The Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A team is stacked with elite prospects. I had a chance to catch their first series in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last week and counted six positional players that will see time in the major leagues; some as early as this year.
I’ve been lucky enough to see many of these players throughout their career and it was interesting to see them in the final step of their development process. Some are nearly ready (Roman Quinn and Jorge Alfaro) and others, J.P. Crawford in particularly, looked lost and need more development time.
I hope you enjoy the updates on each player and as usual, I look forward to your feedback.
Roman Quinn (OF)
I’ve long been a huge fan of Roman Quinn. He’s one of the most athletic players that I’ve scouted and has really grown as a player. He started his career as a shortstop but the Phillies asked him to move to the outfield where he’s become a very good defender. His routes still need work, but his 80-grade speed allows him to recover.
Offensively, his stand out tool is his speed. I clocked him at 3.87 from the left-side when he reached on an error made by the shortstop. He quickly stole second on a walking lead. It was an easy steal with the Yankees catcher, Wilkin Castillo, having no chance.
While he has below-average power, he’s not void of strength; with more power from his natural right-side. While I believe he’ll hit five to eight home runs annually, he’ll also hit plenty of doubles that will pump-up his slugging by turning many of those doubles into triples. His approach continues to be sound, although as with many of his teammates, he’s up there looking to swing the pole. Since he’ll likely hit at the top of the lineup, improving his plate discipline becomes a critical aspect of his final development.
The best news is that he’s healthy and today is a defensive upgrade in centerfield over Odubel Herrera. I think we should see him as soon as May, or early June in the big leagues and with his speed, he has a chance to provide instant fantasy goodness.
J.P. Crawford (SS)
In the past, I’ve seen J.P. Crawford in Low-A and Double-A, and each time I’ve come away thinking…he’s going to be a star. His hit-tool is plus with the ability to control the strike-zone and while his power has yet to develop, I think he could eventually hit double-digit home runs. I’ve likened him to Francisco Lindor, however that was before Lindor developed way more power than I thought was possible. But my point is, he’s an elite talent.
Last week, J.P. Crawford looked overmatched. It was the first time I had ever seen this. Chad Green had him completely off-balance and consequently, he had no chance against his change-up. He started guessing and it ended poorly in each at-bat. What was also disappointing is that Crawford looked defeated. I’m sure he wasn’t, but when you start to guess at the plate, it’s easy to determine that you’re just not ready for the next step.
Have I turned on Crawford? No. Everyone struggles…well, most everyone does (thank you Mr. Trout) and it’s just part of the development process. What I do know is he’s not ready and I doubt he sees Philadelphia for anything more than a September call-up.
Jorge Alfaro (C)
Jorge Alfaro is one of the most tooled-up players in the minor leagues. He has two legitimate double-plus tools in his bat-speed and arm-strength. To-date, he’s always struggled with his approach at the plate and more importantly with his catching skills; both pitch framing and blocking. These are the primary reasons that he has yet to make his way to the big leagues. It’s just been taking him a while to hone his craft. In fact, in feels like I’ve been talking about him for years…wait…
From what I saw last week, he’s nearly ready. First, he looks like a different player behind the plate. He use to stab at balls and now he’s quieter and in better position to give a good target to the pitcher. The transformation reminds me of Gary Sanchez. When I saw Sanchez in the minors, I thought he couldn’t catch and even suggested a move to first base or even right-field would be in the cards. But, he improved to the point of being a solid-average defender and I think that’s where Alfaro is heading.
Offensively, his approach is still aggressive but he’s making better contact and really put on a show in batting practice. If he doesn’t improve his approach, he might post a sub-300 OBP but I think he has enough natural hitting ability to produce a solid .260 batting average. With his bat-speed, throw in 20 plus home runs and you have the makings of first division starter or maybe more.
Dylan Cozens (OF)
It was only my second time seeing Dylan Cozens, but I left with the same impression I had when I saw him last year. I’m not sure the hit-tool will play enough for him to get to his power.
In a nut-shell, he’s stiff at the plate, doesn’t use his lower-half very well and has a lot of length in his swing. The net result will be a lot of pressure on his batting average. The good news for Cozens is that he has plus raw power. The power doesn’t come from bat speed but instead, he’s just a really big, and powerfully built guy. The other good news for Cozens is this is a profile of a lot of big leaguers. Big swing and miss but power to spare.
I think the upside is an Aaron Judge type of player. Judge clearly has massive raw power and when he gets his arms extended, can hit the ball as hard as anyone in the league. The open question for him: will it come with a .200 batting average. I don’t think we know yet and the same question will follow Cozens. From what I’ve seen, I also don’t think Cozens has the same level of athleticism I’ve seen in Judge. In the end, that might be the separator.
Rhys Hoskins (1B)
Rhys Hoskins hit behind Dylan Cozens in the lineup and while Cozens has gotten more “press” than Hoskins, I think Hoskins will be the better major league player. The simple reason is I think the hit-tool is grade better. He tracks the ball better and has superior hand-eye coordination.
He’s not as physically imposing as Cozens, who is just a massive human, but has a large lower-half that he uses well. I think he profiles as a classic right-handed first baseman with the chance to hit 25 plus home runs and bat .250. That’s not an all-star profile, particularly in today’s game, but it might be enough to allow him to get regular at-bats at the highest level. As a negative comp, he could be Matt Adams.
Nick Williams (OF)
Nick Williams has been on my Top 100 list for years, and with good reason. He has plus bat speed, runs well, and has always been able to make contact. Where he’s struggled is with this approach. He just loves to swing the pole.
I saw him in four at-bats and he took two balls. He swung at everything. This is no different than when I saw him three years ago in the Carolina League, two years ago in the Arizona Fall League and last year in his first tour of duty in Triple-A. Before the game, one of my readers asked me to check on his swing as they had heard it had been rebuilt. Well, I didn’t compare his swing with my previous encounters, but in my opinion, the problem has never been with his swing.
He has a small load and gets his hands in good position to hit. Everything from my viewpoint looks fine. It’s the approach. He expands the strike zone too much and if he doesn’t correct that, he’ll get picked apart by pitchers at the next level.
What I find frustrating is that of all the players on this squad, he has the highest offensive upside. The bat speed is impressive, he can run and his ability to make contact is impressive. However, if you’re chasing bad pitches and getting yourself into poor hitting counts, that contact can quickly become weak contact.
Mark Appel (RHP)
Every time I see Mark Appel pitch, I’m left with the impression that – “he should be better than this”. He’s got great size, a clean delivery, three solid, if not plus pitches, and in general, throws strikes. Yet, he hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.00 since he appeared in eight games in Low-A four years ago.
When I asked a scout with whom I was sitting with, his thoughts on Appel, he simply said…”hitters just see the ball too well off of him”. Candidly, it’s really not much more complicated than that. Yeah, he needs to work on his fastball command, but in the end, there’s no deception in his delivery and his fastball just comes out straight.
I’ve said this before and in turn I’ve received feedback from my readers asking …”why doesn’t he just change his delivery?” Well, that’s easier said than done. He’s been doing the same delivery since he was a teenager, maybe longer and while he’s moved around the rubber, it’s not been enough to make a difference.
Call me crazy and I’ll show you my Dynasty League rosters to prove the point, I’m still not ready to give up on Appel. I think at some point, he’ll add a two-seamer, a cut fastball, or some deception in his delivery that will enable him to become an effective major league pitcher. Look, I’ve given up on him being a “One” and that was confirmed last week. But, I still think he can become a solid, mid-rotation starter. And hey, I own him now in three Dynasty Leagues and I picked him off the waiver wire. I’ll take that gamble any day.