Last week, I went over the organization’s top position player prospects. Sebastian Valle leads the pack after recent trades depleted their depth. Throw in Domonic Brown’s graduation from prospect status, and Valle is in the right place at the right time. As usual, they have a number of players in the lower levels who have the tools and athleticism to break out at any time, but as we all know, there are more Anthony Hewitt’s than Dom Brown’s. Besides Freddy Galvis and Harold Garcia, they don’t have anyone in the upper levels that has a chance to play every day, and they’re far from sure bets. On my top 30 list which will be coming soon, I swapped Cesar Hernandez and Zach Collier because I felt like it.
Moving to the mound, it’s clear the Phillies have more pitching talent than hitting talent in the organization. Part of that may be because they’ve traded more potential impact position players than pitchers. Aside from Jarred Cosart, the Phillies probably won’t miss any of the arms they’ve parted with. Kyle Drabek bottomed out in 2011 and needs to make major strides to reach his potential, and Jason Knapp is barely on the fringe of the prospect map right now. Trevor May probably isn’t the prospect Cosart is, but about half the league would love to have him as their #1 pitching prospect. About six pitchers have a ceiling of a #3 starter or better, and a number of them could fill in at the back of a rotation. I considered 36 different pitchers for this top 15. All ages will be on Opening Day 2012.
1. Trevor May, 6’5 215 RHSP, high-A, 22 (3.63 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 151.1 IP, 7.2 H/9, 4 BB/9, 12.4 K/9)
Strengths: For the second straight season, May finished third in minor league baseball in strikeouts. In 2011, he struck out over 200 batters, a feat not accomplished by many in the minors. He uses his mid to high 70’s curveball to rack up his strikeouts and sets it up with a 92-95 MPH fastball with movement. He showed improvement in a number of areas this year which allowed him to perform much better at Clearwater than he did last year. His mechanics improved which allowed him to throw more strikes, and his secondary pitches improved. He takes to coaching well and was able to work in two additional pitches, a two seamer and slider. He’s built like a workhorse that could pitch 200 innings a season.
Weaknesses: While he showed improvements in command, he still has to throw more strikes. His BB/9 was a career best at 4.0, but he was still inconsistent start to start. He has the durability to throw 200 innings, but he won’t be able to unless he continues to improve his pitch efficiency. He’s a below average to perhaps average ground ball pitcher but hasn’t been hurt by home runs. Improvements in his two seam fastball and slider could allow him to get quicker outs. He needs to continue improving his secondary pitches, but his changeup is clearly getting better against lefties. Last time May was promoted, he struggled for two months and had to repeat Lakewood. Reading will be the friendliest home park to hitters in his professional career.
2. Jesse Biddle, 6’4 225 LHSP, low-A, 20 (2.98 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 133 IP, 7 H/9, 4.5 BB/9, 8.4 K/9)
Strengths: Biddle has a projectable frame rarely seen in lefty starters. He should be able to add velocity and handle a full workload as he gets stronger. In his first full season, he was 5th in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts and third among starters in H/9. His makeup is outstanding, and conditioning and work during side sessions should never be an issue with Biddle. He shows three potential plus pitches with his sharp curveball leading the pack. His changeup has shown great improvement in a short period of time, and he’s trying to work in a slider as well. Biddle generates an average amount of ground balls and only allowed five home runs in 2011.
Weaknesses: Although he showed velocity improvement at the end of his amateur career, Biddle’s fastball velocity has fluctuated and hasn’t been as good as expected. That doesn’t always come back for high school draftees, but he has the size to add to it again. Like May, he needs to improve his command and walk fewer batters. That could come with improved mechanics. Baseball America notes that his fastball command in particular needs to improve. His curveball has great movement, but he needs to control it better.
3. Phillippe Aumont, 6’7 255 RHRP, AA/AAA, 23 (2.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 53.2 IP, 7.4 H/9, 4.2 BB/9, 13.1 K/9)
Strengths: Now a permanent reliever, Aumont bounced back after a disastrous 2010 season. In short bursts, he has the best in system with two potential plus plus pitches, the foundation for any potential closer. Not only does his fastball have great velocity in the mid 90’s and sometimes a little more, it sinks and allows him to generate a lot of ground balls. So far in his career, Aumont has struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings, and that rate is much higher just as a reliever. His size is imposing on the mound, and the ball jumps at hitters. He has an aggressive mentality that could help him finish games.
Weaknesses: Aumont is unable to start which will always diminish his value. Throwing a lot of innings could be a dicey proposition with back issues that could come into play. He missed time in 2011 with a shoulder injury shortly after his promotion to AAA. He often struggles to harness his great stuff and throw strikes. His career BB/9 is 4.6, although he’s had stretches where he’s able to throw strikes consistently. As is the case with many tall pitchers, Aumont struggles repeating his delivery which hurts his command. He needs to show better focus on the mound when outings are going poorly.
4. Jonathan Pettibone, 6’5 200 RHSP, high-A, 21 (2.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 161 IP, 8.3 H/9, 1.9 BB/9, 6.4 K/9)
Strengths: Despite his relative youth, Pettibone is a pretty polished product with a higher probability of reaching his ceiling than most in the system. He has a smooth, effortless delivery that gives him great command of all of his pitches. He can throw quality strikes with his 90-94 MPH fastball, and his changeup is a potential plus pitch with a nice drop in velocity compared to his fastball. He mixes in a slider with good movement and a two seam fastball and generates an above average amount of ground balls. With his frame, he could continue to add strength and add a little more velocity.
Weaknesses: Pettibone’s strikeout rate is very low, and it’s rare for pitchers to have success in the majors when they’re not getting swings and misses against minor leaguers. He has the stuff to do that. Reading will test his pitch to contact style. He needs to continue to develop his slider and two seamer to round out his arsenal.
5. Brody Colvin, 6’3 195 RHSP, high-A, 21 (4.71 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 116.2 IP, 10.1 H/9, 3.2 BB/9, 6 K/9)
Strengths: Colvin has some of the best stuff in the system. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s and has movement. His curveball has sharp movement, and on good days he can generate swings and misses. His changeup has improved and could be above average. He has a projectable frame and should have the durability to pitch in a rotation and hold his fastball velocity throughout games. He should be able to induce ground balls.
Weaknesses: There are definite makeup concerns with Colvin. He paid the price all season for his poor offseason habits and took a major stuff back. His command and stuff were worse, and he battled injuries throughout the season. He made five fewer appearances and threw over 20 fewer innings compared to last season. He never really had any stretch of sustained success the entire season aside from a handful of starts in July. Although he showed improvement last year, Colvin has major mechanical concerns that could lead to injury or a ticket to the bullpen.
6. Justin De Fratus, 6’4 220 RHRP, AA/AAA/MLB, 24 (2.99 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 75.1 IP, 7.5 H/9, 3 BB/9, 11.8 K/9)
Strengths: Throughout his entire professional career, De Fratus has thrown a ton of quality strikes and gets strikeouts efficiently. He moved to the bullpen permanently last year because he doesn’t have a quality third pitch, and his strikeout rate jumped up even more. He has good stuff, albeit not quite as good as Aumont’s. His fastball has similar velocity in the mid 90’s but a little less movement. His slider has developed into a plus pitch with mid 80’s velocity and dramatic downward movement. That’s good enough to pitch in the late innings, and his attacking mentality will assist him in jams.
Weaknesses: His command had a bit of a dip pitching in the higher levels, but it’s not too concerning. He got off to a slow start but recovered nicely for the remainder of the season. He can become a bit too reliant on his slider and needs to trust his fastball more because it’s his best pitch.
7. Lisalberto Bonilla, 6’1 164 RHSP, low-A, 21 (2.80 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 106 IP, 7.7 H/9, 2.5 BB/9, 8.1 K/9)
Strengths: Bonilla followed up a solid 2010 U.S. debut with a strong showing at Lakewood. He started the season in the bullpen as a measure to monitor his workload and made 15 starts through the rest of the season. Statistically, he was sharp with a K:BB ratio over 3.0 even with a decline in performance near the end of the season. He has one of the best changeups in the system with very good movement. His fastball can be above average with solid velocity and sink that generates a lot of ground outs.
Weaknesses: Bonilla wore down in August and wasn’t nearly as good as he was early in the season. He threw nearly 50 innings more than last year, so it wasn’t surprising since he’s only 21 years old. However, it’s part of a larger concern to keep an eye on because of his small frame. He doesn’t fit the mold of the typical Phillies pitcher who stands tall and is projectable, and a lot of pitchers his size are unable to hold up over 180 or more innings. His fastball and changeup are a really good combo, but he needs to improve his slider to increase his chances of being a starter.
8. Julio Rodriguez, 6’4 195 RHSP, high-A, 21 (2.76 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 156.2 IP, 5.9 H/9, 3.2 BB/9, 9.7 K/9)
Strengths: For a second straight year, Rodriguez put up some of the best numbers in not only the Phillies’ system, but all of minor league baseball. He held opposing hitters to a .186 average and struck out 168 in 156.2 innings. He’s had success with a deceptive delivery, and some pitchers are able to sustain that success with deception. He repeats his delivery well, and there aren’t any injury concerns that any other pitcher doesn’t have. All three of his pitches, fastball, curveball and changeup, can become average. At times, his fastball has sat in the 90-93 range. He could add a little more strength with his frame.
Weaknesses: For now, the scouting reports of Rodriguez still don’t match the great stats. His fastball could be average, but it’s not consistent. His velocity constantly fluctuates, whether it’s game to game or inning to inning. All too often, it’s in the mid to high 80’s, and it’s difficult to have continued success in that range. He has no plus pitch even though he strikes out as many batters as he has. Rodriguez was an extreme fly ball pitcher with Clearwater and can’t live high in the zone with his velocity. He was prone to home runs which will hurt him at higher levels. AA tends to weed out the players getting by on tricks and not ability, and it will be a good gauge of his future.
9. Austin Wright, 6’4 235 LHSP, short-season/low-A, 22 (3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 68.1 IP, 7.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 11.2 K/9)
Strengths :Wright had a great pro debut, striking out over 11 batters per nine innings at both levels he pitched at. He maintained his command with a increase in his strikeout rate from college and appeared very polished. His curveball is his best offering with the movement to be an out pitch. He has a big, durable frame for a lefty with above average velocity in the 92-94 range. Not every draftee reaches low-A in his first year, and he should be able to continue progressing quickly. He was able to generate a lot of ground balls.
Weaknesses: Wright’s hit rate was significantly lower than it was in college, and next year he’ll have to prove it wasn’t an aberration or fluke. He threw eight wild pitches in his 68.1 innings, likely a product of snapping his curveball too much. He needs to continue developing his secondary stuff besides his curveball. He currently throws a slider and changeup, and the changeup improving should be important. It will help him improve effectiveness against right handed batters.
10. Ethan Stewart, 6’5 210 LHSP, rookie, 21 (3.62 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 63.2 IP, 9.3 H/9, 3.8 BB/9, 8.5 K/9)
Strengths: Stewart’s big, projectable frame is going from projectability to actual results. His velocity has improved over the last few years and now sits around 90 with more room to improve still. Baseball America noted that he’s extremely prepared for every start, keeping a notebook on hitters he’s faced. Excelling in the mental side of the game will allow him to reach or exceed his talent level. He completes his arsenal with an improving curveball and changeup. His strikeout rate was very good for a player making his pro debut, and he got a lot of groundouts.
Weaknesses: Stewart is still far away, and his stuff needs to get better. His fastball has improved by leaps and bounds since he was an amateur, but he could still stand to add a couple more ticks. His curveball and changeup could both use improvement. His command needs to improve and walk fewer batters. Even though his strikeout rate suggested his stuff is improving, he was surprisingly hittable.
11. Perci Garner, 6’3 225 RHSP, short-season, 23 (1.20 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 30 IP, 8.7 H/9, 2.7 BB/9, 9 K/9)
Strengths :Garner has some of the best stuff in the system. As a former Quarterback, he has a strong arm and nice velocity in the 92-94 range. His power curve in the low 80’s gives him a second potential plus pitch, and he used those pitchers to strike out a batter an inning in his brief action with Williamsport this year. He’s big and athletic which bodes well for future workloads and mechanical refinements. He induced quite a few ground balls in 2011.
Weaknesses: Due to a variety of injuries and ailments, Garner only has 34 innings in his pro career. This is especially bad because of his background. He was a two sport athlete when he arrived at Ball State and took some time before focusing on baseball, so he’s a bit raw. He’ll be 23 to start the season without having pitched in a full season league yet. He has mechanical inconsistencies that need to be ironed out, and he doesn’t have much experience throwing a changeup. With all of these factors, some believe his future isn’t in the middle of a rotation but in the bullpen.
12. Ervis Manzanillo, 6’2 160 LHP, low-A, 20 (5.02 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 118.1 IP, 8.7 H/9, 5.4 BB/, 8 K/9)
Strengths: Manzanillo has more impressive stuff than the numbers would indicate. He throws a nice fastball in the low 90’s that can touch higher. For the first four months of the season, he was a great strikeout pitcher before tiring out near the end of the year. He has a smooth delivery that should eventually lead to better command. He’s working on a curveball and changeup to round out his arsenal. In his brief career, he’s shown the ability to get groundouts.
Weaknesses: As the statistics show, Manzanillo has a lot of room for improvement, and he may find himself back in Lakewood for another season. Everything about his game could get better. His secondary stuff is still below average, and he can’t live off just one pitch. Baseball America described his breaking ball as a slurve which is rarely an effective pitch. As the walk rate suggests, his command is inconsistent at best. He had six starts with four or more walks, and three of them were five or more. At 6’2 and 160 pounds, he’s on the small side and could end up in the bullpen.
13. Adam Morgan, 6’1 195 LHSP, short-season, 2.01 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 53.2 IP, 7 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9)
Strengths: Morgan had a very good pro debut with Williamsport as the Phillies’ third round pick. His ERA was top five among starters in the New York Penn League, and his WHIP was in the same territory. His strikeout and walk rates were similar to his junior season at Alabama, where he wasn’t very good. The big difference, like Austin Wright, was a sizable decrease in his hit rate. On good days, his fastball sits in the 90-92 range and complements it with an above average slider. He throws a lot of strikes, mostly quality, and hasn’t had a problem allowing home runs. He pitched very well against righties even though his changeup is still developing.
Weaknesses: His fastball velocity fluctuates and often isn’t in the 90’s at all. He can’t generate as many ground balls when it’s slower and flattens out. He has delivery concerns that hurt his stuff and could also lead to future injuries. He’s a bit on the small side but not egregiously so. His stuff seems to be average at best. He wasn’t very good in college, and he’ll have to prove that his improved stats weren’t a product of a low BABIP in his debut at Williamsport.
14. Kevin Walter, 6’5 215 RHSP, N/A, 19 (did not play)
Strengths: Walter has a big, projectable frame like the Phillies love. He should prove to be durable in the future, and it bodes for him developing more fastball velocity. Even though he’s pretty big, he has athleticism that should bode well for future development. He throws his fastball with sink, and his size surely helps him throw on a downward plane. Right now, he’s a rare pitcher that throws a distinct curveball and slider, with the curveball being more advanced.
Weaknesses: He was on the DL all of last season, and I can’t figure out why. There’s absolutely no information on it, and of course that’s concerning. It could’ve been a serious injury, and no matter the reason, it’s a year of development that’s completely lost. Right now, his fastball mainly sits in the high 80’s and that needs to be stronger. Like many tall pitchers, he struggles repeating his delivery, and his command suffers. His stuff needs to continue to develop. He has no experience throwing a changeup which isn’t unusual, but he won’t last long without it.
15. Michael Schwimer, 6’8 240 RHRP, AAA/MLB, 26 (2.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 82.1 IP, 7.2 H/9, 3.2 BB/9, 11.2 K/9)
Strengths: Schwimer is a major league ready middle reliever. Over the last two years, he’s been one of the minors’ best strikeout relievers, punching out 162 batters in 128 innings over two levels. He’s a force against right handed batters, holding them to a .172 average and .575 OPS in his brief stint in the majors, and his minor league numbers back that up. He’s generally a two pitch pitcher with a low 90’s fastball and low 80’s slider. His height probably makes his fastball seem harder to batters. For someone with his size, his command was pretty good in the minors. He shouldn’t be prone to giving up home runs and gets an average amount of ground balls. He has shown to be durable and able to pitch two innings in an appearance.
Weaknesses: So far in his career, Schwimer has thrown batting practice against left handed hitters. He needs to improve his changeup or add a cutter to have a chance to retire lefties in his career, although his strikeout rate is still good against them. He allows more home runs against lefties as well. He threw a mid 70’s curveball in the minors but seems to have scrapped it when up with the Phillies. His command was off against righties in the majors after throwing a lot of strikes against them in the minors. His upside is extremely limited if he can only face right handed batters.
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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out! Scott also regularly updated the PSC 2011 Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more, and will be doing the same for the PSC 2012 Minor League Thread as well…