The Philadelphia Phillies future is brighter than ever. With one championship already under their belt, Cole Hamels wasn’t kidding when he said he expects to be able to have a parade year after year after year.
With the bulk of the current core of stars all signed through the 2011 season this team is a legitimate threat to make another run at a World Series for years to come.
But that’s not what makes the Phillies future so bright necessarily.
Just as they did with the current team of homegrown talent that includes everyday players Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Carlos Ruiz as well as pitchers Cole Hamels, JA Happ and Ryan Madson, the team looks like they have a second wave of core players emerging in the minor leagues.
With the team being involved in just about every trade rumor involving a top flight pitcher the Phillies minor league system is being analyzed as much as it's ever been lately. Out of nowhere, the Phillies have rapidly developed a group of top tier, blue chip prospects that scouts are labeling as potential stars at the major league level.
Outfielder Dominic Brown, 21, is currently the Phillies top prospect, followed by starting pitcher Kyle Drabek, 21, outfielder Michael Taylor, 23, catcher Travis D’Arnaud, 20, and recently promoted starter Antonio Bastardo, 22. All five have been described as having the potential to make an impact at the major league level.
That none of these players were widely known at this time last year to but only the most die-hard Phillies fans says a lot about how far the minor league system has come in such a short time.
It wasn’t too long ago when the team had virtually nothing of interest for potential trading partners when it came time to discuss possible mid-season trades. Hence the Jamie Moyers, Kyle Lohses, and Joe Blantons of the world (although they all seemed to work out).
Infielder Jason Donald, 24, catcher Lou Marson, 22, and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, 22, once the Phillies most prized minor league prospects, have all become expendable.
Last season's emergence of D’Arnaud has given the Phils hope that Marson's talent could be replaced. Carrasco, who is struggling mightily at Triple-A, has been surpassed by both Bastardo and Drabek.
Donald unfortunately is caught up in a numbers game. He certainly isn’t going to replace Utley or Rollins anytime soon, and with Pedro Feliz playing at such a high level this season, it seems more and more likely the team will pick up his club option for 2010.
The fact that we haven’t even mentioned outfielders John Mayberry Jr., 25, Anthony Gose, 18, Zach Collier, 18, infielder Anthony Hewitt, 20, or pitchers Joe Savery, 23, Tyler Cloyd, 22, Vance Worley, 21, and Jason Knapp, 19, is a testament to how strong the Phillies minor league system has become.
In a perfect world, the Phillies hope they can acquire a top flight pitcher with some sort of combination of Donald, Marson and Carrasco, but in reality, the team may have to part with one or more of the organization’s “new” top five prospects.
The timing of the future Phillies expected arrival in the majors also seems fortuitous.
Taylor is on schedule to be major league ready at the time Jayson Werth’s two year deal expires in 2010. Brown is on schedule when Raul Ibanez’s three year deal ends in 2011. Bastardo is already getting a chance to show what he can do, and Drabek was just promoted to Double-A Reading where he pitched seven shutout innings in his debut.
Their impending arrivals coincide with Brett Myers potentially leaving as a free agent after this season.
No Phils World Series team has been positioned so well to continue their success than this iteration.
The 1980 team was the culmination of years of strong minor league development—Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Lonnie Smith, and Keith Moreland—but the coffers were dry by 1981.
The 1983 team was a over-the-hill gang with little help coming from the farm. The early '80s drafts were rife with Henry Powell, Johnny Abrego, and John Russell-type talent.
The '93 surprise was built on toughness, career years, and, lets face it, steroids. Youngsters like Tyler Green, Mike Williams, Mike Lieberthal, and Kevin Stocker were rising to the majors, but even at the time none were really considered future cornerstones.
While baseball history is replete with stories of bright prospects never panning out, the fact the Phillies are even in the position to be disappointed by bright prospects is a phenomenom we haven't seen in this town for decades. And it gives Phils fans hope that last year's magical season won't our last for another 28 years.