Dec 292011
Yoenis Cespedes

Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes could be a Phillies free agent target

Prospect A-Z finally wraps up this week.  Last week, I reviewed Quebec native Phillippe Aumont, Julio Rodriguez, Ethan Stewart, Tyler Greene and Harold Garcia.  The upper and lower levels of the system were each covered, and it was a somewhat talented group.  Aumont can be a late inning reliever and Greene has the tools to be a regular, but the rest of the group looks like they’ll only be able to fill in the back end of a rotation or bench.

V- Sebastian Valle, C, high-A

At the end of the first half, it looked like Valle was on the way to a breakout season.  He batted .391 and .356 in May and June respectively, much better contact than he’s previously made in his career.  He struggled the last two months, and his final numbers for the season ended up roughly similar to the previous year at Lakewood.  He hit for less power which is not unusual in the Florida State League but was able to hit for a higher average.  To protect him from the rule 5 draft, he was added to the Phillies’ 40 man roster.

The big thing to take away from Valle’s season is the improvement he made behind the plate.  He was previously considered to be a free swinging, offensive catcher with the tools to develop defensively, but now he seems to be regarded as a reliable defensive player whose offense could be a bonus.  His throwing and receiving have improved each year, and the Phillies hope he can bounce back from his injuries and play the entire 2012 season.  He has a quick bat and can generate power, so only his aggressive plate approach can limit his ceiling.

W- Austin Wright, LHP, short-season, low-A

Baseball America’s draft report card for the Phillies called Wright the revelation of their 2011 draft.  Whether or not that’s an overstatement remains to be seen, but it is certainly positive that he reached Lakewood in his pro debut season.  He made seven starts with Williamsport before joining Lakewood for their postseason push where he made seven more starts.  He didn’t average five innings per appearance, but that’s not unusual for a college draft pick.  He struck out 85 batters in 68.1 innings between the two levels.

Wright was good but not great at Chipola Junior College before transferring to Mississippi for his junior season where he was just okay.  Thanks to his size (6’4, 235) and above average fastball velocity in the low to mid 90’s, he was still taken in the 8th round by the Phillies.  His curveball is an above average pitch that allowed him to rack up the strikeouts he did.  He completely dominated lefties and was still okay against righties with Lakewood, so he could have a role in the bullpen if starting doesn’t work out.

X- Prospects traded to other organizations

Finding a player’s name who has an X in all of baseball is difficult enough, and the Phillies don’t seem to have one in the organization right now.  Travis D’Arnaud leads the pack of position players traded away, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he’s a top 25 prospect in all of baseball now.  Delusional Mets fans think they can get him for Jon Niese, but Toronto likely isn’t dumb enough to move him for a back end starter.  Toronto benefited from the Phillies aggressive buying strategy at the deadline one year later when they eventually acquired Anthony Gose.  He still strikes out way too much and needs to make better contact, but he can definitely run, throw and hit for a little power.

In terms of pitching, it doesn’t appear the Phillies have given up much.  Kyle Drabek really struggled in his major league starts in 2011 and then completely bombed after being demoted to the minors.  If he wasn’t injured, his performance is incredibly disturbing.  If he can’t throw strikes, he won’t come close to his ceiling as a 2 or 3 starter.  Jarred Cosart has great stuff but his results have been inconsistent.  He has potential for three plus pitches, but his strikeout numbers in 2011 across two levels weren’t impressive.

Y- Yoenis Cespedes, CF, free agent

Cespedes became an instant internet sensation when his bizarre 20 minute scouting video leaked.  He received a lot of attention for the video, and soon a second, slightly more conventional video was released that actually had baseball footage.  What almost got lost in the hype is how talented he is; he could be a top 10 prospect in baseball.  His hit tool is probably his worst, but many still believe he could be an average hitter for contact.  His best tool is definitely his power which rates as a potential plus plus tool.  He could hit 25-30 home runs annually, tremendous power from center field, and that power would still play in right field if he has to move to a corner.  He’s an above average runner that could steal 15-20 bases.

Once Cespedes establishes residency in the Dominican Republic, he’ll finally be able to sign with any team which should happen quickly afterward.  The Phillies are reportedly very interested which is not the team’s M.O. when it comes to the Latin American market.  Nevertheless, they’ve had private workouts with Cespedes, and Pat Gillick even appeared in his second scouting video.  He could command in excess of 30 million which could certainly be risky, but he could quickly become a middle of the order presence in the majors.

Z- Zach Collier, COF, low-A

Collier’s 2011 season had highs and lows, and his 2012 season will certainly start on a low note due to his 50 game suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine.  After a slow April that can likely be attributed to missing the entire 2010 season with a hamate injury, he hit very well in May and June, posting a .776 and .773 OPS respectively in those months.  His season went south from there, and he finished with a .676 OPS, well below the league average.

He hasn’t fallen off the prospect map completely, but he’s coming close to doing so.  The 90 games he has remaining after his suspension will be key for Collier.  Unfortunately, he has factors working against him.  He’ll come back rusty after missing the first third of the season, and Clearwater is a tough place to hit as it is.  It’s positive that he was able to have a strong stretch in Lakewood, and his tools and athleticism are still there.  The odds are definitely not in his favor now, and it’s hard to continue calling him a sleeper in the organization as I did in August after the trade deadline.

Now that this feature is finished, I’ll spend some time putting prospect rankings together.  I’ll probably do top 15 lists for hitters and pitchers and then combine them into a top 30 for the entire organization.

If you haven’t already make sure you check out the rest of Phillies Prospects A-Z:  Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!  Scott also regularly updates the PSC Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more…