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