Top 30 Accountability: 6 – 10

This is a retrospective back on the Top 30 prospects list I wrote before the start of the season.  My opinion is that anyone who puts their opinion out there should be accountable for that opinion, in this case rather than just ask whether I was right or wrong, but more why was it right or wrong.  The goal is to explore things in the development of a prospect that can point to growth or regression.  Additionally just because a prospect fails to live up to or exceeds expectations does it mean the base analysis was wrong when it was written.

When I wrote up the Top 30 I had Biddle and Morgan in their own tier followed by Quinn and then a bunch of names you could have argued in any order.  In that scenario I find the ranking to not provide a lot of information, because at the time the difference between 3 and 7, and as far down to Tocci at 10 was miniscule.  It is the problem with doing a numerical ranking is that you create an artificial hierarchy where none exists.  So the emphasis is much more on the reports and analysis than the order in which the names appear.  As always the initial list can be found here

10. Shane Watson

Watson is very polished with two plus pitches and an average changeup under development.  He should easily handle a full season assignment and could move quickly through the system.  Watson’s limited debut due to diabetes should be behind him and he impressed in instructs.  With a good year Watson could be near the top of this list.

Even before the injury it was not the best full season debut for Watson.  He did keep the walks down but was homer prone at time.  The Phillies limited his use of the curveball and forced him to use the changeup and develop fastball command.  It might have been optimistic with the polish and fast moving part of the analysis but he has shown a true plus fastball and curveball this year.  If the home run rate is more fluke than there is little reason to be worried if he is allowed full use of his arsenal.  His most likely ceiling is mid rotation starter.

9. Jonathan Pettibone

The more I looked at Pettibone, the more I realized that without the plus fastball or an out pitch, his ceiling is limited.  The good news is that he is ready now, and the changeup is a legitimate plus pitch and it is plus command (at least in Reading).  Pettibone will have to miss a lot more bats or generate more weak contact to have higher upside and I just cannot reasonably project that growth.

The only thing surprising about Pettibone’s year was his 4 starts in AAA where he had a ton of bad luck.  Pettibone came up and pitched like something between a #4 and #5 starter for 100 innings.  He might improve a little as the control gets better and he gets more efficient with his pitches.  Pettibone should be locked into the back of a rotation for years to come and that is a pretty good outcome.

8. Carlos Tocci

 I believe in Tocci as a plus defender in centerfield with plus plus speed.  That means that the pressure on his bat is much lower.  It is unlikely Tocci will develop average  power given his frame, but if he can add enough strength to allow his good instincts to play up then he could be a monster player.

I have spoken my piece multiple times on Tocci so I won’t delve too much in here.  The numbers and strength below where I expected but his baseball instincts are off the charts.  I have heard nothing but great reviews about his feel for hitting and defensive abilities.  He is clearly exhausted, and he personally thought he was destined for Williamsport midseason but the org showed faith in his abilities.  For someone his size you would expect a ton of ground balls and he hits a ton of them right now, but this is a kid who can put it in the air and on a line  As he gets stronger those are going to liners into the gaps and down the lines and not just pure speed singles.  I don’t think the ceiling his quite as high as I did preseason but it is a special set of baseball abilities.

7. Cody Asche

Asche is average across the board, with possibly a plus hit tool.  His upside is limited but he should be a solid major leaguer for years in the future.  Asche likely only needs another half season of minor league ABs between AA and AAA before he should be pushing Michael Young off the position on the major league level.

Asche is walking a touch more in a small sample size at the majors while hitting with a lower BABIP (to be expected given his profile and better defenses).  He is on pace for a full season WAR in the 2-3 win range.  Essentially he is a major league regular right now and should be for years.  I expect him to have to make some adjustments against LHP and will likely have some platoon splits but not enough to force him out of being a full time player.  I would expect a huge amount more improvement from Asche, as his numbers have actually stabilized over his AA, AAA, and major league splits but a very valuable major league piece to develop.

6. Maikel Franco

Besides Quinn Franco is the best chance at a true cornerstone position player in the system.  After struggling in the first half Franco really started to show a good approach as well as the ability to use the full field at the plate.  There is plus game power in the bat and he should stick at third base as long as he keeps his body in check.  Franco could accelerate his development and earn a mid-season jump to Reading if he gets off to a good start.  There is plenty to like and be excited about.

Do as I write not as I rank.  Franco was the hardest to rank for me coming in because I wanted him at #4, but I really like Joseph and Martin, and somehow Franco ended up with a scouting report reading like a top prospect but down the list.  Since I wrote this I have lost confidence in Franco’s hit tool and gained more confidence in the power.  I don’t like the approach and think he can get away with a lot because he has great hands and bat speed.  I think a lot of people read into that and think he is a non-prospect, but the truth is he is my easy #1 prospect now and I think he is going to be very good, just not elite.  If he can clean these things up and be more selective (because the bat speed and power will allow him to hit anything as hard as he wants) you are looking at a very special bat.  He needs more time in the minors and that is not a bad thing, we are always looking for the next big thing to come up and carry a team, sometimes it is better to like someone take their lumps first and work it out before arriving.  It is really hard to make changes in the majors during the season, and the last thing you want to do here is bounce Franco up and down and be moving pieces like Asche, Ruf, and Brown around while you work it out.  Let him continue slowly for a little bit, the payoff is going to be better when he gets there (plus an extra year of control and a year less of arbitration, which you think might not be a big deal but it may be the difference between having Harper/Trout/Machado money or not).

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

16 thoughts on “Top 30 Accountability: 6 – 10

  1. I love this series of posts. Well done.

    I am much more bearish on Tocci. I think this is the quintessential example of scouts vs numbers guys. I am hoping that the scouting guys are right on him. I have seen him a handful of times and I have written that his defense is truly elite. Great arm! But here are my concerns:
    1. In all of the games that I have seen, I have yet see him barrel the ball. That has nothing to do with strength. It is about squaring the ball on the bat.
    2. He needs to add more than just a little weight. He is listed at 160 right now, and that is probably on the generous side. At 6’2″ he probably needs to be around 185 – 195 pounds. That is a lot of muscle for him to add. A real lot.
    3. I also don’t buy the “he is only 17” argument with regard to his frame. There are plenty of 17 year olds who have great muscle mass and/or clear frames to build upon. IMO the kid is very weak among his 17 year old peers.
    4. He does not have plus plus or even plus speed IMO. I don’t know where that came from, but the speed doesn’t jump out ever. He isn’t slow, but certainly not elite speed.
    5. While I do think that it is impressive that he is 17 and played A ball. I have a hard time agreeing that he “held his own.” He had the 3rd lowest OB% in the league and the 2nd lowest OPS. I don’t know what “holding your own” actually means, but I don’t think that’s it.

    I wish him luck. I hope he bulks up in the offseason and crushes it next year and I end up with egg on my face. Go get em kid!

    1. Agree with much of this, but I think the argument is more nuanced than “Stats versus Scouts” [TM]. Many of your arguments are actually scouting concerns, and the numbers adjusted for his age/level are quite promising.

    2. I agree that it just isn’t possible to age-correct his Lakewood stats to something good. There just isn’t enough positive results to say that if he were 19 instead of 17 this season. Can’t even reasonably project to what he will do next season, if he repeats at Lakewood, which he certainly should.

      1. Placement-wise, I wonder if there isn’t a comparison to made with Freddy Galvis, who OPSed in the 500s as a teenager at Lakewood too, and was still promoted to Clearwater the next season. Both were underdeveloped physically but great instincts/defense guys.

      2. I’m a big supporter of Tocci repeating Lakewood, at least to start. I’ve maintained since mid season that at some point we should want Tocci to excel at a level and his age allows us to be patient with him. Clearwater at 18, Reading at 19? At what benefit?

        I’m very high on Tocci after getting a good look at him last season. But even I’m not expecting him to compete for a roster spot in 2016. Repeat Lakewood.

  2. From Parks today on BP (not behind paywall)

    Maikel Franco, third base, Phillies (Double-A Reading)
    I didn’t write a glowing report on Franco after a four-game look earlier this summer, and he rewarded my pessimism by continuing to punish baseballs like they personally wronged his family. I’m still quite hesitant to accept his Double-A performance as a preview of his future major-league success, but there is no denying that Franco’s eruption in 2013 was more explosive and more consistent than anybody could have predicted. He just showed a natural feel for driving the baseball and making hard contact, and that is evident in his 70 extra-base hits across two levels. I think his load and trigger are not only noisy but add length to the swing, which gives him coverage issues and opens him up to secondary exploitation. But his hand-eye coordination is so good that he can recover from bad guesses, and his bat speed is so good that he can catch up to the ball despite the early extension and length. His body isn’t very impressive and his defensive profile at third is fringe at best, but the bat will carry him to the majors and has the potential to make him an offensive weapon once he gets there. –Jason Parks

  3. Parks’ write up should be reassuring to those who view his ABS as a barrier to his offense. Matt’s taken together with Parks’ yield a power right handed bat for our lineup but the call by Parks about Franco’s defense at third to be “fringy.” When added to other scouts’ like opinion on his 3rd basing, we see more clearly why he has added 1st base to his recent play at the behest of the FO.

    Why shouldn’t that be considered as a valid resolution of the Asche/Franco’s 3rd base challenge? By now we should be ready to concede that Howard will never attain anything close to his first few years in MLB. In fact, he seems more like a hole in the lineup with an occasional appearance for the good. His maneuverability around the bag is at a low ebb and it is unlikely that any waves of success with suddenly reemerge.

    So, the problem is named HOWARD. The FO cannot nor should not ignore this problem. He carries the burden of an excessively high salary commitment along with severely reduced offense and that lesser glove. This “problem” calls for solving within the next year or so. That would allow Franco to be that power righty to have a much better balanced lineup.

    So….how will Howard, the problem, be fixed? Can he be valuable as a DH in the AL? IMO, not likely because of his declined bat. Can he be “retired” for “inability” due to ongoing and accumulating medical/injury issues? Can the Phils buy out his contract? If justified medically based retirement is contemplated, is there insurance to cover in whole or part of his salary?

    IMO, this issue cannot be ignored…for the sake of a recovery of this franchise.

    What possibilities do YOU see…or think?

    1. Hope Howard has a great season and trade him in the next offseason to the AL and eat about 50% of his remaining $60 million.

      1. You know what with the TV contract on the horizon I think from a financial standpoint the Phil’s could eat more the 50% of Howard’s contract. Seeing bad deals like Wells and Rios moved gives hope that Howard can be moved … my biggest concern is whether Monty and gang can separate the business from the personal side of Howard moving on!

    2. Ignoring howard for the moment, I still don’t think a decision needs to be made for at least another year with 3B. There’s still probably a 50/50 chance that either Asche or Franco doesn’t develop into the player we’re expecting. Moving Franco to 1B hurts his value. In the event that both end up as above average major league 3B, we’re probably better off trading one to fill a hole elsewhere rather than diminishing Franco’s value by moving him to 1B. He would need to hit a ton even to be a 4 win player at first base.

      1. I agree. Asche has only a few MLB games under his belt. Franco only has half a season above A ball.
        Franco should spend all of next year (until Sept) in minors with Asche in the majors to see how he does. Injuries will likely be a factor.

        Howard is entrenched at 1B and will hopefully be a useful platoon player next year.

        I think a trade is one option for Asche or Franco (as Howard is untradeable) if everything goes well, but more likely I expect Asche to get some time in the OF (Prado type) while Franco could move between 3B and some 1B.

    3. IF Franco indeed is fringey at third base – and opinions DO differ on that – then the major objection to moving him to first evaporates. However:

      (1) It does decrease his value. His chance of being a star essentially evaporates.

      (2) Because of #1, and because of the varying opinions regarding his defense, and because he probably needs some more time in the minors to refine his offensive game (even assuming that Parks is correct) a move to first base is premature.

      If, a year from now, Asche has solidified his position as a a regular (which I think he will, despite still thinking that you are far too optimistic regarding his future – if he ends up being half the player that Rolen was, we should all be absolutely thrilled), and if Franco sands out the rough edges in his offensive game, and IF Franco really can’t hack it defensively at third, THEN we contemplate a move to first.

      Of course then we get into the problem of Howard standing in his way. I don’t have an easy answer to that.

  4. I’m not as anxious to say good-bye to Howard. None of the rookies we talk about here can carry his bat. As we saw last season, even in a limited role, Howard made them play-off contenders through much of September. He is a special power bat. That kind of bat does not come around too often. I would like to see him begin next season with this in mind. I would bet he is able to produce a lot of runs when healthy. We haven’t seen that from any of these very good rookie players. I like the prospects, but there is nothing elite about them. Howard has an elite bat. We may eventually see this from Cozens, but we will have a little wait time. Let Howard play. We have everything to gain and really nothing to lose.

    1. Problem: now Howard can’t carry his own bat. His decline isn’t just last season or the one before. It is a steady decline for the last several years and shows NO change for the better in any way.

      He is dumbstruck by lefty pitching and strikeout rate goes up…steadily. So, what remains that is good? Almost all MLB players face the challenge of adjusting to pitching that has adjusted to him. Howard shows no ability to make necessary changes in response.

      This has been going on for too long to enable any faith whatsoever that a reasonable recovery in coming. He is a hole in the lineup where a best hitter with power is supposed to be. How long can we wait for a miracle to occur.

      He is what he is. But, there may be one small chance for him: Sandberg. Manual didn’t intervene much to get the changes necessitated. He was TOO patient with Ryan. I see a small chance that Sandberg MIGHT have some ideas to bring Howard to a different table. It’s a faint hope. Watch ’14!

  5. I am curious who Pettibone compares to Vance Worley in ceiling and floor.
    I expected Worley to settle in as a #4 to #5 starter able to pitch many innings on most nights. But he seemed to get many called strikes but did not have much more than average stuff.

    1. I always thought Worley was headed for regression. Pettibone’s stuff is better than Worley because of the changeup. While it is not a putaway pitch it can get the out better than anything in Worley’s arsenal. Once batters stopped waiting back on Worley and attacked his pitches he lost the called third strike and he could not work efficiently because every pitch could be fouled off until he made a mistake. I expect Worley to come back either as a #5 starter or ideally in the bullpen where the stuff will play up enough to allow him to put guys away and he can give multiple solid innings.

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