After trading away most of their top prospects in blockbuster deals over the last few seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies went into the 2012 amateur draft with one goal in mind: Add top talent back into the system.
Of course, that's not an easy thing to do when you don't own a single selection in the draft's first round. The Phillies wouldn't choose a player until the 40th overall selection as compensation for losing Ryan Madson.
Even then, the Phillies didn't do what we expected them to. It seems as though they never do. Instead of selecting a college player with a clear path to the MLB, they select a high school pitcher with a high ceiling by the name of Shane Watson.
Then they selected another high school player. And another. And yet another. They would continue to select high school players as their first five selections in the draft, blowing their pre-draft strategy to smithereens.
Then again, the Phillies' real strategy for the last couple of seasons has been to draft the player they believed to be the best available. That's how they wind up with so many high school players.
But there is an obvious risk in drafting high school players. Nine times out of 10, they come into the organization as a project. Their tools are extremely raw, and though they may possess a ton of that natural, raw talent, it will likely take years to develop it into an MLB skill-set.
That's why there are just two players from this year's draft class cracking my top 25. The Phillies didn't draft any clear-cut, top prospects this year. That's not to say it was a bad draft. They selected a boatload of potential, but few players have the current skill set to be considered a top prospect, at least, in my opinion.
So with a crop of new players ready to come into the system, it's time to re-rank the Phillies' top 25 prospects.
That comes with a caveat of sorts: This list is my own opinion and not affiliated with any other prospect lists. For help with evaluation, I referred to the greatest source for Phillies' prospect information on the web, Phuture Phillies.
When push came to shove, there were a couple of players from the most recent draft class, particularly college players, that just missed the list for me. Here's a list of honorable mentions, in no particular order.
RHP Alec Rash
1B Chris Seritella
3B Cameron Perkins
C Josh Ludy
LHP Hoby Milner
RHP Kevin Brady
2B/OF Andrew Pullin
OF Zachary Taylor
RHP David Hill
RHP Tony Blanford
RHP Geoff Broussard
Ken Giles is flying under the radar right now, but the left-handed starter has all of the tools to become a great prospect.
His best pitch is a fastball that he can throw in the mid to upper 90s with consistency. Giles is a power pitcher to the core. His secondary arsenal consists of a hard slider and a split-finger fastball that has the potential to be a plus pitch at the MLB level.
He'll need to work on his command to move up the board, but he certainly has the raw talent.
Brian Pointer has spent the last couple of seasons building himself up as a solid prospect and, for the most part, has gone largely unnoticed.
Pointer is an outfielder by trade and was drafted in the 28th round in 2010 out of high school. Most people wrote him off, but he has a lot of nice tools that play well professionally.
Pointer has a good eye at the plate, but he'll need to cut back on his strikeouts if he wants to be effective. He has a good bit of power for a center fielder, but his bat is a little more questionable should he have to move to a corner outfield position.
When the Phillies announced the selection of Mitch Walding in 2011, it was as a shortstop. Well, that ship has sailed, as Walding will play third base for the Phillies professionally.
That's not a bad thing.
Walding has plenty of arm to handle third base defensively, and scouts believe that he can be a good defender.
At 6'3", he's a big guy that has the frame to add on some power, which should profile well as a third baseman. With that being said, his limit in that area seems to be about the 25 home-run plateau, if he even reaches that potential.
Walding has a ton of potential, but I'd like to see a bit more before moving him up the list, as he doesn't have one tool that stands out above the rest, like some of the other guys on this list. He'll be heading to Williamsport shortly.
Once the Phillies added Cesar Hernandez to the 40-man roster, the clock started ticking. They promoted him to High-A Clearwater as a direct response, though some were concerned that Hernandez wasn't ready. He struggled.
But now that he's on the 40-man roster, the Phillies want to see what he's capable of, especially given the uncertain future of Chase Utley. Hernandez was promoted again to start the season, kicking off the 2012 campaign with Double-A Reading.
So far, so good for Hernandez, who has risen to the occasion.
Some scouts believe that he can hit right around .300 as an MLB regular once fully developed, and he has plus speed to make things happen on the base paths. He's an average defender with almost no power, so don't anything more than a contact machine at his best.
If Tyson Gillies were capable of staying healthy, he'd be an excellent prospect. The problem with that statement is that ever since the Phillies acquired him, he hasn't proven that he can do it.
Gillies' best tool is his speed. He's one of the fastest players in the system and can really cause mayhem on the base paths with it.
Of course, to use that speed offensively, you're going to have to hit, and Gillies' hit tool is much more questionable that his speed tool.
He's a great defensive center fielder, but until he can prove that he's capable of hitting and staying healthy, I just can't see him being an MLB regular.
Austin Hyatt is a pitcher.
He's not like some of the other "throwers" in this system that can just blow a fastball by guys. Hyatt is going to rely on movement and control to excel at the next level, and making that adjustment has been somewhat of a struggle for him this season.
A fly-ball pitcher, Hyatt is going to wind up getting hurt in the MLB if he can't locate his fastball down in the zone. That's an adjustment I'm comfortable believing he can make. He also has what is probably the best changeup in the system, a plus pitch that he'll throw whenever he wants to.
The lack of another secondary pitch is still what concerns me about Hyatt. If he's going to be a fastball/changeup pitcher, I still believe he's best suited for the bullpen.
Photo by Jay Floyd/Phoulballz.com
Austin Wright is a guy that went largely unnoticed when the Phillies drafted him last season, but his impressive professional debut in 2011 garnered a lot of attention, and he hasn't disappointed in 2012.
Already 6-0 for the Clearwater Threshers this season, Wright is a guy that I seriously considered ranking a lot higher than this. His fastball sits consistently in the low 90s, and he knows how to locate it. He's been throwing good change-up as a pro to mix in with his curveball, leaving little doubt that he'll remain in the starting rotation.
So far in his pro career, Wright has been the type of player where everything just clicks. He's putting everything together at the right time and could start flying up the Phillies' prospect rankings.
Perci Garner has been as frustrating to rank as he has been for the Phillies' organization.
When the club selected him out of Ball State University back in 2010, they knew what they were getting: a project.
Garner was an athletic, two-sport athlete that hadn't really committed to playing baseball before the draft, but scouts love his potential. He throws his fastball with life, and it sits consistently in the low to mid 90s. He throws a sketchy curveball that could develop into an excellent pitch.
He's struggled with injuries during his pro career and hasn't had an opportunity to put it all together. Now that he's actually healthy, he's struggled in 2012.
Until I see more, it's hard for me to buy into Garner's true potential.
It's hard not to fall in love with Jiwan James' potential.
The Phillies drafted him as a pitcher in the 22nd round of the 2007 draft out of high school, but it wasn't long before they realized that his future lie in the outfield.
As a converted pitcher with blazing speed, James looks like a natural center fielder. He has great instincts and range and a very strong arm. Defensively, James is a gem.
It's the bat that has been the biggest hold-up and hasn't shown a great deal of improvement. He's playing with Double-A Reading this season and has shown an obvious increase in power, but his contact and on-base skills are still in need of a drastic improvement.
James is a great prospect, but until he shows more with the bat, he's not even close to a top 10 for me.
The Phillies' fanbase has rallied behind starting pitching prospect Julio Rodriguez, but I'm still skeptical about his potential to succeed at the MLB level.
First and foremost, right-handed pitchers that can succeed at the MLB level without a good heater are a dime a dozen, and Rodriguez's fastball, which sits in the upper 80s, is barely an average offering. It's not going to be an average pitch at the next stage.
"J-Rod's" bread and butter has always been his curveball, a big slow bender that still needs some work, but is easily his best pitch. He also throws a changeup, and that's about average as well.
Rodriguez is crafty, so he always has that going for him, but I just don't see him being more than a fifth starter, at best.
While guys like Trevor May, Jesse Biddle and Jon Pettibone received the most attention in 2011, Lisalberto Bonilla had one of the best seasons and flew under the radar anyway.
Bonilla is a 6'1" pitcher with the potential to throw three plus pitches. The first is a good fastball that sits consistently in the low to mid 90s with movement. The second is a changeup that should already receive a plus grade, as he throws it with excellent arm speed and uses both sink and fade.
The third pitch, a slider, is all about potential. Bonilla threw his changeup less last season to focus on developing the breaking ball, and the fact that he still had such a great season is certainly promising.
Bonilla is pitching as a reliever with Double-A Reading and pitching extremely well. I love the lethal fastball/changeup combo, and that could play very well for him out of the bullpen.
Before writing this slideshow, I spoke to several prospect gurus with more knowledge about where some of the top talent from this year's draft class would rank among the Phillies' top prospects. The response, albeit for one huge shocker, was nearly unanimous:
There wasn't a clear top prospect who stood out amongst the Phillies' top 25.
But for argument's sake, I went ahead and took a creative leap on a couple of guys based off of their future potential. That's why Shane Watson comes in at 14th—at least for the moment.
Watson definitely has the potential to crack the Phillies' top 10, and in all likelihood, he will. Heading into the draft, Baseball America had him ranked as the 30th best prospect. The Phillies did a solid job of landing him at number 40.
He has the potential to control two plus pitches in his arsenal, the best of which will be a 12-6 curveball that already gets a plus grade. The second is a solid fastball that sits consistently in the low 90s, and he can throw it with some vigor to add on a few MPH, but who knows what effect joining a five-man rotation will have on that.
I think Watson cracks the Phillies' top 10 with ease eventually, but until we see something from him professionally, it's hard to make that assumption.
*Shane Watson has not agreed to terms with the Phillies as of yet.
Roman Quinn is fast. Really fast.
A lot of scouts had Quinn as the fastest player in the draft when the Phillies selected him out of high school in 2011, and he's going to have elite speed as a professional player.
It's where he gets to use that speed that keeps me from ranking him higher.
First and foremost, he doesn't have a real defensive position yet. It looks like the Phillies will give him a shot at shortstop, but he could wind up at either second base or center field as well.
There are also questions with the bat. He doesn't have much power to speak of right now, and at 5'9", he doesn't have the frame to add much more. He is a switch hitter, but his approach from the left side needs a ton of work, and no one has any idea how he'll swing the bat as a pro.
He could be a great player, but like Jiwan James, he needs to hit.
Photo via Joe Wombough/PhoulBallz.com
This is probably going to be the biggest creative leap on this list, but I'm going to do it anyway.
Jake Diekman went un-ranked on most prospect lists heading into the season because most scouts profiled him as a left-handed specialist with limited use out of the bullpen. Then he got to Philadelphia and proved everyone wrong.
His fastball sits consistently in the mid to upper 90s, and he's shown the ability to locate it on the black. He came to Philly armed with a slider that he's been working hard on in the minor leagues, and it looks like a great pitch, particularly against left-handed hitters.
The biggest surprise has been the changeup. He hasn't thrown it often, but the few that he has thrown have been drastically better than the reports from just a couple of months ago.
Diekman is absolutely filthy against left-handed hitters. His delivery is from a 3/4 angle and his long limbs make it impossible to feel comfortable against. You could say the same for right-handed hitters.
A lot of people wrote him off, but I can see Diekman being a very good setup man with his repertoire, and there is value in that.
Maikel Franco came out of nowhere in 2011 to shoot all the way up to the top of most Phillies' prospects list to the back end of the top 10, but I'd like to see a bit more of him in 2012 before making that big of a commitment.
Franco is a third baseman right now, but it is possible that he winds up at a different position in the future, maybe even first base. Scouts aren't thrilled about his athleticism and believe that he'll slow down quickly. That's not great news about a guy who is just 19 years old.
That will obviously impair his defense at third base as he remains there, but he was never more than an average defender at best anyhow.
What moved him up the board was his bat. He has a very solid approach at the plate despite being so young and is developing good power. He has excellent bat speed for his age, and that should improve as well.
Franco has the makings of a top prospect, but personally, I don't believe he's a top-10 prospect just yet. He needs to prove that he can play third base and that his bat is legit.
Brody Colvin's stock as a starting pitcher is falling, and fast.
He's been one of the organization's top starting pitching prospects for several seasons, but it is clear that the Phillies are tiring of Colvin's antics. After he struggled through nine starts this season with High-A Clearwater (his second stint there), the Phillies moved him to the bullpen.
It was a move that scouts always knew was possible. He struggles to repeat his delivery and by proxy, often struggles with command. With that being said, he certainly has the repertoire to be a good reliever.
His best pitch is a plus fastball with good movement, and he mixes in a sharp curveball that also has the potential to be a plus pitch.
Given the entire package, I think Colvin is best suited for life in the bullpen. He's made five appearances out of the bullpen for Clearwater through June 9, logging nine innings and allowing just two earned runs. He also struck out nine and walked just three.
I'm keeping Colvin in the top 10, but just barely, at least for now. Now that he's a reliever, I want to see him use that power fastball to generate lots of strikes, use his secondary pitches effectively, improve his delivery/control and strike batters out.
You can take one look at Larry Greene Jr. and automatically understand what his best tool is going to be: his power.
Drafted in 2011, Greene hasn't played in a single professional game yet but is already armed with the best raw power in the Phillies' system.
Of course, he'll need to swing the bat to utilize that power, and there are certainly concerns about what kind of contact hitter he is going to be. He'll need to show good discipline and the ability to make contact, but when he does make contact, there is no doubt that he has "light tower power."
Greene also surprised scouts with his athleticism. Though there will always be a creeping doubt that he'll wind up as a first baseman in the MLB, right now, Greene has the tools to play left field and not hurt the club out there.
You'll see some people rank him a lot lower than this, but Greene is a top-10 prospect for me with relative ease.
If he wasn't injured to start the season, Justin De Fratus would be pitching out of the Phillies' bullpen right now.
De Fratus is rehabbing from a sore elbow and is on the road to return. He'll likely make a few outings with Triple-A Lehigh Valley before joining the Phillies, but it's only a matter of time.
He has the perfect repertoire for a reliever, including a great fastball that sits consistently in the low to mid 90s with some movement. He'll use that to set up a good slider with a lot of break to it, and while he knows how to throw a changeup, you won't see it much.
There's a good chance that De Fratus is the Phillies' set-up man before long.
If he were pitching better, that role of setup man would probably already belong to Phillippe Aumont.
He's been dealing with inconsistency and injury to start the 2012 season, but there is no doubt that Aumont's future is in the back end of the bullpen in Philadelphia.
Aumont's fastball is easily a plus pitch and may just be the best in the Phillies' system. It sits consistently in the mid 90s, and his 6'7" frames makes it look as though it's coming in even hotter than that.
He'll use the fastball to set up a ridiculous curveball that generates lots of swing strikes. The real kicker is the split-fingered changeup that is absolutely filthy. Here's a GIF of said splitter, provided by Phuture Phillies. He hasn't thrown it much, but should Aumont have any comfort with that pitch, it would make for a potential third plus pitch.
Aumont will need to work to refine his mechanics and his delivery, but there is no doubt that between Aumont, Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman, the future of the Phillies' bullpen is in a good place.
Because he's played so much at the MLB level this season, I considered leaving Freddy Galvis off of this list, but because it's more of an update than a new ranking, I decided that his inclusion was still warranted.
Before the back injury, Galvis spent most of the season flashing his potential. His defensive abilities are absolutely terrific. The man can roll out of bed in the morning and play the middle infield.
The biggest questions about Galvis have always revolved around his bat, and that remained true in the MLB. There are times where Galvis looks absolutely lost at the plate, and then there are times where it looks as though he can be somewhat of a consistent hitter.
He flashed extra base power this season, and his contact skills are improving. He's going to be a good player for a long time, at least defensively. The bat should come along.
The Phillies like Sebastian Valle a lot. He's the best catching prospect in their system by a wide margin, and there is no doubt that the Phillies see him as the heir apparent to Carlos Ruiz.
Valle is very athletic, and that works well for him behind the plate. He's made drastic improvements behind the plate over the last few seasons and shows flashes of being a very good defensive catcher. With that being said, he's just 21 years old. Valle needs to work on the nuances of the game, such as pitch calling and things of that nature.
What makes him a great catching prospect—eighth best in baseball, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo—is his bat.
Valle has quick bat speed, and that helps him to generate some power. He's not going to hit for average, but he's not going to hurt a club at the plate either, assuming that his continually improving approach at the plate continues to move forward.
As pitchers like Trevor May, Jon Pettibone and others at Double-A Reading move through the system, expect Valle to be right there with them.
Jon Pettibone doesn't have the same pure stuff as guys like Trevor May and Jesse Biddle, but he has an excellent idea of how to approach the game as a starting pitcher, and it has paid dividends for him over the last couple of seasons.
His fastball now sits consistently in the low to mid 90s, and that should help him to generate more strikeouts. He has plus control and surrenders the long ball once in a blue moon, proving that he has a legitimate shot at being a very good contact pitcher.
His repertoire of secondary pitches includes a change-up and a slider in that order. Both are average but have room to grow.
Pettibone grabbed Double-A by the horns and has been pitching well, a good sign for both him and the Phillies.
My first draft of this list did not include Mitch Gueller at all. In fact, I found ranking guys like Gueller, Shane Watson, Alec Rash and Dylan Cozens so difficult that I had to contact a number of prospect gurus and get their opinions on the matter. They would know better than I.
A grand total of zero suggested that Gueller would rank this high on the Phillies' prospect list.
So I did some more digging and came across this "Insiders Only" piece from ESPN's prospect wizard, Keith Law. Again, that's an Insider article and you need to have a subscription from ESPN Insider to access it.
In that piece, Law suggests that Gueller would slot into the Phillies' system right behind Trevor May and Jesse Biddle, so I'll defer to the expert here.
Gueller is a highly touted prospect considered the best to come out of the Northwestern area of the United States on draft day. He was scouted as both an outfielder and a pitcher, but the Phillies believe that his greatest potential is on the mound.
He's a three-pitch pitcher, and all three pitches could eventually receive a plus grade. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s, and his secondary consists of a good curveball and slider.
There's definitely a caveat here: I wouldn't have ranked Gueller this high on my own.
However, Keith Law has been doing this a lot longer than I have and I certainly respect his opinion. Personally, however, I would have ranked Shane Watson higher. At least right now.
*Mitch Gueller has not agreed to terms with the Phillies as of yet.
I'd like to kick off this slide by saying that it won't be long before Jesse Biddle is the Phillies' top prospect. In fact, I almost made him the top prospect on this list.
It's clear that Biddle has made drastic improvements during the 2012 season, and he is reaping the benefits in High-A Clearwater. His fastball sits consistently in the low 90s, and he has located it much better this season than in years past.
The big reason for that is a very nice-looking, smooth, clean delivery. His secondary repertoire includes a changeup and curveball, and along with his fastball, all three pitches should receive a plus grade in the future.
Biddle is left-handed and just 20 years old,with has a great approach to the game, and I almost made him No. 1 on this list considering the entire package.
I'd just like to see a full season at High-A Clearwater first.
Photo via Jay Floyd/PhoulBallz.com
For the time being, Trevor May remains the organization's top prospect, and rightfully so.
May's bread and butter is a plus fastball that he can throw with consistency in the mid 90s late into ball games. He'll use the fastball to set up his secondary pitches, a changeup and a curveball, and now that he has improved his delivery, he's throwing more strikes in 2012.
At 6'5", May is a big, durable guy and has all the makings of a workhorse at the MLB level. He's also been working on developing a slider, and that fourth pitch would certainly help him at the next stage.
I've always believed that if May puts it all together, he could be a legitimate No. 1 starter. He's a power pitcher with big strikeout potential, and now that he's shown he can locate better, there's no doubt that he'll be pitching in Philadelphia eventually.
If he wants to have any success doing so, he'll need to ditch the fly-ball tendencies by generating more misses on swings and working primarily in the lower half of the strike zone.
At the very least, he's a decent No. 2 starter. If he reaches his potential, he's got the pure "stuff" to be an ace.