This could easily become obsolete in two weeks thanks to the trading deadline (or even two days if I change my mind), but after the signing deadline last week, I thought I’d post an updated list of the top 15 prospects in the organization. I ranked 30 prospects out of 42 considered for the list, but I’m sticking to 15 here because things get really murky after that, and I didn’t spend as much time really bearing down on my decisions like I would in the off-season.
What’s different about this list? There are a lot of graduations, impact or not. There are players that have already lost prospect eligibility in 2013 (Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd), and several that probably will at some point (Phillippe Aumont, Darin Ruf and Justin De Fratus). There are a lot of familiar names on the list, but there is also one 2013 pick as well as two pop-up players that weren’t on my pre-season top 30.
1. LHP Jesse Biddle (no change)
Biddle has generally performed pretty well with Reading this year, and he passed a huge test going from High-A to Double-A and remaining successful. Keith Law said his curveball was the best in the Futures Game, and even though it was just one inning, that’s impressive considering all the talent on the field. It would’ve been nice to see more fastball velocity since he didn’t have to pace himself through a whole game, but he’s still on track to reach the majors sometime in 2014.
2. 3B Maikel Franco (+3)
Franco’s 2013 breakout is probably the most significant development in the system this year. His weaknesses (defense, plate approach and swing mechanics) are well documented at this point, but if he keeps hitting and hitting at every level, it gets difficult to ignore. The last month and a half with Reading will be crucial; as the more experienced pitchers get more chances to pitch against him, will his weaknesses be exploited, ad will he be able to adjust?
3. LHP Adam Morgan (-1)
Shoulder injuries are serious, and even though it looks like Morgan will resume pitching this season, I still wanted to knock him down more than one spot, but I don’t see anyone else who has passed him. Before going on the DL with his labrum issue, the results with Lehigh Valley were clearly not as good with a decline in strikeout rate. Hopefully that can be chalked up to the sore shoulder and he’s able to regain his health.
4. 2B Cesar Hernandez (+5)
I had Hernandez higher than all sources with actual credibility in the off-season, and I’m even higher on him now. He’s a solid defensive second baseman, and if he can sustain his improved walk rate in 2013, he’s a more viable offensive player at the top of a lineup. The Phillies will be trying him in center field for a little bit, and there’s a chance it could work out. I feel like he has the athleticism and enough arm to play out there, but getting jumps and taking good routes could challenge him at first.
5. 3B Cody Asche (+1)
After a slow start, Asche’s season has picked up a bit and is looking more like the player from his breakout 2012 season. He’s still making good contact and his walk rate is higher, but once again he seems to be a bit short in the power department. His defense remains a question mark as well. With Franco now firmly entrenched higher than him on the prospect rankings now, I wonder if they might try to see if he can be a viable defender at a corner outfield position to add some versatility.
6. OF Kelly Dugan (+16)
After starting the season with another injury, Dugan kept hitting the ball like he did in his surprising 2012 season with Lakewood. It didn’t even take 60 games for him to conquer high-A, and although his start with Reading has been very slow, he’s certainly a prospect again. A recent report by Keith Law indicates he has average tools across the board and could be a solid big leaguer with a nice plate approach and some power.
7. SS Roman Quinn (no change)
I was hoping to see a little more from Quinn this year, and just as he was heating up, he went down for a couple months with a broken wrist. It’s neat that he was able to hit five home runs (including four of which I believe were over-the-fence), but he has to do a better job making contact and using his speed to get on base. The wrist injury is probably the only thing keeping him from making 50 errors at shortstop this year.
8. C Tommy Joseph (-4)
Joseph’s place in prospect rankings in his career has mostly been predicated on his ceiling, but now in his fourth professional season, the time has come for performance. Unfortunately, a concussion and the difficulties that come along with rehabbing from one have sidetracked him. Time is still probably on his side since he’s just turning 22 years old this week, but he has to be healthy and stay on the field to try and salvage something from this season.
9. RHP Shane Watson (+2)
Watson’s first full pro season has really just been okay, but his ceiling is still pretty high. Like Quinn, an injury, in this case shoulder fatigue, landed him on the DL when his performance was starting to turn. Over his last five starts between June and July, his walk and strikeout rates were both improving after mid-season dips. He hasn’t taken the big step forward that Biddle and Brody Colvin made at this level, but he’s still doing well.
10. CF Carlos Tocci (+3)
Tocci’s stats this season are abysmal (.558 OPS in 318 PA), but at the start of the season, he was the youngest active professional player in baseball, and that can’t be discounted. In some ways, his performance is actually better than last year; his walk and strikeout rates have improved slightly, as has his power, although he’s yet to record a professional triple or home run. When players around Tocci’s age have struggled at Lakewood in the past like Sebastian Valle or Domingo Santana, the Phillies have sent them to Williamsport when the short-season leagues got going, but they did not do that with Tocci.
11. CF Aaron Altherr (+19)
As I’ve said recently, I’m still pretty skeptical of Altherr’s breakout because of his high strikeout rate and second half slump, but this performance is still better than it has been in the past. He’s done a decent job getting on base and has shown a lot of power for a center fielder, but he’s in for some rough sledding with Reading if he can’t cut down on those strikeouts.
12. SS J.P. Crawford (N/A)
Crawford’s brief pro debut has been solid so far, but with a BABIP north of .500, he’s probably going to have to show something besides the ability to hit for singles at some point. I may have Quinn ranked higher, but since I think he eventually lands in center field, Crawford is the best shortstop prospect in the organization, and they certainly need some depth there.
13. OF Cameron Perkins (not ranked)
Perkins has hit well with Clearwater all season, and he probably would’ve been better served getting challenged at Reading before a hand/wrist injury shut him down for a while. He’s pretty good at getting bat on ball, but down the road he could use some more patience. He had to move off third base to accommodate Franco playing at the same level, but he should be a decent outfielder.
14. RHP Severino Gonzalez (not ranked)
Gonzalez came out of nowhere in 2013 to become one of the organization’s best pitchers in the lower minors. When he signed a few years ago, his fastball was a high-80’s pitch, and now it’s in the low-90’s and touches 94. He throws a ton of strikes with 64 strikeouts to six walks in 48.2 innings between Clearwater and Lakewood this year.
15. 3B Zach Green (+10)
Around draft time, Green was listed at 180 pounds out of high school, and he’s now listed at 210. Either number could be fudged a bit, but it’s pretty clear that he’s added strength over the last year, and it’s showing for Williamsport. He leads the league in doubles and is tied for fourth in home runs, and he could be yet another option in what’s turning into a deep position within the organization.