The Phillies have always liked drafting projectable right handed pitchers with prototypical power pitcher builds. The strategy has had mixed success but it leaves the low minors full of arms with plenty of potential but years and years of development in front of them. In 2012 the Phillies added two more arms with plenty of pedigree with their two supplemental first round picks. If a pitcher has more than a fastball he is ahead of the curve for the most part, and for many pitchers they are far away from their final arm strength and velocity.
I have kept these players separate from the more polished arms because they are at a very different part of their developmental process where they are transitioning from raw arms to pitchers. Many of them will not make it past Lakewood, others are destined for the bullpen, and just maybe there are some solid starters in this group which will emerge.
Shane Watson (19) – Watson was the Phillies first pick in the 2012 draft. Watson made a brief debut in the GCL, but his season was cut off by by a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Watson’s fastball sits in the low-90s but he has run it up as high as 96 in high school. Watson’s best pitch is a plus curveball that has tight sharp movement. Watson has shown a changeup but it is still developing at this point and he has tinkered with a cutter. As with most high school pitchers Watson’s command could use some fine-tuning. Watson is advanced enough that he could handle a promotion to a full year at Lakewood.
Mitch Gueller (19) – the Phillies other supplemental first round pick Gueller has received grief for a poor 2012 GCL debut where he didn’t miss bats and looked ordinary. Gueller was raw coming out of high school equally thought of as a hitter and pitcher. On the mound Gueller sits 93-94 but can touch 96, and has a slider and changeup that are inconsistent at best but both flash plus potential. Gueller has evoked physical and stuff comparisons to former Phillies prospect and Washingtonian Trevor May. However, Gueller is a superior athlete, who will need some tweaking in his delivery which will help his command, but his athleticism should allow him to hold his delivery and velocity deep into games. Gueller has #2 upside and has slightly more upside overall than Watson due to the athletic ability, however, Gueller is still raw and despite the Phillies encouragement at the adjustments he has made he will be a work in progress. How he pitches in camp will determine whether the Phillies send him to Lakewood as they have with former early high school pitchers or if they hold him back for Williamsport.
Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (19) – JDT was raw when drafted in 2011, and he has not made the leap to solid starter yet. He has loose easy motions and a fastball in the low 90s. There is not much else on JDT, but he is young enough that he could go to Williamsport in 2013 without being behind developmentally.
Kevin Walter (20) – One of three overslot signees at the 2010 draft deadline Walter has yet to stay healthy. He has only pitched 13 innings over 3 years to this point. When he was drafted his fastball touched 93 and he had the frame to add to that. It remains to be seen if Walter will even have much of a run in the Phillies minor league system.
Marek Minarik (19) – Minarek was signed out of the Czech Republic in 2010 has a large (6′ 7″) projectable (only 195lbs) 16 year old right handed pitcher. Minarik made his stateside debut in 2011 but has only pitched a total of 20 innings for the Phillies (he did pitch for the Czech Republic in WBC qualifiers). As a 17 year old Minarik was touching 91 with plenty of room for more, which he paired with a developing changeup and curveball. Minarik will likely go to Williamsport after spending time in Extended Spring Training.
Josh Warner (20) – Warner was an international signing out of Australia. He made a poor debut in 2011 giving up 72 hits in 54.2 IP, but the Phillies sent him to Lakewood for two starts in early 2012 before sending him to Williamsport. Warner does not walk many batters but he also does not strikeout many. Warner’s fastball sits in the hi 80s but can touch 92, he also has a good sweeping breaking ball and a solid changeup. Warner has the frame to add more velocity but he is no longer a projectable 17 year old, if he maintains his current stuff he will need to develop his control and changeup to profile as a starting pitcher long term.
Manaure Martinez (21 on Dec 31) – Martinez impressed in the VSL in 2011 showing a live arm with a sharp breaking ball. The Phillies brought him over to the GCL in 2012 and he was dominant over 7 starts (37.0 IP) with a 2.43 ERA and 41Ks and only 11BBs. He was then promoted to Williamsport where he struggled as his walk rate rose and his strikeout rate decreased. Martinez has a live arm with a fastball with two seam run that tops out at 95-96, a sharp slider, and a developing changeup. Martinez will go to Lakewood where he will have to show results closer to his GCL time.
Richard Bielski (18) – Bielski is a very young 18 (turned 18 in Oct) and another raw and projectable pitcher. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 in high school. Bielski is a pure arm strength lottery ticket and will definitely spend time in Extended Spring Training where a special performance might get him to Williamsport but another year in the GCL will not be a bad thing for him.
Jonathan Musser (21) – Another late overslot bonus from the 2010, Musser was a projectable right hander who fell down draft boards due to injury. Musser has a low 90s fastball, but his secondary stuff is still a work in progress. Musser has been terrible as a pro with ERAs above 6 in both 2011 and 2012 as well as a BB/9 above 5. Musser will have to show large improvement to continue with the organization through the 2013 season.
Yacksel Rios (19) – Another pure arm strength guy, Rios was a third baseman prior to the draft and the Phillies picked him on the strength of a fastball that touched 93 in short spurts and a projectable 6’4″ frame. Rios is extremely raw and will need to start being more than an arm to stick in the organization. He will need to prove enough in Extended Spring Training to go to Williamsport, he could be a bullpen arm if the secondary stuff does not come around but expect him to get starts to get innings to work on his consistency.
How good are Watson and Gueller?
Which Manaure Martinez is for real?
You could say the rest of the guys are questions of their own.
A big thanks to Mitch Rupert for scouting and velocity reports on the Williamsport pitchers (follow him at @Mitch_Rupert if you do not already)