Today is the second part to the prospect tiers which I brought up the other day. To understand the reasoning, check that post. I’m only going to break the pitchers down into RHP and LHP, simply because its tough to know which guys the organization will move from starter to reliever in any given season. I’ll make some editorial comments on guys I think should be converted, but I’m just going to address them as what they are, and then comment on the upside/downside relative to a role change in their future. So, lets get going.
Just a quick frame of reference, here are the 5 tiers
Elite prospect: This is a guy who would be a #1 prospect in more than 10 other organizations, or at least be in solid contention. He’s a blue chip guy, he has top of the rotation (#1 or #2) potential, or All Star potential as a hitter. A grade in this tier won’t be given out liberally, it has to be pretty clear cut.
Above Average prospect: These are guys who aren’t quite in the Elite tier, but look like better than average prospects. They’re guys who you’d expect to be starters in the big leagues position player wise, and middle of the rotation starters. For pitchers, if you’re more fringy and potentially a #5 or just an innings eater, you don’t profile here. Only the best relief prospects fall in here, since the value of relievers is generally lower than that of a good starting pitcher.
Average prospect: These guys are fringe starters in the big leagues, more likely a 4th OF or a utility infielder, but maybe a starter on a bad team. Guys who have the repertoire to start, and could hang on in the bigs as a starter, but without much upside will go here. Good relievers go here, guys that aren’t dominant but who will probably find themselves as serviceable 7th/8th inning guys in the majors.
Fringe prospect: This is the group that will likely have the highest population. These are guys who might possess one good tool, but have major deficiencies in their game. If the light suddenly turns on and they put it together, they can graduate out of here, but they’re likely only going to move up one group. A select few will have tons of tools but very poor results. They can’t be considered average prospects, because a lot needs to go right for them to correct the major flaws in their game and make it as anything more than a fringe starter. For pitchers, you’re looking at command/control guys with modest peripherals who will likely bounce back and forth between the majors and AAA within a major league season.
Organizational player: These are basically the non-prospects, guys who are really here to just make up the numbers. For pitchers, if they develop a new pitch, learn a new motion, or undertake some kind of drastic re-invention of themselves, they could possibly move up to the Fringe prospect tier. But more than likely these guys will end up with nothing more than a cup of coffee.
Kyle Drabek – No surprises here. Drabek is the best pitching prospect in the organization, and off the top of my head, I’d say hes one of the 15 best pitching prospects at AA or above in baseball. Scouts aren’t universal in their love, but even the skeptic sees Drabek as a top quality #3 at worst, likely a #2, and some guys think he can be a true ace. He’s got the fastball with great life in the zone, he has the hammer curveball. He also has a major arm surgery and he still needs to work on his changeup, and more importantly, focus on the nuances of pitching, setting up hitters and the like. But there’s a whole lot here to like, his mechanics have been smoothed out, he’s got a sturdy frame, and he looks like a future fixture in the Phillies rotation.
Trevor May – Everyone knows I’m driving the Trevor May bandwagon, there’s still plenty of space on board. He has a power arm, in fact, I’d say his profile is similar to Drabek’s in many ways, he just needs to refine his arsenal and work on his command. He walked a lot of guys this year, but missed a lot of bats and didn’t give up a lot of hard contact. Though he didn’t show major groundball tendencies in 2009, I can see him improving in that area because of the life on his fastball. If his changeup develops and he’s able to refine his command and control, I think he actually has elite tier upside, though maybe I’m being a bit optimistic. I have no trouble ranking him here though.
Brody Colvin – I covered Colvin extensively around draft time, I like him more this year than I liked May last year, and that should tell you something. He’s another power arm with a power arsenal, and it looks like all upside here. He’s got a low 90’s fastball and a good breaking ball. Like most every prep pitcher, he doesn’t have much of a changeup, so that will be something he needs to work on. At this point, he basically just needs innings. This is an aggressive ranking, he’s thrown 1 inning as a pro, but I loved what I read about him leading up to the draft, and I’ve read nothing since that would make me believe he’s not going to be a great pitcher.
Jarred Cosart – Cosart, maybe the Phillies biggest splash in the 2008 draft, was limited in his debut, and limited again in 2009, but when he was on the field he was generally excellent. More than 1 K per inning, walked only 7 in 25 innings, and didn’t allow a HR. Of course this came in the GCL, and he hasn’t shown groundball tendencies, but he does have a very big arm, maybe bigger than both May and Colvin, so he might have even more upside. I want to see him a bit more in 2010, which will be his 3rd season in the organization, and it will be interesting to see if he gets the bump to Lakewood.
Michael Schwimer – I debated dropping him one more level, but I’ll leave him here. He dominated at 2 levels this year, and while he might not profile as a closer, I think he has a definite shot at an 8th inning role. His fastball is 90-92 with good life, and his slider is an out pitch. He’ll have to continue missing tons of bats and limiting the walks. I don’t think there is much room to the upside, there is room to the downside, but his performance speaks for itself at this point.
Justin De Fratus – De Fratus has been a personal favorite, so maybe its a blind spot, but I view his upside as similar to Schwimer’s. He has better control, though he hasn’t had the gaudy strikeout numbers. Again, this might be one tier too high, and there isn’t much upside from here, but his peripherals have been great. I doubt he’s staying in the rotation, and if he does I view him as a #5, but as a reliever I think he could be a 7th/8th inning guy.
Colby Shreve – I forgot him initially, but I’m still a fan. The Phillies knew he needed surgery when they drafted him, so this has basically been par for the course. Most guys are back within 12 months of the surgery, so Shreve “should” have pitched last year, but there’s no harm in moving a guy slowly, and 2009 was always going to be a very minimal season for him anyway. He’s got a power mix, and if he comes back at full strength, he’s a middle of the rotation starter. I think we’ll know more after seeing him for a full season, but he’s got room to move either up 1 tier or down 1 tier depending on his results and performance in 2010.
Scott Mathieson – Mathieson is one of the best stories in the minors. He’s gone through 3 big arm surgeries, and his tale before then was astounding, as he went from a mid 80’s extremely raw high schooler to throwing in the mid 90’s and starting for the Phillies. He’s back from injury, his fastball is in the mid-high 90’s, and his slider is solid. He’s here though because prior to injury, his secondary offerings were lagging far behind his fastball, and because he does have 3 major arm surgeries on his docket. He has 1 tier of upside, but guys with his injury profile are major longshots. We’re all pulling for him though.
Austin Hyatt – Hyatt had probably the best debut of any Phillies 2009 draft pick. His numbers were dominant in the NYPL/Lakewood, but he was also 23 years old. If his stuff does play up and he can continue to dominate, then he has some upside, but hes already really old for a newly drafted prospect, so he’s gotta move fast, and he has to continue to put up great peripherals.
Brian Rosenberg – Rosenberg was like the 2008 version of Austin Hyatt. Great debut, very old for a newly drafted prospect. Rosenberg followed up his strong debut with great numbers between Lakewood and Reading, wisely skipping the FSL because of his age. He’ll have to continue to post big numbers, because he is basically a middle/late inning reliever, but he has a solid profile and good raw stuff, so he could make it.
Jesus Sanchez – Sanchez, a remnant from the Bobby Abreu salary dump, has made the conversion from catcher to pitcher, and early returns are promising. In his first season on the mound, he threw a surprising 136 innings, posting great peripherals (7.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 0.3 HR/9) and staying healthy all season. Sanchez turned 22 in late September, but his age has to be treated differently mainly because he is a conversion project. I believe he has to be protected on the 40 man roster after 2010, so its a big season for him. If he continues to make progress, he has some upside from here.
Jonathan Pettibone – I was lukewarm on Pettibone at this time last year, leaving him out of my top 30, and he didn’t really do much this year to wow me. There were positives in 2009; more than 1 K per inning, no home runs allowed, but he did walk 4 per 9, and that’s not quite good enough in a pitcher’s league. Still, the Phillies invested 2nd round money in him, he had an interesting profile before the draft, and he might just be a guy who needs time to develop, as he was considered pretty raw. He’s a guy who does have upside, but he’s also much riskier.
Mike Cisco – I kind of went back and forth on this one, as I debated dropping Cisco down to the organizational category, but I’m going to leave him here on the strength of his 50% groundball rate across two levels in 2009, as well as his strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. He doesn’t walk guys, which is a big plus, and he did generate groundballs, another plus, but his K rate (5.5/9 across 2 levels) needs to improve. Focusing on a relief role could help in that department, but even if he can’t make that jump, he could be a reliable groundball guy in the #5/swingman role.
Steven Inch – I was kind of lukewarm on Inch after the draft in June, and I remain that way now. In a way, he’s like the Canadian Jon Pettibone, circa 2008. He’s very raw, but the Phillies made a big financial investment in him, so they obviously like what he brings to the table. He’s going to be a project, he has upside, but he’s probably going to stay in this area of the pyramid for quite a while.
Ebelin Lugo – I gotta admit, Lugo intrigues me. As I mentioned in my SONAR report, Lugo scored very highly on the scale for someone I’d never really paid attention to. All I know is that he’s apparently 6’2, 170 and was signed out of the Dominican Republic. And that he posted excellent peripherals at Williamsport at age 19. His GB rate wasn’t great (41%), but it did improve slightly from his 2008 debut. He’s a guy I want to get more information on, but I think he deserves watching. I rank him here instead of the org bin because he’s still quite young, and because he appears to be trending upward.
Drew Naylor – Naylor is kind of in neutral right now after his breakout two seasons ago. His stuff appears fringy as a starter, but his curveball is at least a fringe-average to average secondary pitch. He’s a prime guy to move to the pen and see if you can’t get his fastball from 88-91 up to 90-93. If he can add a bit of life/velo to his fastball, and you couple that with an average curveball, he’s got middle relief/average prospect upside. I hope they make that conversion this year.
Julio Rodriguez – Another guy I forgot on my first time through. I liked what I saw in his pre-draft video in 2008, he’s tall and lanky, so there’s projection left there I do believe. He’s a guy that’s going to take some time, and he may never develop, but he’s been promising thus far, and at only 18, he’s one of the youngest guys on either the pitchers or hitters list, so time is on his side.
Edgar Garcia – I was one of Garcia’s biggest backers the last few seasons, but 2009 was a pretty big disappointment. Part of that doesn’t appear to be his fault, as he had Visa issues and it seems like that kind of sunk his season before it even started. While he’s still only 22, he’s going backwards now, not making progress, and that’s not a good sign. He still has an interesting arm, but right now he looks like a reliever if he makes it, and his stuff is too inconsistent at this point.
Vance Worley – I might be harsh on Worley here, but he really didn’t have such a good season. The Phillies aggressively moved him to AA, and while he started strong, he steadily faded over the final 4 months of the season, culminating in a really poor September start to end his regular season. His profile was always an innings eater starter who would roll lots of groundballs, limit walks, and not miss bats. Those types of guys don’t project as the best relievers, because missing bats is a preferable skill for a bullpen guy. If Worley makes adjustments and can miss bats, he’d be back in the fringe category, but I’m kind of down on him now.
Mike Stutes – Stutes had an up and down 2009, getting off to a nice start before really struggling in May and June. He finished the season on a better note, but as I mentioned before, using split stats in the minors is a dangerous game. Stutes has a good arm, he works off his fastball, and his secondary offerings are fringy to average, which shows up in his modest K rate. Ultimately I think he’s going to end up a reliever, but he has some upside if hes able to ramp up his fastball.
Heitor Correa – Correa was a personal favorite of mine 2 years ago, but that was before he missed the entire 2008 campaign due to a team suspension. Not only does that set off big red flags when thinking about future projection, but it also cost him very valuable developmental time. His 2009 was fairly poor, as he showed below average peripherals at Lakewood. He did generate 51% groundballs, but that was the only real peripheral of promise. He looked like one of our brighter prospects after 2007, but he has a long way to go in regaining his prospect status. He does have some obvious upside, but he’s a million miles away at this point.
Julian Sampson – My worst call a year ago, and it pains me just writing his name now. He had a ‘mare in 2009, everything that could go wrong seemed to in short order. The arm strength is still there, and he was still rolling up groundballs even when he was getting shelled, but it was just a disaster season. He’s obviously got plenty of time, he’s only entering his age 21 season, but he needs to start from scratch. Of the guys ranked down in these last two tiers, he has arguably the most upside, but its going to take a while to erase that putrid 2009 from the memory banks.
Andrew Carpenter – Carpenter has been around for what seems like forever, and appears to have kind of hit the wall in terms of where he’s going. His stuff is fringy, his command is fringy, and he throws across his body, which is a red flag in terms of future injury. He probably doesn’t have the stuff needed to start, especially in a tough park like CBP and on a championship caliber team. Because his stuff is fringy, he doesn’t necessarily have the best profile for a reliever. He needs to find 2 secondary pitches he can trust, tighten up his arsenal, and focus on his command and he might make it as a reliever. But I’m not optimistic. He’s the last guy I’m ranking/putting into the tiers, so this is kind of a lifetime achievement award.
Here are a few guys who I couldn’t quite see adding in yet, but could sneak into the picture next year
Josh Zeid – 2009 draftee, solid debut, needs to move quickly
Alex Concepcion – Always kind of been a fav of mine, was re-signed
Carlos Monasterios – Another remnant of the Abreu trade, kind of fringy, but could still make it as a ML reliever
Eric Massingham – Another relief prospect who has to move fast, as he was just in the NYPL this year at age 22
Freddy Ballestas – Has been around a while, needs to get on the fast track
Eryk McConnell – Another hard throwing reliever, needs to improve his control/command and move quickly
Miguel Matos – Has been on the radar for a while, but still stuck in rookie ball. Need to see some progress
Robert Roth – Still only 20, but appears to be going nowhere despite having a nice arm
Todd Van Steensel -Another in the long line of Australian products the Phillies have attempted to unearth. Only 18, so worth watching
Mike Bolsenbroek – He’s been coming along very slowly, but has produced consistent results. Needs to get moving quickly
Antonio Bastardo – Bastardo has always been a polarizing prospect, so its no surprise that I had a tough time figuring out where to rank him, and I’m sure he’ll get lots of people saying he should be in the Above Average tier. And I debated putting him there. But I didn’t for two main reasons. First and foremost, he’s had major trouble staying healthy. He blew the doors off the place in his major league debut, struggled thereafter, and then disappeared with an arm injury of which the Phillies didn’t really elaborate on, then he re-surfaced in time for the playoffs, amazingly. After missing big chunks of the last few seasons with arm/labrum issues, I’m very cautious about projecting anything for him going forward. He showed that he could throw in the low-mid 90’s, but he lost his velocity as he progressed, and I’m sure the 95’s were a case of adrenaline. Which brings me to point number two. His secondary pitches are average, so if you can harness that fastball, throw one average secondary pitch, and adjust to life in the bullpen, then he could be an upper echelon reliever, like JC Romero with a better fastball. And that would be an average prospect. They could continue to let him start, but there’s been no real indication that his arm can hold up. The other unknown is how his arm will respond to pitching 3 times in 4 days, the constant warming up/sitting down routine. Lots of question marks, which forces me to put him here. If he could remain healthy and hold his velocity, he has obvious upside.
Matthew Way – Way is your classic finesse lefty, with an average fastball and a plus changeup. He carved up low minors hitters in his debut, not a surprising development at all. The big test for him is going to be more advanced hitters, and he’ll get that test when he reaches AA. The Phillies have been very aggressive with promotions of late, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him in AA to open the year, and that’s where we’ll be able to evaluate how his game will play. If he can miss bats, limit the walks and keep the ball in the park, I’ll feel comfortable moving him up to Average at this time next year. But the profile he has, and the skill set he possesses, are tough to project as anything more than a #4/5 starter in the big leagues, unless he adds velocity, which seems unlikely to me.
Nicholas Hernandez – Hernandez is very similar to Way, so I won’t recite the same speech here. He had a disappointing season in 2009 entering the draft, but seemed to get back on track in pro ball. The Phillies seem to have done a decent job the last 2 seasons in finding guys with intriguing profiles who had down college seasons and grabbing them late, which is good in terms of value. I like Hernandez just about as much as Way going forward, and like Way, he’ll have to prove it at the upper levels. Hernandez has a slight edge over Way in that he’s about a year and a half younger.
Yohan Flande – Flande went from off the radar nobody to the Futures Game in a few short months. He’s kind of like Way and Hernandez, but with a bit more velocity and a bit less control/command/secondary offerings. Less polish, but a bit more upside maybe, and his GB rate of 51% is superior to the other two. Flande turns 24 in January, so time is working against him. Still, he’s come on fast and gone from non-prospect to interesting guy in a hurry, so it will be interesting to see what he does in 2010. He has a decent amount of upside.
Ryan Sasaki – This might be one tier too high, but I’ll take a flier on him. He’s a projectable lefty from the 2009 draft, and he showed decent numbers in his debut. He’s really all about projection at this point, at he’s 6’5 and 215, a great frame for a pitcher, and he’s only 18. He has plenty of upside, but he’s a work in progress obviously.
Sergio Escalona – Escalona bounced between the majors and minors every 2 weeks it seemed in 2009, and he’s basically a finished product at this point. That product is a situational lefty who, in his good seasons, should be able to retire righties enough where he can be a 1 inning guy instead of a 1 batter guy. His numbers were decent in the minors as a whole but not great. He actually had a weird line against lefties in the minors; they hit only .207 off of him in 33 PA, he struck out 9 and walked 3, but gave up 3 HR. Very weird. Anyway, he’s already pitched in the majors, he’s just 25, and the Phillies should be able to squeeze a few productive seasons out of him. Just want you want from an organizational type prospect.
Spencer Arroyo – Arroyo was an intriguing JuCo draftee in 2008, but didn’t have the best of seasons in 2009. He’s a somewhat tall and lanky lefty, his raw stuff was supposed to be decent, and his pro sample of innings is still quite small. He’s someone to keep an eye on, but he’s got a long way to go, obviously.
Jacob Diekman – I was a Diekman believer a few years ago, but he’s been moving in the wrong direction after a strong 2007 debut. I’m modestly encouraged by his splits from 2009 (despite warning you about split data) as he kept lefties to a .246 average despite a very high .343 BABIP. He’s done a nice job keeping the ball in the park, but he needs to trim the walks a bit. 2010 is his age 23 season, so now is a good time to kick things into gear.
Joe Savery – This one hurts to write, kind of how I felt about writing the Julian Sampson entry. I wanted to see Savery succeed. His 2009 ERA is a testament to his ability to grind it out. And luck. His peripherals were fairly poor. He walks too many guys, he doesn’t strike out many guys, and thats really a recipe for suck. If you want to find one bright spot, across 2 levels in 2009 he held lefties to a .235 AVG and allowed only 2 HR to the 184 lefties he faced. But that’s about it in terms of bright spots. His GB rate wasn’t even all that good in 2009, and that was one of his bright spots in 2008. I have no idea what is next for him. He doesn’t profile as a LOOGY, he doesn’t really do the things needed for a #5 type (lots of groundballs, minimal walks, modest K rate), so maybe its time for him to give hitting a shot? I really don’t know at this point.
Guys that I didn’t rank, but who might pop up in the bottom tier next year
Kevin Angelle – 2009 draftee, don’t have a ton of info on him, but he seems intriguing enough to mention
David Noles – 23 years old already, has to get on the really fast track, fringe reliever