Philadelphia Phillies Most Underrated Prospect at Each Position
The Phillies don't have a super strong prospect farm.
Big trades, including the Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence trades, have sent the Phillies' best prospects in recent years to other organizations.
On the other hand, there are many guys in the system who go underrated and underappreciated by scouts and fans.
Here's a list of a player at each position who's undervalued and how their assets could drop them onto peoples' radars in the future.
Catcher Cameron Rupp
Everybody knows about 21-year-old Sebastian Valle, whose athleticism and defensive ability have made his the heir-apparent to Carlos Ruiz as the Phillies backstop, but what about the other catchers in organization?
At first glance, it looks like Valle is the only real prospect in a group of veterans that includes Erik Kratz, Steven Larud and Tuffy Gosewisch.
Though it's true that the Phillies are shallow in terms of catching prospects, many overlook former University of Texas player Cameron Rupp.
Now 23, Rupp has the prototypical build of a catcher: big, power hitting and defensive-minded.
His .982 fielding percentage in 2011 is good, not great, but his 35 percent caught-stealing rate and .102 ISO are promising for a catcher.
He'll most likely be starting in Hi-A Clearwater this season.
First Baseman: Darin Ruf
First base is another position that's not in the best of shape in the Phillies organization.
After top prospect Jonathan Singleton was traded for Hunter Pence last Summer, 1B/OF Darin Ruf took over the duties as the everyday first baseman at Hi-A Clearwater. In short, he rocked it.
If Ruf, 25, were a year or two younger, he'd seriously be considered a top prospect. In three years with the organization, his hitting numbers have been amazing, highlighted by a 2011 campaign that included 82 RBI and a .506 slugging percentage.
With the other two top first baseman prospects in the organization being 25-year-old Cody Overbeck and 26-year-old Matt Rizzotti, there shouldn't be a reason to ignore Ruf completely.
Another good year in 2012, when he'll most likely be playing at Double-A Reading, will propel him into prospect talks for sure.
Second Baseman: Cesar Hernandez
It baffles me how few people are talking about Cesar Hernandez.
Despite being ranked as the fifth-best prospect at second base by MLB.com, he's still overlooked by many scouts when discussing top prospects.
At age 21, he played 2011 in Hi-A Clearwater, making a double jump from short-season Williamsport and skipping Single-A Lakewood. His defensive skills and speed are both plus, and despite a poor year offensively he still looks to have potential for contact.
His youth will be a big asset, working as a safety net if he can't perform in Reading next year;
He's young enough that repeating a year at Clearwater would not hurt his development too much.
Shortstop Taylor Black
The Phillies went wild on shortstops in the 2011 draft, scooping up six potential shortstops in the first 16 rounds (I say potential because Harold Martinez and Roman Quinn look like they'll be playing other positions in the organization).
Because of this, there has already been a lot of hype surrounding Mitchell Walding and Tyler Greene, both highly touted as multi-tool players.
But what about Taylor Black?
The Phillies' 16th-round pick, Black didn't really impress in his first taste of professional ball, hitting just .212 with a .293 slugging percentage in 58 games with Williamsport.
On the other hand, his K% was a low 15 percent, meaning that he has the makings of a patient hitter with a keen eye at the plate, and his range factor was a solid 4.28.
He'll be the starting shortstop at Single-A Lakewood next year, where he will play his first full professional season.
Third Baseman Harold Martinez
As mentioned earlier, Martinez was the Phillies third-round draft pick in 2011, originally drafted as a shortstop. But now, with the logjam of recent draftees in the middle infield, Martinez will make his pay at the hot corner.
Martinez has shown great plate discipline, but his contact and power numbers were just average.
He'll be making the jump to Single-A Lakewood in 2012.
Outfielders Brian Pointer and Aaron Altherr
Pointer, 19, showed in 2011 that he's a serious power hitter.
His .225 ISO and .503 slugging percentage were incredible for a player who was drafted in the 28th round in 2010.
His .969 fielding percentage and six outfield assists in 41 games also show that he is an impressive fielder, and when he makes the double jump to Lakewood in 2012, he'll jump up scouts' prospect rankings.
Altherr, 20, will most likely be joining Pointer in Lakewood after a strong 2011 defensively. His hitting could use some work, as Altherr's .211 average and .115 ISO leave a little to be desired.
He showed that he has a cannon for an arm, though, with 10 outfield assists last year, and his .970 fielding percentage is also pretty good.
Starting Pitcher Austin Hyatt
Usually, I'd take this and any opportunity to talk about Julio Rodriguez, who I feel is extremely underrated as a pitcher. But, to be fair, J-Rod hasn't proven himself in Double-A like Austin Hyatt, who held a 1.19 WHIP and 10.0 a K/9 rate in Reading last year.
Hyatt held hitters to a .235 average and shut them down even more when there were runners in scoring position (.193 BAA when RISP).
Showing his good control, he allowed very few walks and struck out 171 in 154 innings. Look for him in the Triple-A Lehigh Valley rotation in 2012, where a good performance will make him the next Vance Worley.
Relief Pitcher Mike Cisco
Also a R-Phillie last year, Cisco was lights out against opposing hitters.
Overshadowed by guys like Mike Schwimer and Phillippe Aumont, Cisco's 1.59 ERA may be missed by many fans evaluating talent.
His control, which Baseball America rated best in the Phillies organization in 2009, is his biggest asset, as he's not a huge strikeout pitcher, but his changeup is also plus, and his fastball tops out at around 94 mph.
This season, he'll be 24 and most likely pitching at Lehigh Valley—a good chance for him to show off his stuff and maybe make the Show if needed.