I was going to do a really long writeup, I started to, I started to really dig into it, and then for some reason, I kind of lost the drive to do it. That might be a bad sign going forward, but I still wanted to put out my top 30 list. I’m going to still write up brief blurbs, but I’m not going to put lots of bells and whistles with it. I basically just want to give my list and some brief reasoning, and if anyone has problems/issues/questions, I’ll try to follow the comments for a few days and respond. So….
30. Michael Schwimer, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
Posted very good peripheral numbers in his debut. He struck out 62 in 42.2 IP, issued only 13 unintentional walks, and didn’t allow a HR. He also produced a 61% groundball rate, which helps back up the stellar ERA. With all of this, he was actually a tad unlucky, as he had a .367 BABIP (average is closer to .300) and a 17% line drive rate, a touch higher than normal. Scouting reports indicate a good fastball with plus velocity, so I’m optimistic that these numbers aren’t simply a guy with a good secondary pitch overmatching young hitters. He turned 23 a week ago, so he’ll need to be on the fast track, but there’s no reason he won’t finish in Reading this year, with the big leagues possibly in the 2nd half of 2010. At the back of the top 30, I’ll take a polished college reliever on the fast track.
29. Freddy Galvis, SS (2008 ranking = 30th)
I mean, I really don’t know what to do with Galvis at this point. His defense is elite, if you go by the scouting reports. But he hasn’t really hit yet, and I don’t know what his ultimate upside is with the bat. He managed to steal 14 bases in 21 tries last year, but he isn’t going to profile as a real stolen base threat. I don’t think the Omar Vizquel comps are fair, really because Vizquel was an elite defender, one of the best in the game, and because he actually did have some offense to his game. Right now, I look at Galvis more as Rey Ordonez, and I suppose there is some value in that, but I really don’t know where to rank him. If he can’t hit much at all, I don’t know if he’s going to be a starter for a top tier team.
28. Anthony Hewitt, 3B (2008 ranking = N/A)
There really isn’t a whole lot to say at this point that hasn’t been said. He’s a premium athlete, he has huge raw power, he has a strong arm, but he lacks anything resembling pitch recognition and has a long way to go. The sky is the limit, but he’s barely off the ground. The fact that he’s already 19 and has limited experience against good competition is a negative. It’s likely that he’s going to need at least one year in short season ball, and I expect he won’t be in Reading before 2012. He’s a prospect, of course, but he’s not worth worrying about for the foreseeable future.
27. Brad Harman, 2B (2008 ranking = 10th)
I was really high on Harman last year, and it appears I’ll be high on him again this winter. Its easy to be discouraged, not much went right for him in 2008, but he just turned 23 in November and has already spent a full season at AA. We’ve gone over the lengthy learning curve most Australian prospects face, so I’m willing to give him one more season. I still think, best case, he’s a .270 hitter with 25+ doubles/10 HR power, which would work just fine in a utility role. Not giving up yet.
26. Travis Mattair, 3B (2008 ranking = 23rd)
I was on the Mattair bandwagon from Day 1, but the bandwagon blew out a tire last season. Reports indicate he was starting to make adjustments in the second half, and you always have to give cold weather guys (he played HS ball in Washington) the benefit of the doubt in their first pro season, since they aren’t used to playing as much as the kids in baseball hotbeds. I still think he’s our best 3B prospect for the moment, and I hope with a repeat of Low A he puts up some big numbers. He’s only 20, he’s got plenty of time.
25. Sebastian Valle, C (2008 ranking = NR)
Valle, making his US debut, got out of the gate strong and finished with a solid .748 OPS at age 17. He was ranked the #7 prospect in the GCL by Baseball America, but couldn’t crack the Phillies Top 30 list, which seems odd. He’s listed at 6’1, 168, not exactly your prototypical catcher’s body, but he still has room to grow. He didn’t show the best eye, but did manage 15 doubles in just 167 AB. Catchers are the toughest prospects to evaluate, and Valle is no different. If he can’t stick at C, I don’t know where his bat will play, but we’ll worry about that at a later date.
24. Mike Cisco, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
Looks like the Phillies were the beneficiary of his rough season at SC, allowing them to not only draft him in the 36th round, but then sign him and get him going. He righted the ship and had a nice debut, especially after being promoted to Lakewood. He’s small (5’11, 190) but managed to generate 64% groundballs, an impressive accomplishment. He’ll need to keep the ball down and keep missing bats as he climbs, but I’m fairly optimistic.
23. Anthony Gose, OF (2008 ranking = N/A)
I had second thoughts here, I maybe should rank Gose lower, but the scouting reports on him seem to far exceed his output. When writing up my draft recap I’d forgotten that his injury report prior to the draft was as bad as it was, which probably explains the decision to let him play the field. If he did do arm damage, probably best to let his arm heal and keep the mileage off of it at a young age. In 3 years if he can’t hit, we know the arm will still play and you can move him back. While I’m a bit skeptical on how much he’ll hit, his speed is apparently game changing, so I’ll wait and see.
22. Drew Naylor, RHP (2008 ranking = 8th)
I was kind of disappointed in Naylor’s 2008. I thought he should have started in Clearwater, his performance at Lakewood didn’t tell us much. He struggled against more advanced hitters, though he did show some promise near the end of the year. The positives? He doesn’t turn 23 until May, and the same caveat I mentioned with Harman applies here. He’s also been durable and has a clean delivery. The negatives? Drop in groundball rate when he moved to Clearwater (40%, down from 55% at Lakewood), as well as mediocre control, walking 3.56/9. 2009 will be a big year for Naylor. His stuff seems average, maybe a tick above, but he’s going to have to keep the ball down and command it better.
21. Antonio Bastardo, LHP (2008 ranking = 24th)
He went from underrated to overrated in a few weeks, but when he was healthy he pitched well. I cautioned that he might struggle as he jumped to AA because he lacked plus fastball velocity, and he was much more home run prone, allowing 13 in only 67 innings. His control was something of an issue at lower levels, and if he’s going to be home run prone, he’s going to have to limit the walks. The biggest red flag right now is the labrum/arm issue that ended his season, the second red flag is the 30% groundball rate in 2008. Add in the major arm concern and I have to keep him in this section of the rankings.
20. Jared Cosart, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
This might be aggressive, but I love the arm strength, and I love the athleticism. He set all kinds of hitting records in Texas, yet he might have even more potential as a hitter. If the Phillies can clean up his delivery a bit and remove that pause, I think we’re looking at a potential top of the rotation guy. This is a bit of a flier, but I’m going to go with it.
19. Justin De Fratus, RHP (2008 ranking = 21st)
Steady she goes. A personal favorite of mine, De Fratus moved up one level and continued to post solid numbers. His biggest asset remains his ability to keep the ball in the park, as he’s allowed only 2 HR in 129 minor league innings. While he wasn’t able to match his 3 BB in 46 IP in 2008, he did hold his own, walking only 25 in 83 innings while striking out 74. There’s still a bit of projection here I feel, and though he hasn’t rocketed up the ladder, He’ll pitch all of 2009 at age 21, and looks like he’ll be a fixture at Lakewood. A big season should put him on everyone’s radar. His one red flag? He only posted a 46% GB rate in 2008, down from 55% in 2007, so against better hitters, his HR rate might spike up. Or maybe not. We’ll see.
18. Edgar Garcia, RHP (2008 ranking = 11th)
Garcia drops down the rankings, partly because of his 2008 results, but also partly because of the influx of talent into the system. We know his first exposure to AA didn’t go so well (it sucked, really), and despite mediocre scouting reports, I’m still on board. It seems like his biggest issue is consistency. He’s always shown good control, but command is an issue, and it seems he lacks a true out pitch. This has people pegging him as a reliever, and he might end up there, but he’s still young enough (just turned 21 in September) to where I think he can improve. Some guys never develop consistency, some guys just flip the switch. 2009, and a return to AA, will be a big test for Garcia.
17. Mike Stutes, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
Stutes, like Cisco, struggled in 2008, which allowed the Phillies to grab him lower in the draft, and much like Cisco, he dominated in his debut. 10.6 K/9 and a .151 opponents average are the obvious pluses, and the 54% groundball rate works as well. Walk rate was a tick high (3.66/9), and his .217 BABIP indicates his ERA was probably a bit fluky. But for a college guy who’d logged a bunch of innings, its a solid debut. The scouting reports are favorable, and he has a big fastball, something that bodes well for future success. His delivery seems to have a bit of effort, that makes me pause, but so far so good.
16. Colby Shreve, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
I’m going way out on a limb here. But I loved this pick at the time, and I love it right now. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got a power arm, and the reports were positive on the surgery. He won’t be around till the end of 2009, but I think he’s a mid rotation starter. He has 3 pitches, including a really good fastball. Obviously TJ surgery isn’t something to take lightly, and his delivery did have some violence, but he was the top JuCo arm in the country before the injury, and I think we ended up getting him at a discount, even if we paid over slot. Some projections had him going in the sandwich round, and I believe that’s the level of talent we got.
15. Trevor May, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
May is the 2009 version of Julian Sampson, who I ranked 18th last year. So maybe I’m being too aggressive, but I really like May’s profile. He’s a big kid (6’5, 220), so he’s got workhorse potential, as well as a solid fastball and promising secondary offerings. He may need a bit of time to adjust, just as Sampson did, but I like him even more than I liked Sampson last year, hence the aggressive ranking. While a few of the guys behind him might have a higher probability, I love his upside. I rank him one spot above Shreve because he has a clean bill of health at the moment.
14. John Mayberry Jr, OF (2008 ranking = N/A)
I really was all over the place on Mayberry. At one point I had him in the 20’s, at one point I considered ranking him in the Top 10. I settled for 14. I’ll fully admit, I could end up looking foolish here. When the Phillies made the trade, I highlighted why I was somewhat optimistic on Mayberry. His numbers aren’t eye popping, he’s not exactly a young inexperienced kid, but at the same time, I want to look at him the same way I should have looked at Michael Taylor after last season. A freakish athlete with a boatload of talent, but the results just don’t back it up. Of course they both went to Stanford, there’s been much written about the “Stanford Swing”….maybe the Phillies know the secret to unlocking these Stanford guys? Or maybe Mayberry won’t amount to anything. But he’s got big raw power, he’s a pretty good athlete who should be plus in right field, and yeah, he’s got big raw power. In a perfect world, the Phillies are able to move either Stairs or Jenkins and keep Mayberry on the roster. We lack a power RH bat on the bench, and a full season working with Charlie Manuel can only increase the likelihood of him unlocking his potential.
13. Jason Knapp, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
Knapp jumped up draft boards just like fellow draft pick Anthony Hewitt. His calling card is huge arm strength, with reports of high 90’s velocity consistently. His secondary stuff is rudimentary, which isn’t uncommon, and he pitched in the Northeast, not really a baseball hotbed. Like May, he might need a bit more development time. His debut was good, but he was shut down with some sort of mystery arm ailment. It might have just been the Phillies being cautious, which isn’t the worst idea. I rank him ahead of May because he has a bit more arm strength, and you can’t teach arm strength, even though May’s secondary offerings seem a bit more refined.
12. Joe Savery, LHP/1B (2008 ranking = 4th)
At times last summer, I felt like Joe Savery’s only fan, and his family should have sent me a Christmas card. But they didn’t. His 2008 was good at times, bad at times, great at times, and downright awful at times. He went through a stretch where he put up awesome numbers, and then he gave up 8 runs in an inning. Reports on his velocity had him down in the low 80’s at one point, then back up around 90 with a lot of sink/movement on his fastball. BA also reported some kind of conditioning/dedication issue, which seems kind of odd, as he doesn’t seem like that type. The Phillies aggressively jumped him to A+ in his first full year. Its not uncommon for college pitchers to make that jump, but Savery wasn’t your typical college pitcher. He was a true 2 way guy in college, so he focused less on pitching than most upper echelon arms, and he also missed big chunks of time with his labrum issue thing. After one full season, I think its ludicris to call him a bust. We gave Golson at least 3 years before people called him a bust. Savery’s final line in A+ wasn’t an embarrassment; 4.13 ERA — 3.6 BB/9 — 7.32 K/9 — 0.6 HR/9. If you remove the unrealistic expectations placed on every 1st round pick, especially a unique first round pick, I don’t think his 2008 was a disaster. If he comes to camp in better shape this year, now that he knows what it takes to compete for a full season, I think he’s going to have a good year. In fact, I debated ranking him a notch or two higher.
11. Vance Worley, RHP (2008 ranking = N/A)
The Phillies love them some Vance Worley, and he didn’t disappoint in his debut. The big knock on Worley has always been that he’s underachieved a bit. He has a big arm, a smooth and simple delivery, yet he’s never really taken off and gone to the next level. I don’t see ace potential in Worley, I think he’s got less upside than Shreve, May, Knapp, and maybe even Savery, but I think he’s a very high probability arm. I don’t think he’ll ever be a huge strikeout guy, but I think he’ll be able to keep the ball in the park and on the ground and miss enough bats. A comp for Worley? A poor man’s Tim Hudson with a bit more durability….that’ll play.
10. Julian Sampson, RHP (2008 ranking = 18th)
Another aggressive ranking I suppose. His peripherals were nothing special, but the scouting reports are ahead of the performance at this point. The one knock on him (from Kevin Goldstein) was the lack of deception in his delivery. Is this something the Phillies can improve upon? Consistent low 90’s velocity and the potential for two above average secondary pitches, plus a great pitcher’s frame that still has projection. He held up for a full season in Low A, and I still think we’re looking at a potential #2 starter here. 53% groundball rate, and I think that number actually has some room to go on the upside. I expect big things from Sampson in 2009 and expect to rank him higher next year.
09. JA Happ, LHP (2008 ranking = 13th)
Happ rebounded from a rough 2007 by staying healthy in 2008, pitching well in AAA on a really awful team, and holding his own in his big league debut. His stuff plays up because of the deception of his delivery, and while some are worried about him pitching up in the zone, the deception and arm action should allow him to get away with it, at least for a while. I’d prefer him to pitch in the bottom half of the zone, especially with his changeup, and I want to see him tighten the break on his curve, but he’s essentially a finished product, and I believe that product is capable of being a solid #4 starting pitcher.
08. Zach Collier, OF (2008 ranking = N/A)
I liked the Collier pick, and he had a solid debut. At this point he looks like a potential 4 or 5 tool outfielder, a complete package of sorts. He has very good tools, but also showed solid plate discipline in his debut, and scouts have already dropped a Garret Anderson comp on him. Like Knapp and Hewitt, he saw his stock steadily rise all spring, and it looks like a nice find so far. He’ll need time to develop, obviously, but I’m pretty excited to see what he does in 2009, hopefully in Lakewood.
07. Travis D’Arnaud, C (2008 ranking = 20th)
D’Arnaud had a big 2008, putting up a great line in the NYPL and impressing even more in a brief Lakewood cameo. As I mentioned before, evaluating catchers is kind of tough. D’Arnaud showed promising plate discipline (8.6% BB rate) and a respectable .159 ISO, but he only put up a .251 SecA. He was much better against lefties than righties, 1.005 OPS v .766 OPS. The Phillies have Ruiz on the cheap for a few more seasons, they have Lou Marson, so there’s no rush for D’Arnaud, but he appears to be moving fast.
06. Michael Taylor, OF (2008 ranking = NR)
So yeah, I missed on Taylor last year. The big question everyone is asking; was it for real? I will admit, I’m somewhat skeptical, but I’m mostly a believer. His first 40 AB’s at Clearwater were a struggle (6 for 39), but he found his way thereafter, hitting .358 over his final 204 AB’s. He slugged .709 over the last month of the season, so we know he’s got power. But he’s not without red flags. First, this came out of nowhere, that’s always a red flag. Second, he swings and misses a lot. Which isn’t always an issue, but its something to monitor, and it could mean the difference between a .250 hitter and a .285 hitter. He also didn’t post an elite walk rate, only 16 unintentional walks in 266 PA’s at Clearwater. Maybe its because he felt he could hit any pitch (and he really did) and didn’t feel the need to work the count? He did manage 5 walks in only 20 plate appearances in Hawaii, so he would seem to understand how to work the count when necessary. Defensively, he’s more than average in right field. He’s a great athlete. So I guess now the issue is, what will he do in 2009? There were rumors he was going to start back in Clearwater, which I think would be a big mistake. We know he can crush A ball pitching. Making the jump to AA will tell us more. For now, I’m buying, but I’m not all in.
05. Dominic Brown, OF (2008 ranking = 12th)
Brown’s stock is on the rise. Brown is what we should hope Zach Collier looks like in 2 years. He flashes all 5 tools, he should hit for more power, he should steal bases, he should hit for average, and he should draw walks. So yeah, there’s a lot to like there. A .304 SecA is slightly ahead of a .799 OPS at this point, but 12% walk rate is good, the 15 net stolen bases is good. The .291 batting average is good. Big big big things in Brown’s near future.
04. Jason Donald, SS (2008 ranking = 6th)
All Donald does is hit. After underachieving in college and posting a modest debut, he backed up a breakout 2007 with an even bigger year in 2008 ending with a bout on the Olympic roster. While its unfair to compare him to such a unique player, I view Donald as Dustin Pedroia lite. He’s not quite as smooth defensively, and he doesn’t quite have the same bat control, but Pedroia had his share of doubters as he was coming up through the minors, and all he did was get better and better. Donald seems to have excellent makeup and work ethic, I think he’ll become a good defender at 3B. He’s blocked up the middle by Rollins and Utley, but I think with a big spring, he’s got a shot at getting some reps at 3B if Feliz can’t start the season, and I think he could end up there as a regular next season. I view Donald as a .280/.360 hitter with 35 doubles and 15 HR. While that’s not prototypical 3B production home run wise, the .360 OB% will play at any position.
03. Kyle Drabek, RHP (2008 ranking = 3rd)
I ranked Drabek 3rd last winter, I’m sticking with him in the same spot this year. He has the best arm in the system as well as the most upside. His velocity has reportedly made it back to close to his pre draft level, and now he has a fresh tendon in his elbow. Reports from Hawaii were positive, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do in a full, healthy season. The Phillies will have to manage his workload as he’s coming back and getting up to full speed, but I think the sky is the limit here. If Carlos Carrasco exhausts his rookie eligibility this year, I think Drabek will be the top prospect in the system next year.
02. Lou Marson, C (2008 ranking = 5th)
Sweet Lou made the big jump from A ball to AA, and he had the best offensive season of his career. His plate discipline has been well chronicled, and for a while, he was leading the Eastern League in batting average as well. Right now, everyone spends time focusing on his lack of power, but to me that’s backwards. Playing all of 2008 at age 22, he had one of the best seasons in the Eastern League, at the most physically demanding position. He didn’t start catching until late in his high school career, yet that’s the aspect of his game that has made the most progress. He’s still not a finished product defensively, but the improvements have been great. Despite not having an idea throwing motion (a product of playing quarterback in high school), he still managed to throw out a respectable 36% of would be basestealers last year. I’ll say it a third time…catchers are tough to evaluate. The physical demands of the position many times sap the offensive ability of catchers, they focus so much on the defensive aspect of the game that they suffer offensively. Instead, Marson has been slowly improving offensively as he’s climbed the ladder, while also improving defensively. I concede that he’s probably never going to hit 20 home runs in a season. But I don’t think he has to. The bar is set so low offensively for catchers, that a .365 OB% alone would put him near the top tier of catchers, offensively. Among MLB catchers with at least 250 plate appearances in 2008, only 7 ended up with an OB% of .350 or higher. Dinoer Navarro and Yadier Molina were at .349, just for accounting purposes. PECOTA projects a weighted mean OB% of .346 for Marson in 2009, his age 23 season and what would be his rookie year. That’s a very positive projection, all things considered. I’ve been on the Marson bandwagon for 3 years, I’m staying aboard. There’s no desperation, the Phillies love Ruiz, and Paulino is a decent placeholder, so Marson will have more time. But I do believe he’s the Phillies catcher of the future, and I think that future starts sometime in 2010 at the latest.
01. Carlos Carrasco, RHP (2008 ranking = 2nd)
Carrasco had a rough 2007, pitching decently in Clearwater and then struggling a bit in Reading. He rebounded in 2008 with a decent campaign in Reading and then a dominant end of the season in Lehigh Valley. His stuff draws varied reports, some calling his fastball and changeup plus pitches, others being critical of the depth and consistency of his pitches. He’s always been young for his league, and outside of his blip in 2005, he’s been fairly consistent. He has plenty of fastball both in terms of movement and velocity, and the consensus seems to be that his changeup is also a plus offering. Having seen him pitch a few times, when he maintains his arm speed on his changeup, its a solid pitch. When he slows his arm, he telegraphs the pitch and the results show it. He’s still young, and if he can improve his consistency, he can be a solid top of the rotation guy. There have been reports that his mental game isn’t the best, which of course makes you flash back to Gavin Floyd and the reports of him pitching scared. Carrasco’s raw stuff grades out as good or better than Floyd’s, especially his fastball. I think Drabek has a higher ceiling, but Carrasco has a much longer track record and a cleaner bill of health, so ranking him #1 is kind of a no brainer. I think if anything, he’s been a victim of prospect fatigue, as he’s been on the radar for a while now, he’s pitched well, but he hasn’t done anything totally ridiculous, like throw a no hitter or strike out 14 in a game. But he’s close to big league ready, and if he can harness his stuff and improve his approach on the mound, he could be a special arm. I’m comfortable with sticking him here.
So that’s a wrap. But there’s more. My sleeper for 2009, ie a guy who I think is under the radar but could really open eyes……Freddy Ballestas. He posted an ugly 7.03 ERA in 64 innings this year in his US debut, but underneath that he struck out a batter per inning. He allowed only 4 HR in 64 innings, though he did walk 36 guys. His .385 BABIP was probably a bit flukish, and his DICE was only 3.44. So while his surface numbers look bad, I think there might be something here.
A few guys I considered, but for one reason or another left out….
Kyle Slate, RHP – Intriguing, but he’s thrown only 30 innings in 2 seasons. I want to see more from him, considering he hasn’t generated all that much scouting buzz.
Damarii Saunderson, OF – Loved the plate discipline in a very small sample, seems like a great athlete/potential guy, but the sample size was ultimately too small considering his scouting buzz (or lack thereof)
Jon Pettibone, RHP – Over slot guy, but I wasn’t crazy about the video of him I saw, and he’s really raw, so I think he’s got time to work his way onto the list.
Cody Overbeck, 3B – I outlined my skepticism on him back in the fall, he might prove me wrong, but I’m not that excited.
Quintin Berry, OF – I don’t see much value in his bat, his value is tied purely to his legs/stealing bags. That’s a 5th outfielder to me, and those guys can be plucked out of AAA and the waiver wire every winter.
Jeremy Slayden, OF – That the Phillies didn’t protect him in the Rule 5 draft, and that no team took him, tells you what the scouting community thinks of him. I think he could hit a bit, though more for average and not much power, but he’s limited defensively because of his arm, and he’s at the upper reaches of prospect age.
Matt Rizzotti, 1B – Our best 1B prospect at this point, after a good season at Lakewood, but he was 22 in a league dominated by 18, 19 and 20 year olds, and the power isn’t elite, at a position that almost requires elite power.
Andrew Carpenter, RHP – Just really not that impressed. He can fool A ball hitters, but his stuff is merely average, and to me, he’s a Clay Condrey type reliever. Again, those guys can be plucked off the waiver wire and the minor league free agent pool. He might be more than that, but I don’t buy it, and hey, its my list.
Steve Susdorf, OF – Jeremy Slayden 2.0?
D’Arby Myers, OF – I haven’t completely forgotten about him, but he’s inching towards the edge of my periphery.
Chance Chapman, RHP – Just way too old for Low A, though I guess that wasn’t his fault. I just don’t see the upside here.
If I was considering Cardenas, I’d rank him one spot behind Donald, and I’d put Outman one spot behind Sampson.
So there you go. I didn’t make a conscious effort to include as many 2008 draftees as I could, it just worked out that way. 2008 was the best draft class I can remember for the Phillies. I think our system is as good now as its been since I started following the minors. We don’t have a sure fire blue chip guy like Cole Hamels, but we have a ton of interesting guys at a wide array of positions. 2009 should be a really interesting season to follow. up his