Hello all. Welcome to my top 30 prospects writeup for the 2011 season. Unlike past seasons, I will be writing up my 30 prospects in multiple parts, in the hopes of promoting more discussion. Before I get to my rankings, I thought it would be helpful to give a brief overview of the system, and more importantly, a brief overview of how I put my rankings together. A list means nothing unless you know how it was put together, the criteria used, etc etc. Before we move on, I also want to point out that my top 30 list is available in the Maple Street Press 2011 Phillies Annual, which I recommend you pick up. The team over at thegoodphight.com put it together this year, and it figures to be the best edition yet.
So, lets kick start this party, check below the fold.
As I sat down to put together my list, I realized that the Phillies system right now is stronger than I can ever remember. And this comes after a series of trades for Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. I left off 10-15 prospects that I think could have been in the top 30 in previous years. For me, this is a testament to the Phillies scouts. The Phillies spend less money on the draft compared to the other teams in their revenue bracket, yet they consistently produce as many or more well thought of prospects. Operating on a shoestring budget in Latin America, the scouts have turned out a number of prospects in my top 30, paying small six figure amounts, while other teams are spending $2-5M per on much more hyped prospects. In the draft, the Phillies selectively break slot, but when they do, they rarely miss. Like any team, they end up with top 5 or 10 round picks that never make it to the majors, but on the whole, the system has grown tremendously in the last 5 years. Many prospects have been traded, but the traded prospects always seem to be replaced by new breakout guys. As it stands now, the system is one of the 5-10 best in baseball, according to various outlets, and as I said, I think it is as strong as I can remember since I’ve become a fan.
If you’re new to the site, I recommend you checking out this page, which details how I evaluate prospects. If you don’t feel like taking the time to read this, here is a basic summary:
* I strongly believe in melding scouting reports and statistics, its not one or the other
* A prospect’s age, what level he is at, and his home park play a factor when looking at performance
* Defensive value is important, especially when looking at projected production relative to the position being played
* For hitters, secondary skills are very important, notably raw power, plate discipline, contact rate and base running efficiency
* For pitchers, the core skills to focus on are strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate and groundball percentage.
* For pitchers, velocity is very important, especially for righthanded pitchers. Very few elite pitchers have average to below velocity.
My list is my own personal opinion. As we had our reader top 30, and you submitted your ballots, this is simply my list. I’ve been closely following minor league baseball for 10+ years. But I’m not a scout. I think I have a decent ability to watch a guy swing a bat, or throw a baseball, and figure out whether he is going to succeed. But I’m not an expert. Some things either look right or wrong to me, its a gut instinct in many cases. I don’t get a chance to go see guys play multiple times. This means I have to rely on scouting reports from other sources, short video clips, and my discussions with people who are closer to the game than me. Even if I could get to see all of the players in our system 10 times each, I’d never be right all the time. The big guns of prospect evaluation all come up with their lists, and each year they are on the money with a number of picks, and way off base with a number of their other picks. Baseball prospects are tough to gauge, really tough actually. Some players develop really fast, some really slow, and some never develop at all.
For me, there isn’t a choice between “now value” and “upside value”. Its all an equation, so to speak. If a player is a high probability guy who figures to be only an average big leaguer, that has to be weighed against a guy who is really far away, but has the chance to be a star. There is no “right” here, a list can’t be filled with all high probability guys or all high ceiling guys. I believe in a balance, because attrition in the prospect world is really high. Even “sure thing” guys flame out or fall well short of their projected ceiling. Guys who are almost off the radar come back with huge seasons and re-establish themselves. These lists are simply a snapshot of the feeling at the time, of which guys stand the best chance of making it to the majors and contributing.
For each prospect, I’m going to provide a basic statistics chart, a brief 2010 performance summary, strengths, weaknesses, ranking difficulties, MLB ETA, best case scenario, and final thoughts. These should be self explanatory. Ranking difficulties will be my explanation of the thought that went in to the ranking, if he could have gone higher/lower, etc etc. A few of the statistics represented, and what they mean, just for reference are below. Please check out the statistics glossary for more in depth explanations.
K% = Strikeouts as a percentage of plate appearances. I use plate appearances instead of ABs because I feel its more accurate and meaningful
BB% = Walks as a percentage of plate appearances.
ISO = Isolated power, an indicator of raw power
BABIP = Batting average on Balls In Play. MLB average is around .300
SecA = Secondary Average. MLB average is between .250-.270
DICE = Defense Independent Component ERA. A pitching statistic on the same scale as ERA which emphasizes pitching components that a pitcher has some degree of control over
Are we ready? Lets go. I will be including the statistics charts, as well as links to click to see an expanded version, if it is tough to see on your computer, depending on your display/screen size.
01. Domonic Brown, OF
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2010 Summary: The top prospect on everyone’s Phillies list heading into 2010, Brown mauled his minor league competition and earned a big league callup, showing flashes of brilliance mixed in with expected growing pains. His .390 OB% was excellent across two levels, he maintained his walk rate while also reducing his strikeouts. More impressively, his power increased fairly dramatically.
Strengths: Brown’s strengths are abundant. He more than held his own against lefthanders in the minors, and even with his inconsistent playing time in the majors, he continued to show a good approach at the plate, even if the results weren’t there. His walk rate has remained close to 10% (though it dipped slightly in AAA) as he has climbed the ladder, and the projected raw power showed itself in 2010, including a monster home run at Citizens Bank Park. An increase in power and a decrease in strikeouts is one of the best trends you can see in a power hitting prospect.
Weaknesses: Brown tinkered with his swing a bit after his call-up, raising his hands in a much more pronounced fashion than his time in the minors, and its unclear why this happened. The raised hands may have caused a bit of extra movement in his swing, leading to more swings and misses. His defense is still erratic in right field, but should improve with repetitions. He didn’t run as much in 2010 on the bases, and that may be an indication that he is starting to slow down a bit.
Best Case: Once he is firmly established in RF, Brown looks like a well rounded performer who will hit for power, provide a solid batting average, throw in plenty of walks, and add in the occasional stolen base. In other words, an all star caliber rightfielder who does it all.
MLB ETA: He’s already made it. With a good spring, he has a chance to win the rightfield job outright. If he doesn’t win the job, he may head to Allentown to play every day and work on the finer points of his game.
Ranking Difficulties: This was the easiest selection on the list. No other prospect in the system matches his combination of upside, proximity and probability.
Final Thoughts: Most prospects struggle when making the jump from the minors to the majors, and that is with regular playing time. Brown played sporadically, but the experience around the big league club should prove beneficial going forward. Charlie Manuel loves what Brown offers, so I expect he will get a real long look this spring at winning the job outright. That said, with Raul Ibanez’s contract expiring after 2011, there will be a spot for Brown either this year or next. He has shown a willingness to learn, by all accounts he is a very hard worker, so I wouldn’t get too excited about his struggles in his brief MLB stint, or during what was essentially a rehab stint in winter ball.
02. Brody Colvin, RHP
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2010 Summary: Without a first round pick in 2009, the Phillies took Colvin, a potential first round talent, in the 7th round and paid him like a first rounder. He responded by posting an excellent full season debut in 2010 at Lakewood. After a rough start, which saw him post an ERA over 11 in April, he was lights out the rest of the season, finishing with strong peripherals across the board.
Strengths: Colvin is a prototypical power arm starter, featuring a solid frame that lends itself to further muscle and velocity, as well as excellent present raw stuff. His fastball sits anywhere from 91-96, and he touched 97 multiple times this season, even late in games. His mechanics are free and easy, as he does not appear to be muscling up to generate the excellent velocity he already possesses. He’s a great athlete who will field his position well, and this athleticism should help him repeat his delivery once he has maxed out physically. Though his secondary pitches are unrefined, he showed good control and moved his fastball around well enough to keep hitters off balance. His groundball rate was average, but because of his size and impressive velocity, that number could trend up going forward.
Weaknesses: As good as his debut was, he still has a bit of rawness to his game. Multiple scouting reports indicate his command is still a work in progress, especially with his secondary offerings. Though his delivery is free and easy, he does throw slightly across his body, which is a minor health concern going forward, however it did not cause him any issues in 2010, and it does help create movement on his fastball.
Best Case: A starting pitcher who consistently pitches in the 93-95 range, touching 97 with two above average pitches sure sounds like a front of the rotation starter to me. His command and control aren’t there yet, but he has a good idea of what he’s doing on the mound, he’s athletic, and his frame should sustain 200+ innings per season.
MLB ETA: He’ll likely spend 2011 in Clearwater, with a possible bump up to Reading at the end of the summer. Assuming there is no real rush, he figures to make the majors in 2013, but if his command and control develop quicker than anticipated, its not impossible to imagine him getting a cup of coffee in 2012 if the need arises.
Ranking Difficulties: Spots 2, 3 and 4 were all essentially coin flips for me. Colvin’s projectability, coupled with his results and his health were enough for me to rank him 2nd. Elite starting pitching will forever be the most desirable commodity in baseball, and when I look at Colvin, I see a potential ace with all of the tools needed to lead a rotation. But I also concede that I was a huge fan of his heading into 2010, so he only re-enforced my belief in him, and he gets the nod at #2.
Final Thoughts: After a great debut, Colvin moves to the pitcher friendly Florida State League, and I expect great things. His DUI arrest prior to the 2010 season appears to be behind him, and he drew strong marks for his makeup, work ethic, and competitiveness at Lakewood. So far, he’s proven the Phillies right in their decision to offer him almost 7 figures to pass up his LSU commitment.
03. Jon Singleton, 1B/OF
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2010 Summary: Held back in extended spring training, Singleton got a late start at Lakewood, but came on like a man possessed, opening eyes with both his patience and power. He hit a wall at the end of the season, but its important to remember that he was just 18, playing against players 3-4 years older than him. He showed a bit of everything, including solid defense at first base, but will now get a look in the outfield in 2011.
Strengths: Singleton has an impressive offensive profile. He showed good contact skills for a potential slugger, striking out in just 16% of his plate appearances despite facing much more experienced competition. His walk rate was excellent, and he showed solid raw power. He also chipped in with 9 stolen bases, a testament to his athleticism. This athleticism has prompted the Phillies to try him in the outfield, where he should be no worse than adequate, with a chance to be an asset defensively. Though he slumped after hitting the wall, he showed very impressive raw power in his first 2 months at Lakewood, piling up doubles and home runs despite Lakewood’s very pitcher friendly confines. Once you show a skill you own it, repeating it is what separates the best from the rest.
Weaknesses: His cold finish to the season seemed to worry some folks, but I think its pretty easy to explain, as he was just 18 and in his first full season. His approach never seemed to waver, he simply wasn’t getting results. His throwing arm is only average, and though he’s a good athlete for his size, he’s never going to steal bases consistently. One concern I’ve seen voiced about his swing, from trusted source scoutingthesally.com, is that he has trouble handling high fastballs. This seems a minor quibble at this point, considering his age and experience level.
Best Case: A guy who can hit for average, draw walks, and hit 30 HR per season seems pretty outstanding, especially if it comes in LF instead of 1B. The future power is the biggest issue, as his approach at the plate is already very advanced considering his age. If he is forced back to first base, it obviously lessens his potential offensive impact.
MLB ETA: If he can remain in LF, his path to the majors with the Phillies is a bit more clear, but he figures to need 2-3 more seasons in the minors at least. His approach is outstanding for his tender age, so its just a matter of him getting reps, continuing to translate his raw power to games, and maintaining consistency over a 140 game season.
Ranking Difficulties: I was tempted, briefly, to rank him 2nd. I can’t overstate the age thing enough. The average “prospect age” in the SAL is like 20-21, with lots of 23-24 year old college guys filling out rosters, and Singleton was one of the youngest players in the league, and put up excellent offensive numbers in all categories. He could repeat Lakewood twice and still be age appropriate for the level. If his power develops further, and he’s, say, a 35-40 HR threat, I think its conceivable to rank him right next to Domonic Brown. I was very aggressive ranking him where I did last season (9th), and if I didn’t love Brody Colvin as much as I do, I could have easily ranked him 2nd. Its a great problem to have.
Final Thoughts: Singleton seems to have surprised the masses with his quick debut, and the short sighted folks who jumped off the bandwagon after his rough finish will likely be the first ones back on in 2011. If he can remain in LF, he looks like a big time offensive weapon going forward. Even at 1B, he’ll have plenty of value, it might just come for another team. A bright kid who takes well to instruction, his work ethic and coachability shouldn’t be an issue at all moving forward. He should open up as the every day LF in Clearwater in 2011, and there’s a whole lot to like here.