In the middle portion of this year’s top 30, there was something that surprised me: there’s actually some talent. Unfortunately, much of it has been impacted by serious injuries, and those players may not be the same when they come back in 2014. I count five players that would probably be ranked higher if they were healthy.
20. LHP Yoel Mecias, 6’2 160, 20, Low-A (57 IP, 3.79 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 28.3 K%, 10.1 BB%)
Strengths: Since arriving in the U.S. in 2012 after signing in 2010, Mecias has pitched well despite being younger than most players he’s competing against. He has a plus or better changeup that allowed him to strike out righties and lefties alike at a high rate. His fastball already has average velocity in the high-80’s to low-90’s, and he has the frame to get stronger and pitch at a higher level more consistently.
Weaknesses: Mecias underwent Tommy John surgery after last pitching a game in June, and he’ll likely miss most of the season. He’ll have to show he can continue pitching as well as he had in his prior career 98.2 innings. His breaking ball probably won’t be better than average. Improving his fastball velocity isn’t a sure thing. Like most young pitchers, he has to throw strikes more consistently.
2014 outlook: Even if the Phillies give Mecias more than 12 months since his surgery to get him back on a mound, he should still be able to get at least a month of work in at the end of the season. If he can work his way back, his upside is higher than most pitchers in the system.
19. C Andrew Knapp, S/R 6’1 175, 22, Short-season (247 PA, .253/.340/.401, 23.1 K%, 8.9 BB%)
Strengths: Knapp could develop into a solid all-around catcher adding value both at and behind the plate. He had an okay pro debut in the New York-Penn League’s difficult hitting environment, hitting quite a bit better from the left side. He has a decent approach and should be able to hit for a higher average in the future with some power. He’s pretty new to playing catcher, but he is athletic. His arm is pretty good.
Weaknesses: Knapp also underwent Tommy John surgery, his coming during instructional league season. Since he’s a position player, he won’t miss the whole year, but he probably will be out a significant time period. Because of his inexperience at catcher, he has work to do receiving pitches and calling games. His swing may be more geared toward contact than power. His bat was poor from the right side in his debut.
2014 outlook: Knapp should be able to play around half the season, eventually working himself in at catcher regularly after a while.
18. RHP Ken Giles, 6’2 190, 23, High-A (25.2 IP, 6.31 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 28.3 K%, 15.8 BB%)
Strengths: Giles has one of the hardest fastballs in the minors, recording a pitch at 101 MPH in Arizona Fall League action. The pitch averaged over 97 MPH. His mid-80’s slider was an effective swing and miss pitch as well. With his stuff, he could be a late inning reliever in the majors as soon as sometime this year.
Weaknesses: Giles struggles to command both pitches at times. This is especially important with his fastball which is somewhat of a flat pitch. The consistency of his breaking ball wavers. Last year, he had two separate stints on the disabled list with an oblique injury and only threw 36 innings between Clearwater and the AFL. If his command doesn’t improve, he could pitch a lot like Phillippe Aumont; flashing dominance at times but always leaving fans wanting more.
2014 outlook: Giles should start the season in Reading and make his big league debut at some point this year. His stuff is good enough that he should rise to the top in a big league bullpen with a lot of young arms but little certainty. First, he has to stay healthy.
17. RHP Shane Watson, 6’4 200, 20, Low-A (72 IP, 4.75 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 17.2 K%, 9.1 BB%)
Strengths: Watson has two potential plus pitches, led by a sharp curveball with depth. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, and he can dial it up a few more ticks when needed. He has confidence in his stuff and attacks batters. He’s shown the aptitude to smooth out his delivery and is willing to throw his changeup and try to improve it. The pitch has average potential. His size lends itself to good durability.
Weaknesses: Undiagnosed diabetes cut his pro debut short in 2012, and after 16 starts last year, he was shut down with shoulder discomfort. He had surgery in the off-season, but the organization expects him to pitch this season. He only has 79 career innings and probably won’t be accumulating many more even if he can come back later in the year. Despite the stuff, his results were inconsistent, and his strikeout rate was just okay. He has to improve his command and changeup.
2014 outlook: Despite being drafted a year ahead of high school teammate J.P. Crawford, the disruptions have caused him to fall behind in his development. If the Phillies allow him to rehab out of the short-season leagues this year, he could throw some innings in Clearwater.
16. SS Roman Quinn, S/R 5’10 170, 21, Low-A (298 PA, .238/.323/.346, 21.5 K%, 9.1 BB%)
Strengths: Before his injury, Quinn’s game-changing speed placed him among the fastest runners in professional baseball. He uses it effectively and steals at a pretty high efficiency. He’s patient enough to draw walks to get on base to utilize his speed. Despite his low average, his hit tool could be above average, especially from the right side. He has surprising pop for his size and can drive the ball into the gaps. His arm is strong.
Weaknesses: Quinn’s season ended prematurely in June when he broke his wrist, an injury that can be devastating for hitters. Over the off-season, he ruptured his achilles and will miss at least half the season. His value is tied almost entirely to his speed, and it’s certainly possible it never fully comes back. He has to put the ball in play more and give his legs a chance to get on base. He’s new to switch hitting and has a lot of work to do from the left side. He’s clumsy at shortstop, especially making throws. A move to second base, or more likely center field, is almost certain.
2014 outlook: When and if Quinn comes back in 2014, it’ll probably be at Clearwater. It’ll be at least a calendar year since he last played, and that missed developmental time can be crucial, especially for a player with so much to work on. His two injuries can significantly affect his future.
15. 3B Zach Green, R/R 6’3 210, 20, Short-season (311 PA, .252/.344/.478, 29.3 K%, 10.0 BB%)
Strengths: Green led the New York-Penn League in doubles and home runs and also won the league’s home run derby. His strength and power profiles at third base where he moved after signing with the Phillies. He has the arm strength for the position too and has just enough quickness to stay there. He can take walks to add to his value.
Weaknesses: Green struggles with pitch recognition and strikes out far too much. He sells out for power, and his swing can get too long. There’s a real possibility he never hits for an adequate average. Trying to hit the ball the other way instead of pulling every pitch could help out significantly. He’s going to have to work to remain athletic enough to stay at third base.
2014 outlook: Green will move up to full-season ball for the first time. With his swing and miss problem and distance from the majors, he’s still a very risky prospect. Hitting for the power he did in the NYPL is impressive though, and he could become an even more dangerous hitter if he makes better contact.
14. C Deivi Grullon, R/R 6’1 180, 18, Rookie (132 PA, .273/.333/.364, 13.6 K%, 7.6 BB%)
Strengths: Grullon could be an elite defender behind the plate. A large part of that is his potential 80 grade arm which will allow him to control the running game. He’s a smart player who has shown quick improvement in calling games and handling a staff. He’s pretty athletic and has the strength and durability to play the position. He has a good plate approach that puts the ball in play consistently, and his performance at the plate in 2013 was better than expected.
Weaknesses: Even so, Grullon’s offensive upside is pretty limited, especially his power. He’ll likely top out as an empty average hitter with a little on-base ability. He’s still very young, and Gulf Coast League performance is not at all indicative of future performance. Although his defense is advanced, he still needs work behind the plate moving side to side and blocking balls.
2014 outlook: I could see the Phillies giving Grullon at shot at Lakewood to start the season but move down to the NYPL in June if he shows he’s not ready. He’s still very far away from the majors, but his defensive ability is rare.
13. C Cameron Rupp, R/R 6’1 240, 25, Double-A/Triple-A (355 PA, .258/.318/.437, 25.6 K%, 6.8 BB%)
Strengths: While not as good as Grullon, Rupp is also a solid defender behind the plate. He has a strong and accurate arm. Despite his size, he can move and block balls in the dirt. He’s a leader and does a great job handling pitchers. He has the strength to pull some balls and put a few of them over the fence, and his 14 home runs in 2013 were a career high.
Weaknesses: Other than that, Rupp isn’t much of a hitter. His swing is long, his pitch recognition isn’t good, and he’s never going to hit for a good average. His overall upside is very limited, and there’s almost no chance he’ll be an everyday player.
2014 outlook: After finishing last season in the majors and the trade of Erik Kratz, for two days it appeared Rupp was set to begin 2014 as Carlos Ruiz’s backup. Then they signed Wil Nieves to a major league deal, leaving him with a ticket back to Lehigh Valley.
12. LHP Adam Morgan, 6’1 195, 24, Triple-A (71.1 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 15.3 K%, 8.1 BB%)
Strengths: When healthy, Morgan’s fastball sits in the low-90’s, and he generally commands his pitches well thanks to a repeatable delivery. His best pitch is a plus or better slider that allowed him to strike out over a batter an inning during his breakout 2012 season. He rounds out his arsenal with an above average changeup and average curveball.
Weaknesses: Morgan missed most of 2012 with a shoulder injury, and surgery on that shoulder in January will keep him out at least half the season. After that, he’ll have to prove he can reach the level he was at prior to the injury. He needs to locate his fastball and keep it low in the zone. He allowed 10 home runs in 71.1 innings in 2013 after only allowing nine in 158.2 in 2012.
2014 outlook: Morgan will probably begin the comeback trail in the GCL when he’s ready to pitch in June or July. It would be nice to see him make his debut later in the year, but I would expect the Phillies to bring him back slowly. This year is all about staying healthy.
11. OF Cameron Perkins, R/R 6’5 195, 23, High-A (424 PA, .295/.346/.444, 13.4 K%, 5.9 BB%)
Strengths: Through the first two months of the season, Perkins was on fire, posting a .894 OPS, but after breaking his wrist in June, he wasn’t the same hitter. He still finished among the Florida State League batting leaders thanks to his feel for contact and putting the ball in play. He still has the frame to add more strength, and that would help him hit for the additional power he needs to be a corner outfielder. After playing third base as an amateur, he took to right field pretty well and could be average at the position.
Weaknesses: After returning from his wrist injury, Perkins batted just .250 with a .682 OPS. He was just okay in the AFL over the off-season, and he still has to prove he can be the same hitter he was before he got hurt. He needs to wait for his pitch a little more instead of making outs with weak contact. It’s not a sure thing that his doubles power translates to home run power down the road. His arm is just average.
2014 outlook: Perkins should start 2014 in Reading, where he probably would’ve finished 2013 if he hadn’t gotten hurt. If he can hit well again, he’ll put himself in the mix for a corner outfield spot in the near future.
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