As minor league seasons move into their final full week of the regular season, the Philadelphia Phillies are using this time to evaluate at least one top prospect at a new position in hopes of finding a path for him to the major leagues.
Maikel Franco, who has played third base for nearly his entire minor league career, will spend the rest of this season playing first base, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
Franco would still be blocked at first base by Ryan Howard at the major league level, but the Phillies could also move third baseman Cody Asche to the outfield at some point.
Salisbury also noted that Asche has been taking fly balls during batting practice.
Which top prospects could follow in Asche’s footsteps next season and earn a promotion to the major leagues? Will any top prospects earn a September call-up?
How did the rest of the top prospects, according to MLB.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch, fare this past week?
Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and whose is down following Week 21.
* Tommy Joseph (No. 5) is out for the remainder of the season due to injuries. Larry Greene, who is ranked No. 11 according to mlb.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch, will now be included in these rankings.
**All statistics courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Stats: 106 games, .219 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 84 H, .311 OBP
Last Week: 8 H, 25 AB, 4 2B, 1 RBI
Larry Greene’s batting average is still much lower than it was last season when he was in the New York-Penn League, but he did manage two multi-hit games this past week.
Greene finished the week with a three-hit performance that included two doubles.
However, Greene also struck out several times over five games and still ranks among the leaders in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts.
Greene has one of his lowest batting averages in a single month for this season and has his lowest OBP. However, both areas have seen improvements in recent games.
Although the left-handed batter has still not tapped into his power potential, his recent multi-hit games could be the start of a strong finish to the season for him.
If that’s the case, he could still start next season back in the South Atlantic League, but a promotion to the Florida State League later this season could keep him on track with his progression.
Stats (MLB): 5 GS, 21.1 IP, 13 BB, 23 K, 6.33 ERA
Last Week: 2 GS, 7 IP, 5 BB, 7 K, 5 ER
Ethan Martin had one of his best major league starts this past week, but followed that up with one of his worst.
Martin’s first start last week saw him pitch 6.1 innings, strike out six and walk just two while giving up four hits. He allowed Only two of those hits through the first six innings.
However, after giving up a leadoff home run in the top of the seventh inning, Martin was eventually taken out. He still managed to pick up the victory in what was the longest outing of his career.
His second start didn’t go as smoothly.
After getting two quick outs, Martin walked three batters and gave up two singles and a home run before being pulled after two-thirds of an inning.
The right-hander had been consistently lowering his ERA since his major league debut prior to his rough outing, as he had also struck out six batters in each of his last two starts.
With Jonathan Pettibone having been transferred to the 60-day disabled list, Martin should remain in the rotation despite Roy Halladay returning.
He must bounce back from his last outing, however, to remain as a rotation option for the start of next season and to avoid being moved to the bullpen eventually.
*Martin’s major league statistics can be found on ESPN.com.
Stats: 16 GS, 72 IP, 28 BB, 53 K, 4.75 ERA
Last Week: Did not play, injured
Shane Watson has not pitched in more than a month, and is likely done for the season with just a few games left.
Prior to landing on the disabled list, Watson had allowed just two earned runs in his last four starts and had a 1.13 ERA in three starts following the South Atlantic League All-Star break.
The Phillies will have to decide if they saw enough from Watson to have him start next season in the Florida State League or if he will return to the South Atlantic League to begin the year.
Stats: 12 GS, 49.1 IP, 22 BB, 31 K, 5.66 ERA
Last Week: 1 GS, 3.1 IP, 3 BB, 0 K, 4 ER
Mitch Gueller struggled again in his start this past week, as he did not strike out a batter for a second straight start.
After not striking out or walking a batter last week, Gueller walked three batters this week without recording a strikeout. He also gave up four more runs, pushing his ERA higher to 5.71 for the month of August.
Gueller now has an equal number of walks and strikeouts and has already walked more batters in August than he did in July.
Due to his recent struggles, Gueller is tied for the most hits given up in the New York-Penn League. He has also allowed the most earned runs in the league while opponents are batting .344 against him this season and .364 against him in August.
After spending part of last season and all of this season in the New York-Penn League, the Phillies could still send Gueller to the South Atlantic League next season. However, to stay on track with his progression, Gueller must show significant improvement.
Stats (MLB): 24 games, .238 BA, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 19 H, .282 OBP
Last Week: 9 H, 26 AB, 3 2B, 4 RBI
After finishing two weeks ago with an average below .200, Cody Asche is on a seven-game hit streak and batted .269 this past week.
Asche got off to a slow start following his major league promotion, similar to his time in Triple-A at the beginning of the season.
However, Asche struck out less frequently last week when he had back-to-back multi-hit games and scored the winning run in one of the Phillies’ walk-off wins
Even if Asche does not begun to heat up, he still could have won the starting third baseman job for next season. Now that his offense is starting to come around, Asche has a chance to finish strong and hit the ground running next season.
*Asche’s major league statistics can be found on ESPN.com.
Stats: 17 GS, 77 IP, 23 BB, 56 K, 3.51 ERA
Last Week: 1 GS, 4 IP, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 ER
Adam Morgan’s return to Triple-A has continued to feature few opposing runs with him on the mound, as he has posted an ERA of 1.49 since returning in July.
This past week, Morgan made one start and gave up just one earned run. The left-hander allowed six hits with opponents batting .290 against him.
However, despite missing more than a month earlier in the season with a tear in his rotator cuff, Morgan has a chance to finish the season with an ERA similar to the one he had last year between High-A ball and Double-A.
Morgan has thrown far fewer innings this season than he did last season and has not made it to the sixth inning in more than three months.
If he can finish the season with more performances like his most recent ones, Morgan could be a candidate for a rotation spot next season similar to Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin this season.
Stats: 47 games, .341 BA, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 58 H, 14 SB, .440 OBP
Last Week (Low-A): 9 H, 28 AB, 1 2B, 2 RBI
The Phillies’ first selection in this year’s MLB draft, J.P. Crawford batted .321 this past week after being promoted to the South Atlantic League at the end of the previous week.
The left-handed batter had two multi-hit games last week and now has an equal number of walks and strikeouts, duplicating those equal numbers he had in the Gulf Coast League.
Crawford’s high OBP in both leagues this season should be great signs for the Phillies, especially considering his age.
If he can keep this up, the Phillies could have Roman Quinn change positions in the hopes of keeping both players in the lineup next season and giving both a path to the major leagues eventually.
In the meantime, a strong showing from Crawford could have him back in the South Atlantic League next season, but with a promotion to the Florida State League a quick possibility.
Stats: 67 games, .238 BA, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 62 H, 32 SB, .323 OBP
Last Week: Did not play, injured
Roman Quinn could be done for the season with only a few games remaining in the South Atlantic League's regular season.
Quinn has been out of action since June 24 and was struggling offensively for the month of June leading up to the injury.
With J.P. Crawford now in the South Atlantic League as well, Quinn could be asked to change positions next season if both he and Crawford begin the season there.
Stats: 126 games, .314 BA, 28 HR, 98 RBI, 159 H, .359 OBP
Last Week: 10 H, 33 AB, 1 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI
Maikel Franco had another great week at the plate and has now nearly doubled his home run total from last season.
Franco continues to draw very few walks, but he is still batting .329 in Double-A. The third baseman had two multi-hit games last week and went hitless in a game twice.
The right-handed batter now has more hits in the Eastern League than he did in the Florida State League earlier this season.
Franco’s batting average and OBP are lower in August than they were in July, but he has struck out fewer times and walked more.
The final few games should be an interesting situation for Franco, as the Phillies will see if his offense dips while he tries to learn a new position.
Regardless, his production this season speaks for itself and it seems as if the Phillies are already trying to find a way for him to contribute at the major league level in the next season or two.
Stats: 26 GS, 135.1 IP, 75 BB, 150 K, 3.66 ERA
Last Week: 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 ER
Jesse Biddle picked up his first win in August this past week while lowering his ERA to below 3.00 for the month.
Biddle went six innings and walked three batters after not walking any in the previous week, but also only gave up three hits. Biddle’s ERA for the month is at 2.79.
The left-hander still leads the Eastern League in strikeouts and has limited opponents to a .212 average. Biddle has thrown at least 130 innings in each of the past three seasons and is two strikeouts away from setting a career high.
Despite his high walks total, Biddle should begin next season in Triple-A, at which point the Phillies' top prospect will be one promotion away from his major league debut.