After an uneventful rule 5 draft last week, Phillies Prospects A-Z is back. Two weeks ago, I reviewed Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Anthony Hewitt, Steven Inch and Jiwan James. Aside from Galvis, all of those players are in high-A or below, so it’ll be a while before they help the major league club, if at all. While last week had a distinct position player focus, this week will only feature one hitter among a group of six players.
K- Trevor May, RHP, high-A
Over the last two seasons, only Matt Moore of the Rays had more strikeouts among minor league pitchers. May doesn’t have quite the upside Moore does, but if he can harness his stuff and consistently throw strikes, he could be a very good ML starter. 2011 was his second shot at Clearwater, and he was much more successful this time around. With Clearwater in 2010, he walked 61 batters in 70 innings before being sent back to Lakewood to finish the season. With Clearwater in 2011, he walked 67 batters in 151.1 innings, a clear improvement.
May has shown improvement in both his current arsenal and pitches introduced to him by the coaching and development staff. His fastball has very good velocity and movement, but he doesn’t generate ground balls with it and probably never will. His mid 70’s curveball is his second best pitch and another plus pitch. His changeup showed improvement in 2011 to allow him to have more success against lefties. He’s been working in a slider in bullpens, and maybe he’ll be ready to use it during games. If he adjusts to AA in 2012, he could lead the minors in strikeouts.
L- Lisalberto Bonilla, RHP, low-A
Since the Phillies signed Bonilla in the offseason after 2008, he’s really done nothing but dominate in most of his outings. After an extremely successful season in the Dominican Summer League in 2009, he made a nice pro debut the following year, pitching well in the GCL and struggling with Williamsport. He started 2011 in Lakewood’s bullpen to help limit his workload. He moved to the rotation in June and continued to pitch great. He slowed down at the end of the season, likely just a product of pitching in a full season. He finished with a 2.80 ERA in 106 innings, striking out 95 and allowing 91 hits and 29 walks.
He has the potential to be a starter, but he has to answer some questions as he progresses through the system. He has a plus changeup with nice movement and an above average fastball with sink and gets a lot of grounders because of it. What he needs to do is continue improving his breaking ball to give him the three pitches necessary to stay in a rotation. Bonilla also has to prove he has the durability to handle being a starter, and at 6’1, 164 pounds, that’s not a guarantee. His workload will increase as he advances, and the results will dictate his future role.
M- Adam Morgan, LHP, short-season
Morgan was the first pitcher chosen by the Phillies in the 2011 draft, the team’s 4th pick and in the 3rd round. He fits the profile for a lot of pitchers the team takes in this range in the draft: college arm, signable, only okay stuff and not a great amount of upside. That said, he got off to a solid start as a professional with Williamsport. With strikeout and walk rates nearly identical to those he posted at Alabama in his junior season, a reduction in his hit rate allowed him to post a 2.01 ERA.
He’ll need to prove it’s not a fluke in 2012, and that his improvements as a professional are real. On good days, he’ll show above average fastball velocity for a lefty in the low 90’s. His slider has the potential to be above average while his changeup should be average. The Phillies are high on him, and it sounds like he has the chance to be a starter at the back of a rotation. He’ll need to stay healthy which was an issue at Alabama.
N- Michael Nesseth, RHP, short-season
Nesseth made his pro debut with Williamsport in 2011, one year after being drafted by the Phillies from Nebraska. He was recovering from Tommy John surgery, so it’s not surprising that he wasn’t as sharp as he was early in his college career. Prior to the All-Star break, he posted a 2.36 ERA and was named to the New York Penn League’s All-Star Game. He was bad in three starts after the break but still finished with a solid 3.21 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
In 2012, his strikeout rate will need to increase. Minor leaguers with a 5.0 K/9 rarely find a lot of success rising through the ranks. However, since it was only his first year coming off surgery, he could definitely show improvement as he gets further and further away from his injury. At 6’6 and 225 pounds, he’s able to generate a lot of ground balls with his fastball. He only walked 19 batters in 61 innings, so his command was better than one might expect coming off major surgery. It’s still tough to tell what kind of pitcher Nesseth will be, but 2012 will be a big year.
O- Cody Overbeck, 1B, AA, AAA
The first two seasons of Overbeck’s pro career were pretty nondescript. He hit well in the New York Penn League, and the Phillies got aggressive with him and double jumped him to Clearwater where he struggled. He would start 2010 with Clearwater again and dominated, leading to his promotion to Reading where he again struggled. He followed that pattern in 2011, hitting great at Reading to start the year and struggling to adjust following a promotion. His average and OBP were consistent between Reading and Lehigh Valley, but he hit 12 fewer home runs in a similar amount of at bats.
Overbeck is a very limited player which is why he wasn’t protected on the 40 man roster and not taken in the rule 5 draft. He can hit fastballs, but he’s a really aggressive swinger who strikes out a lot and hardly walks. He’s hit over .270 overall his last two years in the minors, but he wouldn’t hit for average in the majors. In the AFL, he clearly cut back on his swing a bit to try and put the ball in play more, but he hardly showed any power. While Matt Rizzotti should really be a DH, Overbeck offers slightly more athleticism and can stand at first base or left field.
P- Jonathan Pettibone, RHP, high-A
Pettibone was a bit of a breakout player in 2011. He carried the momentum from a strong second half at Lakewood in 2010 and was one of the Florida State League’s best pitchers early on in the season. He finished with a 2.96 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 161 innings. His strikeout rate improved to 6.4 per nine innings, so he still has some room for improvement. He only walked an impressive 1.9 per nine innings. His second half wasn’t as good as his first, but he still did very well.
While his strikeout numbers weren’t very impressive, he has the potential to be a middle of the rotation starter in the majors. He has a great feel for pitching, probably in part because his dad was a former major leaguer. His 90-94 MPH fastball has movement, and his 6’5, 200 pound frame offers him durability and the ability to hold his velocity deep into games. His changeup is a second plus pitch, and the Phillies added a two seam fastball to go along with an average slider to complete his arsenal. He has great command, and as long as he’s throwing on the corners and not over the plate, he could be very good.
Next time, Phillies Prospects A-Z will be back to five players: a reliever from Quebec, a small righty that’s perpetually underrated, a lefty starter from British Columbia, an athletic shortstop that got off to a solid start in his pro career and a potential utility infielder in the upper minors coming off a lost season.
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