Corner outfield like the infield corners is where teams look to put players with power and limited athleticism. Typically right fielders have to have a strong arm to make the throw to third base to prevent teams from going first to third on every single (and tagging up on fly balls), however having a plus arm in left is still a legitimate asset to a team’s defense. Up until 2010 the corners had not been a major problem for the Phillies but since the departure of Jayson Werth the Phillies have struggled to fill RF, they got a successful half season out of Hunter Pence at a very high price but otherwise the replacements in RF have been disappointments. In LF the Phillies historically have been willing to sacrifice defense in order to get a good bat into the line up.
On a whole the Phillies have drafted and signed toolsy outfielders with limited success to this point, highlighted by Dominic Brown’s current major league struggles. It does however leave the system with a good amount of players who have high upside, both in the corners and center field, that could make the jump to solid prospects.
Darin Ruf (26) – Ruf has been the source of much discussion this fall after a torrid end to his AA season. Going into the year he has a very good org first baseman that had some upside as a bench bat. By the end of the season Ruf had put up one of the greatest AA in Phillies history, and had hit 3 HRs in the major leagues. Ruf has been playing mostly in LF since the middle of August, where he has the tools to be average at best with an ok arm and poor speed, there have been positive reports so far from his time in winter ball. In both the majors and winter ball Ruf showed more swing and miss to his game, but he still maintained his ability to hit for power. At best Ruf can be a poor fielding, slugging LF who will provide RF power in a market where it as a premium. Ruf’s best position is first base but that is blocked by Ryan Howard’s contract. There is little to no precedent for a player of Ruf’s profile becoming a major league regular so there are no good comparable players to look at to judge how his future will project.
Leandro Castro (23) – Castro signed out of the Dominican in 2007 and has moved up a level a year since. Castro has average tools across the board (with the exception of his plate discipline) but nothing that profiles as a carrying tool. He can play some center field but not well enough to profile there defensively as a regular, but he doesn’t hit for enough power or have the walk rate to profile in a corner offensively. It overall is a fourth outfielder profile as he can play some center at times but he would have to make dramatic improvements to profile as a regular. In 2013 Castro likely goes to AAA to see if he can improve on enough skills to make it to the major leagues.
Kelly Dugan (22) – Dugan was the Phillies first pick in the 2009 draft (although it was in the second round). Up until 2012 injuries had derailed his development, and to start 2012 an injury forced him to playing exclusively first base, after he recovered he moved out to RF where he has plenty of arm and range to be above average defensively. At the plate Dugan had a monster year ending with a final slash line of .300/.387/.470. He hit a large amount of doubles and they should turn into home runs as he puts on more muscle. He does strikeout fairly often but it comes with a good walk rate, his batting average was a little driven by a high BABIP but he does make good solid contact. Dugan will likely go to Clearwater but could move to Reading quickly as he has lost time, but the Phillies could view him as the corner version of Zach Collier another high pick derailed by injuries.
Anthony Hewitt (23) – To say Hewitt has been anything other than a failure as a first round pick would be a lie. However, he has improved at each level and put up the same line in Clearwater that he did in Lakewood to go along with a career high in walks (yes he drew 9 walks). Hewitt still has all of the raw tools to be really good and if he can just make enough contact there is still a fourth or five outfielder in there who can run and hit for some power. Defensively Hewitt has poor instincts but has the speed to play some center and plenty of arm for right field. In 2013 Hewitt will likely take a step that few saw him taking which is that he will be a starting outfielder for a AA team.
Brian Pointer (20) – Pointer was a over slot late round signing in 2010. He was very raw when drafted but there are good tools there, he was thought to be an average power guy who could stick in center field. He has shown more power than that, though at the price of contact issues and swing and miss. It also appears that Pointer is destined for outfield corner where he will have good range and a good arm. Pointer will have to show better contact in 2013 where he will likely move to Clearwater because of the logjam of outfielders behind him.
Larry Greene Jr (19) – Greene was the Phillies first pick in the 2011 draft, at the time of the draft he was considered to have the best raw power of any highschooler in the draft. Greene did not hit homeruns in Williamsport but he was near the league lead in doubles and showed surprising plate discipline. Greene’s arm limits him to LF, but for now he has the range to stick in the outfield and he showed at least average speed for now. Greene likely goes to Lakewood to start 2013, if he can hit for power he can rise quickly up the prospect rankings.
Dylan Cozens (18) – Cozens is a hulking power hitting right fielder who the Phillies took with their second round pick in 2012. Cozens had a great start to his GCL season but tailed off towards the end of the season. Cozens’ swing generates near elite raw power but it can be long and stiff which causes a lot of swing and miss. Cozens is plenty athletic currently and can run well, but there is a fear that he will continue to get bigger which will force him to first base where the bat has to be special. The good news is that if he can tap into the power consistently it could carry him all the way to the majors. If Cozens shows up in good shape and has a good spring he could make the jump to Lakewood to start 2013 with a possible return to Williamsport to end the season.
Jose Pujols (17) – Pujols was one of the two high profile Latin American signings by the Phillies in 2012. He draws some comparisons to former Phillies prospect Domingo Santana as a raw power hitting right field prospect. Pujols’ raw power has drawn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton but there are some questions about whether his swing will translate it to game power. In the field he should be average in a corner but unless he puts on a bunch of weight he should stick in the outfield. Pujols will begin 2013 in Extended Spring Training befor esticking in Florida for the GCL season.
Cameron Perkins (22) – Perkins was the Phillies 6th round pick in 2012. He has played all four corners but he is likely stick in the outfield in deference to the young third basemen in the system. Perkins has a good quick bat that should hit for at least average power and good contact. He is sometime too aggressive at the plate but it shouldn’t be exposed until the upper levels. Based on past trends Perkins will likely start in Clearwater in 2013.
Domonic Brown (25) – Coming into 2010 Brown was one of the top prospects in baseball, after a great first half injuries forced him up to the major league level where he ended up on the bench for the last two months of the season reduced to pinch hitting. In 2011 he was rated a Top 5 prospect and was on pace to earn a place on the starting roster but a broken hamate bone derailed the start of his season, he did perform well in his return to action and was ultimately sent to the bench again when the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence. In 2012 he started in AAA and once again struggled with injuries before getting called up when the Phillies traded away Pence. Brown showed flashes of his previous potential, he may no longer have superstar ceiling but he could definitely be a major league regular.
Questions facing this positional group
Is Ruf actually an OF, and is he going to continue to hit at the major league level?
Can Greene and Cozens stick in the outfield and will they find ways to consistently tap into their raw power?
Is Kelly Dugan back on the prospect radar and starting caliber RF?
Who is Domonic Brown?