Mar 272013

Clearwater Threshers logoClick here for Part 1 (30-21) or Part 2 (20-11).

10. Ethan Martin, 6’2 195 RHP, 24, AA (39.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 21.3 K%, 11.0 BB%)

Strengths: Martin pitched very well after the trade deadline deal that sent Shane Victorino to the Dodgers.  That 11% walk rate was the lowest of his career, and that’s a huge positive even if it wasn’t even 40 innings.  He has great stuff, highlighted by a mid 90’s fastball with plenty of life.  He throws a pair of distinct breaking balls, the better one being a mid 80’s slider with movement similar to a cutter, followed by a solid curveball he doesn’t use often.  Martin has shown potential for a changeup.

Weaknesses: The walk rate was the best of his career, but he still needs to throw more strikes to remain in a rotation.  The root of his control and command problems is an inability to repeat his delivery and release point.  Even though he threw a career high 157.2 innings, his control issues lead to inefficient innings and early exits.  He has to improve his changeup to at least be an average pitch, but he has had success against lefties in his career.

2013 outlook: Despite the roller coaster his career has been, he has reached the upper minors and should start the season in AAA.  This will be his fifth professional season, and if he doesn’t make progress with his command, the Phillies could move him to the bullpen where he’ll join a glut of young relievers that could help improve the bullpen in coming years.

9. Cesar Hernandez, 5’10 160 2B, 23, AA/AAA, S/R (579 PA, .291/.329/.404, 13.5 K%, 5.4 BB%)

Strengths: Hernandez has a pretty solid all-around game.  His best attribute is his great bat control that always allows him to put the ball in play and not swing and miss.  He can hit line drives to all fields, and his speed helps him take advantage of balls in the gap.  Hernandez plays a really good second base, and he could probably not look awful at shortstop, but he definitely belongs on the right side of the infield.

Weaknesses: Hernandez has almost no power to speak of, and at his size, never will.  Because he can hit so many pitches, he tries to hit a lot of them and isn’t patient enough at the plate.  Despite his speed, he hasn’t been an effective basestealer and should stop trying if he doesn’t improve.  With no power and limited to second base, he’s going to have to hit for a high average and get on base to be an everyday player.

2013 outlook: When Hernandez was optioned to minor league camp this month, it’ll officially begin his last option year, meaning he’s going to have to impress in 2013 to earn a spot with the Phillies.  He struggled in his brief stint with Lehigh Valley last year, but he’ll be back in 2013 just one level away from reaching the majors.

8. Phillippe Aumont, 6’7 260 RHRP, 24, AAA/MLB (59 IP, 4.12 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 27.6 K%, 16.0 BB%)

Strengths: Aumont has closer potential with a mid to high 90’s fastball with a lot of sink. He complements it with a hard curveball that has a ton of movement.  His great stuff plays up thanks to his tremendous size that makes it feel like he’s right on top of batters when he delivers the pitch.  His lower arm angle makes things even tougher on righties, but it’s not low enough that lefties gain a significant advantage.

Weaknesses: Throwing strikes or even staying in the same zip code as the strike zone has never been a specialty of Aumont’s.  His stuff is good enough to generate swings and misses even on balls, but the pitches have to be close.  Aumont can get frustrated when he plays a position that requires a very short memory.  He has a pretty detailed injury history with back and arm issues, and the back problems may not go away for the duration of his career.

2013 outlook: After competing for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, Aumont returned to Clearwater to compete for a spot in the Phillies bullpen.  He showed enough flashes last year to be one of the frontrunners, but sending him back to Lehigh Valley and hoping he can improve his control just a little more probably wouldn’t hurt.

7. Roman Quinn, 5’10 170 SS, 20, short-season, S/R (309 PA, .281/.370/.408, 19.7 K%, 9.1 BB%)

Strengths: Quinn’s game-changing, impact speed is likely second in the minors only to Billy Hamilton.   His athleticism is apparent in the field and on the bases, and if the ball is in play, he could end up on first base.  He has an idea at the plate with a patient approach to get on base any way he can, and he’s an efficient base stealer at 83.3% in his pro debut.  He makes solid contact to all fields and should hit for a pretty good average.  Despite being new to switch hitting, he showed advanced aptitude batting left-handed.

Weaknesses: The only power Quinn will ever hit for are the doubles and triples he gets with his speed.  Although he has the athleticism and arm to play shortstop, he’s a bit clumsy and center field may be a better fit for him eventually.  He could probably stand to cut down on his strikeouts a bit despite the patient approach and feel for contact.  It’s still very early in his career, and he’ll have to prove he can keep hitting in full-season ball.

2013 outlook: Quinn will make that full-season debut for Lakewood, and I expect he’ll find success because of his mature approach at the plate.  As long as he gets on base regularly, a 100 steal season probably isn’t out of the question.  The organization is a bit thin at shortstop all of a sudden, so they should continue developing him there as long as possible.

6. Cody Asche, 6’1 180 3B, 23, high-A/AA, L/R (559 PA, .324/.369/.481, 16.6 K%, 6.1 BB%)

Strengths: After an ugly 2011 pro debut, Asche bounced back in 2012 as one of the best hitters in the system.  He has really good bat control and pitch recognition, and he can spray line drives to all fields.  He should hit for a high average and not strike out very much.  After being almost exclusively a singles hitter in Clearwater to start the year, recent adjustments to his swing have allowed him to add more power.  His defense at third base is improving.

Weaknesses: His average power could limit his upside.  Asche’s walk rate improved after his promotion to Reading, but he’s going to have to keep making hard contact on pitches out of the zone to prove his semi-aggressive plate approach works.  His defense isn’t as bad as it used to be, but he’ll never be above average.  He doesn’t have very good range, and he’s still improving throwing mechanics to take advantage of his strong arm.

2013 outlook: After taking 289 plate appearances in AA and getting 99 more in the Arizona Fall League, Asche should be starting the season in AAA, especially after a pretty lengthy stint in big league camp.  It’s hard to imagine him not making his Phillies debut at some point in the season, but that’ll be dictated by Michael Young’s play as much as if not more than his own.

5. Maikel Franco, 6’1 180 3B, 20, low-A, R/R (554 PA, .278/.334/.437, 14.4 K%, 6.9 BB%)

Strengths: Franco has everything that’s expected from a potential All-Star at the hot corner.  He broke out in the second half with Lakewood last year with an OPS over .900.  Even though he’s a bit on the small side, he’s strong.  Combined with great bat speed, he has well above average power, and he should hit for a pretty good average as well.  He doesn’t swing and miss very much.  Like Asche, he has the potential to be an adequate defender at third base, and he has a strong arm too.

Weaknesses: Franco’s not much of an athlete, adding very little if any on the bases and not having great range at third base.  He can get a bit aggressive at the plate, but he has shown the ability to wait for his pitch in the past.  He could have some problems with pitchers able to tie him up inside with velocity.  Despite the great second half, his statistics over an entire season were just okay.

2013 outlook: At just 20 years old, Franco will head up to high-A and hope to hit more consistently over the course of the season.  Clearwater is not a great place to hit for power, but he should be able to get his share of doubles still.  At just 20 years old, his development is well ahead of the average player, and if Asche doesn’t prove to be a viable everyday option for the team, Franco may not be far behind.

4. Tommy Joseph, 6’1 215 C, 21, AA, R/R (114 PA, .250/.327/.420, 28.1 K%, 7.9 BB%)

Strengths: Joseph has great raw power, especially uncommon for a catcher.  He’s strong, and his leveraged swing helps him generate power to all fields.  He has all the traits of a good defensive catcher, starting with his strong arm.  He’s thrown out 37% of attempted base stealers so far in his career, setting a career high of 40% in 2012.  For a young catcher, he’s developed a reputation for leadership behind the plate with good game calling ability.

Weaknesses: Joseph is going to have to make better contact to tap into his power in games.  His career strikeout rate isn’t through the roof, but he could certainly be more selective and try to use the whole field more often.  He’ll likely never hit for a high average, but his swing and approach aren’t in need of a total overhaul.  He’s big, and he’s still working on his receiving behind the plate.  He has to improve his handling of pitches in the dirt.

2013 outlook: Along with Valle and Rupp, the Phillies have three catchers in the upper minors.  Joseph seems likely to start the season in AAA with Valle, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Phillies work out innings behind the plate for both of them.  Joseph can play some first base, but he should get the majority of the work.  He’s had a good showing in big league camp, and the Phillies will keep that in mind when it comes to handling Carlos Ruiz in the last year of his contract.

3. Jonathan Pettibone, 6’5 200 RHSP, 22, AA/AAA (159.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 17.0 K%, 7.4 BB%)

Strengths: Pettibone has potential for three above average pitches, led by the best changeup in the system that he’ll throw in any count against lefties and righties alike.  His great size allows him to pitch down in the zone and generate ground balls.  He throws a lot of strikes and can generally command his pitches well all over the strike zone.  Despite missing time with an arm injury several seasons ago, he has an easy, clean delivery and should be pretty durable.

Weaknesses: Pettibone’s stuff is just okay, and he doesn’t have a pitch that can regularly miss bats which separates him from better pitching prospects.  His low 90’s fastball is just average and generally can’t overpower hitters.  His slider shows potential, but it doesn’t have the consistent movement he needs in a breaking ball.

2013 outlook: After finishing up 2012 with Lehigh Valley, Pettibone return to AAA to start 2013 and probably make his Phillies debut at some point during the year.  He doesn’t have tremendous upside, but he should be able to provide the team, reliable, cost-controlled innings in the very near future.  Behind the five major league starters and Tyler Cloyd, Pettibone be the #7 starter in the organization.

2. Adam Morgan, 6’1 195 LHSP, 23, high-A/AA (158.2 IP, 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 26.7 K%, 6.2 BB%)

Strengths: Morgan had one of the biggest breakout seasons in all of minor league baseball, and at least one source now has him as a top 100 prospect in baseball.  His fastball velocity has improved since his amateur days, and he now has the potential for three above average pitches.  He locates his pitches pretty well on either side of the plate.  His out pitch is a sharp slider that helped him accumulate more than a strikeout per inning in 2012.  He has a good changeup as well, and he was actually more effective against righties last year.  His delivery is as low-risk as they come, and he should be durable.

Weaknesses: Although it hasn’t really hurt him as of yet, Morgan is a bit on the short side and can leave his pitches up at times.  He’s not going to generate many ground balls, but he could be average.  Sometimes his fastball reverts to the slower, average pitch he had in college, and he needs to show that velocity consistently.

2013 outlook: Morgan could probably start 2013 back in AA for a bit with only 35.2 innings under his belt there, but he should certainly finish the season higher than that.  He’ll have to prove that the improved stuff isn’t a one year fluke, and if he does that, he might have the best combination of ceiling and lowest risk among any pitcher in the organization.

1. Jesse Biddle, 6’4 225 LHSP, 21, high-A (142.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 24.9 K%, 8.9 BB%)

Strengths: Biddle continued making nice strides in 2012, increasing his strikeout rate, decreasing his walk rate and pitching with above average fastball velocity more than he did in 2011.  He may not reach the mid-90’s like he sometimes did in high school, but with his size and delivery, the velocity could play up a bit.  He works with a couple breaking balls, but his best is a potentially plus curveball with sharp movement.  His changeup has improved in the last two years, and he uses it more often.  He works hard to improve and make adjustments.

Weaknesses: His control has gotten better, but he still needs to work on throwing more quality strikes.  Biddle’s fastball command needs to improve the most, and he has to improve the consistency of his changeup.  Although it’s not as much of a problem as it used to be, his fastball velocity can still fluctuate a bit and dip below average.

2013 outlook: With a solid arsenal and a good feel for pitching, Biddle at the very least has a pretty high floor and should reach the majors in the back of a rotation.  If he maintains an above average fastball and throws more strikes, he could certainly pitch well above that level.  For the second time in three years, he’ll be pitching reasonably close to home in Reading where he’ll really be tested.

Click here for Part 1 (30-21) or Part 2 (20-11).

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!