Now that a month in the books, small sample sizes aren’t as small anymore, and stats are becoming a little more meaningful. There is still plenty of time for a bad season to get better or vice versa, but the season is taking shape. Lakewood is the only affiliate currently under .500, and they’re not even close thanks to a rotation that’s not meeting expectations. Clearwater is battling to hang around .500, and the two in the upper levels are doing very well. Reading’s winning percentage is over .700, and Lehigh Valley will be in the playoff race.
How are the top 10 prospects in the organization doing? Even though we’re a week into May at this point, I’ll only be using April statistics.
1. Trevor May (Reading Phillies): After May got off to a rough start in Clearwater two years ago, it was expected that he would take some time to adjust to the upper minors. That wasn’t the case. His strikeout rate dipped to 9.9 per nine innings, but more importantly he had only eight walks in 30 April innings. The improved command allows him to stay in games longer, and he’ll be able to finish with more than 151.1 innings this year.
Stock: Up. He’s still going to have the occasional rough outing, but if he continues throwing this many strikes, he’ll solidify his position as a top 50 prospect in baseball. Going from high-A to AA is the toughest transition besides jumping up to the majors, and he’s handling it well.
2. Jesse Biddle (Clearwater Threshers): For the second straight April, Biddle was knocked around. Although he had 20 strikeouts in 17.1 innings, he failed to pitch beyond the 4th inning in three of his four starts. He walked nine and batters nearly hit .300 against him. It was very reminiscent of his April with Lakewood in 2011 when he posted a 7.16 ERA and 1.84 WHIP in 16.1 innings. He turned it around and finished the season strong, and he’s going to have to do it again.
Stock: Down a little. It was a slow start, but there are still positive signs to take away from the start of his season. His strikeout rate is up, and his walk rate is pretty much the same as last year. Some young pitchers just get off to slow starts early in seasons, and Biddle could be one of them. His BABIP is at .370, and ideally that would come down over the remaining 80% of the season.
3. Sebastian Valle (Reading Phillies): Valle’s April was roughly equivalent to his 2011 season at Clearwater. There’s something to be said for essentially holding serve and maintaining a certain level of performance, but he has to be better. His power was expected to increase going from the Florida State League to Reading, but he only hit one home run and four extra base hits total. Statistically, his defense is pretty much the same as last year.
Stock: Down a little. His walk rate is up a tiny bit which is positive, but so is his strikeout rate. His ceiling is that of a starting catcher, but the most likely outcome still appears to be a backup. If he can hit singles and play solid defense, he’ll have a nice niche on a team’s bench. If he starts hitting for power like he’s supposed to and somehow improves his approach, maybe he could start.
4. Phillippe Aumont (Lehigh Valley IronPigs): A back injury at the end of the month cost Aumont a few days. Ideally, that would be the reason he was walking so many batters in his earlier appearances. On April 28th, he was taken out after walking two batters without recording an out. In his prior three appearances, he walked five in 2.1 innings after only walking two in his previous six. He struck out well over a batter an inning and held opponents to a .200 average, so his performance hasn’t been all bad.
Stock: Down a little. Even if the walks can be attributed to the injury, back injuries were a concern with Aumont coming over from Seattle. If that’s going to trouble him throughout his career, his injury status will frequently be a headache.
5. Jonathan Pettibone (Reading Phillies): It’s hard to find positives in Pettibone’s season so far. In April, he only struck out two more than he walked which is very uncharacteristic for him. His strikeout rate was already too low, and it’s gotten lower this season. Batters are hitting well over .300 against him, and pretty much the only good thing going on for Pettibone this year is that he’s been generating more ground balls than last year at Clearwater.
Stock: Down. Pettibone’s polish was supposed to allow him to make a smooth transition to AA, and it’s been anything but. He’s walking batters, getting hit and not missing any bats. He should be able to move through the system quickly, but if he keeps pitching like this, he’ll never get out of the minors.
6. Freddy Galvis (Philadelphia Phillies): Galvis was in the right place at the right time this spring, having a couple good weeks at the beginning of spring training as Chase Utley went down with another knee injury. A complete lack of infield depth in the organization pressed him into ML duty which he’s not ready for. His defense has been as good as advertised, but his bat has left a lot to be desired. While having a capable defender stepping in for Utley is nice, his bat is hurting them more than his glove is helping.
Stock: About the same. To be clear, I don’t believe what Galvis has done in the majors is acceptable for an every day player. I just believe that he’s not ML ready yet, and he’s being asked to do something he’s not capable of yet. It’s certainly possible that he never hits enough to be an every day player, but he’s going to be a better player than he’s showing now if he can go back to AAA and get more at bats against minor league pitching.
7. Brody Colvin (Clearwater Threshers): Although his ERA is nearly a full run lower from 2011, Colvin has still not made any progress in the early stages of 2012. When a prospect repeats a level, he’s expected to make adjustments from the previous season and use that experience to their advantage. Although his strikeout rate is up a bit, it’s still not as good as a pitcher with his stuff should be. He also has to throw more strikes.
Stock: Down. Colvin actually showed better control in his first four April starts before walking five in six innings on the 30th. His strikeout rate started to improve throughout the month, so perhaps he was making some adjustments. He needs to make improvements in the remaining four months.
8. Maikel Franco (Lakewood BlueClaws): Franco has had an up and down season so far, starting very hot but entered a bad slump as April came to a close. That’s not at all shocking for a 19 year old in a full-season league, and he should be fine in the long run. He’s hit for a little bit of power, his walk and strikeout rates have been acceptable, and he’s played good defense.
Stock: About the same. It might be a bit down, but I think right now he’s just in a slump. If his struggles continue, obviously there’s a problem, but I think eventually it will even out again and he’ll have a nice year.
9. Justin De Fratus (Lehigh Valley IronPigs): Not much to say about De Fratus because of the injury. He missed a lot of time in spring training and had to be shut down after one rehab appearance with Clearwater. With the injuries in the Phillies bullpen this year, De Fratus could’ve helped because he has better stuff than a number of the call-ups and is pretty much ML ready.
Stock: Down. Elbow injuries can be really bad news for pitchers, and although he hasn’t needed surgery yet, all the time he’s missed has been concerning. If he was healthy and pitching, his stock would probably be fine, but he’s going to go another month without taking the mound.
10. Jiwan James (Reading Phillies): More and more, it’s looking like James will not hit enough to take advantage of his tremendous physical tools. He has shown more power this season, but his plate approach remains abysmal. He’s striking out far too much, and his OBP is under .300. This would be a make or break season for James because AA is where the quality of pitching really gets tough, and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to happen for him.
Stock: Down. He has to make more contact than he is, and if his plate discipline never improves, he won’t. His stolen base efficiency has never been very good, and he hasn’t even attempted that many so far in 2012.
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