them right now, but this is a kid who can put it in the air and on a line http://mlbfarm.com/player.php?player_id=624636. As he gets stronger those are going to liners into the gaps and down the lines and not just pure speed singles. I don’t think the ceiling his quite as high as I did preseason but it is a special set of baseball abilities.
7. Cody Asche
Asche is average across the board, with possibly a plus hit tool. His upside is limited but he should be a solid major leaguer for years in the future. Asche likely only needs another half season of minor league ABs between AA and AAA before he should be pushing Michael Young off the position on the major league level.
Asche is walking a touch more in a small sample size at the majors while hitting with a lower BABIP (to be expected given his profile and better defenses). He is on pace for a full season WAR in the 2-3 win range. Essentially he is a major league regular right now and should be for years. I expect him to have to make some adjustments against LHP and will likely have some platoon splits but not enough to force him out of being a full time player. I would expect a huge amount more improvement from Asche, as his numbers have actually stabilized over his AA, AAA, and major league splits but a very valuable major league piece to develop.
6. Maikel Franco
Besides Quinn Franco is the best chance at a true cornerstone position player in the system. After struggling in the first half Franco really started to show a good approach as well as the ability to use the full field at the plate. There is plus game power in the bat and he should stick at third base as long as he keeps his body in check. Franco could accelerate his development and earn a mid-season jump to Reading if he gets off to a good start. There is plenty to like and be excited about.
Do as I write not as I rank. Franco was the hardest to rank for me coming in because I wanted him at #4, but I really like Joseph and Martin, and somehow Franco ended up with a scouting report reading like a top prospect but down the list. Since I wrote this I have lost confidence in Franco’s hit tool and gained more confidence in the power. I don’t like the approach and think he can get away with a lot because he has great hands and bat speed. I think a lot of people read into that and think he is a non-prospect, but the truth is he is my easy #1 prospect now and I think he is going to be very good, just not elite. If he can clean these things up and be more selective (because the bat speed and power will allow him to hit anything as hard as he wants) you are looking at a very special bat. He needs more time in the minors and that is not a bad thing, we are always looking for the next big thing to come up and carry a team, sometimes it is better to like someone take their lumps first and work it out before arriving. It is really hard to make changes in the majors during the season, and the last thing you want to do here is bounce Franco up and down and be moving pieces like Asche, Ruf, and Brown around while you work it out. Let him continue slowly for a little bit, the payoff is going to be better when he gets there (plus an extra year of control and a year less of arbitration, which you think might not be a big deal but it may be the difference between having Harper/Trout/Machado money or not).