Monthly Archives: January 2007

Prospect Grades: Slayden, Baez, Hernandez

Before I continue on with the grades, a few people were wondering about my criteria on grades, so I figured I’d expand on what I wrote in my first piece. My original comments were:

I don’t want to get into explaining tons of formulas, but here are my basic evaluation methods. I’m going to base most of my grades on performance, relative to the league average, and then consider age and position. For example, when looking at a guy like Mike Costanzo, I’m going to look at his performance against those in the FSL, then consider a multiplier for his position, 3B, then consider his age in relation to his league. Defensive analysis is tough, even at the ML level, so I’m not going to alter my grade much in that area, but I will consider it and weigh it slightly. I’m not really going to use a player’s tools or what others think he could be, I’m simply going to grade based on what the player has done. I’m going to place a higher weight on 2006 performance, but also consider past performance and other aspects of the player’s body of work/makeup.

When evaluating all the players I’ve done so far, I’ve taken their 2006 numbers and weighed them against the league average for the league they’ve pitched in. I’ve then considered their position or role and taken that into account. I’m much more “demanding” of a corner OF or corner INF offensively, because they need to produce offensively on a higher level to project to any kind of future success at the major league level. I also have been considering possible off the field stuff, like in the case of Brad Harman, and I’ve also considered age for the level, as well as possible things like makeup concerns. I try to limit adjustments to the grade to one position. For example, I’ll figure out the player’s performance, relative to his league, then adjust for age and position/role, and then I’ll take that grade and either leave it alone, bump it up a half grade or drop it a half grade, so either from a B to a B-/B+ or just leave it a B. As for figuring out what is what, basically, this my “scale”: a C prospect is basically a minor league average player, not the average prospect, just the average for the league. So, if the league average for A+ is a .255/.327/.376 line (which it is, for the FSL), then I take a player’s numbers in those areas and weigh them, except I don’t use batting average, instead just using on base %. Then I consider age and position/role and adjust if necessary. Then, I take that grade and adjust. You have to consider, an average minor leaguer, for his level, probably doesn’t deserve a high prospect status, because you’d assume that a player who can’t at least put up above average numbers against minor leaguers won’t be able to put up numbers against major leaguers. So, for an example, let’s use Greg Golson, since his grade raised a lot of comments.

At Lakewood, he was 22% below average in OB% and 11% below average in slugging, for a 33% below league average total. At Clearwater, he was 1% below average in OB% and 25% above average in slugging, for a 24% above average total. When you look at his total performance, he was about 10% below average as a whole based purely on performance. 10% below the minor league average, which considers mercenaries as well as prospects, rates him a D+/C- on the scale. His high A numbers should get a bit more weight because he was only 20 at that level, but then you have to consider he’s a corner OF, and the offensive demands are going to be higher for him than for, say, a shortstop, and when you put the numbers in that lens, they aren’t quite as impressive. If the slugging % he put up at Clearwater is for real, then his prospect outlook is a bit better, but if not, then he deserves the D+ number. I probably discounted his speed to an extent, so then again, maybe he’s a C-, based purely on his numbers. But when you factor in the makeup questions and the poor OB% number, at both levels, I think a D+ is certainly warranted, by the way I’ve been rating players.

For comparison’s sake, here’s another player I’ve already graded and why I gave him that grade specifically. I gave Joe Bisenius a B+ a few days ago, and here’s why. At high A, Bisenius was basically 35% above average in terms of H/9, K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 combined, and at AA, he was an eye popping 86% above league average in those categories. If you average them together, that’s an average of 60% above league average across both levels. A prospect that is 60% better than his league is normally a straight A prospect, but with Bisenius, adjustments were necessary. First, he pitched 60 innings at high A as opposed to only 23 innings at AA, so you have to adjust his grades. In his case, to weigh his average performance, I took the 35% and multiplied it by 3, then took his 86% and added it to that number, then divided it by 4. The result was 48%, which seems a little more in line, but would still be right around a straight A grade. Then, I considered his age. He was only 23, but that’s still on the top end of the average prospect age at high A, so I bumped him down another half grade to an A-. I then considered that he is an exclusive reliever, which limits some of his long term value, but the thing that truly made him a B+ (and almost a B, really) is his walk rate. This, along with K rate, are the two biggest things I consider when trying to predict which pitchers will succeed going forward. At both A+ and AA, Bisenius was right at the league average for all pitchers, and to me, that is slightly worrisome. His hit rate and K rate were outstanding at both levels, but he does need to work on his command and control. So, considering that, I bumped his grade down to a B+. I could have bumped it down to a B, all of that considered, but his K rate was strong enough, coupled with his ability to keep the ball in the park, so I left him at a B+.

I hope those explanations help to clear up some questions. Also, remember, this is just one man’s opinion here, I’m more than aware that others are going to disagree with me on certain guys and agree with me on certain guys. When writing these up, sometimes I’m honestly in between a grade, and if someone makes a convincing case, I’ll update the grade. With Golson, I clearly was harsh with the original F, and deep down, I knew he deserved a D+ or maybe a C- even, but I needed someone to snap me out of it, and thankfully some of you did. With that said, here is another batch of grades. But before we get these out, I forgot to do the ceiling, floor and conclusion for the last two batches of guys, so I’m going to go back and update those later, be sure and check back in on those. Because of those necessary updates, only 3 grades today.

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Slayden, Jeremy, OF (age 24) Grade = B-

I guess it makes sense that I grade Slayden now after just explaining my theory on adjusting grades. Slayden raked in a big way at Lakewood in 2006, to the tune of an .891 OPS, and his ob% and slugging % put him a combined 50% above the league average for the SAL. That should mean a higher grade, right? Well, if you follow the minors closely, you know the downsides to Slayden without me having to mention them. He turned 24 in July, so he was clearly way too old for the SAL, and he has major defensive question marks, with a poor arm that will probably limit him to LF or possibly 1B down the road. He also lacks any real speed, stealing only 5 bases. Now, the positives. He can hit the cover off the ball; 44 doubles and 10 home runs is a solid contribution, even if he was 2-3 years too old for the league. If he repeats that feat at Reading in 2007, then he’ll be a solid B prospect, maybe even more. The question is, where does he play? Unless the Phillies move to the AL sometime soon, or the DH is adopted in the NL (*vomit*), Slayden is going to have to play the field, or he won’t be an everyday player. Can his defense improve to the level of him being an adequate corner outfielder? I’m not sure. If it does, his grade will improve as long as he continues to rake. On strictly numbers, he’d be an A- prospect, but when you factor the age and the defense, he has to be a B-. 2007 could change my mind, we’ll see.

Ceiling: It’s tough to guage what type of major league contributor he’ll be. If he crushes the ball at Reading, his age won’t be such a big issue, but we need to see what he can do defensively. If he’s passable in LF, his ceiling could be a .800-.870 OPS LF at the big league level. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. He could be looking at something like a .280/.370/.500 line as his high point, and that would be outstanding.

Floor: Unfortunately, this is just as tough to predict. If he can’t play defense, he’s destined to be a DH, and that will come in another organization. It looks like he’ll hit though, that shouldn’t be a worry.

Conclusion: Slayden is one of those guys who may surprise a lot of people, or he may just turn into a 24th man type guy, capable of DH’ing or playing an emergency LF or 1B. The best case, if he’s to remain in the Phillies org, is that he becomes a passable LF and can step into a 4th OF/backup 1B role sometime in 2008 or 2009, when he’ll be entering his age 26/27 season. I really don’t know how to place odds, because he’s only played one full season. I like him though, so I’ll put the odds of him reaching his ceiling at 50%, with the odds of him hitting his floor being 75%. He seems like a guy that’s going to always hit, but if he can’t play the field, he’s going to end up being traded as part of a bigger deal to an American League team.

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Baez, Welinson, 3B (age 22) Grade = D+

I wonder if I’ll get similar feedback on Baez like I did on Golson….I’ll guess no, but we’ll see. Baez, as many know, was touted by the organization for his feel for the game and raw tools, but so far, the tools haven’t translated to on the field performance. He spent all of 2003 and 2004 at the GCL and struggled, then he impressed in 2005 in his third shot, posting a .933 OPS, and followed it with a .932 OPS at Batavia to end the year. He honestly looked like a breakout candidate for 2006….but all he broke was my heart, just a tiny bit. He posted an abysmal .673 OPS in the SAL as a 22 year old, and his prospect status again takes a big hit. His .305 OB% was about 7% below average, his .368 slugging % about 2% below average. Add that up, and you’ve got a guy about 10% below league average, at the top of his age group for said league, and playing a position where offense is a premium….oh, and he 33 errors in 122 games. Ouch. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with his grade. He struggled two years in a row at the GCL level, he made a ton of errors, and he was 5 for 10 in SB. Where are the positives? His 34 doubles are nice, but his 158 strikeouts in 427 AB’s nearly make me sick, considering he had a whopping 6 HR. Could he be a C- guy? Maybe, but going on what I posted above, no, considering he is 22. It was his first season of pro ball, does that make him a C-? Eh, I don’t know. I don’t think he has much of a future, at least with this organization. The past regime spent the money to sign him, they took the time to develop him, but will Gillick be that patient? His 40 man decision will come at the end of 2007.

Ceiling: Another guy with the ceiling of Abe Nunez. Really, the outlook isn’t good. Honestly, his ceiling at this point is a utility infielder.

Floor: His floor is out of baseball in 3 years. That looks like a more realistic destination

Conclusion: When you sign free agents from Latin American countries, you never know if you’re getting the next Felix Hernandez or a guy who will flame out in 3 years. It’s nice the Phillies took the chance on Baez, but so far, it doesn’t look good. I give him a 35% chance of reaching his ceiling, and a really really good chance of him hitting his floor and washing out of baseball. 2007 is a huge year for him, and should tell us whether or not he’ll be sticking around or not in 2008.

Hernandez, Fidel, SS (age 20) Grade = D+

We have a Fabio Castro and a Fidel Hernandez, that’s funny, huh? Fabio has shown much more ability than Fidel has, though Fidel is still young. Hernandez put up an eye popping .561 OPS at Lakewood, good for a 41% below average composite. That’s…..well, that’s awful. But, he was only 20 and playing full season ball. And, he’s a shortstop, so the offensive expectations are lower than for a guy like Baez. But, he made 25 errors in 99 games. Damn, he deserves an F, doesn’t he? No, I’m sticking with a D+. He had the rep of being a solid defensive SS, he might just need time to adjust. His offensive numbers were clearly vomit inducing, and he didn’t use his speed, with only 9 SB in 14 attempts, but I’m willing to see how he responds with his second full season before completely killing him as a prospect. At this time next year, there’s a really really good chance he gets an F, but we’ll see.

Ceiling: It’s hard to say right now. Could he become a slick fielding, no hit SS in the mold of Adam Everett? That’s probably being extremely optimistic, but really, that’s what we have to be in the case of young guys who can’t hit, but are supposedly good fielders.

Floor: See Baez, Welinson.

Conclusion: Really, I feel like I’m repeating myself here. Baez has a much longer track record, so he’s at a much more critical stage. Hernandez has time yet, and in his second season of pro ball, we should have a better idea of what he’s going to do. No doubt he was over-matched in 2006, but if he makes adjustments, he could put up a decent season in the .720-.750 range. That’s probably being really optimistic, but yeah well. I won’t even lay odds on him, not enough info.

Prospect Grades: Cline, Golson, Costanzo, Harman

Rolling along, all feedback welcomed and encouraged.

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Cline, Zac, LHP (age 23) Grade = C+

If you look at Cline’s 2006 numbers, he doesn’t deserve this grade, however, if you realize he missed all of 2005 with Tommy John surgery, it makes more sense. The Phillies took Cline in the 15th round of the 2004 draft, and the pick was looking like a steal after his initial performance, 63.2 IP, 2.85 ERA, 59 H, 12 BB, 55 K. However, he had to miss all of 2005 with Tommy John surgery, and 2006 was expected to be a tough year for him trying to regain his command, which was excellent before the surgery. He spent time at both Lakewood and Clearwater, and while his 5.23 ERA looks ugly, he seemed to regain some of his stuff, striking out 15 in 13.2 IP at Clearwater. The second year back is normally where things seem to click, so for Cline, 2007 is important. He’s still 23 and doesn’t turn 24 till July, so he’s got some time, and the promise he showed before the injury means he still has a chance to be a legit prospect, whether it be as a back of the rotation starter or a reliever.

Ceiling: Right now, his ceiling is #4/5 starter, or middle reliever. It’s tough to know how he will bounce back from TJ surgery in his second full season. If he has a full recovery and regains his command, he’s got a legit shot to be considered a quality prospect at this time next year. If he doesn’t regain velocity, he may struggle to ever be more than a AAAA pitcher.

Floor: His floor is a AAA pitcher who maybe gets a shot sometime down the road. Think Brian Mazone, without the steroids.

Conclusion: It’s tough to predict and project post Tommy John results, because it seems different pitchers react differently to the surgery. If he comes all the way back and can replicate his 2004 success at higher levels, I think he has a good chance, maybe a 60% chance, to reach his ceiling. If he falls short, his ceiling becomes a middle reliever, but if he can’t regain control of his stuff, he probably won’t make a major league bullpen. As with all injury cases, there is the chance he just washes out of baseball and can’t make it back.
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Golson, Greg, OF (age 21) Grade = D+ (edited from an F to a D+)

I’m sorry, Greg, but you deserve the first F of these rankings. If Golson were a late round flier pick, I’d consider giving him a D. But, with Phillip Hughes being placed in the Top 10 of most every prospect list, it’s hard for me to not be incredibly bitter or angry with this pick. Golson, though he was only 20 in 2006, has been a massive disappointment at every level, even with his glimmer of hope after being promoted to Clearwater. Why is that a disappointment? Because the reports were that he sulked when he was sent back to Lakewood to start the year. I guess he felt that his stellar .711 OPS in 375 AB’s at Lakewood in 2005 warranted him being sent to Clearwater. Maybe it was the 106 strikeouts to go with his 26 walks and 4 home runs? Whatever the reason, you don’t get points in my book for sulking. He isn’t a star, he doesn’t deserve star treatment. Since being drafted in 2004, he’s pretty much done nothing to show he was a first round pick, and honestly, hasn’t shown anything to suggest he’d even be a 25th round pick. Almost no plate discipline, which was still evident in his .325 OB% at Clearwater, and only flashes of both power and speed, the two attributes we were told would be his best when he was drafted. On paper, he get’s an F. On his attitude, he probably deserves an F. On tools? Well, if you listen to many, he get’s an A+++. Unfortunately, you don’t get free walks and home runs based on tools. Until he proves he can be consistent for an entire season, he gets an F. If he starts back at Clearwater, which he should, will he pout again? If he does, look for a .650 OPS and then a promotion out of nowhere to Reading, where he might play decently for 6 weeks.

Ceiling: With guys like Golson, they always say the sky is the limit. If he ever learns to draw a walk, and he maintains his power, he could be the next Andre Dawson. If he doesn’t, he’ll likely become the next Reggie Taylor. He has the tools, no one is denying that, but at some point, you have to start being a good baseball player, not just a good athlete. A good comp might be Milton Bradley with more speed. Bradley is a good all around hitter, can hit for some power, can run a little, and is generally considered a solid defensive RF. Golson has a similar toolset, with more speed.

Floor: Unfortunately, as lofty as the ceiling is, the floor is just as far down. If his plate discipline doesn’t improve and the makeup issues follow him up the ladder, he’s likely to teeter in the minors for the rest of his career, or until he decides he wants to try something else instead of baseball.

Conclusion: Despite my apparent dislike for him, I’m pulling for him harder than almost anyone. Being a first round pick puts a lot of pressure on a player, and it’s not like it’s his fault the Phillies took him over Hughes. If he can maintain the power he showed at Clearwater, he can shelve the pouting and sulking, and he can learn to take a walk, he could become a special prospect. If he doesn’t, well, he’s never going to amount to a hill of beans. I’ll put the chances of him becoming Milton Bradley with more speed at 25%, the chances of him landing somewhere in between at 50%. “In between” might be a 5th OF or a four A player.

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Costanzo, Mike, 3B (age 23) Grade = B-

Costanzo, like Kendrick, is a guy I seem to change my mind on every day. Some days, I’m really down on him for a variety of reasons ranging from his real power to his mental makeup, other days I’m up on his chances, based on his age and his ability to turn it on as the season progresses. Where does that leave me for a grade? Good question. I was thinking about a straight B, but his defense at 3B has been questioned, and if he has to move to the OF, that reduces his long term value. I thought about a C+, but he was only 22 in 2006 and was above average at high A. So, I settled on a B-. First, the positives. Costanzo was a 2 way player at Coastal Carolina, so he’s had to make the transition to being a full time position player. His arm strength is a plus, but his fielding is not. Second, he has shown good isolated power despite being double jumped in 2006 over Lakewood. His .411 slugging % doesn’t look great, but it was still 10% better than the league average in the FSL, and in July and August, he slugged .421 and .525 in 107 and 101 AB’s respectively, which is quite solid. The negatives….well, his fielding wasn’t good, as he committed 25 errors in 135 games. However, you have to qualify that and remember that minor league fields are normally not up to par with the level of fields he’ll be playing on regularly at the big league level. Clearwater has one of the nicest stadiums in the minors, but he still had to play a lot of games in sub standard fielding conditions, and that really applies to most infielders throughout the minors. His OB% and his consistency are the two biggest things going forward. There have been mentions that he takes AB’s off or only gets up for the big game/spotlight moment, and that simply isn’t going to help him going forward. For him to climb the rankings lists, he’ll need something in the neighborhood of .285/.370/.480 next year at Reading. That’s not unheard of or out of his reach. At this point, he looks more like a utility guy than a starting 3B, but of course, that can all change in one season.

Ceiling: An every day 3B who doesn’t hit for a big average, but draws walks and shows good power. Like Golson, but to a lesser degree, makeup issues are starting to creep up, and word of him coasting at times is troubling. He’ll be 23 for his 2007 season at Reading, and it will be a big chance for him to evelate his status, or at the same time, greatly diminish his status.

Floor: Guys like Costanzo normally will always make it to the big leagues, but whether or not they ever stick, or become useful players is another matter. His floor is a four A corner INF/OF guy who plays occasionally at the big league level, but spends most of the season at AAA waiting for an injury. Disappointments like Sean Burroughs keep getting chances, and so too will Costanzo. The key will be consistency, and if he can maintain a consistent level of performance for an entire year, he’s got a fairly good chance of reaching his ceiling, we’ll say 65%. However, I think he has an even greater chance of falling down a bit closer to his floor.

Conclusion: 2007 is a big year for Mike. If he can sustain a solid campaign for the entire year, against tougher AA competition, then we might have a legit 3B prospect on our hands. If not, maybe it’s time he heads back to the mound and works on his curveball again. That’s being harsh, but he needs to have a 2007 to remember, or we probably won’t be remembering him down the road, at least for his on the field contributions. We’ll always remember him as being the guy we drafted who bragged about going home from the hospital in a mini Phillies jacket.

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Harman, Bradley, SS/2B (age 21) Grade = B

Looking at just numbers, like we talked about with Cline, this grade seems out of place. However, Brad gets a pass from me for 2006, for a number of reasons, but most importantly, for off the field issues. His mom passed away back in Australia, and as someone who lost his mom at a young age this year, I completely understand what he went through. I find it mind-boggling that he was even able to play 119 games this season, but clearly looking at his numbers, his mind was elsewhere. When dealing with any kind of tragedy like this, it’s impossible to focus on your job, whether it’s playing baseball, working in an office, or digging ditches, and when you can’t focus, you are obviously going to have a very tough time succeeding, especially at a young age. Harman played all of 2006 at age 20, and while his 2006 was awful both on and off the field, his 2005, where he put up an .822 OPS at Lakewood at age 19, gives us reason to believe he’s going to be ok after an expected slip-up in 2006. He showed good plate discipline in both 2005 and 2006, but just didn’t hit for average at all this year, and his power drastically dropped. The Phillies have little depth at 2B/SS, with only 2006 draft picks Jason Donald and Adrian Cardenas representing legit prospects in those positions. Donald and Cardenas are probably going to open up at SS/2B in Lakewood, which means Harman could either repeat Clearwater or head to Reading to start 2007. They may have him start in Clearwater, and if he’s focused and ready to go, he could be promoted after a month or two. He still remains a really bright prospect, which is why I’m inclined to give him a B, even though his 2006 would say he doesn’t deserve it.

Ceiling: An above average offensive middle infielder. Harman is still quite young, and appears to have solid makeup. The Phillies dipped heavily into Australia, and Harman may end up being the best of the bunch. He has the ability to be a .280/.360/.480 type player, and at SS or 2B, that’s a big asset. Of course, if he has to move to an OF position, it will diminish his value, as he’ll need his bat to carry him. Buildwise, he reminds me of Michael Young, and if he turns into 75% of the player Young is, he’ll be a huge find for the Phillies. Young, in his first season in the SAL (age 21), had a line of .282/.354/.456, while Harman’s line in the SAL, at age 19, was .303/.380/.442.

Floor: It’s unclear how his 2006 will affect him going forward, but if he comes back with a clear head, he should be fine. He’s still 3 years away, but at worst, I think he turns into a utility infielder.

Conclusion: The odds of anyone “becoming Michael Young” aren’t very good, but Harman’s 2005 was outstanding, all things considered, and his 2006 was a disaster, numbers wise, but again, has to be taken into proper context. He could repeat Clearwater, and because he’ll only be 21, he won’t fall behind at all, in fact, he’ll still really be a year young for the level. If they give him the boost to Reading, where are there really aren’t many people blocking him at either SS or 2B, he could really elevate his prospect status.

Prospect Grades: Griffith, Kendrick, Johnson, Overholt

Round 4 begins now.

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Griffith, Derek, LHP (age 24) Grade = D+

Griffith had a decent 2005, allowing less than a hit per inning, striking out over 7 per nine innings, and keeping the ball in the park. In 2006, with a promotion to Clearwater, he took a step back. The former 17th round pick posted a 4.52 ERA in 151.2 IP, allowing 162 H, 57 walks, and struck out only 95 batters. His home run rate remained similar (up a tick), and he didn’t walk too many more per 9, but because he was 23, he needed a better season. When you’re taking guys in the 17th round, you are clearly tempering expectations, but after his 2005, there was reason to be somewhat optimistic. Because he is left handed, his shelf life is probably longer than that of a comparable pitcher who happens to be right handed. He experienced slightly better success vs LHB, holding them to a .641 OPS against his .777 OPS allowed to RH batters, which may suggest a possible move to the bullpen. He also induced 254 groundballs, to only 156 flyballs, which is nice, but he still pitches to contact too much for my liking, and that tends to catch up at higher levels. Griffith may repeat Clearwater, but along with Lakewood, those two teams will have a ton of candidates for the rotation, so he may be sent to Reading to start, or he may be converted to relief. If he can hone his stuff and ramp it up for one inning, he might be a good bullpen candidate in 2 years, but he has a ways to go yet. He’d receive a straight D if he weren’t lefthanded and didn’t have strong groundball tendencies.

Ceiling: I’m not sure, a swingman or 6th inning guy? He doesn’t have dominant splits, but is a bit better against LH batters than RH batters, so he might be a viable bullpen option.

Floor: Out of baseball in 3 years. He’s still got the tall frame that scouts like, especially for a LHP, but at some point, he needs to show it on the field. 2007 will kind of determine his future in baseball, or at least give us a much better idea.

Conclusion: As you can tell by the grade, I’m not very high on Griffith at this point. I guess if he lights up the world in 2007, the Phillies will take a chance on him and add him to the 40 man. If not, he’s Rule 5 bound, and could be out of the organization. He needs a big time season in 2007, because he’s 24 and has yet to reach AA.

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Kendrick, Kyle, RHP (age 22) Grade: B

My thinking on Kendrick seems to differ day to day. I wrote a piece a little while back that 2007 was a big year for him, and if he were going to become a big league contributor, he’d have to take a big step forward, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable I am with him as a prospect. Because of his age, he pitched almost all of 2006 at age 21, he is still fine in terms of where he should be, but he’s been in pro ball for four seasons now, and after 2007, will have to be placed on the 40 man roster. Prior to 2006, he hadn’t done much to warrant that spot, but his 2006 was a definite step in the right direction. He posted dominant numbers at Lakewood, with a 2.15 ERA in 46 IP, allowing only 34 H and 15 BB against 54 K. After being promoted to Clearwater, the strikeout numbers dropped substantially (79 in 130 IP), but his walk rate actually improved (2.93 to 2.56) and he saw a moderate rise in his hit rate. As he’s climbed the ladder, it seems he struggles initially, but once he repeats the level, he gets more comfortable and regains his stuff. As 2007 will only be his age 22 season, he’s still prime prospect age. He could start back at Clearwater, but the Phillies might go ahead and send him to Reading, as he did log 130 innings at Clearwater. He’ll experience his toughest test to date in the Eastern League, and it will be interesting to see which Kendrick we get. His grade has room to move in either direction. A strong season at AA and I’d have no problems rating him a B+, but if he falters and his K rate remains in the 5-6 range, he could easily become a C+ prospect.

Ceiling: A #2/#3 starter, depending on his K rate. Right now, that is the area that remains the biggest question mark. Many had pegged Kendrick as a breakout candidate for 2006, and they were right, but now the test will be what he does going forward.

Floor: Let’s say his floor is a four A SP who bounces between AAA and the Majors. He doesn’t seem like a bullpen guy, at least now, and people will always dream on his loose arm and quality stuff, but if he can’t get guys out, and can’t generate swings and misses, he might not have a long term future in the pen either.

Conclusion: I had my doubts about Kendrick prior to 2006, and while I still have doubts, they’ve grown less convincing. I still think 2007 is a make or break year for him, not so much in being placed on the 40 man (he probably will be, regardless), but in him actually becoming a quality big league pitcher.

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Johnson, Nate, RHP (age 24) Grade = C (Updated from a C+ to a C)

Johnson is a guy who never gets mentioned, even when discussing the fringe prospects, but I think he might deserve a look. I give him a C+, but I will state right off the top that he was too old for High A Clearwater. Johnson was taken in the 20th round of the 2004 draft, and 2006 represented his age 24 season, so it’s time for him to start moving a bit more rapidly. However, since he is exclusively a reliever, that shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Johnson struggled at Batavia in 2004, he struggled at Lakewood in 2005, but he really came into his own in 2006, posting a 2.56 ERA in 66 IP, allowing only 59 hits and 10 walks to 55 strikeouts. While the K rate (7.42/9) isn’t overly impressive, his control is, and 1.35 BB/9 is good regardless of the level you’re at. He induced more groundballs than fly balls (91 to 65) and allowed only 3 HR in the 66 innings. He was tough against LH batters, holding them to a .573 OPS, but he also shut down righties to the tune of a .609 OPS. He should be sent to Reading in 2007, where he’ll pitch for most of the year, in all likelihood. With another solid year, he could present himself as a bullpen option sometime in 2008. He isn’t flashy, he doesn’t have world-beater stuff, but he’s just the type of prospect all successful organizations need to have an abundance of.

Ceiling: A 7th inning reliever, really nothing more, and maybe a long man as “less” if you want to go that route.

Floor: Organizational filler.

Conclusion: I’m probably the only one talking about Johnson, and I may look silly in this space at this time next year, but I think he’s got a decent chance to become the 2008 version of Geoff Geary. Not spectacular, doesn’t have mind blowing stuff, but gets guys out, and does so cheaply. His ability to keep the ball in the park, and his impeccable control are big pluses for me, but we’ll see how it translates at AAA and eventually the bigs. I think he’s got a 50/50 shot of becoming the next Geary.

EDIT: oldgrandad snapped me out of my Nate Johnson appreciation fest and made me realize he does, in fact, warrant only a C.

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Overholt, Patrick, RHP (age 22) Grade = B-

Overholt was a guy that I highlighted in my Arms to Watch piece, and I’m a big fan of his going forward. A college closer, he has the mentality to pitch in the late innings, and maybe most importantly, to me anyway, is his dominant strikeout rate. He K’ed 52 in 45 innings at Lakewood, and then 41 in 26 innings at Clearwater. His peripheral numbers were actually better at Clearwater than Lakewood (except HR rate), but his ERA was worse, 4.15 at Clearwater to only 3.15 at Lakewood. His final numbers were solid, 73 IP, 57 H allowed, 36 BB, 93 K. I’d have given him a straight B if it weren’t for his control issues at Lakewood. He cut down his walks by almost 2 per 9 innings at Clearwater, but they are still a concern. He will be 23 for his entire 2007 campaign, and personally, I think he should start off at Reading, but the Phillies might play it safe and start him as the closer in Clearwater with a mid-season promotion. If he can work on his control a bit and get his walk rate down in the 2.75-2.90/9 range and keep his K total where it is, he’s going to be a big league reliever, and possibly even a high leverage type of guy. Definitely an interesting arm, one of many in our pitching heavy system.

Ceiling: A big league closer. Simply put, he’s got quality stuff and gets a lot of swings and misses, plus he has the closing background and seems to have the mindset to pitch in high leverage situations.

Floor: A middle reliever, pitching anywhere from the 6th-8th inning, depending on need.

Conclusion: With Overholt, it’s simply going to come down to his command/control. If he can harness his stuff and avoid giving out free passes, he’s got the ingredients to become a big time reliever, and possibly a closer. While you rarely see a young pitcher come in and just start closing games at the big league level, ala Huston Street, Overholt might start as a 6th/7th inning guy, maybe even as soon as September 2007, but could eventually work his way into the back end of the pen. Tom Gordon isn’t young, and his contract is basically done after 2008, so if Overholt continues to impress, he may get a shot late in 2008 to close out some games, and it could be his role on this team, or on some other team, a few years down the road. Outside of Bisenius, he’s probably our best relief prospect, and being a year younger with closing experience, probably has a leg up on Joe for that spot, if we have an in house guy who can take it.

Keith Law ranks Phils system 29th

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In an article Friday (which is an insider/pay article), ESPN writer and former Blue Jays special assistant Keith Law ranked the Phillies farm system 29th out of 30 in baseball. He used the following criteria

• Players who have lost their rookie eligibility don’t count for this exercise.

• Both ability and performance count when looking at individual players, and both ceiling and depth count when looking at systems.

• I’m a strong believer in the “time value of prospects” — the idea that a prospect’s value increases significantly as he gets closer to the big leagues. So an organization like Washington, with most of its best prospects in short-season ball in 2006, scores poorly here, because those prospects are four or five years away from the majors, and the attrition rate on those kids is going to be high.

One other thing to bear in mind is how volatile these rankings are. Matt Garza finished the last season at 50 innings, so he’s a rookie in 2007 by the slimmest of margins; without him, the Twins would rank a few notches lower. By the middle of ’07, a number of these teams will have moved around as players have “graduated” from their farm systems to the big leagues.

The third point is the key point when looking at the Phillies system. We have maybe two legit prospects above High A, in James Happ and Michael Bourn. Our three best prospects, Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Drabek and Adrian Cardenas, are all at High A or lower. Also, the great strength of our system, pitching, was concentrated mainly at Low A this season, with a few guys like Bisenius and Segovia making their way to AA. I follow the minors as a whole fairly closely, but maybe not enough to know the 30 best prospects in every organization, and how they stack up to our top 30. But by Law’s criteria, it’s not surprising to see us ranked that low. He doesn’t just throw it together, he explained his criteria for analysis, and it makes sense. His capsule on the Phillies reads

29. Philadelphia: Thin system which got thinner by the sudden rise of Cole Hamels. The closest solid-average prospect to the majors here is Carlos Carrasco, who spent the year in low-A.

Again, makes sense. Carrasco, if his rise in 2006 is for real (and I think it is), should be a Top 30 in baseball prospect after 2007, and if Drabek and Cardenas perform in full season ball like many expect from top draft picks, our system will jump well up the charts next year. Also consider another year under the belt for Outman, and if he continues to improve at the rate he did in August, he’ll be considered an above average prospect, we could be looking at 4 potential Top 100 guys. Even if Bourn loses his eligibility, which he probably will, our system still looks strong.

I won’t analyze every team in the rankings, but just looking at the 9 ahead of us, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Florida, Washington, Toronto, Seattle, Texas, San Fran and St Louis, I like our depth, especially in pitching, over all of those organizations with the exception of Florida, who have five potential quality big league pitchers in the Low A/High A teams. Pittsburgh has Brad Lincoln and not much else, Oakland doesn’t have a real impact guy other than Daric Barton, and he doesn’t really have a position. Florida I mentioned, Washington has three impact guys in Willems, Marrero, and Ballester, but the former two are in the same position as Cardenas and Drabek, and Ballester has plenty of question marks. Toronto’s best prospect will be ineligible next year (Adam Lind) and they lack little else. Seattle has a few intriguing guys in Morrow, Tillman and Jones, but Jones will lose eligibility as well. Texas had three of the most talked about young pitchers, in Danks, Diamond and Volquez, but they traded Danks, Diamond looks like a bullpen arm, and Volquez was awful in his short big league stint last year. San Fran has the worst system in baseball, in my opinion, and in all likelihood, Lincecum, their best prospect, will lose eligibility this season, as well their second best prospect, Johnathon Sanchez. That leaves only St Louis, and they only really have one bona-fide star in their system, Colby Rasmus, and a few promising guys like John Jay from the 2006 draft.

So really, we could have easily been a few spots higher, and if things progress as they did in 2006, we will be higher in 2007. Our system has two main weaknesses, one being glaring, and that is the lack of position prospects. Michael Bourn would probably be in the 13-16 range in most good farm systems, but he’s a top 5 guy in our system. Outside of him, we can hope and pray Costanzo has really figured it out, and that Cardenas is on the fast track. The Phillies made a slew of good picks in Utley, Howard, Rollins and Burrell, now we need to hope the next crop is somewhere in Batavia or Lakewood. Our second weakness is a lack of an impact prospect at the higher levels. I love James Happ, but I don’t consider him an impact prospect, did Segovia or Bourn. A lot of teams ahead of us have a real good prospect waiting at AA or AAA to get his shot, and that increases their value as a system. We’ll have to evaluate ourselves in that area, and all areas, at this time next season, and I’m sure we’ll be higher in the rankings.

Mailbag, January 26th

Something new we’ll try. It may stick, it may not, depending on how active YOU, the readers are. I’ve gotten a few questions in the last few days on my questions/topics page located at the top, and in the last few weeks, I’ve also gotten some emails with questions, so I thought this might be an interesting way to share the info for everyone to read instead of just replying to one person. This will be a fairly informal thing, not a ton of work involved, and I will only do it as I get in questions to actually answer. First round

Rob asks

Are Brad Baisley and Juan Richardson, two former Phillies prospects, still in baseball?

Ahh, Brad Baisley. Baisley, our 2nd round pick in 1998, was a tall (6’9) and lanky RHP the Phillies fell in love with, and well, he never really panned out. He pitched ok until he got past Clearwater, and could never get anything done at the higher levels. After spending 7 seasons in the organization, he was let go after the 2003 season and signed with the Yankees. After a short 13 inning stint he was released, and then picked up by the Dodgers to finish out the 2004 season. His 4.79 ERA in 35 innings to finish 2004 is the last Baisley has pitched in pro ball, that I know of. Juan Richardson, signed as an undrafted FA out of the Dominican Republic in 1998, was released after posting a .725 OPS at Reading in 2005. He signed with St Louis and spent 2006 in the AA Texas League, where he posted a surprising .882 OPS in 444 AB, playing 3B and 1B. I don’t know if the Cardinals plan to sign him to another minor league deal, but they just might. His 2006 looks nice, but he was a 25 year old playing in AA, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. He never really put it together for the Phillies, always hitting for some power but never getting on base to be considered more than a fringe prospect.

The Red Tornado asks

What about a piece on newly acquired 30 year old prospect Greg Jacobs? Could he be the next Coste or just another career minor leaguer? His offensive numbers seem impressive, but he’s old.

The Greg Jacobs mega-signing happened before I got started, and I never got around to writing anything up on him. Jacobs was drafted way back in 1998 by the then Anaheim Angels as a pitcher out of Cal State Fullerton. He put up decent but not great numbers in rookie ball and low A, but hit the wall in 2000 at high A, and got his brains beat in at high A and AA in 2001. He was released after 2001 and played 2002 in the Western League, where he raked to the tune of a 1.088 OPS in 326 AB, but did so at the age of 25. In 2003, he was back in the bigs, this time in the Seattle organization. He put up a 1.009 OPS at high A (age 26), but stumbled to a .740 OPS in the hitter friendly Texas League (AA) upon promotion. 2004 was a big year for him, as he put up an .873 OPS at AA and an even better .911 OPS at AAA, this coming in his age 27 season. His 2005 didn’t go quite as well, as he slumped to a .611 OPS at AAA and again ended up in the Northern League, where he promptly put up a .986 OPS in 256 AB. In 2006, he remained in the Northern League, putting up a 1.015 OPS in 333 AB, his age 29 season. But here’s the problem…..I have no clue what the Northern League is like. For comparison’s sake, Chris Coste put up OPS numbers of .831, .851, .875 and .923 in the Northern League in his four seasons, but they came at ages 23-26. Jacobs has a very impressive minor league line, but he’s never gotten the chance. He’s always been a DH/OF, so he lacks the versatility of Coste. Honestly, I don’t think he’s got much of a chance to make the team, even if he hits .450 in the spring. Maybe the team bought his contract as a favor to Coste, who knows.

There ya have it.

Player Profile: Brett Harker

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Harker was a guy that just missed my “Arms to Watch in 2007” piece, so I felt he was due a proper writeup here. The Phillies selected RHP Brett Harker in the 5th round of the 2005 draft out of the College of Charleston, in a draft that is quickly turning into a pitching coup of sorts, with the likes of Matt Maloney, Mike Zagurski, Patrick Overholt, Josh Outman, Matt Olson, Darren Byrd, and Justin Blaine also being selected in the first 20 rounds. Harker stands 6’3, 185 lbs according to his bio, and signed as a junior with 1 year of eligibility remaining. Harker appeared in 17 games as a freshman, starting 13 of them, but was used exclusively as a reliever his sophomore and junior seasons. After a rough sophomore year, he seemed to make all the right adjustments, posting a 2.47 ERA in 51 innings with 15 saves and 60 strikeouts, against only 10 walks.

Harker was assigned to Batavia after signing, and the Phillies, like they choose to do with many college arms, erred on the side of caution, using Harker as a starter and only pitching him 9 times, 7 of them being starts, and limiting him to just 37 innings. He struggled, posting a 5.06 ERA, allowing 38 hits and 12 walks against only 5 strikeouts. With a fresh arm, he was sent to Lakewood to start 2006, and it was a completely different kid on the mound. In his age 22 season, Harker pitched extremely well at Lakewood, throwing up a 2.92 ERA in 64.2 IP (46 games), allowing 53 hits and 12 walks while striking out 55. In addition, he had a solid 1.46 GB:FB ratio, and was lights out against LH batters, holding them to a .148 BA and a .435 OPS overall. He struggled a bit against RH batters, allowing a .283 BA and .778 OPS. This may be an aberration, or it may be a potential issue, we should know more after his second full season.

Unlike many relievers, Harker is known more for his breaking ball than an overpowering fastball. His fastball is probably a tick above average with low 90’s velocity, but his curveball is a true hammer, with sharp downward break and good velocity. It’s been described as having “curveball break with slider velocity” by Brett himself, and is his true out pitch. His success against LH batters (it should be noted, he had a .201 BABIP against LHB, which is abnormally low) might indicate the presence of an above average changeup as well, but he’s going to need to develop something to work against RH batters, maybe along the likes of a cut fastball, a splitter, or some sort of sinking fastball. When he gets ahead, he can bury the curve/slider on hitters and record the strikeouts, but he has to improve his consistency against RH batters going forward to be any kind of high leverage reliever.

Harker’s poor 2005 was probably just a tired arm and adjusting to an old role starting games. In 2006, he was used as the closer in Lakewood, and could assume the same role in Clearwater, depending on the positioning of guys like Pat Overholt in the system. While you have to consider the small sample size, Harker experienced varying results depending on the inning he was pitching. He had an OPS allowed of .882 in 18 innings of 8th inning pitching, but only a .595 OPS allowed in 23.1 IP in the 9th inning of games. You see lots of closers at the big league level struggle in non-save situations or when they come in to pitch in the 8th inning, perhaps Harker already has taken to that “showdown” mentality of pitching in the 9th inning to save/finish games. His K/9 rate also rises as the game goes on, from 6.75/9 in the 7th, to 7.50/9 in the 8th to 7.71/9 in the 9th inning. Again, probably just anecdotal stats from one season in Low A, but fun to ponder no less.

While he doesn’t appear to have the power stuff of a guy like Pat Overholt, he does appear to have the ability to close out games, and should remain in that role as he climbs the organizational ladder. It’s pretty tough to predict guys will become a closer at the big league level, but he at least looks like a potential 7th/8th inning guy down the road, and those commodities are very desirable. He’ll be one to watch in 2007, and if he continues his improvement he showed from ’05 to ’06, he could start creeping up the top 15 or so prospects lists.

Prospect Grades: Mathieson, Moss, Bisenius, Evangelista

Let’s continue with the grades. Again, any and all feedback is welcomed.

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Mathieson, Scott, RHP (age 22) Grade = A-

We have our first grade in the A range. Mathieson has many more strengths than weaknesses at this point, and realistically, the only thing preventing him from getting a straight A  is Tommy John surgery and possibly his changeup. Mathieson did all of his work in 2006 at age 22, first at Reading, then in Philly briefly, then in Scranton, and finally back to Philly before tearing his UCL. Mathieson’s big league debut didn’t go well, but the reality is, he wasn’t ready for it. However, getting the experience should help him going forward. His age 23 season will be mostly a wash, as he won’t be on the mound at all until July or August, and it will take him at least 50-60 innings to get his feel for pitching back. There is no need to rush him though, as he will be only 24 on opening day 2008. Mathieson’s numbers finally caught up to his stuff in 2006, as he was well above league average in hit and K rates, his walk rate (especially at AAA) was fine as well, and he allowed only 10 HR in 137 minor league innings….not spectacular, but not a big worry. Mathieson had started to show his current ability in 2005, but his 4.14 ERA wouldn’t suggest he’d turned a major corner. However, he was voted the best pitcher in the AFL, and many attribute his rise to him scrapping his loopy curveball in favor of a hard slider. The slider lost it’s tilt and deception in Philly, but it returned when he was sent to Scranton, and it’s really only going to be a matter of him throwing it more and trusting his stuff. His fastball sits in the 93-95 range and he can dial it all the way up to 98-99 when he needs it. His changeup improved in 2006, but still lags behind his fastball and slider. If he’s going to be a successful starter, he’s going to need his changeup to neutralize LH batters.

Ceiling:  Mathieson’s ceiling is probably that of a #2/#3 starter. He’s only 22, and in 2006, showed his ability to bounce back from disappointment when he thrived at Scranton after a tough big league stint. He’s got the big fastball (though he does have a max effort delivery), he has the strong slider, but to reach that #2 slot in the rotation, he’ll need at least a tick above average fastball. As he throws it more, it will improve, and that will probably come at AAA while he’s recovering from the surgery. A comparable pitcher? Maybe Jason Schmidt, who basically lives off his plus plus four seam fastball, though Schmidt uses more of a curve than a slider.

Floor:  His floor, to me, is as a future closer/setup man. The sabrmetric belief is that it’s much more important to have your best arms as starters, because they pitch more innings a season. So, ideally, you’d want Mathieson, if he’s capable, to stay in the rotation, especially with his potential. However, if his arm can’t handle starting, or his changeup doesn’t improve, his fastball/slider combo has closer written all over it, maybe in the Brad Lidge mold.

Conclusion:  Recovery from TJ surgery is almost a given at this point, but there still is a chance he won’t regain his full velocity, while there’s also a chance his velo might actually improve. If he has to pitch regularly at 91-93, he’s going to need his changeup to be effective in any role. If he gains a few mph and is pitching regularly at 95-97, look out. As I said above, 2007 is basically a lost year, but he’s still got plenty of time and because of the depth in pitching with guys like Happ and Segovia, there’s no need to rush him back like the team did with Randy Wolf. I think his chances of reaching his ceiling are about 50%. He may not have quite the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, but he should easily be able to pitch in the middle of the big league rotation in 2008 and beyond. I put his Floor at 90%, because even if he can’t start, his stuff is more than good enough to pitch in relief. I put a 10% chance on him not coming back from TJ and washing out of baseball. It doesn’t seem likely, but with any kind of arm surgery, it’s always a possiblity.

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Moss, Timothy, 2B (age 25) Grade = D-

This should probably be an F, but I’m going to just put him on probation. Moss has really struggled since being drafted by the Phillies in 2003. He struggled at Lakewood in 2004, and then last season, he looked like he maybe had turned the corner, repeating Lakewood at age 23 and putting up an .811 OPS. And just like your problem child, who you think maybe has finally changed after being yelled at 20 times, he went ahead and broke our hearts again, this time by bombing out at Reading, in his age 24 season, with a .606 OPS, on the strength of his .180 batting average. The Phillies sent him to Clearwater, and he “responded”, sort of, with a .796 OPS. The problem was, of course, that he was 24 and playing in High A, and his .796 OPS doesn’t look that impressive. Now 25, what do the Phillies do with him? He’ll have to be added to the 40 man roster after 2007, and I’ve already written an article on him about 2007 being his make or break year. There’s nothing in his numbers that suggest a turnaround is likely. He struggled mightily when skipped over High A in 2006, and when sent back, he performed ok, but really, he should have put up much bigger numbers, age considered. I guess the only thing preventing this from being an F was the fact that he slugged .443 in the FSL, which was quite a bit above average. Then again, he was facing a lot of pitchers that were 3-4 years younger than him and much more inexperienced. Bah, forget it, let’s move on.

Ceiling:  A utility infielder at the big league level. Talk about a depressing ceiling. Basically, I’m hoping he can become Abe Nunez. When Abe Nunez is your ceiling, you may want to head back to college and finish up your degree. Still, his decent pop and above average speed could make him a useful 25th man on a big league roster.

Floor: Out of baseball in 4 years. Seriously. This is a distinct possibility. He’s proven an inability to hit for any kind of average at any level, he’s got decent power, but he rarely makes contact. Because he is a “great athlete”, which is why the Phillies picked him, another team will give him a shot when the Phillies cut him loose, but I don’t know how he’s going to magically learn to hit after 5 years of pro ball.

Conclusion: Tim Moss, as a prospect, depresses me. Talk about getting it all wrong. I have no idea where he’s going to start in 2007, but unless he really turns on the switch, and I’m talking a .280/.380/.500 type season at AA, there is little to no hope for him. I give him a 20% chance to reach his ceiling, and a 75% chance to hit his floor. He’s going to be 25 in 2007, and if he doesn’t do it now, he’s probably not going to do it. Such a shame.

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Bisenius, Joe, RHP (age 24) Grade = B+

I’m hesitant to give an out and out relief pitcher such a high grade, but as I wrote in an earlier piece, Bisenius could make his way onto the big league roster this season, and he’s really been dominant in two of his three seasons since being drafted. A stellar 50 inning debut in 2004, a struggle for 60 innings in 2005, Joe turned it on in a big way in 2006, putting up a 2.25 ERA in 83 innings across A+ and AA. At 23, he was in line with the average age at each level, and if he does indeed spend part of the season in Philly this year, he’ll be ahead of schedule, development wise. He features a big fastball, sitting in the mid 90’s, and a hard slider, his out pitch, that allowed him to strike out 95 hitters in 83 innings, while allowing only 30 walks. The 30 walks are part of the reason he didn’t receive an A-, because on hit suppression and home run suppression, he’s fine, but the walks are a concern going forward, especially at the MLB level. He gets more groundballs than flyballs, but not an overwhelming margin, so keeping the ball down will be important at the next level. His changeup is average, but as a reliever, he won’t need it as much if he can locate his fastball against LHB. Lefties hit only .216 against him in 2006, with a respectable .657 OPS allowed, so he’s managing. His command will need to be sharp though, because big league LH batters are a bit different than career lifers in the minors. After pitching close to 100 innings with his stops at A+, AA, the AFL and Winter Ball, the Phillies might start him at Ottawa and ease his workload early on before bringing him up to the big leagues. But, if he has a strong spring, especially with the lack of dominance in the current bullpen, he may just break camp with the team.

Ceiling: A big league closer. We’ll see how he fares in high leverage situations going forward, but with a mid 90’s fastball and out pitch slider, the makings are there as a closer. His short term ceiling is a 7th/8th inning reliever, and if he excels there, he might get a look when/if Tom Gordon goes down with an injury.

Floor: Middle reliever. Basically, his only options are found in the bullpen, and with a big fastball, you’ll always get a look from someone. Hey, guys like Chris Booker, who have zero control and secondary pitches, are bandied about every season.

Conclusion:  For 2007, Bisenius isn’t likely to get a shot at closing unless he breaks camp with the team and is lights out for the first few months. And only then will he get a shot if Gordon goes down. The Phillies, and Charlie Manuel moreso, love the veterans, and unfortunately, Bisenius doesn’t have veteranacity on his side, so he will probably spend most of 2007 pitching in middle relief. If his control and command remain on track, he’ll be an effective middle reliever and could turn into a setup guy as early as 2008. I put the chances of him reaching his ceiling at 30%. It’s tough to say a guy can be a closer when he hasn’t played that role, and we really don’t know how he’ll perform against Major League hitters in pressure situations. If he adopts the mentality and thrives, he could get there. I’ll put his chance of reaching his floor at 95%. His arm is too good to end up out of baseball anytime soon.

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Evangelista, Nick, RHP, (age 24) Grade = C

Evangelista is kind of an under the radar reliever, and really has been since being drafted in 2004. A local kid from Hamburg, PA, he doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he’s put up pretty good numbers in his 3 seasons in the minors. He doesn’t give up a lot of hits (34 in 43 IP), doesn’t walk many (only 10), but he also doesn’t strike guys out, and he’s seen his K/9 rate go from 8.96 at A+ in 2005 to 4.81 at Reading in 2006. He does get groundballs, almost 2 to 1, which is a positive in his favor, and he’s only allowed 10 HR in 148 career innings in the minors. Last season, he held RH batters to a .501 OPS allowed, and they hit just.173 off of him in 28 innings. Lefties got to him a bit more, hitting .288 and putting up a .663 OPS against him. He did, however, strike out lefties at a higher rate, which seems to indicate his changeup is solid. Because he is a reliever, and because he has a somewhat alarming lack of K’s at a higher level, he only receives a C and not a C+

Ceiling: Geoff Geary. Evangelista was a 26th round pick in 2004, and if you can find a Geoff Geary-esque pitcher, ie, a guy who can give you 65 innings of a bit above league average ball in the bullpen on the cheap, you’re doing well for yourself. Evangelista isn’t going to overwhelm hitters, but if he can keep guys off balance and improve slightly against LH batters, he will be a viable option in the 6th/7th inning in 2008 at the big league level. He will be 25 in 2007, so he needs to head to AAA and put up solid numbers.

Floor: A floater between AAA/MLB. Think more along the lines of Clay Condrey. He may be asked to pitch a few innings, then get sent down the next day to make room on the roster.

Conclusion: 2007 should tell us which side of the spectrum Evangelista is closer to. If he improves against LHB, he may even get an emergency callup at some point in 2007. He’s never going to overpower guys, and because he pitches to contact, he’s probably going to always see swings in his performance, depending on the defense behind him. Right now, he isn’t on anyone’s radar, but he could prove to be a useful piece. These are the exact types of players every successful organization has though, the late round pick who doesn’t overpower, but can contribute and do so cheaply. I’ll give him a 40% chance of becoming Geoff Geary, a 70% chance of becoming Clay Condrey, and a 40% chance of never making it out of the minors. We should know more about his chances at this time next year, but for now, he’s one to watch in 2007.

Prospect Grades: Jaramillo, Bourn, Happ, Segovia

Let’s roll right along with the grades.

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Jaramillo, Jason, C (age 24): Grade = C+

While Germano was tough to grade, Jaramillo was even tougher. He’s really a tale of two prospects, or at least we thought so prior to Chris Kline’s comments a few weeks ago. Jaramillo was always applauded for his defensive work, but that aspect of his game was called into question in the Arizona Fall League this season. Offensively, he’s league average, almost across the board. League average in the minors isn’t necessarily a good thing, and the fact that he was 23, a college player, at AA and struggling is not a good thing. That said, he had a strong (relatively speaking) season in 2005 at Lakewood, where he had an .806 OPS. The problem is, if he isn’t a strong defensive catcher, he’ll never be more than a backup. I’m willing to give it a season before making the final judgement on his defensive abilities.

Ceiling:  If his AFL defense was just a hiccup and his defense is still strong, his ceiling is probably Yadier Molina. Molina is basically a .675 OPS guy with a rocket arm and great game calling skills. Right now, it doesn’t look like Jaramillo will hit much more than that at the big league level, but if his defense is what we thought prior to the last few months, he can be an everyday catcher at the big league level, especially in an organization that is devoid of blue chip catching prospects, and especially since the organization is apparently anti-Carlos Ruiz.

Floor: His floor is, unfortunately, as a AAA career catcher. You’d think he’s the type of guy who’ll get a shot either way, simply because of how poor the catching position really is across baseball, but if his defense is simply average, no team will carry him as a starter, and most teams probably won’t look at him as even a reliable backup.

Conclusion: My conclusion is, 2007 will tell us a lot about Jaramillo going forward. Up until the report on his defense in the AFL, I was fairly sure he’d be able to reach his ceiling, but now I’m not so sure. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a .280/.350/.450 guy at the big league level, but not many catchers are. But, the key is his defense. If he’s strong defensively, he can hit .250/.320/.400 and be tucked away in the 8th spot, as long as he’s throwing out 35% of base runners and handling the young pitchers well. Right now, I’d say he’s got a 65% chance of reaching his ceiling. I think there’s a better chance his defense is for real than not, but I want to see for sure in 2007. I think he’s got an 85% chance of his hitting his floor at worst, meaning a 15% chance his just out of baseball in 4 years. Again, it all hinges on defense. If his defense collapses, so too will his baseball career, but if the strong arm remains, he’ll probably hang around AAA/MLB for a while. Hey, if Todd Pratt can, why can’t Jason?

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Bourn, Michael, OF (age 24) Grade = B-

I tossed around the idea of giving Bourn a C+, then when looking at his numbers again, actually tossed around the idea of giving him a straight B. So the only logical thing to do was go right in the middle and just live with it. His age 23 season was a tale of two seasons, as he put up a fairly pedestrian .715 OPS at Reading but then responded with a .796 OPS at Scranton. We know a few things about Bourn: He is never going to hit for power of any kind, he’s fast, and he has above average plate discipline, the degree of the latter is the biggest question mark going forward. In the low minors, his plate discipline was fantastic, but as he’s climbed the ladder, it’s become merely a tick or two above average. By all accounts, he’s a fine center fielder and his speed would be even better utilized at a corner spot, but he’ll never hit enough there to warrant his defense. The one constant in his game has been his ability to steal bases at a high percentage, and if used properly, he’ll always have a use at the major league level. The problem is, and I’m sure this is something the Phillies consider a lot, he’s been inconsistent offensively, and I’m not sure anyone really knows what to expect out of him next. His AA production probably didn’t merit the jump to AAA, but when he was promoted, he actually elevated his game. At the plate, he’s probably a C+ prospect, on the weight of his ability to get on base. On the bases, he’s an A- prospect, but that doesn’t carry nearly the weight of his bat. In the field, he’s a B+ fielder, but again, his usefulness, as an everyday player at least, will only come in CF. Add it all up, and he receives a B- from me.

Ceiling: The most common comparison I see to Bourn made by others is Juan Pierre, but I disagree there. All of Pierre’s success is tied to his batting average, and he never has been one to draw lots of walks or strike out much, while Bourn does plenty of both. I think a better parallel is Luis Castillo, with a lot more strikeouts and in CF, not 2B. If he turns into a Castillo-esque player in CF, he can be an everyday leadoff hitter as long as his defense allows him to stay in CF, hitting around .275/.375/.375, stealing 45-50 bases a year with a 75-80% success rate.

Floor:  One of the reasons I gave him a B- and not a C+ is that I think he’s going to be major leaguer for the next 10 years. That said, if his OB% doesn’t stay in the .360-.380 range at the highest level, he’ll be nothing more than a 5th OF who is used to pinch run and play late inning defense. Every team needs a guy like that, especially with a turtle like Pat Burrell in the OF.

Conclusion:  Bourn was the easiest of the three guys I graded so far. We know his strengths, we know his weaknesses, it’s just a matter of seeing what he does in 2007 to figure out if he’s going to be closer to his ceiling or his floor. With Rowand and Victorino, both on the right side of 30, there’s no need to rush Bourn into a starting role. He was skipped over Clearwater, but now has 1000+ AB at AA and above, so he’s gotten his time in. If he makes the club as the 5th OF, he could be the first choice to fill in at CF if something were to happen to Rowand, and who knows, he might not give the spot back, or he may flop and return to his 5th OF spot. Or, the Phillies could choose to send him to Ottawa to start the season and wait to make a decision on him till closer to next season, depending on what happens near the trade deadline. Right now, I’d say he’s about 60% chance to reach his ceiling, and has an 80% chance to reach his floor, with a 20% chance he’s never more than a AAAA player. His speed and defense mean, barring some disaster, that he’ll always have a use at the major league level for some team. If a guy like Joey Gathright, who can’t hit at all, is kept at the big league level and given somewhat regular AB’s because of his speed, Bourn will get there too.

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Happ, James, LHP (age 24) Grade = B+

Happ was close, really close, to getting an A-, but what held him back is his walk rate. Right now, it’s not a problem, but it wasn’t a strength at AA, so I’m going to hold off on giving him an A- for now. He has developed the reputation as the typical soft tossing lefty, but he’s added 3-4 mph to an already good fastball, and now sits in the 91-93 range, which is quite solid for a LHP. His changeup is an above average pitch, his breaking ball probably average, but has potential and should improve. He was great at high A Clearwater, and even better at AA Reading, striking out 158 in 154 innings. He did all of his work at age 23 this season, so while his A+ numbers take a bit of a knock as he was on the high end of prospect age for the FSL, his performance at AA was right in line, age-wise. His hit rate was about 15% above average at Reading, his K rate over 25% above average, but his walk rate was about 5% below average at AA after being well above average at A+. That drop off probably isn’t uncommon, but I’m going to wait and see what he responds with at AAA Ottawa. Looking at his three true outcomes, he passes with flying colors in regards to his K rate, he’s just fine in his HR rate, and his walk rate is still a tick or two above average overall. His control was merely average in 2004 and 2005, so we’ll see where he ends up there in 2007 before giving him an A- or straight A. At this point, with the injury to Mathieson, he’s the closest to a “sure thing” in terms of making the big leagues and contributing, at some level.

Ceiling: I’m not going to make Tom Glavine comparisons, those serve no purpose. If his walk rate ends up in the 2.65-2.80 range at the MLB level, and he can maintain a K rate in the neighborhood of 7.50-8.00 at the highest level, his ceiling is as a #2 pitcher. That may seem like a big thing to say, considering he hasn’t torn up most prospect charts, but at some point, you have to look at a guy’s numbers and stop worrying about how “dynamic” his stuff is. Happ has a good pitcher’s body, he has a deceptive delivery, and he now has above average velocity, along with good secondary pitches and the makings of a real good changeup. While his chances of becoming a #2 aren’t as good as, say, Cole Hamels or a guy with electric stuff, he’s put up the results so far at every level, and that has to be taken into account.

Floor:  I’m setting his floor as a #5 starter. I really don’t see a need for him to move to the bullpen at any point. He was a good pitcher in college, and he’s been a really good starter during his entire pro career. The only way he’ll be forced to the pen, in my opinion, is if he can’t stay healthy. In 2005, that was sort of the case, but he was just fine in 2006. If his secondary pitches only become average, his strong groundball tendencies and his fastball should allow him to be a back of the rotation guy, capable of pitching 180 innings of 4.35-4.60 ball. On most every team, that’s good enough for the #5 spot.

Conclusion:  In 2006, Happ became one of my favorite prospects. He’s a tireless worker, he understands HOW to pitch, and his stuff is now catching up to his aptitude. If his new-found velocity stays and he can consistently work at 91 while ramping it up to 93, he’s Cole Hamels with a changeup a notch lower. That’s huge praise, and of course he may flame out or just become a below average major leaguer, but I think the tools are there. He handled AA with ease at age 23, and will probably start at Ottawa, his age 24 season. If he mows down AAA, which based on the level of talent between AA and AAA, he probably should, he’ll more than likely get a shot to start 2008 in the big league rotation. I put his odds of reaching his ceiling at 40%, because frankly, there aren’t a lot of guys you can pencil in as “bona-fide #2 starters” on a Championship caliber team, but Happ could very well surprise a ton of people. I’m giving him a 95% chance at hitting his floor, with only a 5% chance of him not making it in the bigs at some level. This kid is for real, and I think we’ll see that in the next year.

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Segovia, Zach, RHP (age 23/24 in April) Grade = B

I struggled with this one too, as part of me thinks Zach should also be a B+ prospect, but kind of like Germano yesterday, I’m worried about the strikeout rate. I hate to harp on it, but the ability to get swings and misses is a huge indicator going forward. Segovia, who had Tommy John surgery in 2004, appears all the way back. His command is generally outstanding, as seen in his 2.02 BB/9 rate at AA Reading in 2006. Most pitchers struggle with control the season after TJ surgery, but Segovia “struggled” to a 2.99 BB/9 rate in 2005 while recovering, which really speaks to his outstanding ability to locate his pitches. He’s another guy with strong groundball tendencies, and he allowed only 10 HR in 156 innings this season. The problem is, again, trying to figure out how many guys he’ll strike out as he rises the pyramid and eventually reaches the majors. His hit rate has been fine, about 15% above league average across the two levels in 2006, so he’s getting his outs, but you have to think that number will drop at the major league level. He’s been better than 50% above league average in terms of walks allowed, and not to beat a dead horse, but that’s fantastic. He had a 7.48 K/9 rate at Clearwater, and it dipped to 6.31 K/9 at AA. Now here’s the thing. 6.31 is about average at the MLB level for qualified starting pitchers, ie, guys that throw 160+ innings a year. If he averages 6.3 K/9 at the MLB level, I have no doubts he can be a solid SP. The problem is, 6.3 K/9 at AA doesn’t translate to 6.3 K/9 at the MLB level. If he dips down to the 5.0 range, he’s going to be tough to project and tough to count on. As he doesn’t turn 24 till April, he’s right in line with where he should be, which will more than likely be AAA. He may be the first call up (other than Happ) in the event of an injury in Philly.

Ceiling:  As with all groundball pitchers, it’s really tough to say. The easy comp for groundball guys is Chien-Ming Wang, but Wang has a 93-95 mph fastball, I’m not sure Segovia is quite there. Wang’s peripherals in the minors compare very similar to Segovia: 2.04 BB/9, 7.06 K/9, 0.46 HR/9. The difference, though, is that Wang doesn’t just have GB tendencies, he’s a maniac, getting over 3 groundballs to every fly ball. Segovia only generated 1.7 GB to every FB. So, I think we have to aim a little lower. I’d say a safer bet, when considering his ceiling, is as a solid #4 starter, capable of 200 innings, and anywhere from a 3.90 to 4.50 ERA, depending on how good his defense is behind him.

Floor:  A 7th inning reliever in the Geoff Geary mold. If he can’t strike guys out and doesn’t develop the violent sinker of C-M Wang, he certainly appears capable of developing into a reliable 7th inning guy. He’s better against RHB, but lefties didn’t kill him, so it’s not as if he’s ticketed for the ROOGY role. His hard sinker could serve him well against both, and if his changeup jumps up a grade on the scale and becomes a solid above average pitch, he may even look at setup man duties as a possibility. Low K guys in the late innings are scary, but Segovia seems like a quality competitor.

Conclusion:  The future for Zach is good, regardless of the role he’s going to play. Like I said above, it’s going to come down to his ability to either A) improve his strikeout rate or B) Get even more groundballs than he does now. If his ratio is, say, 2 or 2.3 to 1, he can be the middle of the rotation starter, probably a capable #3 on most teams, and a #4 on the best teams. If the K’s don’t come, there’s no reason he can’t be a capable 5th starter or a middle to late inning reliever. His conditioning could be an issue, he’s a big boy, but we’ll wait and see on that. With a strong 2007 at AAA, he’ll be in line for a big league job in 2008, and he could see a jump to a B+ prospect in my book…..which I’m sure is his top priority. I put his chances of reaching his ceiling at 55%, his chances of hitting his floor at 90%, meaning basically, I see him as a major leaguer a year from now in some form.

New Feature: Prospect Grades

This is something I wanted to do in the beginning, but I needed to put more time into it, and now that I’ve had some time to tinker, I think I’m ready to begin. Basically, the aim of this is to assign a letter grade to each prospect in the system as an easier way to evaluate and compare guys across levels. I’ve devised a spreadsheet with various formulas in it to help me with this, but it will still include some subjective analysis on my part. Don’t take these grades as a be all end all, or anything of the sort. I have my own system, which I’m sure I’ll be tweaking for quite some time. The idea of assigning a letter grade comes from John Sickels’ approach, but I have no idea how he arrives at his grades, so I’m really only using his general idea.

I don’t want to get into explaining tons of formulas, but here are my basic evaluation methods. I’m going to base most of my grades on performance, relative to the league average, and then consider age and position. For example, when looking at a guy like Mike Costanzo, I’m going to look at his performance against those in the FSL, then consider a multiplier for his position, 3B, then consider his age in relation to his league. Defensive analysis is tough, even at the ML level, so I’m not going to alter my grade much in that area, but I will consider it and weigh it slightly. I’m not really going to use a player’s tools or what others think he could be, I’m simply going to grade based on what the player has done. I’m going to place a higher weight on 2006 performance, but also consider past performance and other aspects of the player’s body of work/makeup.

Because of my above theory, grades for guys drafted in 2006 will be extremely unstable, so take that as a warning up front. Kyle Drabek, who I’ve raved about in great detail, is going to get a pretty lousy grade, but in a year from now, he’ll have a shot to completely redeem that grade. I think his potential is unlimited, but I’m not really going to grade on potential, more just on what the player has done. My goal is to do a few of these grades per day, and I’ll start at AAA and work my way back, for the reasons I stated above. I’m going to limit the grades to guys who are still prospects or fringe prospects. In other words, I won’t be grading an 8 year minor leaguer in AAA, or a 26 year old in Low A. If I miss anyone after I’ve moved from one level to another, please just make a note in the comments section and I’ll include that player in the next batch of grades. After I’ve made my way through all the levels, I’ll do a cumulative writeup and list every player under each grade, which should give us a nice overview of the level of talent in the system.

I’ve added a category on the left side under the “Features” section where all the entries will be tagged, so if you miss a day or two, you can just click there to see all of the grades. To determine what level to grade the player at, I’m simply going to use the level where he accumulated at least 75% of his AB’s or IP. If he doesn’t have 75% at one level, I’ll take the lower level, as long as it’s more than 45% of his total. One final note. There were really zero legit prospects that spent a long enough time at Scranton this season to qualify here. Ruiz and Roberson are too old, Sanches, Minix and Condrey aren’t “prospects” in the true sense, so I won’t include them. Bourn and Mathieson got the bulk of their playing time at Reading, so they’ll be graded there. The only guy I am going to include from AAA is Germano, but the bulk of his innings came in the Cinci organization. However, Cinci’s AAA team also plays in the IL, so while his numbers might have been affected by the park he pitched in, I’m just going to use his cumulative 2006 numbers to grade him.

For today, we’ll just do Germano’s grade, which will serve as an example, and I’ll give explanations. If you have questions on the process, ask away. Remember, this is just for fun, and my own subjectiveness needs to be taken into consideration.

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Germano, Justin, RHP (age 24): Grade = C+

I made a slight tweak, and because of it, upgraded Germano to a C+ from a C. His peripherals really are a mixed bag. He’s below average in H/9 by about 7%, below average in K’s by about 30%, he’s 1% above average in HR/9, and he’s a whopping 128% above league average in BB/9. Now, obviously that doesn’t make him 92% above league average, and this is where the subjectivity comes into play. Control is a huge issue going forward, but you have to consider he is basically 36% below average when it comes to his hit rate, K rate and HR rate, and he’s much much better than league average in walk rate. Couple that together, and I think he’s right around league average, slightly above. On my scale, 0%-4% above league average is a C+ prospect, and that’s where I’m sticking with Germano.

Ceiling: Germano’s ceiling probably sits at 5th starter, making 30 starts a year. He doesn’t have the pure stuff to be a middle of the rotation kind of guy, but could see time at the back end of the rotation.
Floor: His current role, a AAA starter.
Conclusion: Germano is probably better suited playing in a big park like PETCO or SAFECO and with a good defense behind him. I’d say he’s got a 40% chance of reaching his ceiling, he’s got a 40% chance of becoming a major league reliever/swingman, and there’s a 20% chance he languishes in the minors for the rest of his career. He’s a strike thrower, but lacks the stuff needed to overpower guys. He might not be the best fit in Philly for the reasons above, but with a strong AAA season in 2007, could be included in a trade to a better suited team, where he might be closer to reaching his ceiling.

Player Profile: Dan Brauer

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Another day, another player profile for your enjoyment. Today we’ll chronicle one of my personal favorites from the 2006 draft, LHP Dan Brauer. The Phillies selected Brauer #187 overall in the 6th round out of Northwestern University. If you remember from an earlier entry, the Phillies nabbed one of the most successful pitchers in Northwestern history two years prior in James Happ. Brauer, though, is a different case, as he was technically a senior, but with a year of eligibility left after missing all of 2005 with labrum surgery while Happ was a true junior. Brauer compiled a strong three years at Northwestern, finishing his career with this line:

236 IP, 3.24 ERA, 218 H, 103 BB, 230 K, 13 HR

Less than a hit per inning, a somewhat high walk rate, a solid K rate, and a very very good HR rate is pretty good production at a good school in a good conference, but you have to remove the top layer and look closer at his numbers. Looking at his numbers, year by year, give you a better idea

2003: 54.0 IP, 3.50 ERA, 8.33 H/9, 5.33 BB/9, 7.33 K/9, 0.00 HR/9
2004: 89.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 8.06 H/9, 2.67 BB/9, 9.67 K/9, 0.50 HR/9
2005: Did Not Pitch (more on this in a minute)
2006: 92.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 8.55 H/9, 4.37 BB/9, 8.74 K/9, 0.78 HR/9

So, from his freshman year to his sophomore year, he improved across the board except he allowed 5 HR in 2004 as opposed to zero in 2003, but he also pitched 30 more innings. He missed the entire 2005 season with labrum surgery. For those who follow the injury side of the game, the “l word” is the scariest word in the baseball injury dictionary. For an explanation of it, read this amazing Will Carroll article on the subject that he wrote in Slate a few years back. The rate of successful return from labrum surgery is literally less than 5%, which really meant that Brauer was battling more than uphill in 2006, he was virtually climbing straight up the mountain. However, he was strong enough to pitch the most innings of his college career, post hit and walk rates that didn’t suggest he was gone as a pitcher, post impressive strikeout and home run totals, win Big Ten Conference Pitcher of the Year and throw a no-hitter against Michigan State……not a bad return. Much like Tommy John surgery, which has a much higher “survival” rate, it takes time after labrum surgery to regain your control and feel for pitching.

A number of factors, including the shoulder surgery, his year of eligibility, and his lack of “dominating stuff” like that of his teammate George Kontos, probably led to his slide to the Phillies. He wasted little time signing for $150,000 and soon reported to Batavia. He showed the Phillies he was fully recovered and ready to go by posting a 1.96 ERA in 55 innings, allowing 39 hits (1 home run) and 18 walks to 65 strikeouts and was promoted to Lakewood, where he made 3 appearances, giving up 4 runs in 8 innings, allowing 10 hits and 5 walks to go along with 10 strikeouts. All in all, a huge season for Brauer, not only in his numbers, but in recovering from the most deadly injury a pitcher can have.

Clearly, the Phillies feel like they got a steal in Brauer in the 6th round. As I mentioned above, he wasn’t the most heralded pitcher on his team, falling behind Yankees draft pick George Kontos, who has a livelier fastball, but is also probably further away from making an impact at the big league level, and who might end up as only a reliever based on a lack of secondary pitches. What Brauer lacks in shear velocity he makes up for with his command and pitchability. Some people aren’t as high on him as me, and suggest he is ticketed to become a reliever in the near future, but I tend to disagree there. Before his surgery, his command was solid, and he was striking out people with relative ease. His control was a bit shaky in college in 2006, but that’s to be expected in trying to recover from major arm surgery. He doesn’t allow many home runs, and based on his short 60 inning sample from pro ball, he had over a 2:1 groundball to flyball ratio, though he did allow his share of line drives. His splits don’t indicate lefthanded specialist, as he had a .779 OPS allowed to LH batters and a .555 OPS allowed to RH batters. As I’ve emphasized in past write-ups, when you see a pitcher with better numbers against his opposite side, it’s normally an indication of a strong changeup and a not so strong breaking ball. In Brauer’s case, it might be just him getting unlucky, as his BABIP against LH batters was an abnormally high .412, with the “average” being somewhere between .275-.300.

So, what to expect in 2007. It’s my belief Brauer will remain a starter until he either A.) Struggles at a higher level, or B.) The Phillies deem it necessary to bring him up to the bigs and use him in relief due to injury/shortage of arms. Normally teams will leave guys in the rotation until there is a need to move them, and in Brauer’s case, there doesn’t appear to be a need to move him. He handled short season Batavia with ease, and could very well be skipped over Lakewood and go straight to Clearwater, depending on the rotation situations at both spots. If he continues to regain his control, which was ok at 3.29 BB/9, there’s no reason to believe he won’t move quickly through the system. He could end up in Reading either at the end of 2007 or mid 2008, and who knows from there, depending on the role the Phillies have in mind for him. Having pitched with extreme pain in his arm in 2004, we know he’s a fierce competitor, and if fully healthy, I think his future is quite bright going forward.

Finally, we have some video on him. If the video messes up the formatting of this page, I’ll remove it from the page and just link it, so if it disappears momentarily or the page looks funny, have no fear, I’m on the case.

His fastball sits in the high 80’s here, but some reports indicated he was in the 90-91 range near the end of the season as he was regaining full strength in his arm. He features the slow 69-72 mph curveball, ala Randy Wolf, which he can throw for strikes, as well as his slider and change, which we don’t really see on the video. The thing that I think is most important, from watching him pitch, is that he has a very simple, repeatable delivery which doesn’t appear to put much stress on his arm. He doesn’t seem to fly out of control or have a lot of extraneous movements, which probably bodes well for him going forward when considering consistency.