Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of Philadelphia Phillies' Top 10 Prospects
Although the Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of their longest winning streak in over a year, they are still one of the worst teams in baseball at 28-36. They sit dead last in the NL East, and despite being just a half-game behind the fourth-place New York Mets, they have shown no promise of contending this year.
As pessimistic as that sounds, it's the unfortunate truth. With that said, perhaps the most exciting part of the Phillies is not who's playing for them now but who's inclined to don a Phillies uniform in the future.
Now that the 2014 MLB draft is in the rear-view mirror, the focus can return to whom the Phillies have in their system at this present time. While the Phillies have not yet signed all of their draft picks—they have until July 15 to do so—all but two of their first 10 draft picks, including first-rounder Aaron Nola, have signed as of the publishing of this article.
Even though the best part about discussing prospects is their upside, all prospects have their downside as well, which isn't always considered. In order to accurately gauge a prospect, one must take both sides of the spectrum into account.
Here are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the Phillies' top-10 prospects.
All prospects on this list have yet to make their MLB debuts. All prospect commentary courtesy of the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook and/or MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
10. Deivi Grullon, C (Single-A Lakewood)
Grullon has the natural build to be a catcher at 6'1" and 180 pounds. He's got a terrific arm as well—a 70 on the 20-80 scale—and his glove is above average. What's even more impressive is that he could be a well-rounded catcher when all's said and done.
Grullon's bat, though a work in progress, is on track to develop both average and power potential.
Being an international signing, Grullon is still very young and very raw. At just 18 years old, he's far from the majors and won't be making an impact any time soon. His swing can also get a little too long at times, though it's improved slightly. His power is also still raw, but there's time to harness it.
9. Severino Gonzalez, RHP (Double-A Reading)
Last year's Paul Owens Award recipient for being the best pitcher in the team's farm system, Gonzalez exceeded expectations and skyrocketed through three levels in 2013. He's got a nice arsenal of pitches as well, throwing a decent fastball, curveball, slider and an improving changeup.
What's most impressive, though, is Gonzalez's control—although Aaron Nola may unseat him going into next year, Gonzalez entered 2014 ranked with having the best control of any arm in the team's system.
Gonzalez didn't sign with the Phillies until he was 18 years old, which is rather late for an international signee. His pitches are also only average, at best; what plays them up is his command of them. Nothing in Gonzalez's repertoire is incredibly deceptive, so he has to locate his pitches exactly where he wants them in order to get results.
There's a possibility as well that Gonzalez won't pan out as a starter due to his slim build at 6'1" and just 153 pounds, but the Phillies will give him every chance to prove that notion wrong.
8. Aaron Altherr, CF (Double-A Reading)
Altherr can run rather well and is a serious threat on the basepaths. He also gained some legitimate power in 2013 after years of waiting for it to develop. Altherr's build is also a plus for his makeup as a major league center fielder at 6'5" and 220 pounds.
A lot is still up in the air for Altherr, but after a solid 2013 season there is hope that he can make an impact in the big leagues.
Altherr's swing can get incredibly long at times, which is what has previously casted doubt on his ability to become a major leaguer. Also, now that he is 23 years old, Altherr could soon run out of time if he wants to get a job as an everyday player in the big leagues.
Fortunately, he could make it to the majors later this year with a solid performance, but it's only been a so-so season for Altherr so far. Finally, his future as a center fielder is not definite by any means, and he could end up playing a corner outfield spot if center field doesn't work out.
7. Cameron Perkins, LF (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Perkins has escalated through the Phillies system in under two years since being taken in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. His hit tool is his best asset, and while the rest of what he has to offer isn't projected to stand out, it should suffice for a major league career.
Already at Triple-A, Perkins has consistently hit for average and has also posted terrific on-base and slugging numbers. An athletic player, Perkins could make it to the majors much earlier than initially anticipated.
While Perkins has the frame to play a corner outfield spot, he doesn't have the power. At 6'5" yet only weighing 195 pounds, Perkins needs to gain some strength if he wants his power to stand out.
There are also some hitches in his swing from time to time, but as long as he's hitting they may not be a major issue. A third baseman in college, Perkins could conceivably move back to the hot corner, but the Phillies will probably keep him as an outfielder due to their lack of depth at the position within the system.
6. Carlos Tocci, CF (Single-A Lakewood)
Tocci is extremely athletic, and at only 18 years old he's got time to mature and develop his skills. He's also got an advanced feel for the strike zone, which is crucial for success at his age.
The Phillies have been bold with Tocci thus far, as he's moved through the system quickly despite mixed results. Defensively, Tocci is also above the curve, with a strong arm and good instincts in center field.
It's no slight on Tocci's potential, but he's too thin right now to gauge just how good he might be. The Phillies want him to gain at least 20 pounds, and while he's worked hard to do that, it isn't something that comes easily.
Any power potential has still not been unleashed, and until Tocci puts more muscle on his 6'2", 160-pound body, it will remain dormant.
5. Roman Quinn, SS (High-A Clearwater)
Quinn's biggest strength has always been, and always will be, his speed, which tops the scouting scale at 80. That he's also become both a shortstop and a switch-hitter—neither of which he was prior to being drafted—is also quite the feat.
He is by far the best athlete in the team's system. Quinn has slight power in addition to a decent bat from both sides of the plate, and he could be a terrific leadoff hitter if he pans out.
Injuries have tremendously slowed down Quinn's development. After recovering from a broken wrist due to being hit by a pitch last season, he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the offseason, which cast some doubt on his future speed.
While it doesn't seem to have affected that aspect of his game too much, he has lost favor in the organization, as the team's shortstop of the future may now be J.P. Crawford. Thus, whether he can stick at shortstop is now up in the air, but he's still got time to disprove the doubters.
4. Jesse Biddle, LHP (Double-A Reading)
Biddle has the best curveball in the Phillies organization, and with a decent fastball and changeup to go along with it, he has a big league arsenal at his fingertips. He's also posted excellent strikeout numbers throughout his time in the minors, and his size and frame suit him well to be a mid-rotation starter in the majors.
He's not far from making a big league impact, either, which helps his cause.
The biggest problem for Biddle has always been his control; he led the Eastern League in walks last year and tends to surrender more of them when he comes out of his delivery to throw curveballs. As a result, Biddle's command will determine what kind of ceiling he has in the majors.
It's also hurt Biddle that he has spent all of the young season in Double-A thus far, whereas scouts had expected him to begin the year in Triple-A. Biddle will be in the Phillies rotation of the future, but there is doubt as to when he'll get there.
3. Aaron Nola, RHP (Unsigned)
The most polished pitcher in the 2014 draft, Nola will make the majors quickly, and his expected start at Single-A (once he signs) shows the Phillies' belief in that notion.
His command is superb, and with a changeup that often fools hitters Nola has the out pitch needed for a big league starter. He could end up topping the Phillies rotation in the distant future, but he should end up being a top-of-the-line starting pitcher relatively soon.
Scouts don't like Nola's seemingly-uncomfortable three-quarters arm slot, though Nola has never had any injury problems as a result of it. His ceiling also isn't as high as some of the other names taken before and after him in the draft, but it also doesn't have to be considering how consistent he already is.
At 6'2" and 170 pounds, Nola is a bit slender and could use to add a little muscle, but that's of little concern right now.
2. Maikel Franco, 3B (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Franco burst onto the scene in 2013 by posting over 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He also batted well over .300, and his defense made impressive strides as well. His arm has always been great, but with a glove and range that can suffice in the majors, Franco now looks like he'll be able to stick at third base going forward.
His ability to his baseballs to all fields is also an added bonus that will serve him well due to his terrific bat speed, and his 70 power rating will make him a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Phillies for years to come.
While Franco was considered a possibility to make the majors in 2014, that looks like less of a possibility now. Although his speed has always been his weakest attribute, Franco has had a slow start in the minors this year, hitting in the low .200s with an OPS that hovers just over .600.
He has time to improve his slow start, but should it continue throughout the rest of the 2014 season, it could be worth wondering whether his 2013 performance was a fluke.
1. J.P. Crawford, SS (Single-A Lakewood)
After being taken with the 16th pick in the 2013 draft, Crawford made a name for himself rather quickly, leading the Gulf Coast League in batting average by season's end.
He's continued that pace in 2014, showing an advanced feel for hitting, one that defied scouts' expectations. Crawford is also a very smart baserunner and has the potential to swipe some bags even with average speed. His defense is outstanding, and he is likely the Phillies' shortstop of the future at this point.
Crawford will never be a power hitter, and he isn't necessarily projected to gain much more of it as he matures. He's also in a bit of a cold stretch in the minors, but it seems to be only a stretch, especially given how strong his May was.
Crawford's swing can also get long at times, which presents its concerns here and there. What might be the biggest "weakness" is that Crawford is only 19 years old—the Phillies would like him to make the majors sooner if he could.