Truth be told, the Major League roster of the Philadelphia Phillies is getting old quickly, and reinforcements aren't exactly on their way.
Believe it or not, there is a price for being an annual contender, and it runs much deeper than large payrolls and All-Star talent. Nine out of ten times, that price is paid by the farm system, be it in terms of forfeiting top draft selections to sign certain free agents or more appropriately as far as the Phillies are concerned, to acquire top talent from other teams.
Beginning with the 2009 trade deadline and right up through the 2011 season, the Phillies have moved some of the best prospects in baseball around the league to bring players like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, and while those players have exponentially helped the Phillies, they certainly did not come cheap.
For example, just take a look at the Houston Astros' top ten prospects, as told by Baseball America. For those of you who believe the Phillies did any "fleecing" of the Astros' organization, time to wake up and see the talent sent to Houston. Jonathan Singleton (1), Jarred Cosart (2), and Domingo Santana (6) were all a part of the trade that sent Pence to Philly. Jonathan Villar (4) was a part of the Roy Oswalt deal.
Don't be so foolish as to think that Houston is the only team that has cashed in on the Phillies' farm system. Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, and Jason Donald have all made the MLB with the Cleveland Indians. Kyle Drabek has donned a Toronto Blue Jays' uniform, and Anthony Gose (swapped with Houston) and Travis D'Arnaud are both top prospects.
That's just to name a few.
However, that isn't to say that the Phillies' farm system is barren, but more so that its top talent simply isn't very close to the Major League. There are a few interesting players that could impact the big league club in the near future, but the best prospects are still years away.
So as we list the 25 Phillies' prospect quickest to have an impact on the MLB, it is important to remember two things: These prospects are not listed in order of talent or projection and just because they're on this list does not mean that we'll be seeing them in Philadelphia any time soon.
Jiwan James isn't close to making an impact in the MLB, which should give you an idea just how far away some of the Philadelphia Phillies' top prospects are.
He was originally drafted as a pitcher and has great speed, which as you can imagine, helps make him an excellent defensive center fielder following his conversion to the outfield. In fact, Baseball America named him the best athlete among Phillies' prospects in general, also labeling him as the best defensive outfielder and as having the best outfield arm.
His bat is an entirely different story and much more of a work in progress. He made improvements at the plate with the Clearwater Threshers in 2011, but still has work to do in terms of getting on base and cutting back on his strikeouts.
Though James won't be making an impact any time soon, he does have all the tools to make an impact for the Phillies. With the outfield situation becoming cloudy in the near future, large strides from James could help his progress towards the MLB.
*Eligible for Rule 5 Draft.
The Philadelphia Phillies' farm system is stocked full of arms with great potential, pushing some guys who may have an eventual impact on the Major League team further back on this list. One of those guys is David Buchanan, who took a small step backwards in 2011 and is often overshadowed by some of the other arms in this system.
That being said, Buchanan still has the tools to help the Phillies some day. Because he's not a strikeout pitcher, the right hander relies on control to be effective. Buchanan was effective enough with the Lakewood Blueclaws in 2011 that the Phillies felt as though he could be promoted to the Clearwater Threshers, where his rate of walks rose and as a result, his numbers slipped a bit.
Buchanan appears to be the type of guy who is going to progress slowly through the system. There are higher ceiling arms ahead of him on this list, and though he could have an impact at the back end of the rotation, he has work to do before that becomes a realistic possibility.
Julio Rodriguez is in a similar boat to that of David Buchanan, but with slightly different circumstances. Rodriguez really forced his name into the conversation of top Philadelphia Phillies' pitching prospects after a phenomenal 2011 season with the Clearwater Threshers, where he won 16 games and posted an ERA of just 2.76.
Like Buchanan, he has the skill set to have an impact on the MLB, but he really isn't close to doing so any time soon. He has an interesting repertoire of pitches, including a big, looping curveball that has a tendency to fool hitters, but he'll be in the Minor Leagues for a few more seasons.
First and foremost, expect to see some regression. He posted an unsustainable BABIP of .238 last season, aiding some of those impressive numbers. The Phillies would also like to see him hone his control, but he has good stuff and struck out nearly ten batters per nine innings in 2011, so he is an arm to keep an eye on moving into the future.
After missing nearly the entire 2011 season due to injury, Tyson Gillies is obviously further away from the MLB than the Philadelphia Phillies would like him to be. Gillies, of course, came over to the Phillies from the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2010 season when the Phils sent Cliff Lee packing. At the time, the club was moving an immensely popular figure for the outfielder, so they'd like him to start producing.
Upon returning from injury in 2011, Gillies joined the Clearwater Threshers to get his feet wet once again. During the 2010 season, the Phillies started him off in rookie ball and eventually thought enough of him to promote him to AA Reading, and although he struggled a bit there in 26 games, that goes to show that, if healthy, he could progress quickly in 2012.
Without many outfielders ahead of him (if any), the Phillies don't just want Gillies to move through the system quickly—they may need him to. Of course, he'll need to produce in the Minor Leagues if he plans on making it to the big show.
Depending on the course of action the Philadelphia Phillies plan to take with left handed pitcher Austin Wright, he may be way too low on this list. Drafted out of college last season, polished lefties have a tendency to move through the Minor League system quickly, and if 2011 was a preview of things to come for Wright, he may be closer to the MLB than this slot suggests.
Wright signed right after being drafted last season and in total, pitched in 15 games for the Phillies, 14 of them being starts. He showed good control and posted big strikeout numbers in 2011, recording more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings in each of his two stops, the highest being with the Lakewood Blueclaws. If the Phillies intend to use him as a starting pitcher, he could be stashed in the Minor Leagues for a while due to a lack of opening at the MLB level and other pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart.
On the other hand, if the Phillies plan on converting him into a reliever, he could be a lethal weapon against left handed pitching, significantly increasing his chances of pitching in the MLB within the next few seasons.
With that being said, however, why not keep him in the rotation with the success he is having unless their is an obvious need for a lefty reliever?
Frankly, I'm not sure whether or not to be comfortable with putting Brody Colvin this low on this type of list or whether, based on the direction he was heading during the 2011 season, he warrants being in this spot at all.
Heading into last season, Colvin was among four of the Philadelphia Phillies' top pitching prospects labeled by the media as the "Baby Aces." As the season progressed, Colvin struggled with injuries and inconsistency, and when all was said and done, certainly did not pitch like an ace.
His strikeout rate fell and he struggled with control. Colvin posted a losing record and recorded an ERA of 4.73 along with a FIP of 4.31, though, his BABIP was considerably higher than in the past at .320.
Despite this, Baseball America certainly was not impressed. They dropped him from within the top five in terms of Phillies' prospects last season all the way to eighth for the upcoming 2012 season. With other arms cruising along in the minors, it may be a while before Colvin sees Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been noticeably thin in regards to middle infield depth for years now, and while they may have vastly improved that depth in the most recent draft, once upon a time, it was Cesar Hernandez who was seen as the heir apparent to Chase Utley at second base, and with Utley's balky knees playing a role in his future, you'd think Hernandez was much closer to an MLB impact.
Not so fast.
In his first year with the Clearwater Threshers, Hernandez struggled with the bat, posting an OPS of just .630 and nearly doubling his strikeout rate from the previous years. He's also still a young guy, and with Utley cemented at second base for the next few years, if the Phillies had their druthers, he wouldn't make an impact on the MLB for quite some time.
That being said however, the Phillies don't have much help in the middle infield closer to the show, which could impact his future.
The emergence of guys like David Buchanan and Jonathan Pettibone must have made it all the easier for the club to move Jarred Cosart at the trade deadline. Though he doesn't have the same type of velocity that Cosart had, Pettibone has impressed scouts with his control.
He spent his first full season with the Clearwater Threshers in 2011, walking less than two batters per nine innings. He doesn't have the "stuff" to strike many guys out, but was very impressive last season nonetheless, posting an ERA of 2.96 and a FIP of 2.92.
Following the season, he soared up Baseball America's Phillies ranking, becoming the fourth best prospect in the organization, hopping over Brody Colvin. Like Colvin, however, a lack of need at the MLB level should allow him to fully develop before he makes an impact.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been lacking a legitimate third base prospect for years, which made the emergence of Maikel Franco an even greater omen during the 2011 season. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, Franco is still just 19-years-old, but with the lack of other options available and Placido Polanco's contract expiring at season's end, Franco could have the fastest track to the big league.
With that being said, however, don't expect to see him with the Phillies any time soon. He's still young and has plenty to learn. After tearing it up with the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phils promoted the young third baseman and he struggled with the Lakewood Blueclaws.
The tools are there, however. Franco has shown a proficiency for working the count and finding his way on-base, as well as hitting for a bit of power. He's another guy you won't see for a few years, but with continued, successful development, he could be the Phillies' third baseman of the future. (For what it's worth, Baseball America projects him to be the starting third baseman by the 2015 season and ranked him as the 10th best prospect.)
Carlos Rivero is kind of stuck in the middle of the pack moving forward. On one hand, he probably has the best chance at making the Major League roster in the even of an injury on the bench as a type of utility player, but that is simply because on the other hand, he's just not cut out to be a starter at the Major League level.
He reached AAA Lehigh Valley last season but didn't do much with the bat once he got there. After posting a .771 OPS with the Reading Phillies and hitting 15 home runs, he was promoted to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for seven games, where he collected just five hits.
There is certainly a path to the MLB for Rivero, but it isn't always clear and won't be as a starter.
Unlike Carlos Rivero, Harold Garcia is an infielder with the chance to become the starting second baseman in the future, though how likely of a possibility that is has yet to be determined. Once upon a time he and Cesar Hernandez were considered similar prospects, but Hernandez has struggled and Garcia has dealt with injuries, so neither has developed according to plan.
With the Reading Phillies in 2010, Garcia showed a lot of promise. He posted an OPS of .743 in 55 games, including an OBP of .340. Starting the season in AA yet again in 2011, he injured himself early in the year and managed to play just 15 games, though, in those 15 games he did manage to post an OPS of .807.
All in all, he is the second closest middle infielder to the MLB in the Philadelphia Phillies' organization, and if he can show some of that same progression in 2012 that he has over the last few seasons, he could find himself in the MLB roster in the not-so-distant future.
If the Philadelphia Phillies had their druthers, Sebastian Valle is probably still years away from making a real impact on the MLB club. An incredibly talented catcher, the Phillies believe he is the rare type of catching prospect that has room for growth on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. That type of development, however, takes time.
The question then becomes simple: How much time do the Phillies have? Clearly grooming Valle to be the heir behind the plate to Carlos Ruiz, when will the Phillies move on from Chooch to Valle? Baseball America has Valle listed as the projected starting catcher for the 2015 club, and his path to the MLB is much clearer than others.
The best offensive and defensive catcher in the system, there is little doubt that anyone other than Valle will become the catcher after Ruiz is no longer able to handle the starting gig. The question is when.
Will Trevor May be a member of the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation in 2013?
2012 is going to be a big season for the Phils' top prospect. He spent most of the 2011 season honing his repertoire and putting it to use with the Clearwater Threshers, and the progress he made is outstanding. He struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings and posted an ERA of 3.80, but a FIP of 2.69 which was much more telling.
He'll begin the 2012 season with the Reading Phillies, and the front office would love to see him reign in his control, but if he has another dominant season with the AA club, could he be bound for Philadelphia the following season when Joe Blanton's contract expires?
I'm going to creative leap of faith here and guess that some point during the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Phillies finally move Austin Hyatt into the bullpen and take full advantage of his repertoire. While he pitched with the Reading Phillies as a starter last season and posted acceptable numbers, it would be much more advantageous of the Phils to move the 25-year-ol right hander to the bullpen.
Hyatt features a good, live fastball and a change-up that Baseball America regards as the best in the Phillies' system, and has for the last few seasons. Remind you of anyone who has recently pitched for the Phillies? How about Ryan Madson, who had to fail as a starter before the Phils took advantage of that great fastball / change-up combination.
If he's moved into the bullpen, we could see Hyatt by 2013, if not before that. If he's left as a starting pitcher, with all of the talented arms in this system, we may never see him.
With Sebastian Valle firmly entrenched as the heir apparent to Carlos Ruiz, there is no room for Tuffy Gosewisch as the Philadelphia Phillies' starting catcher, though, he did receive a personal endorsement from Roy Halladay during last season's Spring Training, which should go along way towards building your reputation.
However, with the Phillies' catching depth dwindling by the season, it may be Gosewisch who is next in line in the even of an injury, and with both Ruiz and Schneider missing time due to injury last season, it doesn't hurt to have a guy who can call a good game in your system.
Of course, he'll have a tough time upending Erik Kratz, who is currently on the Phillies' 40-man roster, for those honors.
Tyler Cloyd may very well end up making his Major League debut during the 2012 season with another team. The Philadelphia Phillies chose not to add the right hander to their 40-man roster this off-season, exposing him to the Rule 5 draft, and there are a few teams that could use him in a relief role, as well as some non-contending teams that may take a chance on him as a starter.
After all, Cloyd excelled in that role with the Reading Phillies last season. After working primarily as a reliever with the Clearwater Threshers, he made 17 starts with the Phils' AA club and posted an ERA of just 2.78 along with a FIP of 2.82.
He is in a similar situation to that of Austin Hyatt, in the sense that he has pitched well as a starter, but is more valuable to the Phillies as a reliever. Personally, I have a tough time believing that he's not chosen in the Rule 5 draft, but if he's not, he could be a solid option for the Phils' bullpen once the initial wave of talented relievers passes.
*Eligible for Rule 5 Draft.
The biggest obstacle on BJ Rosenberg's path to the MLB is the simple fact that he is a relief pitcher in an organization that has more relievers than they know what to do with. On the same token, at this moment in time, if you're not throwing up incredible numbers, you're going to be passed over for other guys yet to be named on this list.
Rosenberg has been solid for the Philadelphia Phillies since being drafted, but not spectacular. He spent last season with the Reading Phillies and seemed to get himself back on track, posting respectable strikeout and walk rates while generating a FIP of 3.89.
He also split time between the rotation and bullpen, which only helps his chances of making the show. All in all, his case is similar to that of Scott Mathieson—an okay reliever that could fill in should an injury occur, but probably not a guy that's a long-term option; not in this organization.
*Eligible for Rule 5 Draft.
Eventually, the Philadelphia Phillies are going to have to figure out what to do with first baseman Matt Rizzotti. With firmly entrenched as the club's first baseman and John Mayberry Jr. having shown he can handle that position as well, Rizzotti is more than blocked.
For that reason alone, there is about a 0.01% chance that he spends any time with the Phillies this season, even with Howard likely opening the season on the disabled list and the Phils' lack of a left fielder. They'd even play Jim Thome at first base before Rizzotti, and Thome can't field with his bat.
That leaves three realistic possibilities for Rizzotti. First and foremost, the Phillies waste him in the Minor League. Wouldn't be the first time. Second, there is a catastrophic slew of injuries that force the Phils to call him to the MLB—unlikely. Finally, they trade him to a non-contending team that can use a slugging first baseman (he did post an OPS of .903 and hit 24 home runs with Reading in 2011) but doesn't mind defense that is arguably just a step above Thome's.
Who said he had to make an MLB impact with the Phillies?
*Eligible for Rule 5 Draft.
Jake Diekman isn't really considered a top prospect, but the Philadelphia Phillies were curious enough about him to send the lefty to the Arizona Fall League, where he threw up some crazy numbers, and subsequently add him to the 40-man roster in order to shield him from other teams in the Rule 5 Draft.
The biggest knock against Diekman is obvious—he needs to throw more strikes. He walked more than six batters per nine innings with the Reading Phillies last season. Then again, the upside is obvious as well—he struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings at AA last season, and was incredibly tough against left handed hitters.
Now that he's on the 40-man roster, he is that much closer to the MLB. With Antonio Bastardo being the only left currently in the Phils' bullpen, the door is open for a guy like Diekman to impress the right people in Spring Training and possibly win a job for the regular season.
If not, he sure beats having to call up Juan Perez.
Photo Credit to Philly.com and the AP.
Cody Overbeck is slightly more valuable to the Philadelphia Phillies than fellow fringe-prospect Matt Rizzotti because of the simple fact that Overbeck owns a baseball glove and knows how to use it in a defensive fashion.
On a serious note, Overbeck could help the Phillies out in a small role in the near future. A third baseman by trade, he posted an OPS of .863 with the Reading Phillies in 2011 and hit 18 home runs, earning a promotion to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs where he posted an OPS of .747 and hit six home runs.
We've all seen the way the Phillies attract injuries over the last few season, especially at the hot corner and starting third baseman Placido Polanco. At the very least, Overbeck could be a safety net should the team want to take a chance. He certainly has more upside than the likes of Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez, and could play a role on the bench should Ty Wigginton need to assume a more regular role.
The Philadelphia Phillies obviously saw the upside in Phillippe Aumont when they made him the centerpiece to the Cliff Lee trade with the Seattle Mariners—it just wasn't as a starting pitcher. After finally deciding to leave him into the bullpen, he's developed into a legitimate reliever with a closer's repertoire.
After a fantastic rebound season in 2011, Baseball America has become a fan of Aumont's. They labeled not only his fastball as the best in the Phillies' farm system, but his curveball as well, giving him two plus pitches that he's used to fool hitters late in ball games.
He began the 2011 season with the Reading Phillies, where he cruised to a 2.32 ERA (2.55 FIP) and struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings in 31 innings. That earned him a promotion to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he posted an ERA of 3.18 and a FIP of 2.05, while striking out more than 14 batters per nine innings in a 22.2 inning span.
A member of the 40-man roster, it certainly isn't out of the question to see Aumont next season, though the Phillies would like to see him improve upon his control. The Phillies' bullpen of the future is one to fear. Imagine having to face Roy Halladay for seven innings and then have to face some combination of Aumont, Antonio Bastardo, and Jonathan Papelbon.
As the off-season drags on and Jimmy Rollins remains a free agent, we have no choice but to pencil Freddy Galvis in as the team's starting shortstop for the 2012 season, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Galvis has always been a defense-first type of player. He has soft hands and a strong arm, leading Baseball America to give him the honors of both best defensive infielder and best defensive infield arm in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system.
With that in mind, you can see why the Phillies were encouraged by his offensive advancement during the 2011 season. After posting a respectable OPS of .727 and hitting eight home runs with the Reading Phillies last season, Galvis was promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley, where he posted an OPS of .678 in 33 games.
His defense is going to be there. The question about Galvis has always been whether or not he can hit Major League pitching, and there is only one way to find that answer.
Along with Jake Diekman, Joe Savery represents options for the Philadelphia Phillies and their bullpen. After trying out numerous roles in the minor leagues, Savery seems to have found his niche as a left handed specialist with the Phils, who rewarded him with his cup of coffee last season.
Now, he could be a vital piece to the bullpen moving forward. With Antonio Bastardo representing the only left handed reliever on the MLB roster and Diekman's control still up in the air, it could very well be Savery who wins the job of second lefty, should such a position become available.
Justin De Fratus is the reliever closest to making an impact on the Philadelphia Phillies, and he certainly represents an upgrade over the likes of David Herndon, at the very least, and at the most, he has the upside of a set-up man behind new closer Jonathan Papelbon.
De Fratus also got his cup of coffee during last season as a September call-up, but 2012 should be a whole different beast as far as he is concerned. The right hander has the chance to go into Spring Training and win a job on the Major League roster.
Unlike some of the other potential high impact relievers on this list, De Fratus has nothing left to prove with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He has good control and a filthy fastball / slider combination that racks up strikeouts.
De Fratus will be pitching in Philadelphia at some point during the 2012 season—if not from Opening Day onward.
Okay, so Domonic Brown isn't technically a prospect any longer, but he's not a Major League player either. If you want to be really technical, the Philadelphia Phillies have Brown stuck in prospect limbo, where he is neither the number one prospect nor a player worth mentioning in the farm system...
But don't let technicalities hold us up. Throughout the entire off-season thus far we've been listening to the same old song and dance, which of course includes several suggestions of left handed hitting outfielders past their prime, like Johnny Damon and David DeJesus.
If the Phillies are going to take a chance out in left field, why not let it be Brown? At this point, it is painfully obvious—he has nothing left to accomplish with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. You don't just forget how to hit, but you can forget about numbers—allow me to remind you that Brown posted an OPS of .951 in AAA in 2010 before the Phils slowly but gradual crushed his confidence.
If the Phillies are that insistent upon the left field situation being a platoon (though, John Mayberry Jr. did a fine job of hitting both left handed and right handed pitching last season), why not use Brown? If your reasoning is going to be "because he is a bad defender," allow me to remind you that the Phillies won a World Series with Pat Burrell roaming left field in 2008.
Burrell had a UZR/150 of -12.3 in 2008!
Simply put, give Brown a chance. If you're talking about players who will have the most impact, he has to be at the top of the list.
Now that you've seen where I stand on which Philadelphia Phillies' prospects are closest to making an impact on the MLB, what do you think?
Which prospects do you think are closest?
Please, make sure to leave some feedback in the comments section below! I'm looking forward to hearing your opinions!