Hi. I wanted to write a notes column, because I haven’t done one of these in a while, and because I felt like I really had to get back to writing more regularly. The last month or so has been a bit turbulent, and because of that, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to the site as I wished I could Things are beginning to get back to normal, so I hope to be able to put in a better shift, but I wanted to thank Gregg and everyone else who regularly contributes here for picking up the slack as I’ve veered off course. I’m not going to do any fancy formatting for this post, I’m just going to give you some thoughts as we wind down the minor league season.
* I was recently part of a poll that asked for a top 20 prospects list for 2011, the results of which were used for this article by Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle. I had less than a week’s notice to put my list together, and after I submitted it, I realized that I’d forgotten JC Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies. I’m not sure if the latter two will make my top 20/30 list for 2011, but the fact that they both slipped my mind isn’t good. Well that’s not completely true, I think I left Gillies off because he’s really kind of in prospect purgatory at this point, no point in ranking him anywhere, as he has bigger issues to address. JC Ramirez should have been on the list. What this exercise did was confirm my belief that these types of lists are really tough to make, and even tougher when you don’t have time to sit and digest all of the information you have on each player. I probably spent 3-4 weeks last winter refining and re-adjusting my top 30 list that was eventually published in the Phillies annual and on this website. And even then, I felt like I could have made changes, moved guys up and moved guys down. If you’re curious, my top 10 (and remember, this is preliminary) was
Colvin, Cosart, Singleton, May, Valle, Santana, James, Biddle, L Castro, Worley
I think JC Ramirez is possibly #10, but will be somewhere in the 10-15 range for sure.
* Two guys that I ranked in my preliminary top 20 that I find really intriguing are Cesar Hernandez and Miguel Alvarez. Both guys fit the bill of under the radar, bargain shopping abroad, but both are enjoying excellent seasons at Williamsport. The one thing that worries me about Alvarez is the plate discipline/willingness to work a walk, but his 17 doubles in 244 PA is solid, and he just turned 21 a few days ago, so while he’s not young for the NYPL, he isn’t too old, and this is only his 2nd season in the US. His .382 BABIP is a tad high, but again, I like the potential. I might have been too aggressive ranking him at the back end of the top 20, but I think he’s a top 30 guy for sure. I like Hernandez for the opposite reasons I like Alvarez, as he doesn’t have much power, but he’s shown a solid eye at the plate, and he would appear to have very good speed, seen in the 30 for 36 in SB. Hernandez is just 20, and I’m quite comfortable with having him in the Top 20.
* After a slow start, Jesse Biddle has turned it on, and for the season, he has pretty excellent peripherals. 42.1 IP – 39 H – 14 BB – 50 K – .241 OPP BA. Very solid stuff. I’ll be curious to see the scouting reports on him this winter, to see where he has been living velocity wise, but the Phillies have to be pretty happy with what they’ve seen so far. I expect he’ll start 2011 at Lakewood and be on the Colvin plan, where he won’t be restricted early on, and then his innings will be curtailed at the end of the season. A great debut though.
* Aaron Altherr is another guy that I completely whiffed on with my Top 20 list, and I really can’t believe I did. Again, quick lists are bad news. Altherr has actually seen his surface numbers improve with the promotion to Williamsport, where he now sports a .311/.373/.426 line in just 61 AB. Small sample size alert definitely valid here, but I like what I see. His power hasn’t truly emerged yet, but that isn’t uncommon for very raw high school guys, even in their 2nd pro seasons. He figures to be a fixture in the Lakewood OF next year, and could be primed for a big season. Kelly Dugan hasn’t had quite the breakout year, but he’s shown flashes, and I think he gets a partial pass this season due to his injury problems to start the season. I expect he’ll be playing every day in a corner spot next year at Lakewood along with Altherr, and it will be a big year for him in his 3rd pro season.
* It seems the Phillies find one pitcher deep in the draft every year who comes aboard with no fanfare, and then puts up eye popping numbers in the NYPL, and this year it appears to be Eric Pettis, a 35th round pick out of Cal-Irvine. In 54 IP, Pettis has given up only 41 H, to go with 6 BB and 62 K, while not allowing a HR. Righties are hitting just .194 off of him, and he’s obviously overpowering the league. He is 22 now, so he should be dominating, but its nice to see that he is. He’s a prime candidate for a full time bullpen role, and I kind of wish the Phillies would take guys like this and just bump them straight to Reading. See what he has to offer. Speaking of relievers (TMac segue!), Garrett Claypool, another 2010 draftee, has put up excellent numbers in relief this season; 19.2 IP – 16 H – 6 BB – 29 K and a .219 OPP AVG. Again, like Pettis, he should be promoted aggressively, as he is also 22.
* Julio Rodriguez is all the rage these days. I addressed him in my mailbag last week, and I want to re-enforce my point here. His numbers are excellent. He’s young, and as I’ve noted before, I loved the projection he offered, because he has a big frame as well as a deceptive delivery. However, I still have not gotten consistent, definitive reports on his velocity. Some people have said he is still only throwing 87-90, others have said he has thrown 90-93. I don’t have to tell you, but that is a huuuuuuuge gap, and velocity, especially for RHP, is kind of a big deal when thinking about future projection. He throws a big, sweeping curveball, and against bad, rookie ball/Low A hitters, that curveball is toxic. But if he doesn’t have even an average fastball, he’s going to struggle to get guys out at the next level. I talked about it a while back, but for RHP, you really need a fastball that averages no worse than 90 MPH, that’s average, not what you can get to when you unload on one. Movement helps, command is important, but if his fastball is short, its tough for me to get really excited about him in terms of his ultimate upside.
* I wanted to talk about Jon Singleton real quick. I was having a conversation with a friend the other night, and we were talking about Singleton, and he asked me if I saw Keith Law’s comments that maybe Singleton wasn’t that great of a prospect, because his numbers had dropped off after a hot start. I personally find a statement like that kind of ridiculous, to be completely honest. When Singleton was hitting .400, no one thought he was going to keep hitting .400 for the duration of the minor league season. So the inverse of that is also true, isn’t it? He showed he could hit for average, hit for power, and work the count/draw his share of walks when he was going well. So wouldn’t we logically assume that he was going to cool off, go through a cold spell, and eventually level off? Most players do, at every level. But at the core, his peripherals are outstanding;
424 PA – .190 ISO – 56 BB (13.2%) – 68 K (16%)
For an 18 year old in Low A, those numbers are incredibly good. Not only is he showing an excellent eye at the plate, but he’s making contact as well. His 14 HR, again, for an 18 year old, are excellent. While he may not have 40 HR power, or develop that kind of power, its not hard to imagine him as a guy who can average 30-40 doubles per year, with 25 HR and 90 BB. While that’s not Ryan Howard, its still pretty good. I think Singleton is a great illustration of the argument against splits and looking at minor league numbers in small samples. Young players who are very inexperienced need reps in the minors. Its a learning process, from learning to hit breaking balls, to learning how to approach different types of pitchers, to learning how to eat and train properly. High school baseball and pro ball are obviously very very different, and the adjustments aren’t easy. Some guys tend to pick it up faster than others, and some guys never get it. But its important to remember this, and I think that’s why its better to look at numbers in the aggregate, not in blocks of 20, 30, 50 or even 250 PA’s. If you didn’t know that Singleton was scorching in May/June, and you just looked at his overall line, you’d be really impressed, given his age and level of competition.
* Just a few other random thoughts. I like Harold Garcia a lot, and my hope is that the Phillies see if he can play SS. Not play it like Jimmy Rollins, but play it credibly, where if he needed to fill in for a game or two, he could do it. I see Garcia as a really valuable utility guy, capable of playing 2B, 3B, and hopefully SS in a pinch. His speed and solid contact skills are well suited to that role. Phillippe Aumont will be 22 when he reports to spring training next year. While he hasn’t had the best season, or one that most Phillies fans were hoping to see, I think you can see a few positives. From 2008-2009, he threw a total of 107 IP. This year, as of this writing, he’s at 116 IP. Like I mentioned with Singleton, inexperienced guys need reps in the minors. Pitchers need innings. Coming from Canada, he didn’t have the luxury of playing against top talent on a regular basis. He was able to succeed with Seattle by just blowing his fastball by guys. But that approach generally doesn’t work in the long run, you have to possess either excellent command or supreme velocity if you want to get by with just a fastball, and Aumont has neither. The Phillies were smart to send him to the rotation, because it gave him valuable innings, and also gave him more opportunities to work on his secondary pitches. Its clear by the walk totals that he is still having problems. And because of his size, he’s always going to have to work extra hard to keep his mechanics in line. But he’ll pitch all of 2011 at age 22. And it will be only his 4th season in pro ball. The Phillies have time with him. And while 2010 looks like a bust of a season for him, I think ultimately it will have helped him greatly. Maybe he did belong in my Top 20. In fact, I know he belongs there. And I actually feel better about him now than I did when that deal was made, as funny as it sounds.