|Original Published Date: November 18, 2014|
The Philadelphia Phillies are an aging team with several bad contracts that will continue to limit their upside through at least the 2016 season. It’s going to take a lot of rebuilding and while the Phillies have some depth in their minor league system, it’s not enough to restock the major league team.
The best news is that they have J.P Crawford – a potential future all-star shortstop that should see Philadelphia in 2016 once Jimmy Rollins contract is over. Maikel Franco has already spent time with the big club and should be the Phillies starting third baseman in 2015. While his play was inconsistent in 2014, he should carve out a nice major league career as a first division starter.
After Crawford and Franco, things get thin very quickly. While there are several potential major leaguers, I don’t see any true impact talent. The Phillies best two pitching prospects, Aaron Nola and Jesse Biddle could see time in Philadelphia in 2015, but profile as mid-rotation starters at best. I’m still a huge fan of Roman Quinn and he could be a replacement for Ben Revere in centerfield starting sometime in 2016. It doesn’t come without risk, but if I’m the Phillies, I’m selling high on Revere’s BABIP induced .306 batting average and hoping that Quinn turns into Revere in a couple of years. Will they? Probably not…
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: All-star
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
J.P Crawford is going to be a star!
While you can argue J.P. Crawford doesn’t have any plus-plus tools in his bag, there are a ton of 60’s on the 20-80 scouting scale that when you add it all up, points to a perennial all-star.
As a teenager playing the Sally League, Crawford slashed .295/.398/.405 with an impressive 37K/37BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 227 at-bats. He has excellent hand-eye coordination skills that when combined with great plate average gives him the ceiling for a future plus hit tool. I saw him multiple times throughout the year and while his swing can get long at times, he shortens up with two strikes and is just a tough out. His plate discipline and contactability continued upon his promotion to Clearwater after a brief adjustment period.
While Crawford’s .405 slugging clearly shows that he doesn’t have much current power, it’s coming. There is premium bat speed and a body that will surely add size and strength with the potential to hit 15 to 20 home runs annually down the road. He also added 24 stolen bases across Low and High-A and that pace should continue through his journey to the major leagues.
Defensively, Crawford has great fluid actions at short with solid arm strength to make all throws. His lateral movement and first step, particularly to his right are quite impressive.
With only a player option left on Jimmy Rollins contract, 2016 is likely the year we see J.P. Crawford make his major league debut. That said, injuries and poor performances in the upper minors could slow his ascension. However, based on his excellent plate discipline and natural bat-to-ball skills, I expect Crawford to have marginal problems as he works his way through Double and Triple-A.
Fantasy Impact: While you still have to dream on the power, the upside of Crawford is a .290/.370/.460 performer with 20 plus stolen bases and 15 to 20 home runs. That’s a $25 player and a top five fantasy shortstop. Because of his age and lack of Top 10 rankings on prospect list, there could be a slight buying opportunity with Crawford and if so, you should jump on it.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 180||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Triple-A was supposed to be small hurdle for Maikel Franco on his quick ascension to playing third base for the Philadelphia Phillies. However, on July 1st, Franco was batting .209 with a .318 slugging percentage and five home runs. It was a far cry from the .320/.356/.569 that he slashed in 2013 in High and Double-A.
As the weather heated up, so did Franco and his BABIP. He slashed .324/.354/.579 in July and August, adding 11 home runs while increasing his BABIP by 100 point. On September 2nd, Franco made his major league debut and is likely in the majors to stay.
Through his struggles, Franco continued to demonstrate excellent contactability. While the swing can get long, Franco has great hand-eye coordination that can compensate for the holes in his swing that his length causes. Franco also has premium bat speed that not only leads to his length but also helps him compensate by allowing pitches to travel deep into the zone before swinging. Plus, his bat speed and natural strength will give him a plus future power ceiling. Whether he’s able to ever top his 2013 production of 35 home runs is unknown, 30 should be doable.
Franco does not have a stellar defensive profile as he’s bulky around third with just average foot speed. However, his reaction times are good and his arm is strong enough to make all throws. Long term, he’s a first baseman, but for now he should be adequate at third.
Fantasy Impact: Maikel Franco stock is down and for Dynasty League owners, that presents a buying opportunity. The ceiling is a .270/.310/.550 player capable of hitting 30 plus home runs with a 100 or more annual RBI. His aggressive approach will hurt his value in an OBP league and there is no speed. However, the total package has a $25 plus ceiling.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
After a standout career at LSU, the Philadelphia Phillies made Aaron Nola their first pick (7th overall) in the 2014 first year player draft. How good was Nola in college? In his 52 games across three seasons, he posted a 2.09 ERA with a 9.35 strikeout-per-nine rate while walking a miniscule 1.41 per nine.
Based on how advanced Nola was coming out of college, many thought that he would be the first to the big leagues from the draft. While he did make it to Double-A Reading in his first taste of professional ball, that honor of the first to the big leagues belongs to right-hander Brandon Finnegan. However, in his 55.1 across High and Double-A, he posted a 2.93 ERA while striking out 7.32 per nine and walking 1.63 per nine. Sound familiar?
Nola has a nice three pitch mix with a sinking fastball that sits 90-92 MPH that given his low three-quarters delivery really jumps up on hitters, particularly arm-side batters. His curve ball is his best secondary pitch with significant swing and miss ability. That said, it’s odd the pitch works so well given his arm slot. Usually for a curve ball to be effective you need to get on top of the pitch and that requires a higher arm slot. However, it works for Nola and that might have to do more with the amount of rotational spin he gets on the pitch. It’ll be fun to see the official RPM’s that Nola gets on his curveball once we can see PitchFx data. It’s going to be impressive.
While Nola throws strikes, his pitching mechanics are not ideal. As already mentioned, he has a low three-quarters delivery that does allow him to get nice sink on his pitches. However, if he misses his spots, at 6-foot-1 and no downward plane, it’s a recipe for being homer prone. While we didn’t see that in college, in his 55.1 innings, he did give up eight home runs. It’s something to monitor.
Fantasy Impact: There’s a lot to like with Nola and his performance in college as well as his early professional career, point to a pitcher you need to roster. However, his low three-quarters deliver and height are causing me to tap the brakes a little bit from a fantasy standpoint. I think his ceiling is more of a back of the rotation fantasy pitcher. Again, a player you want to own but if you are in a re-draft league that involves 2014 draftees, he’s not somebody I would take as the seventh overall player. He’s more of a second round pick for me.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-5 Weight: 220||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015=16|
2014 was a down year for Jesse Biddle, the Phillies 2010 first round pick (27th overall). The year started off fine but as the season wore on, the performance started to worsen and in late June, the Phillies took Biddle out of the Redding rotation for what was called a mental break. After a month, Biddle started to work his way back when he pulled a quad muscle that caused him to miss the rest of the season.
With an ERA of 5.03, a walk rate of nearly five per nine and 11 home runs given up in 82.1 innings, it’s hard to get your arms around who Jesse Biddle could become. First the arsenal is solid with a fastball that sits 90-92, a curve that is still developing but is showing promise and a change-up that has taken a step up from 2013. His problems stems from his inability to repeat his delivery which is causing him to struggle throwing strikes.
In reviewing his delivery, it’s not bad. It’s athletic with nice momentum and balance but Biddle just doesn’t finish off his pitches consistently. When a pitcher doesn’t finish off his pitches, they have a tendency to be left up and the results are usually not good. That could partially explain the 11 home runs he gave up in 2014.
Time will tell if Biddle’s emotional issues are behind him, but with Danny Duffy and Zach Greinke have proven, there is hope.
Fantasy Impact: What do you do if you own Biddle in a Dynasty League? If you are in a league that rosters 150 minor leaguers, you need to hold onto him. Otherwise, it’s prudent to drop him and move on. If Biddle is able to improve his delivery, there is solid number three upside with eight plus strikeouts per nine. Unfortunately, Citizens Bank Park will not be his friend as he does pitch up in the zone, making him a fly ball pitcher.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht:5-10 Weight: 170||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
Despite a year of poor performance and injuries, I wrote nearly 500 words last year about my love for Roman Quinn. I knew I was out on a limb as he was coming back from a ruptured Achilles heel, a slash line of .238/.323/.346 and a contact rate of 75%. However, based on his performance in 2014, I think I was rewarded for not giving up on the 21-year-old.
Quinn’s carrying tool is plus-plus speed that he demonstrated by stealing 94 stolen bases across 221 games in his three seasons of professional ball. The concern has been whether he’d have the strength to be anything more than a slappy, weak contact hitter. While you still have to dream a little on his physicality, he’s starting to fill out and his seven home runs in Clearwater are indeed encouraging.
With a shorten season, the Phillies decided to send Quinn to the Arizona Fall League where I had a chance to see him three times. He still looks a bit over matched at the plate and can chase pitches out of the zone. However, he has good plate coverage and really battles. He looks physically stronger than he did in 2013 and while he’ll never have plus power, he could hit 8 to 10 home runs as he continues to fill out. The speed though is remarkable. While his 3.94 from the right side is impressive, the speed really shows up in the outfield. It’s a blur on the level of Billy Hamilton and with decent routes, he’s going to be a plus defender with an above-average arm.
Quinn should start the 2015 season in Reading and assuming he continues to hit, could see Philadelphia for a cup-of-coffee later in the year. His upside is Ben Revere with a bit more power and a better arm.
Fantasy Impact: Quinn continues to be a very intriguing fantasy option and given his injury history, is a buy-low candidate. The speed is real and could total 40 to 50 in 500 plus plate appearances. The hit tool is not yet very mature, but the swing is solid and his plate discipline is very good. He’s lost valuable development time, but the gap could close very quickly with an upside of .260 to .280 with 40 plus stolen bases and a handful of home runs.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 215||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2017|
Cord Sandberg is the type of young, athletic player that the Phillies like to sign and then put in their development engine to see what happens. Sandberg was a multi-sport athlete in Florida and was committed to Mississippi State to play quarterback when the Phillies came swooping in with an over slot bonus in the third round of the 2013 first year player draft.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Sandberg has the body that screams athleticism. He has bat speed to eventually have above-average if not future plus power and the foot speed that currently rates 55 on the 20 to 80 scouting. For not focusing on baseball full-time as a teenager, the swing is quite good. It’s compact and direct to the ball but he’s still adjusting to spin and can chase breaking pitches out of the zone. He also has very good hand-eye coordination that eventually could lead to an average to above-average hit tool.
While he’s still raw, there is a lot of upside in Sandberg. As a 20-year-old, he should start 2015 in Kannapolis of the Sally League. He could struggle early on but the talent should eventually translate to production as he learns the nuances of hitting.
Fantasy Impact: While there’s upside in Sandberg, he’s still a long way from being a top prospect. The raw tools suggest a ceiling of a 20/20 player, batting.260 to .270 in 500 plus plate appearances in the majors. However, he’s at least three years away from even having a cup-of-coffee in Philadelphia, so Dynasty League owners deciding to take the plunge need to be very patient.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht:6-5 Weight: 220||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Taken in ninth round of the 2009 draft, Aaron Altherr is the type of raw athlete the Phillies love to acquire. After five years in the minor leagues, Altherr is starting to translate some of his raw ability into baseball production as he slugged 14 home runs while stealing 12 bases. He’s still learning to control the strike zone but did cut down his strikeouts rate from 26.6% to 22.4% while going up a level.
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Aaron Altherr has the look and the movements of a true athlete. He has above-average speed and bat speed that could translate into above-average future power. The swing can get long and he’s still getting fooled too often by off speed pitches, but he’s making progress and in the end, that’s what’s important.
Altherr was very young when he was drafted and will just turn 24-years-old in January. For some reason, the Phillies promoted him to the Big Leagues over the summer where he went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts. He should start the 2015 season in Triple-A and could be one of those guys that everything starts to click for him at once. If it does, he could develop into a 20/20 player but with on-base struggles.
Fantasy Impact: Altherr is still very raw and should not be owned in many Dynasty Leagues. That said, there’s something there and Dynasty Owners need to keep tabs on his progress.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 210||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
Zach Green was our 2015 Emerging Prospect based in part on his league leading 13 home runs in the New York Penn League. While the power did not sustain in 2014, some of that can be attributable to Lakewood, a park that suppresses power. However, it also looked like the Phillies shorten up his swing and the numbers bear that out – 67% contact rate in 2013 vs. an 80% contact rate in 2014.
While Green was very young for Low-A, the Phillies will likely move him to Clearwater to start the 2015 season. I do believe there is above-average power in his bat with a projection of 15 to 20 home runs, if not a little more. Will this come at the expense of some contact? More than likely, but it’s a trade-off that I’m sure the Phillies would take.
Fantasy Impact: Zach Green could be rostered in leagues with 300 to 400 minor league players. While he’s still very young, there is above-average power potential that should be monitored as he moves through the development process.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #5 starter|
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 150||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
Severino Gonzalez was one of the significant risers in the Phillies organization after a breakout season in 2013 where he posted a 2.02 ERA while striking out over a batter and inning. However, given his low three-quarters arm slot and smallish frame, I was curious on what would happen once he moved out of the large ballparks of the Florida State League.
What happened was not good. In 158.2 innings in the Eastern League, he gave up 23 home runs which resulted in a 4.59 ERA and questions as to what will happen when he gets to Citizens Bank Park. He has good stuff and even better control of his arsenal as he walked less than two per nine. However, his ground-ball-to-fly-ball rate of 1.18 was his undoing.
Fantasy Impact: Gonzalez has a good arm and throws strikes. However, his fly ball tendency will hurt his fantasy effectiveness and will likely make him a middle reliever or a swing man in the majors.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: Extra Bat
|Ht:5-9 Weight: 180||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
I’ve seen Willians Astudillo play several times and I candidly don’t know what to think. It starts with a remarkable stat line. In 436 at-bats in Low-A, he struck out 20 times while walking 19 times; essentially, he hardly ever walks but likewise, he never strikes out. The hand-eye coordination is borderline insane. He lunges, fights off inside pitches and somehow makes contact. I can’t explain how he does it, but it’s impressive.
To complete the picture, he’s 5-foot-9 and listed at 180 pounds. While he was signed as a catcher out of Venezuela, I’m not sure he has the chops to stay behind the plate and therefore he’ll likely move to first base. Of course the problem is his swing path is more contact oriented, so it’s hard to project him to have anything more than below average future power.
Fantasy Impact: The only player I can relate Astudillo’s hit tool to is Jose Altuve. They both just know how to make contact. Of course Altuve can steal 50 plus bases and plays a stellar defensive second base. Astudillo, well…I’m not sure where he plays, but boy can he hit.
2015 Emerging Prospect:
The Phillies signed Luis Encarncion to a $1 million dollar signing bonus in 2013 and then boldly challenged him with an aggressive assignment to the GCL. He more than held his own by posting a .637 OPS while slugging two home runs in 140 at-bats. At 16-years-old, he was the youngest player in the league. While it might take five years for Encarncion to see Philadelphia, there is plus potential power in his bat with enough contactability to make him a very intriguing prospect.