Monthly Archives: February 2007

Phillies beat FSU 12-4

I felt like now would be a good time to explain what I’m going to be doing now that we have actual games to follow. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a wrap-up of the prospect grades, and then I’m going to focus my attention on getting in gear for the season. As of now, I’m going to handle all of the writeups/previews, but I’m also going to be looking to enlist the services of a few ambitious contributors to help in this task as the season progresses. I’ll give more on that at a later date, so stay tuned. Basically, once the minor league season begins, I’ll be writing two posts every day, one recapping the previous night’s games, and one previewing the upcoming day’s game action. I figured I’d use the Phillies/FSU game as a template. Here is how the review post will look every day

The Phillies downed Florida State by a 12-4 margin tonight. Click here for the box score. Prospect action of note:

Kyle Drabek: 2 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K
Alfredo Simon: 2 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K
Joe Bisenius: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Jim Ed Warden: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K

Michael Bourn: 2 AB, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 RBI, 1 R,

Pretty simple, huh? But, it will give you everything you need to know about the previous night’s game. If anything of note occurred, I’ll make a note of it, but I’m mainly going to be highlighting the performance of actual prospects in the game, not roster filler guys. As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to also try and recruit some people to help do game writeups of games they attended, things they noticed, pictures they took, etc etc. I want as many contributions to the cause as I can get. Also, I’ll do a “prospect hot list” every Monday, highlighting the best/worst performers of the past week, and other little features like that, as well as passing along articles/links and all of that other good stuff. I’m really excited about this season, and I’m hoping this site can develop into a useful minor league resource for all things Phillies prospects. But, I’m going to really need the help of those of you who visit every day, and I really hope that we can foster some solid discussion here and learn some stuff as the season progresses.

Prospect Grades: Williams, Monasterios, Bastardo

Today is the final day of new prospect grades. I’m going to go back and go over all of the past grades, see if anything needs adjusting, and then tomorrow, I’ll do a recap of all the grades, breaking them down in tiers. If you feel like I missed anyone, please drop me a line in the comments or via email so I can grade those players before doing my recap.

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Williams, Jermaine, OF (age 20) Grade = D

Williams, the Phillies 7th round pick in 2005, looks like a complete bust. Considered a raw project, he debuted with a .603 OPS in 2005, but completely bombed in 2006, hitting .079 with a .114 OB% and an .092 slugging %. I can’t even put into words how bad those numbers are, but if I did use words, they’d have to be censored. As he only turns 20 in March, I guess it’s not the end of the road yet, but really, what can we even expect from him in 2007?

2007 Outlook: Grim. Bad. Not good. Those are the words I’d use to describe his 2007 outlook. Who knows, he might turn it around, but don’t count on it. He’ll be somewhere in short season ball, probably a 3rd year in the GCL.

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Carlos Monasterios, RHP (age 21) Grade = B

Monasterios, acquired in the Bobby Abreu deal, is another in the line of young arms to watch in 2007. Though already 20 years old, Monasterios was pitching in the US for the first time in 2006, and put up solid numbers overall between the GCL Yankees and the GCL Phillies teams. He pitched 45 innings, posting a 3.20 ERA, allowing 41 hits and 6 walks to go with his 35 strikeouts. Obviously, his command is the first thing to jump out at you, and his K/BB rate is outstanding for a raw pitcher. Normally I’d deduct points for him being 20 in the GCL, but because it was his first pro season, you cut him a bit of slack. I don’t have much in the way of a scouting report on him, but he does have a good fastball, by all accounts, and will just need to work on his approach to pitching and refining his secondary stuff.

2007 Outlook: Carlos just turns 21 in March, so 2007 will be his age 21 season. He’s a likely candidate to head to Williamsport, and he should remain a starting pitcher for a while until the Phillies feel he can’t handle the role.

Bastardo, Antonio, LHP (age 21) Grade = C+

Bastardo, making his US debut in 2006, pitched well, all things considered, and showed a bit of promise. The Phillies were cautious with him, allowing him to pitch only 23 innings, mostly in relief, but he allowed only 20 hits, while walking 14 and striking out 27. The walks are obviously a concern, but the K rate is solid, and he allowed fewer hits than IP in his debut, so that’s a positive. I know little about his past, and I know little about what he throws, hence my cautious grading of him, but he could prove to be a useful bullpen arm in a few years, or he could prove to be little to nothing at all.

2007 Outlook: A repeat of the GCL is likely, as he learns to harness his stuff and acclimate himself to life in the United States. His control and command will be key, but if he can retain his strikeout numbers, positive things could be on the horizon.

Prospect Grades: Roth, Drabek, Correa

Let’s get to it..

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(photo courtesy of PhilliesDraft.com)

Roth, Rob, RHP (age 18) Grade = C

The Phillies probably considered themselves lucky to sign Roth, their 19th round pick in 2006, because he seemed like the perfect candidate to head to college and improve his draft stock. His velocity jumped into the low 90’s in the spring, but possibly because he was in Idaho, he wasn’t heavily scouted. His debut was somewhat of a mixed bag. He only allowed 33 hits in 33.1 IP, but he allowed an eye popping 31 walks to only 24 strikeouts. Clearly, he’s very rough around the edges, but the Phillies like his arm. Because he’s only 6’1, 200lbs, it’s tough to say whether he’s going to grow a bunch more, but I suppose it is possible, especially since he just turned 18 in August.

2007 Outlook: Roth is, as you can see by his numbers, a project. He’ll likely repeat the GCL, and with a strong showing, could head to Williamsport in 2008. He gets a C now, but he could greatly improve or fall off a cliff, just like most really young, really raw prospects.

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Drabek, Kyle, RHP (age 19) Grade = B-

Ah, the name everyone has been waiting for. I might be Drabek’s biggest fan, but his debut doesn’t warrant more than a B- grade, in fact, on straight numbers, he warrants much lower, but I had to make adjustments there. You all know about the 7.71 ERA, the 33 hits and 11 walks in 23 innings. However, you also know that he threw a TON of pitches in his senior season, that he signed a little later in the summer, and that he had a ton of baggage tossed on his back before he even played an inning of pro baseball. For all of the negatives we heard about him, in the last four months, it’s been mostly positives. He reportedly responded to instruction during the FIL, and there have been numerous cliche-filled articles written about his promising spring training and his experiences with Jamie Moyer and others. I, personally, wasn’t worried about the off the field stuff, but others were. If he truly has put that stuff behind him, or at least way onto the back burner, then his grade should greatly improve in 2007.

2007 Outlook: It was originally thought he’d start 2007 in extended spring training and then go to Williamsport, but it now looks like he’ll likely start at Lakewood in the rotation, barring some unforeseen disaster in the next month or so. If he is focused and ready to show everyone what he can do, he’s capable of a big season.

Correa, Heitor, RHP (age 17) Grade = B-

If you don’t recognize the name Heitor Correa, make a mental note. Looking at his 2006 GCL numbers, they don’t look inspiring; 23 IP, 7.83 ERA, 35 H, 7 BB, 14 K. But, when you add the qualifier “turned 17 on August 25th”, it makes a bit more sense. Correa put up most of those numbers at age 16, a pretty remarkable thing really. Correa was signed as an amateur free agent out of Brazil and was brought to the GCL to work with pitching coach Carlos Arroyo. At 16, he’s already 6’3, 200lbs, and has room to grow a bit more. And here’s the best part, he can already hit 91-92 mph, though not consistently. The Phillies love his intelligence (trilingual) and arm, and think he could be something special. He’ll repeat the GCL at age 17, and I have a feeling all of his peripheral numbers will look better at this time next season.

2007 Outlook: Caution is the optimum word here. Correa is the equivalent of a high school junior, so there is no reason to rush him or pile a ton of innings on him. He’ll likely get about 40 innings in this season on a tight pitch count every time out. His secondary stuff is non-existent at this point, but the raw tools are there.

Prospect Grades: Freeman, Olson

Another snowy Monday morning, but baseball will be here before you know it. We’re winding down the grades here, just a few more to go. Once I finish, I’m going to do some possible grade revisions, as well as go back and cover anyone I may have missed. So again, if you’ve been reading, or if you haven’t, check out all the prospect grades and let me know who I may have passed over.

Freeman, Jarrod, RHP (age 19) Grade = B

Freeman, the Phillies 11th round pick in June, had a very impressive display, and is one of those guys I’m really excited to watch in 2007. Equipped with a near perfect projectable pitching frame (say that 5 times fast), he’s already 6’3, 195 lbs and just turned 19 in November. As with most young pitchers, he’s much more projection and speculation than substance, but for his debut, he pitched very well. In 45.1 IP in the GCL, he posted a 3.38 ERA, allowing 47 hits and only 5 walks to his 37 strikeouts. His fastball was registering in the low 90’s, and he also features a good curveball and an advanced changeup, considering his age.

2007 Outlook: Because he didn’t pitch in a baseball hotbed (Utah), and because he is only 19 and still growing, the Phillies will probably be cautious with him, keeping him in extended spring training and then sending him for a repeat of the GCL or possibly to short season Williamsport.

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Olson, Matt, RHP (age 20) Grade = B-

Olson, in his repeat of the GCL, showed an improvement in his already solid command, and also allowed fewer hits per 9, despite posting a higher ERA than in his 2005 debut. A 13th round draft pick in 2005, he showed solid progress this season, despite seeing his K/9 rate dip a bit from it’s already low 5.93 in 2005 to 4.57 in 2006. However, this isn’t uncommon for raw high school kids learning how to pitch as opposed to just throwing. Olson has a large 6’4, 200lb frame, and could add a bit more velocity as he continues to grow. His control is good, his hit rate dropped, but he needs to start setting up hitters and finishing them off, but that will probably come with him improving his secondary stuff and developing his curve into a true out pitch.

2007 Outlook: Olson is still learning how to pitch as opposed to throw. His fastball already sits in the low 90’s and could actually improve as he continues to add muscle to his frame. He may eventually become a reliever full time, and his power arsenal would certainly fit, but the Phillies will probably resist that temptation until his secondary pitches prove they can’t develop. After two seasons in the GCL, he’ll probably start the season in Williamsport.

Two more small signings

The Phillies have signed LHP Jake Ociesa and RHP Mike McTamney, and based on this article, could sign a few more players before the end of the camp. Ociesa is 6’5 and appears to feature a low 90’s fastball, McTamney is a 6’1 righty, but I know nothing of his stuff.

Ociesa pitched one season (2003) at Mississippi State before transferring to Murray State for his final 3 seasons. He struggled in both 2004 and 2005, and pitched only 1 inning in 2006. The Phillies must have seen something in him, or think they can fix him, but he costs next to nothing on a minor league deal, so why not? As a lefty, if he’s throwing in the low to mid 90’s with a mid 80’s breaking ball, he clearly has SOME talent, maybe they can get something out of him.

McTamney, 24,  spent three years at Wagner College, struggling in 2003 and 2004, before putting up a 3.74 ERA in 74.2 IP in 2005. He had decent control/K numbers, but allowed a ton of hits. He showed some promise in the Golden League in 2005 and 2006, but I have no idea how to translate statistics like that.

Venezuelan Summer League Prospects

The Phillies in Latin America

A strong Latin American presence is a crucial element of building a strong major league franchise in 2007. In 2006 about 25% of major league baseball players were either foreign born or born in Puerto Rico. That percentage is sure to increase as more than 40% of all minor league baseball players under contract are foreign born. While the price to sign the top Latin American prospects has increased in recent years, the average price to sign a player with baseball tools is much less than in the U.S. player draft. Any team that fails to take advantage of Latin America as a source for players is a team likely to have a mediocre minor league system.

The Phillies were one of the early teams to be active in signing players from the Dominican Republic in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Players signed by the Phillies included Juan Samuel, Julio Franco, and George Bell. After the Phillies’ two World Series appearances in the early 1980s, the team took a step back from Latin America as the price of signing top prospects went up. The Phillies most likely cut their player acquisition budgets (as they cut most of their budgets) in the 15 years prior to the opening of Citizen Bank Park. This shortsighted decision is most likely one of the larger reasons behind a series of mediocre Phillies teams from the late 1980s through the new millennium.

While many fans criticized Ed Wade’s tenure as General Manager of the team, he must be given proper credit for returning the Phillies to Latin America. During the later years the team opened new complexes in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic and began signing a significant number of players again. In addition, Mike Arbuckle hired the well-regarded Sal Artiaga to run the team’s international program. While the team has not bid on the highest priced Latin American talent in recent years, they have begun to sign some prospects for bonuses in the $200,000 to $500,000 range. While the most expensive signing (Carlos Rodriguez at $700,000) has not worked out, some other mid-level signings such as Robinson Tejeda and Carlos Silva have panned out. The team’s current top prospect, Carlos Carrasco, signed for $300,000 out of Venezuela in late 2003.

The Phillies currently have two Latin American minor league teams.The Venezuelan Summer League team (VSL) won the league title in 2006. The VSL has only 10 teams in the league representing 13 major league organizations, so the fact that the Phillies have a strong team there is a significant plus. The league plays a schedule of around 72 games starting in mid-May. The league is open to players from all Latin American countries other than the Dominican Republic (where all major league teams have entries)

The Dominican Summer League (DSL) has at least 31 teams with a couple of major league teams fielding multiple teams. Players are typically from the Dominican Republic only, though teams without a VSL team will often send their Venezuelan prospects there. The league plays a 66 game schedule with the first games usually taking place on the first weekend in June.

Both Latin American leagues probably play at a level between high school and U.S. Rookie Leagues (GCL). There will usually be 4-5 players on each team that will eventually get promoted to the U.S. leagues, but the majority of players are not good enough. The Phillies tend to sign a large number of inexpensive prospects in the hope that some of those 16-year-olds develop tools in the future. It is possible that more DSL and VSL players will make it to the U.S. in the future as the national immigration visa rules have changed regarding minor league players. Previously teams were limited to 37 H1B visas for minor leaguers not on the 40-man major league roster. That rule has changed to incorporate minor leaguers under the more expansive and unlimited type of visa. Thus teams do not have to limit the number of players they bring over. In reality, however, the Phillies will probably not change their habits a great deal. There are probably not too many players on each squad that are good enough to bring over. At least the Phillies will not have to abide by an arbitrary limit when making decisions on mid-level prospects (such as the release of Australian prospect Tim Auty from 2 different major league teams because of the visa limits).

This article will take a quick look at some of the better VSL prospects from last year’s team with a later article taking a look at the DSL prospects. One note of caution when looking at VSL and DSL stats. The best players are often the youngest players without the best stats. If a player is 21 years old and still playing in these leagues he is not likely a prospect. Players are often signed as early as age 16, making projection of tools a huge unknown. Sometimes the better prospects are players like Elizardo Ramirez, a pitcher without any dominant tools who simply had great control and knew how to pitch. Finally, it should be noted that the best prospects (like Carlos Carrasco) often do not play in the VSL or DSL at all. They come straight to the United States where the facilities and instruction is better. New signee Freddy Galvis, a 16-year-old SS, made his U.S. debut in the instructional league and is likely to also make his Phillies debut with the GCL (Gulf Coast League Rookie Level) team. In addition, a player’s advancement if often dependent on their language skills, as cultural adaptation is a significant hurdle for even the best prospects.

VSL Prospects

Hitters (age as of April 1, 2007)

Redne Fuenmayor (age 20) – Fuenmayor led the team in hitting with a .325 average, playing mostly 3B (5 games also at 2B). He is a little old for a prospect as he turns 21 in May. At 5’10” and 190 pounds he is also not the type of player one would project for lots of power in the future. He showed limited doubles power with 14 2B but only 2 HR. He had decent control of the strike zone with 20 BB, leading to an OPS of .867.

Francisco Murillo (age 20) – Murillo is a catcher/corner infielder who was also the biggest power threat on the VSL team, hitting .299 with 10 HR and 56 RBI. Murillo also drew 37 BB to help compile a .402 OBP, second best on the team. His OPS was also a healthy .904 with his team-leading .502 slugging percentage. The team appears to have moved Murillo from catcher where he played mostly in 2005. In 2006 he only caught 3 games while playing 44 at 1B and another 14 at 3B.A right-handed bat with decent size (6’0”, 206), Murillo is likely to make his GCL debut in 2007.

Bruno Doy (age 19) – Doy is one of the 4 Brazilian prospects signed by the Phillies a year ago. He played the entire 2006 season at age 18 and held his own in the VSL. An outfielder with good size (6’1”, 206), Doy hit .262 with good power (17 extra base hits in only 149 AB) and patience (31 BB). Given the cultural adjustments of being one of the few Portuguese speakers on a Spanish-speaking team, Doy had a great 2006 debut.

Arlon Quiroz (age 20) – Quiroz is a speedy outfielder who played the entire 2006 season at age 19. Quiroz hit .288 but added 41 BBs for an OBP of .396. Quiroz also added 31 SB against only 9 CS to lead the team in that category. While he totaled 18 extra base hits, only 2 of them left the park. Quiroz has a chance to play in the U.S. in 2007, though the large number of toolsy outfielders drafted in 2006 will make playing time hard to find in the GCL outfield in this upcoming season.

Others worth noting – Jaime Morales hit .316 with 19 SB but is too old to be a prospect (age 23 in April). The same also goes for Ben Oviedo who hit .301 last year but turns 22 in April. Jorge Guerra (age 19) and Osmel Reyes (age 18) are two young catchers that did not hit much, but as catchers could always be valued more for their defense. Fabio Muracami is the other Brazilian OF. He did not hit much, but is still young (age 19 in March) and has good size (6’1”, 194). Finally, Harold Garcia (2B/3B, age 20) put up an .876 OPS last year in limited action.

Pitchers (age as of April 1)

Moises Melendez (age 20) – The number one starter for the DSL team, Melendez is a LHP who went 8-2 with a 2.18 ERA (90.2 IP, 72 H, 33 BB, 104 K). Melendez followed up that performance with an uneven season for Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, going 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA (39.2 IP, 36 H, 26 BB, 24 K). While his BB/K ratio took a severe hit in the winter league, he was one of the youngest players there. Melendez is probably the most likely VSL player to merit a promotion to the GCL. While he does not have great size (5’10”, 203) for a pitcher, the fact that he is left handed will get him additional opportunities in the bullpen as well (lefties only hit .095 against him last year in the VSL).

Mauricio Romero (age 20) – Romero was the second best starter on the team, going 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA (83.1 IP, 83 H, 22 BB, 75 K). While Romero has good size (6’3”, 225), his stats show he is more of a control pitcher than Melendez. He only pitched 1 IP of winter ball this year for Zulia, showing he is not as highly regarded as Melendez.

Others worth noting – Victor Diaz (age 17) is young and tall (6’6”, 229), though he has yet to make his debut.Carlos Medrano (age 19) is also tall, projectible (6’8”, 202) and left-handed. He pitched decently in 2006 in limited action (2.41 ERA in 33.2 IP), though his peripherals do not suggest he is a power pitcher. He will get lots of chances to see if he fills out in the future.

Darwin Medina (age 20) led the team in ERA at 2.10 in only 30 IP, though he did notch 40 Ks against only 10 BBs.Sergio Escalona (age 22) is another LHP who was one of the team’s top starters (3-4, 2.17 ERA in 70.2 IP, though is probably too old to be a prospect.Williams Jaspe (age 20) is another huge physical athlete (6’5”, 241) who has pitched in the U.S. instructional league. He needs to start showing results (5.60 ERA) to be considered a prospect.Berman Espinoza (age 19) is a young Nicaraguan RHP with good projectible size (6’3”, 170) and decent results in 2006 (4-4, 2.66 ERA, 40.2 IP, 35 H, 11 BB, 34 K).

Next – The DSL prospects

Some light Saturday morning reading

More of the Jamie Moyer-Kyle Drabek relationship and some other time honored cliches in this piece, and then another nice article about Joe Bisenius and his chance at making the big league bullpen.

Also, I missed this one a few days ago, but the Phillies signed 16 year old Australian outfielder Angus Roeger. I have no idea what kind of player he’ll be, that article is somewhat vague, but the Phillies apparently like his bat. He’s 16, so we’ll check back in a few years.

I need YOUR help

That’s right, YOU, the readers of this here blog. As we get close to the start of the season, guys will start getting assigned to various clubs, non-roster free agents will sign minor league deals, etc etc. I can’t always keep up with every transaction or move, and I can’t read every article. I’m going to create a page at the top, similar to the questions/topics page, where you, the faithful readers, can dump links to stories, post roster assignments/transactions you see, etc etc, and when I get a chance to make the necessary updates, it will make my life easier and make this site more complete. I’m still overwhelmed by the shear number of visitors every day, trust me, I’m trying to crank out the best product I can, but as with most every web site, the content is greatly improved with participation from the readers. Because, well, you are the ones I’m writing this for, not for me.

Also, a few other notes. In the coming days, you’ll notice an article or two appearing here not written by me. I’ve gotten many inquiries about our teams in the Venezuelan Summer League, and it’s an area I really don’t have much expertise in. I’ve enlisted the services of reader AndyB to help write up something on the VSL team,  and I’ve given him free reign to post anything related to that aspect of the Phillies system whenever he can. So, please give him feedback when his stuff appears here and contribute anything you can. Also, once the season starts, I’m going to attempt to get to some games, even though I live in Baltimore, and take plenty of pictures. If you make it out to a game and have a digital camera, I’d love to see your work, and if you’d be interested in sharing, I plan to set up a photo account online to share/host pictures, I’d be more than happy to include yours. If you have questions, just hit the email link on the right hand side of the page and get in contact with me.

I’ll try and toss up a few more grades this weekend, we’re almost near the end. If you notice any that I’ve missed so far (not including guys from the GCL team), please let me know.

Prospect Grades: Mitchell, Warren, Sanchez

We’re nearing the end of the line.

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Mitchell, Derrick, SS (age 20) Grade = C-

Mitchell, the Phillies 23rd round pick in 2005, failed to impress in his repeat of the GCL in 2006. Drafted at age 18, he needed to be cut some slack because of his youth and rawness, but in 2006 he showed little sign of improvement, posting a .610 OPS, compared to his .581 OPS in 2005. He drew a few more walk and knocked a few more extra base hits, but for a kid repeating the lowest league in pro baseball, he really should have done a bit better. Because he just turned 20 in January, we shouldn’t give up on him just yet, but we also shouldn’t expect much of anything going forward. He’ll probably head to Williamsport, but if he doesn’t make drastic improvements, he’ll fall off the prospect radar. He has great athleticism, but he’s going to need to translate that to tangible baseball skills on the field.

2007 Outlook: My guess is, he’ll get his looks at SS at Williamsport, but if his past record is an indication, we shouldn’t expect much. The Phillies felt that he really hadn’t started growing into his body yet, which could be seen as a reason he’s been lagging a bit. If he puts things together, it could happen quickly, or it might not happen at all.

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Warren, TJ, OF (age 18) Grade = C

Warren represents another notch in the Phillies belt in terms of luring toolsy, potential high impact guys away from college out of high school. Warren, who played most of his 2006 GCL campaign at age 17, is already a freak of an athlete, measuring in at 6’4, 200lbs, and the Phillies feel he has more room to fill out as he grows and matures. He struggled mightily in his debut, posting a lowly .532 OPS, but is considered a major product, and will probably spend 2007 and 2008 in short season ball to try and adjust to the pro game. He’s a superior athlete with the potential for bigtime power as well as 20 stolen base potential.

2007 Outlook: Warren is likely to repeat the GCL this season. He will probably need at least two seasons in the GCL/Williamsport before he’s ready for Lakewood. But because he is only 18 now and will not turn 19 till the end of August, he has plenty of time to get things figured out. Warren is certainly in the extremely high risk/very high ceiling category in terms of prospects.

Sanchez, Jesus, C (age 19) Grade = B

Sanchez, acquired in the Bobby Abreu trade, might turn out to be the best player we received in the deal when all is said and done. Signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees in 2004, 2006 was his first year in the US, and he held his own, all things considered. He logged a combined .634 OPS with the Yankees and Phillies, which doesn’t seem overly impressive, but you have to consider the adjustment period needed for a guy playing his first season in a new country, couple that in with him being traded, and it’s logical to assume anyone could have struggled in those conditions. Despite his low OPS, he was rated the 14th best prospect in the GCL by Baseball America, and was lauded as being the best defensive catcher in the league. He has a cannon arm, and is still working on the nuances of the position.

2007 Outlook: Based on nothing scientific, I have a good feeling about Sanchez. He will surely spend 2007 in short season ball, either at the GCL level or at Williamsport. With a solid year, depending who the Phillies take in the draft, he could be starting at Lakewood in 2008. Defensively, he’s probably the most promising prospect in the entire organization.

Prospect Grades: McDonald, Durant, Brown

Before we crank out a few more grades today, head over to minorleaguebaseball.com and check out the interview with Steve Noworyta, Phillies Minor Leagues Director, as he talks about some Phillies pitching prospects and CJ Henry moving from SS to 3B. The interview is located at the top left hand side of the page. Now, onto the grades.

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McDonald, Darin, OF (age 19) Grade = C

McDonald, the Phillies 7th round pick in 2006, was probably seen as a somewhat fortunate sign for the Phillies, as he had signed to play for Yavapai College to play baseball, and he had a football scholarship to Idaho State. Nevertheless, he chose baseball, and he gives the Phillies another high ceiling athlete to go along with the nice crop drafted in 2006. He’s already 6’3, 195 lbs, so he has the frame of a guy who could add quite a bit of muscle, and who is already very athletic. His debut in the GCL wasn’t eye opening, he posted only a .651 OPS in 128 AB over a 31 game span, however, for a raw player experiencing his first taste of pro ball at 18, not the end of the world. He gets a C because his sample size is small, and because he is a high school player, you can’t expect every guy like him to put up D’Arby Myers or Adrian Cardenas numbers. A C is probably just about right.

2007 Outlook: The Phillies will be cautious with him, he’ll probably end up either repeating the GCL or going to Williamsport this season, and if he improves, will get a full season assignment in 2008. He has the physical frame to be an even better athlete than he already is, and he could develop plus power. The key, like all raw athletes, will be whether he develops the tools like plate discipline and proper route running needed to be a successful outfielder/big leaguer.

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Durant, Michael, 1B (age 20) Grade = C-

Durant, a fourth round pick in 2005, has drawn plenty of watchful eyes since being drafted, namely for his large power potential, but he’s failed to live up to the expectations so far. Durant’s .666 OPS in his 2005 debut was lackluster, and injuries pretty much wiped out his 2006, allowing him only 31 AB’s, in which he posted a miserable .623 OPS again back in the GCL. It’s tough to really kill him on his 2006, since he wasn’t healthy, but he’ll be in short season ball for a third season, and at some point, he needs to show something in order for us to consider him an actual prospect. He just turned 20 in January, so he’s got time on his side, but this will be his third pro season, he needs to remain healthy as well as put up some big numbers. Numbers-wise, he probably deserves lower than a C-, but he still has potential, and because of his 2006 injuries, I cut him some slack.

2007 Outlook: I can’t see him going anywhere other than Williamsport in 2007. Charlie Yarbrough will more than likely play some 1B at Lakewood, I just don’t see any way Durant gets skipped over short season unless he absolutely destroys the ball in minor league camp before the season opens. He still has a ton of raw power, but he needs to remain healthy so we can see if any of his skills will translate onto the field.

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Brown, Dominic, OF (age 19) Grade = C-

Brown signing, much like McDonald, has to be seen as somewhat of a coup for the Phillies, as he was ticketed to the University of Miami on a football scholarship, but instead signed with the Phillies. Brown was an outstanding pitcher in high school, posting a 1.09 ERA in 45 IP his senior year, but he was just as good with the bat, hitting .455 with an .818 slugging % as well. The Phillies chose to keep Brown in the outfield, and the results were….shall we say…not good. He posted a miserable .557 OPS in 117 AB at the GCL level, including a .214 BA and .265 slugging %. Really, nothing went right for him, except for his 13 stolen bases in 16 tries. I don’t know if the Phillies plan on letting him try to pitch or not, but it might not be a bad idea. If he remains in the outfield, he’s an obvious right field candidate because of his solid arm, but if he can’t hit, he won’t last long in pro baseball. I won’t give him below a C- simply because we only have 117 AB’s to judge him on, but don’t hold your breath right now.

2007 Outlook: Hard to say. At this point, he’ll probably repeat the GCL, or possibly go to Williamsport, but I think it’s probably the former. You’d think if he struggles again in 2007, the Phillies might consider letting him pick up pitching again. Because he just turned 19, he obviously still has time, so we’ll see what path the Phillies take with him.