Wednesday, January 31, 2007

State of the Minor League System

Everybody has their own take on their favorite team's farm system, so I figured I'd join in on the fun. This is a quick draft of a very preliminary list. As you can see, I'm not all that worried about Scott Mathieson's upcoming TJ surgery (if you're gonna have it done, get it done young), very optimistic about Mike Costanzo's upcoming AA season (more of a hunch than anything – a hunch based heavily on statistics [i.e. his monthly splits in A+], but a bit of a scouting hunch as well), and not quite sold that Jason Jaramillo's future is anything more than that of a backup catcher (there is still value there, but he's not the upper crust prospect that many Phillies fans opinion is closer to John Sickels with regards to JJ, but I still think he absolutely deserves a spot on any Phillies prospect list).

As with any system, outside of the few consensus top guys (of which the Phils have very, very few) the list gets very muddled. The majority of guys picked 20-30 were younger players that earned spots on the list more for their tools than performance (i.e. Henry, Marson, and Baez).

I slotted in players that will have a role on the '07 Phillies in parenthesis...Ruiz and Smith are assured of spots, while Castro will either start the season in the big league pen or in the high minors starting. My own quirkiness prefers to see them separate from the true minor leaguers on the's probably dumb, but it makes it easier for me to organize.

1. RHSP Carlos Carrasco (top notch A-ball numbers, I'd love to see the Phillies challenge him with a double jump to AA...though skipping levels hasn't worked too well with Carrasco in the past)

Carrasco's 2005 was a disaster as he reportedly tried to overthrow every fastball and, as a result of that, lost all command on it whatsoever. It wasn't as though his walk rate was abnormally high, but his hit rate jumped because hitters knew they could wait on his breaking stuff since that fastball wouldn't be close (an example of the semantical difference of poor command rather than poor control).

In 2006, Carrasco excelled. What changed? Carlos himself has been quoted as saying he learned to slow things down on the mound and realize the importance of fastball location over velocity. That's all well and good, but perhaps more important was the development of another strong secondary pitch - his curveball. In '05, all he threw was a fastball-change combo...easy pickings for professional hitters. By 2006, he was throwing a fastball that sits in the low 90s (92-94 typically, but it can be a bit flat at times), a plus change, and a developing (slowly but surely) power curve.

As of now, Carrasco is a damn fine pitching prospect but now quite among the elite. If he can add just a tick more velocity on his fastball, he could really bust out in A+/AA in 2007. His 6-3, 180 pound frame combined with his youth (he'll be 20 in March) could allow for the heater to be cranked up to mid-90s consistently and if out.

A name that I haven't often heard him compared to, but I'll throw it out there anyway is Ryan Madson. Their minor league numbers are very similar, they have similar builds, and similar repertoires (low 90s fastball, plus change, curve needs work). People may be down on Madson these days, but I still think he'll be a quality big leaguer for a long time. Carrasco has a bit more long-term upside (his fastball has gone up a tick in velocity every year since he signed), but I think it's a decent comp for the time being.

2. RHSP Scott Mathieson (TJ surgery shelves him for all of '07...still a young guy with plus stuff, profiles as either a future starter or relief ace)

3. RHSP Kyle Drabek (as high a ceiling as any other prospect in the system...Rookie ball numbers and lack of maturity are red flags, but his talent is undeniable...Cole Hamels only dropped to the Phillies because of injury/immaturity, Phillies hope lighting strikes twice with Drabek)

4. LHSP J.A. Happ (big jump up in '06, could work his way into Phillies rotation once the inevitable Adam Eaton injury can't really blame Eaton though, those DVDs can be damn tough to open)

5. OF Michael Bourn (old-school prototype leadoff man, would have been an ideal fit playing center field next to Burrell and Abreu...oh well, at least we now have C.J. Henry!...another year in AAA could serve him well as he'll indirectly compete with Shane Victorino to see who will be the Phils CF come 2008)

6. RHSP Edgar Garcia
7. LHSP Josh Outman
8. 3B Michael Costanzo
9. IF Adrian Cardenas
10. OF D'Arby Myers
(LHRP Fabio Castro)
11. RHRP Zack Segovia
12. OF Greg Golson
(C Carlos Ruiz)
13. RHSP Justin Germano
14. LHSP Matt Maloney
(LHRP Matt Smith)
15. C Jason Jaramillo
16. RHRP Joe Bisenius
17. LHSP Daniel Brauer
18. RHSP Kyle Kendrick
19. OF Jeremy Slayden
20. RHSP Jarrod Freeman
21. RHSP Drew Carpenter
22. SS C.J. Henry
23. C Lou Marson
24. C Jesus Sanchez
25. 3B Welinson Baez
26. OF T.J. Warren
27. RHRP Pat Overholt
28. INF Jason Donald
29. INF Brad Harman
30. RHRP Brett Harker

The 2006 draft brought in all kinds of desperately needed talent into the pipeline. Drabek (1), Cardenas (Supp. 1), Myers (4), and Carpenter (2) should make almost any Top 20 list this offseason.

Jason Donald (3) is another player who could draw consideration though I personally fear his high collegiate strikeout totals and inability to impress when hitting with wood as an amateur; he profiles best as a super-utility guy to me rather than a starting shortstop.

The Phillies are notorious for falling in love with toolsy outfielders come draft day (so much so that they loved Greg Golson more than Phil Hughes...but I digress). T.J. Warren (8), Dominic Brown (20), and Darin McDonald (12) are the newest group of tools-laden outfielders added to the system with a chance of maybe developing down the line...Warren is the most advanced of the group, but Brown has the most long-term potential - something about 6'5", 200 pound guys recruited to play football at Miami with pro potential both on the mound or in the outfield appeal to me. Warren and McDonald are both more advanced ballplayers in a traditional sense at this point, but Brown has the most long-term potential due to his freakish athleticism.

The Phils also added a few intriguing relief arms including Andrew Cruse (9), Sam Walls (10), and Will Savage (26). These guys may not have quite the ceiling as other, younger arms in draft have, but if I had to pick one player in the system to make it to the majors fastest I'd probably choose Walls...there's something to be said for that.

The Phillies also have an affinity for collecting big, tall, strapping young righthanded high schoolers. This year's haul included Jarrod Freeman (11) and Robert Roth (19) - two pitchers from baseball hotbeds Utah and Idaho, respectively. Freeman is very highly thought of within the organization and could emerge as a top 15 prospect next year at this time; Roth had a really rough debut in the GCL where he was extremely wild...he's a project, to say the least. Another young arm that has a shot to contribute (though I'm in the minority with this one amongst Phillies prospect mavens) is Michael Dubee (18), son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee. Michael comes out of a junior college in Oklahoma and could be far more than just the typical courtesy pick it appears to be.

RHP Ben Pfinsgraff - I wasn't all that high on him coming out of school (only so-so peripherals at Maryland, plus I saw him pitch this past year against BC and came away unimpressed...he's a short righthander with a an average fastball, not exactly my cup of tea), but his results after getting drafted were impressive enough that I can admit I may have been wrong about him. I mostly wanted to mention him because he was just one of the four Phillies draftees I got to see this past NCAA season - C Shawn McGill (BC), RHRP Sam Walls (NC State), and INF Herman Demmink (Clemson) being the others. McGill and Demmink are minor league filler (if either player ever dons an IronPig jersey, I’d be surprised), but Walls and perhaps Pfinsgraff have the potential to someday crack a big league bullpen.

The ones who got away include 15th rounder Riley Cooper (now playing WR for the National Champion Florida Gators), 31st rounder Bruce Billings, and perhaps the most painful of them all, 34th rounder Josh Thrailkill (enrolled as a freshman at Clemson).

Names worth storing away from the Phillies championship VSL squad: IF Redne Fuenmayor (previously mentioned), C Francisco Murillo (.299/.402/.502 in 221 VSL at bats), and pitchers Moises Melendez and Mauricio Romero. The VSL is as far as the majors as can be, but it doesn't hurt to just remember a couple extra names in the back of your mind...especially when the farm system is as bad as the Phillies is.


Blogger Adam said...

I'm interested to see how K. Drabek pans out. There is certainly potential for the Phils to have a strong pitching rotation in years to come.

10:29 AM  

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