I occasionally receive and respond to survey requests. My location in Clearwater, my ability to attend a lot of baseball activities from February thru November, and my continued involvement with Phuture Phillies provides me with the opportunity to actually see the players in person whom I write about.
Recently I received a request from Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts to respond to a series of survey questions. Matt collects answers from a lot of people from across the industry who, “… either write about the Phillies, write about Phillies’ prospects, see/think about Phillies’ prospects, or write about baseball nationally”, and builds an article from all the varied responses.
Matt’s article has posted and can be read at Phillies Minor Thoughts. Twenty-six of the most knowledgeable Baseball and/or Phillies writers took part.
I put a lot of thought into some of my answers. But with so many excellent answers from so many excellent writers, I expect that some of my work won’t make Matt’s final draft. So, since I put a lot of thought into my answers, I decided to share them with you under my own byline. If nothing else, this will give regular readers an idea where my head is. I have often suppressed my thoughts on many subjects to protect my objectivity. So, here’s a peak behind the curtain.
Text contained within (Parentheses and italics and bold) is a part of the answer I edited out before sending to Matt in an effort to shorten the answer or an update that occurred afterward.
- Who is your favorite prospect to watch in the Phillies’ system? I am fortunate to be able to get “eyes on” all the Phillies prospects as the pass through Clearwater each season. I see so many prospects, that there is no single answer to this question. However, over the past year, I have seen a lot of Cornelius Randolph’s at bats. Even I could see and appreciate his advanced approach for such a young prospect. (This past year has been a little tougher with so many new players added via trade who were directly assigned to higher classes and draft choices who were too advanced for the rookie teams and directly assigned to Lakewood.)
- Who is your choice for biggest breakout in 2016? Well, following the definition for a break out player that we used at Phuture Phillies last season, “… a player who is expected to perform well but who does so with a much better year than anticipated and comes from the upper tier of prospects, say from within the top 15-20″, I would expect Franklyn Kilome to have that breakout season. In spite of his high ranking, a lot of my readers have questions about him. He has reported to camp in better physical shape after attending a winter workout program in Clearwater. His FB has the same pop and downward movement, his off speed pitches still have good movement, his CB still snaps off. If he can avoid the type of injury that slowed his development last season and can pitch through the rigors of a full season in Lakewood (where I expect him to begin the season, they are already stretching him out to 5 innings in ST), I would expect him to show the progress that will quiet any doubters.
- Who will be the top rookie for the Phillies in 2016? Who still has rookie eligibility on the Active Roster? Darnell Sweeney? Daniel Stumpf? Tyler Goeddel? Who’s likely to be called up from the 40-Man Roster in time to have impact? Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford? Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Zach Eflin, Jimmy Cordero, Elvis Araujo? Since Tyler Goeddel is likely to be starting in the outfield on opening day and will likely get a lot of ABs this season, I would think that he would be their top rookie. Not that I expect him to have the same type of season that Odubel Herrera had last season. But, it probably won’t take that kind of season to be this year’s top rookie.
- Which player MLB/MiLB are you most interested to see how their 2016 season plays out? Jorge Alfaro. He has looked very impressive down here in Clearwater. I have read about his deficiencies as a catcher. Either the reports were wrong or he was really bad and improved a whole lot. Sure he still needs work behind the plate. And he’ll need to improve on his whiff rate. But when you see the whole package, you salivate. I watched him run out a ground ball. He has the better than catcher speed where you could see him in the outfield. But, if he can stay behind the plate, his bat could lift him close to an elite catcher status.
- Who will be the Phillies best major league hitter in 2016? If he recovers from his finger injury and avoids the “sophomore jinx”, Odubel Herrera. (I think as a top of the order hitter, he’s going to have more opportunities than Maikel Franco who will likely not be “protected” in the line up and therefore not have as many opportunities to see “hittable” pitches.)
- Who will be the Phillies best major league pitcher in 2016? Aaron Nola.
- Do Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz make it through the season with the Phillies? Yes. (Although, I wondered if, in the wake of the Adam LaRoche stuff in Chicago, Matt Klentak didn’t place a call and say, “Hey I’ve got a 1B/DH and $30M. Interested?”)
- Do the Phillies bring Mackanin back for the 2017 season? Yes. (This one answered itself a couple days after I replied to the survey when the Phillies extended a contract thru 2017.)
- Who do the Phillies take with the #1 pick in the draft? BPA. I believe they have already made up their collective minds and that only an injury to or an implosion by that player will change their minds. I believe it will be a pitcher. I believe that they don’t care about the college v. HS debate as much as others. But, I believe their experience of having once drafted a local HS pitcher with a high pick may influence them a little. All that to say A.J. Puk. (Note: Puk had a good start against Missouri and a bad start against Kentucky AFTER I responded.)
- Who will be the highest ranked prospect in the system next year, excluding the #1 overall pick? It could be Randolph by default if Crawford, Williams, and Thompson are all called up and lose their rookie eligibility. But, without going into a long dissertation, I’ll say Crawford. (Long dissertation: Crawford didn’t look comfortable batting against the pitchers in the Grapefruit League games. He still had the same patient approach I remember when he was in Clearwater. He just looked like he would need more time than 3 months at AAA before forcing a call up.)
- What pick will the Phillies have in the 2017 draft? Not 1:1. I would say in the 3-5 range maybe as low as 7. (Since responding, I have attended some more games and the Phillies’ probable everyday line up doesn’t look capable of scoring very many runs. After the mirage of spring training is behind them, I expect the starting pitchers to starve for run support, and the bullpen to cost the starters and team victories. Back to a top 3 pick.)
- How many games will the Phillies win to make that happen? I think they could win as many as 70 games. Certainly more than the 63 they won last season. But, I’m not prepared to believe that their Grapefruit League success is going to carry over to the regular season. The youth of their rotation, the questions in the bullpen, and the uncertainty that their spring offensive output will continue against a steady diet of major league pitching prevents me from being more optimistic. (I will stick with 70, but I am beginning to think that is overly optimistic.)
- What year will the Phillies make the playoffs again? Make? 2020. Contend? 2018. And I feel I’m being optimistic saying 2020.