Mar 272013

Lakewood Blueclaws logoClick here for Part 1 (30-21) or Part 3 (10-1).

20. Sebastian Valle, 6’1 190 C, 22, AA/AAA, R/R (411 PA, .253/.271/.428, 27.7 K%, 3.2 BB%)

Strengths: Valle finished 2012 in AAA, so he’s not far away from helping the big club in some capacity.  He shows above average raw power in batting practice due to his strength and bat speed.  Behind the plate, he has the athleticism to move to block pitches when necessary, and he has a very good arm even if he’s not always able to throw out basestealers.

Weaknesses: Valle believes he can and attempts to hit every pitch and that has resulted in on-base percentages below .300 in two of the last three seasons.  Compounding his aggressive approach, he tries to pull every pitch which contributes to his high strikeout rates.  The fact that he’s made it to AAA playing like this would indicate he either doesn’t want to or can’t adjust.  His throwing mechanics can get sloppy.

2013 outlook: Valle will return to AAA in 2013 where he could be the #3 catcher on the organizational depth chart after Carlos Ruiz returns from suspension.  He could be a starting catcher, but the major weaknesses in his games will limit him to being a backup, if that.  Baseball America cites a scout that believes they should try him at third base in an attempt to get a new perspective in the batters box.  That kind of flexibility couldn’t hurt his career.

19. Kenny Giles, 6’2 188 RHRP, 22, low-A/high-A (82 IP, 3.51 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 30.2 K%, 13.6 BB%)

Strengths: Giles has the best fastball in the system, even if it doesn’t have the movement that Phillippe Aumont’s does.  It can touch triple digits, and his outstanding strikeout rate reflects that.  Once the Phillies moved him to the bullpen and scrapped his extra pitches, his slider improved and showed plus potential.  On the mound, he has the attitude and demeanor of a reliever, and combined with his stuff, gives him closer potential.

Weaknesses: Like a lot of hard throwing pitchers, Giles has to work on staying in control, not overthrowing and throwing strikes.  His walk rate did decrease after his promotion to Clearwater, but that was a small sample of innings and he’ll have to prove he can continue doing it.  His slider still needs to develop more.  His fastball is a pretty straight pitch, but he wasn’t particularly homer-prone in his first season.

2013 outlook: Giles is expected to start the season in AA, and if he can improve the consistency of his slider and throw more strikes, nothing should stop him from making his ML debut sometime this year.  Those are far from guarantees though, but he certainly has some of the best stuff in the organization.

18. Tyler Cloyd, 6’3 210 RHSP, 26, AA/AAA/MLB (200 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 18.2 K%, 6.1 BB%)

Strengths: Cloyd is a very smart pitcher, and he has to be with very underwhelming stuff.  He understands pitch sequencing and knows when to mix in his fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup.  He throws strikes with all of his pitches, and usually they’re quality strikes.  He’s major league ready now and has shown the ability to handle a full starter’s workload if necessary.

Weaknesses: Cloyd’s stuff is below average at best, and his margin for error is nearly non-existent.  He was hit very hard in his 30 inning stint with the Phillies at the end of the season, and his HR/9 of 2.2 is well beyond the point of unacceptable.  Righties who can’t get out of the high 80’s rarely have success, and his secondary pitches aren’t impressive either.  Despite throwing a cutter and changeup, he struggles against lefties.  On his best days, he’s only a #5 starter.

2013 outlook: Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan will be the #4 and 5 starters to start the season, so if Cloyd will go back to Lehigh Valley to stay stretched out as a starter.  With Jonathan Pettibone and Adam Morgan knocking on the door as better options than Cloyd, his starting career with the Phillies could already be just about over though.  Nevertheless, in case of an injury, he’d probably be the first man called up.

17. Darin Ruf, 6’3 220 1B/LF, 26, AA/MLB, R/R (610 PA, .318/.405/.626, 18.4 K%, 10.8 BB%)

Strengths: Ruf’s August where he hit 20 home runs would’ve gone down in baseball history had it happened in the majors.  He carried that momentum to the majors when he got the call and hit three more home runs in 33 plate appearances.  With his size and strength, it’s not a surprise that he’s able to hit all those home runs, and he makes a lot of contact too.  His plate approach is solid, and in the minors he didn’t strike out as much as the typical power hitter.

Weaknesses: Ruf is still going to have to prove he can keep hitting after teams get a second and third look at him.  He showed pretty wide right/left splits in the minors which could indicate a future platoon player, but he was still adequate against righties.  In his brief stint with the Phillies to finish the year, he struck out way too much and wasn’t as patient as he was in the minors, although he did still see over four pitches per plate appearance.  He is far from an athlete and will certainly need a defensive replacement late in games if they plan on using him in the outfield.

2013 outlook: Ruf battled for a spot on the bench in spring training and was optioned to AAA despite his competition setting the bar pretty low.  His power will be useful in any capacity.  His defense in left field is not good at all, but aside from a weaker arm, he probably provides the same value as Delmon Young.  I’ve never been particularly high on Ruf, but the evidence that he can be a capable major leaguer is piling up and getting harder to ignore.

16. Tyson Gillies, 6’2 190 CF, 24, AA, L/R (311 PA, .304/.369/.453, 16.7 K%, 5.8 BB%)

Strengths: For the first time since coming over in the Cliff Lee trade, Gillies was somewhat healthy in 2012.  Not counting rehab appearances, he had only accumulated 113 plate appearances in his first two years in the organization, and he managed to put in a half season’s worth of 311 in 2012.  In those plate appearances, he showed flashes of the player he’s supposed to be.  He batted over .300, showed modest power and played great defense in center field.  Along with his on-base abilities, he has the potential to start every day, but the Phillies would just be happy if he was on the field most days at this point.

Weaknesses: Even in his “healthy” year, Gillies only played about half a season.  He supplemented that with a stint in a winter league, but the lost development time is enormous.  Constant leg injuries may also affect his speed, obviously a huge part of his game.  In his last healthy season of 2009, he attempted 63 steals in 124 games, or over half an attempt per game.  With Reading in 2012, he attempted just 14 in 68 games, getting caught in six of them no less.  His walk rate also declined from previous seasons, and if he’s not as fast as he used to be, walking to get on base becomes even more important.  His makeup came into question last year when an incident with a bus driver led to a brief suspension.

2013 outlook: Gillies will finally reach AAA to start the season, and if Ben Revere were to get injured, he could be an option for the Phillies if they don’t want to play John Mayberry Jr. in center every day. Even if his OPS isn’t quite as high as .822 in 2013, it would be great if he could just play enough to get 550-600 plate appearances and stay in the lineup all season.  He has a chance to be an everyday player, but with the injuries, it’s more likely that he tops out as a fourth outfielder.

15. Andrew Pullin, 6’0 185 COF/2B, 19, rookie, L/R (160 PA, .321/.403/.436, 20.0 K%, 7.5 BB%)

Strengths: Pullin has a solid all-around game, and he got his career off to a good start in the GCL.  He has good bat speed and control, and he should be able to put the ball in play pretty consistently.  His plate approach is pretty advanced for a high school bat.  Right now he has a line drive swing, but he could develop average power down the road.  The Phillies recently moved him to second base, and he could have enough athleticism to play it.

Weaknesses: Pullin is still a long way away despite his comparatively polished bat.  None of his tools really stand out, but he’s okay in all areas.  While he has looked good early at second base, he probably still has a lot of work to do at the position.  Left field is a good fallback option though, but it’s going to be even more important for him to develop more power if he has to go back to the outfield.  He’s not very athletic.

2013 outlook: His advanced game could have him in Lakewood to start the year depending on performance in camp and other players around that level.  That’s not an unusual step for the Phillies to take with younger players, but they did not with some of their top high school bats from the 2011 draft.  If not, he’ll join Williamsport when their season starts and likely fare well there.

14. Mitch Gueller, 6’3 205 RHSP, 19, rookie (27.1 IP, 5.27 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 16.2 K%, 10.3 BB%)

Strengths: The second of the Phillies’ two first rounders last June, Gueller comes from the Pacific Northwest, a region that they’ve mined more than anyone else in recent years with the possible exception of the Rays.  He looks the part of a top pitching prospect with his size and athleticism, and he could improve the consistency on his low-90’s fastball as he gets stronger.  He’s shown flashes of a quality breaking ball and changeup.

Weaknesses: Gueller is still very far away from ever contributing to the Phillies.  This will be the first time in his career focusing on pitching (and baseball in general), so he’s very raw.  His breaking ball is unrefined and slurvy and has to tighten up.  He has to improve on the consistency of his changeup too, but he’s shown flashes of doing so.  His brief pro debut last year shows he needs to improve his control.

2013 outlook: Gueller could start 2013 in Lakewood, but he’s not so advanced for a high school pitcher that it’s a guarantee.  They probably have enough arms to fill their rotation without him.  It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Phillies to take it slowly with him as he becomes a pitcher full-time.

13. Carlos Tocci, 6’2 160 CF, 17, rookie, R/R (107 PA, .278/.330/.299, 16.8 K%, 5.6 BB%)

Strengths: The Phillies typically don’t spend big in Latin America, but they did so for Tocci.  He has great speed that helps him on the bases, and he has the range and arm to be a Gold Glove candidate should he reach the majors.  He has impressive instincts even though he was the youngest player in the Gulf Coast League last year, and he stole nine bases in 11 attempts in his pro debut.  He could hit for a high average with great bat control and knowledge of the strike zone.

Weaknesses: Despite the advanced instincts, he’s still a young Latin American player who has a lot of work to do.  He doesn’t have power and may never get it.  He obviously has a skinny frame at 6’2 and 160 pounds, and he might not get any bigger.  He has to refine his plate approach and stay patient to help his on-base skills to take advantage of his speed.  GCL stats rarely indicate anything, so expectations should be held in check for now.

2013 outlook: It wouldn’t be unusual for Tocci to debut with Lakewood on Opening Day.  The Phillies have made that jump with Valle and Domingo Santana among others in the past, but both it always seems to end up resulting in a trip to Williamsport when short-season ball starts.  Either way, he’s still very young and staying back in extended spring training would be okay.

12. Justin De Fratus, 6’4 220 RHRP, 25, AAA/MLB (32.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 24.0 K%, 6.4 BB%)

Strengths: De Fratus has a nice two pitch mix with a fastball that can reach the mid 90’s and a slider that’s improved every year.  Throughout most of his minor league career, he’s had both outstanding control and the ability to strike batters out.  He’s competitive and has the mentality to pitch in the late innings of games.  He can pitch the low in the zone and keep the ball in the park, always important at Citizens Bank Park.

Weaknesses: Poised to earn a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen in 2012, De Fratus had nearly a lost season thanks to elbow injuries.  He seems to be healthy now, but that can always be concerning for pitchers.  Occasionally, he’ll fall in love with his slider and needs to remember to use his fastball more often.  His slider is an above average to plus pitch, but his upside is that of a set-up man and not a closer.

2013 outlook: De Fratus had a pretty rough spring with the Phillies, and he’ll be starting the season in AAA.  He had uncharacteristically poor control and couldn’t put batters away, but it was only nine innings.  Teams always use more than seven relievers in a season, so he’ll be back up in the majors at some point if he’s healthy, and maybe this time for good.

11. Shane Watson, 6’4 200 RHP, 19, rookie (7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 29.6 K%, 3.7 BB%)

Strengths: Watson has two of the most important qualities a pitching prospect can have: fastball velocity and a really good breaking ball.  Those two pitches can get a pitcher a long way in professional baseball, and with his size, he could probably add a few ticks to his low 90’s fastball.  He has an aggressive demeanor on the mound and really goes after hitters.  He’s tried a variety of options looking for a third pitch.

Weaknesses: Watson’s pro debut was abbreviated after an illness led to the discovery that he has diabetes.  That shouldn’t be an issue at this point.  Cleaning up his delivery further could help him improve his command and control, but that’s pretty standard for high school pitchers.  That also goes for a lack of a third pitch.  He’s experimented with a changeup, cutter and splitter, all of which would help him get lefties out.

2013 outlook: Because of the missed time after signing last year, Watson may not be able to start in Lakewood, but he should certainly be there at some point during the season.  Obviously he’s still very far away from making an impact with the Phillies, but his abilities warrant keeping an eye on for sure.

Click here for Part 1 (30-21) or Part 3 (10-1).

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