4 Prospects the Phillies Must Turn to NOW to Fulfill Epic Wild-Card Comeback
After Monday night's 3-1 win over the Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies have evened their 2012 record at 74-74 and now trail the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot by only 3.5 games. Not bad for a team that traded a pair of All-Star outfielders (Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence) at the trade deadline and was declared down and out.
However, as they always seem to do, the Phillies are right back in the playoff race after posting a 17-12 record in August and 11-5 record in September. Of the 28 total wins, the three-headed monster of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have accounted for 13 of them.
With 14 games remaining, including three against the Braves and six against the Nationals, the Phillies will need contributions from every player on their roster in order to secure a postseason berth.
While veterans like Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will likely carry the team—as they always seem to do at this time of year—it’s the Phillies’ prospects who could ultimately make the greatest impact.
Justin De Fratus, RHP
2012 Stats (Rk, A+, AAA): 0-1, 3 SV, 21 IP, 2.10 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 26 K/3 BB (21 G)
2012 MLB: 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 0.88 WHIP, .105 BAA, 4 K/3 BB (6 G)
After making his debut with the Phillies late last season, Justin De Fratus missed most of the 2012 season while recovering from an elbow injury sustained in the spring. The 24-year-old rejoined the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate in late July and was quickly promoted to the major leagues in September.
The 6’4”, 220-pound right-hander features a plus fastball-slider combination and is aggressive with his placement, attacking both right- and left-handed hitters to both sides of the plate.
Like teammate Phillippe Aumont, De Fratus has the dominant two-pitch arsenal that’s ideal for a closer. Now it’s just a matter of whether he can stay healthy for an extended period of time.
Phillippe Aumont, RHP
2012 Stats (AAA): 3-1, 15 SV, 44.1 IP, 4.26 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 59 K/34 BB (41 G)
MLB Stats: 1 SV, 9 IP, 5.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 9 K/7 BB (11 G)
A former first-round pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2007, Phillippe Aumont, 23, was acquired in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle. Envisioned as a future frontline starter at the time of his selection, the 6’7”, 260-pound right-hander finally came into his own as a reliever last season. And honestly, it was about time.
Aumont works in the mid-90s with his fastball and can reach back for something extra when needed. His command of the pitch is still too inconsistent, though, and he struggles to put together clean innings.
In addition to his big-time heater, Aumont also throws an above-average breaking ball that has late, downward action. As you can imagine, though, his ability to command the pitch is shaky—much like his fastball.
If there was ever an injury to Jonathan Papelbon, Aumont could be the next in line for saves.
Tyler Cloyd, RHP
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 15-1, 167 IP, 2.26 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 (26 GS)
MLB Stats: 1-1, 20 IP, 4.95 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 (4 GS)
After a breakout season in 2011 where he posted a 2.77 ERA and 8.5 K/9 between High-A and Double-A, Tyler Cloyd, 25, pitched equally well in the high-minors this season before making his big league debut on Aug. 29.
While all of his pitches are merely average offerings, Cloyd’s command of his three-pitch mix make them each play up a grade. The right-hander’s fastball works in the 86-90 mph range with some arm-side run, but nothing too crazy or flashy.
The 25-year-old also has an advanced changeup that’s most effective in the low-80s, and he throws it with a consistent and repeatable arm speed. His slider is a so-so offering, as he’ll often get too far around it at times and make it more slurve-like.
Darin Ruf, 1B/LF
2012 Stats (AA): .317/.408/.620, 71 XBH (38 HR), 104 RBI, 102 K/65 BB (139 G)
MLB: 0-for-2 (2 G)
Headed into the 2012 season, Darin Ruf—a 20th-round draft pick in 2009—wasn’t considered a legitimate prospect by any standard. However, don’t tell him that.
The 6’3”, 220-pound first baseman—he may be able to play a little left field—mashed a minor league-leading 38 home runs in 139 games at Double-A Reading, including 20 in the month of August.
Still, it’s doubtful that he’ll ever be a regular in the major leagues, especially when trapped behind Ryan Howard at first base.
Furthermore, Ruf, 26, has the long swing commonly associated with minor league sluggers. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles offspeed pitches in the major leagues, and whether he’ll have to cheat to barrel quality fastballs.
Regardless, Ruf is still a source of power coming off the bench. And when the Phillies are looking for a momentum-shifting knock late in the game—ideally a long ball—the right-handed hitting slugger will likely be their guy.
Consider his potential as a Matt Stairs-like pinch hitter who comes off the bench and swings for the fences.