Prospect Grades: Dempsey, Concepcion, Cruse

Back after re-charging the batteries this weekend. Should be able to finish up the grades in the next week or so, we’ll do a recap, and soon we’ll have spring training stuff to discuss. Let the good times roll.

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Dempsey, Jacob, OF (age 23) Grade = C+

Dempsey, the Phillies 21st round pick in the June draft, had a decent but not outstanding debut at Batavia, posting a .756 OPS in his age 22 season. A four year senior from Winthrop, Dempsey hit for good power, posting a .443 slugging percentage with 24 XBH in 210 AB, but he wasn’t a big fan of taking a walk, as he drew only 17 to 65 strikeouts. He hit only .262 with a .313 OB%, so that is definitely going to need some work, but his power was a nice surprise. Four year seniors are expected to hit for some pop in rookie ball, and he did, but he’ll need to step his game up at Lakewood if he’s to be considered a real prospect. In his senior season at Winthrop, he drew 49 walks to only 36 strikeouts in 64 games, so the potential is there, but doing it in college and doing it at Low A against advanced competition are a different thing. Dempsey will likely have a shot to start some games at Lakewood, sharing a corner spot with Gus Milner and Quintin Berry.

Ceiling: A fourth/fifth OF in the majors. Anything more at this point is being overly optimistic.

Floor: Organizational filler. You’ll start to see that tag come up more and more.

Conclusion: Dempsey’s 7 HR at Batavia were nice, but we’ll have to see how it translates to full season ball. Some guys get stronger as they face better pitchers, some guys fade, and some guys fall flat. It’s nearly impossible to know which path he’ll take.

(No Photo, if you have one, let me know)

Concepcion, Alex, RHP (age 23) Grade = B

Concepcion, a free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2003, is a personal favorite of mine, so maybe this grade is a bit biased, but maybe not. In 2006, his age 22 season, but also only his second season of pro ball in the US, Concepcion posted a 3.76 ERA in 83.2 IP at Batavia, allowing only 73 hits and 17 walks to go with his 72 strikeouts. Concepcion’s peripheral numbers were actually much better than his ERA would indicate, as he was about 55% above league average for the NY Penn League. He has outstanding control while still getting a lot of swings and misses. The only flaw in his game, at this point, is that he allows more fly balls than ground balls, and he did give up 8 HR in 83 innings last year. However, as he refines his approach to pitching, this could very well change. He features a low 90’s fastball, a good changeup, and a decent breaking ball which I believe more resembles a curveball, but I could be wrong there. He’ll move to Lakewood in 2007, but because he is still somewhat raw, there is no need to rush him.

Ceiling: A #4 starter maybe?

Floor: I’d guess, at this point, a AAAA pitcher or swingman

Conclusion: Rating guys in short season ball is tough enough, but rating foreign players with only two years or US baseball experience is a bit harder. If Concepcion’s breaking ball and changeup continue to improve, so will his prospect status. If not, he may be moved to the bullpen. His long term value will depend on the quality of his secondary pitches, but he appears to have a pretty good arm, so he should stick around for a while.

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Cruse, Andrew, RHP (age 22) Grade = C+

Cruse, our 9th round pick in the June draft, had a nice debut at Batavia, but his ERA, 2.56 in 66.2 IP looks a little better than his actual peripherals, as he was about 4% below league average in his composite stats. He allowed about 8 hits per 9, showed good control, but didn’t generate many strikeouts, K’ing only 48 in 66 innings. Cruse, a shortish RHP from South Carolina, had remaining eligibility, but because of an injury plagued college career, was already 22 years old decided to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility to start his pro career. Used primarily as a reliever and swingman in college, Cruse started all 13 games he appeared in for Batavia, but is likely to resume his relief role going forward. Because of his versatility he does deserve a little extra credit, despite being 22 and not putting up mindblowing stats are Batavia. Cruse has an average fastball, velocity wise, but he gets great cutting action on it, and because of it, gets a lot of ugly swings and poor contact. He got almost 2 ground balls to every fly ball, and lefties had only a .584 OPS against him. He fits the role of the useful bullpen piece going forward.

Ceiling: A very poor man’s Mariano Rivera working in the 7th/8th innings

Floor: Probably a AAAA type pitcher capable of eating up innings in various roles.

Conclusion: Cruse is an interesting guy. He started only 3 times in 37 appearances at USC, but started all 13 times as a pro. His stuff isn’t great, velocity wise, but as I mentioned, he gets a ton of movement. He had success starting, but the Phillies have a ton of starting pitching prospects, both at Lakewood and Clearwater, so it seems unlikely he’ll remain a starter. If he can ramp it up a bit and add another 2 MPH on his fastball in relief, he could move quickly through the system as long as he stays healthy. Ground ball pitchers who don’t get a lot of K’s are tough to predict, but we’ll see if the modest K rates remain if he does move to the bullpen. For now, the lack of strikeouts haven’t hurt him, so you have to be somewhat pleased with his performance. He could see time closing out games at Lakewood, but should definitely get some high leverage innings even if he isn’t closing.