Apr 222012
Former Phillies prospect and Blue Jays RHP Kyle Drabek

Former Phillies prospect and Blue Jays RHP Kyle Drabek (photo: Goaliedudegreg)

We’re over two weeks into the minor league season, so stats are getting close enough to be an adequate sample size to evaluate.  With the Phillies off to a sluggish start that has fans wondering if the team’s best days are behind them, it’s a good time to look at some of the players that could’ve been Phillies if not for their recent trades.  It’s hard to imagine the team having the success they’ve had without making some of these moves, but it leaves them in the position of having an older roster without many homegrown replacements on the way.  It’s difficult to have a sustained run of success relying on aging players and an escalating payroll, but so far they’ve made it work.  Is their window closing? Would things be any better now if these trades weren’t made?

July 29, 2011: Hunter Pence traded by the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana.

For the second straight season, Jarred Cosart is missing some time with a blister.  He started on Opening Day for AA Corpus Christi and came out of it with a mixed bag of results.  He struck out five in 4.1 scoreless innings, but he needed 90 pitches to do it and allowed four hits and three walks.  Blister problems don’t necessarily persist throughout careers, but injuries have always been an injury for Cosart and could lead to a future in the bullpen.  He’s generally considered to be ranked just outside the top 50 prospects in baseball.

Jonathan Singleton recently hit his first home run of the season, and although he still isn’t showing the power expected from a big first baseman like him, he’s still having a very good season with a .946 OPS.  He has hit four doubles in 13 games, and it’s definitely possible that some of those doubles become home runs as he gains strength and experience.  Some things remain the same about Singleton; he’s hitting for a high average, and he still has high walk and strikeout rates.  He’s played a bit of left field this year, but he’s at first base a lot more.  He’s a top 50 prospect in the league and probably the best 1B prospect in baseball.

The remaining two players, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana, are either on the DL now or have spent most of the season on it.  After his second ineffective outing out of three in AA, Zeid was placed on the DL with elbow soreness, never good for pitchers.  He had allowed three runs in four innings on five hits and a walk while striking out four.  Santana came off the DL with a hamstring injury this week in high-A, and he’s off to a slow start.  Lancaster is one of the best parks in minor league baseball to hit in, but so far he’s only batting .174 with an uncontrollable strikeout rate.  If he can’t make better contact and put the ball in play more, it won’t matter how strong he is.

July 29, 2010: Roy Oswalt traded by the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies for Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar and J.A. Happ.

At this point, Houston probably regrets trading Gose for Brett Wallace who appears to be going absolutely nowhere at this point.  Gose is off to a poor start in AAA, but he’s still only 21 years old with a very high ceiling.  He’s batting under .200 with a poor OBP and SLG, but it can take time to adjust to a new level.  If he reaches his peak or comes close to it, Toronto will have a Gold Glove candidate in centerfield that has power and game changing speed.  He’s always going to strike out and won’t hit for a high average, but the rest of his skills should be more than enough to make up for it.

Villar is off to a very poor start, and it will soon be time to wonder if his skills will ever translate into production.  Houston rushed him to AA for some reason, but he turns 21 in two weeks, and he has to start making progress.  The one highlight so far is that he’s seven for eight in base stealing.  His defense isn’t improving, and neither is his plate approach.  It all adds up to a player with an OPS just north of .400.  It’s fair to wonder if he would’ve developed better if Houston wasn’t so determined to get him to AA.  He played just 100 games in low A and 79 in high-A, and that’s not enough for a player as raw as him.

Happ is getting another chance in Houston’s rotation after his horrible 2011.  He’s off to a better start this season, but he’s still not going to be more than a back-end kind of starter.  Besides perhaps pitching 180 innings this season, he doesn’t have much value to a rebuilding team.  He’s into his arbitration years and will turn 30 after this season.  A non-tender in the offseason wouldn’t be surprising, but Houston might not have anyone to replace him.

December 16, 2009: Roy Halladay traded by Toronto Blue Jays to the Philadelphia Phillies for Michael Taylor, Travis D’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek.

Taylor made his ML debut last season with a September cup of coffee, but the A’s keep acquiring outfielder after outfielder and have made it pretty clear he’s not a big part of his future.  At 26 years old, his development stagnated in AAA, and he’s not going to be a major league regular.  He’s hitting very well in the early going this season, and he could stick in the majors as a 5th outfielder with someone, but he’s running out of time and seems to have fallen out of favor in Oakland.

Like Gose, D’Arnaud is having a rough start in AAA Las Vegas, and he just hit his first home run of the season.  His strikeout and walk rates are fine for the most part, but the power hasn’t been there, and neither has his ability to make contact.  He hasn’t thrown out an attempted base stealer yet either, but there isn’t anything to suggest something went wrong in his development.  Assuming things don’t continue going poorly, he’ll make his ML debut later this season, and J.P. Arencibia will probably be on the trading block.

Drabek made strides this spring training and earned a spot in the major league rotation for the second straight year.  For now, he’s off to a decent start.  He needs to cut down on his walks still, but he’s making progress.  He ditched the cutter from last year, and while it had a lot of movement, it led to a lot of his control and command problems.  In the early going, his strikeout rate has been better, but he’ll have to sustain it over a longer period of time to reach his ceiling of a #3, maybe #2 starter.  Eight months ago, that seemed impossible.  He appeared to be a lost cause, but the coaching staff has him back on track.

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out! Scott also regularly updates the PSC 2012 Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more…