Choosing players for this stock report was actually kind of difficult, if only because 11 of my top 30 prospects before the year haven’t played at all because of injuries or simply not being assigned to a full-season affiliate. Determining if a player is beating or not meeting expectations through just one month is a challenge too. Because of that, I made some conservative choices when it came to placing players. There are three players I feel confident in saying are improving their stocks this year, and I selected a handful of players for the other two categories to highlight. All stats as of Saturday’s games.
3. SS J.P. Crawford: Crawford has been hitting pretty consistently all year, and he’s continue to showing why his stock has risen faster than almost any 2013 draft pick. Batting at the top of Lakewood’s lineup, he has as many walks as strikeouts as he did last year in the Gulf Coast League. His ISO (SLG-AVG) is only .120, but he’s a skinny player and isn’t up there to provide power. The Phillies will certainly take his .300 average, near .400 on-base percentage and speed on the bases while providing good defense at shortstop.
11. OF Cam Perkins: Early on with Reading, Perkins has shown his 2013 wrist injury is in the past with a very hot start that’s not just a product of their hitter friendly home park. He’s third in the Eastern League in average, and he’s one of five players with an OPS over 1.000. His walk rate is still a bit low, but he doesn’t strike out either and has shown he has no problem putting the ball in play. The Phillies would probably like to see more than two home runs from a corner outfielder, but they can live with the 11 doubles.
18. RHP Ken Giles: Giles has always attracted attention with his velocity, and he seems to be using it more productively this season with Reading. His absurd 50% strikeout rate is fourth in the minors among pitchers with at least 10 innings so far. That’ll come down for sure at some point, as no pitcher since 2006 has thrown 50 innings with a strikeout rate anywhere close to 50% (and probably long before that too.) More importantly, his walk rate is down to a manageable 9.3%, a career best. If he can throw quality strikes with his great stuff, the Phillies will have no choice but to promote him soon.
2. LHP Jesse Biddle: Biddle’s return to Reading initially seemed like a surprise, but with how poor he finished 2013 along with his problems throwing strikes, it makes sense. He’s been better so far this year, both with a small increase in strikeout rate and a return to an average walk rate. He’s never going to pound the strike zone, but he should at least be around the plate enough to entice batters to swing. He should be bumped up to Lehigh Valley soon.
8. CF Aaron Altherr: Altherr’s season started late due to a wrist injury, and after a brief rehab stint with Clearwater, has arrived with Reading. Through about 50 plate appearances, he hasn’t been good; he’s batting .214 with an OPS under .700, but I think that’s due to improve. His strikeout rate hasn’t been this low since he first arrived on the prospect scene in 2010 as a short-season player, and if he can keep that up, it could be a difference maker for his career. The power has been there, so if he’s healthy and has genuinely improved his approach, he becomes a lot more interesting.
25. C Tommy Joseph: Just being on the field regularly has been a positive for Joseph this year, although he did miss a little bit of time with concussion symptoms. Performing at Reading shouldn’t be a challenge for him since he has over a season of Double-A experience which is why he’s here and not in the above category. Although his average is below .240, I think he’s just been a victim of bad luck. His walk rate is adequate, and he’s striking out less than he ever has. The power is still there, and it’s not just a product of playing his home games at Reading. I’d definitely say his stock improves if he can hit this way at Lehigh Valley and stay on the field.
Kind of down but hitting better lately
1. 3B Maikel Franco: By all accounts, Franco is the same player as last year, and the All-Star ceiling hasn’t changed. Since his first multi-hit game of the season on April 16th, his OPS is .801, and it’s even higher in a more recent, smaller stretch. I’m most interested in his strikeout rate. It’s at 19.4% now, easily a career high since he’s been in a full-season league. He’s never going to walk much, but he’s being challenged by Triple-A pitchers with better breaking pitches and off-speed stuff and still has to learn which pitchers he can and cannot drive.
22. OF Dylan Cozens: In his first taste of full-season ball, Cozens has shown a little less power than expected, but he’s somehow managed to maintain a .250 average despite an abysmal 26.3% strikeout rate. It’s possible he can keep that up since his .325 BABIP is right around his career average, but what’s really concerning is that his walk rate has plummeted to 4.2% when it had previously been in double digits. Hopefully the home runs come from him, but if he was able to hit nine in 68 games with Williamsport last year, I don’t think only having two this year can be attributed to a tough hitting environment.
26. OF Zach Collier: Coming off a breakout 2012 that earned him a spot on the 40 man roster, Collier was not good with Reading, striking out a lot and not putting the ball in play. He’s back with Reading, and things have taken a turn for the worse. He’s striking out more, his average is lower, and he’s showing less power. Since he’s a good center fielder, the bar for him to hit is a little lower, but he’s still not particularly close to clearing that bar. Because of his injury history and short track record of performance, his prospect status was always hanging on by a thread, and that thread has probably snapped at this point.
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