Philadelphia Phillies

Original Published Date: Nov. 12, 2013

The Philadelphia Phillies are in trouble.  The major league team has gotten older and is no longer a playoff contender and the minor league system has been weakened through trades over the past several seasons.  It’s not completely void of talent, but aside from Maikel Franco and possibly J.P. Crawford, there isn’t any impact talent in the system.

While Maikel Franco is a legitimate top prospect, I don’t see his 2013 results being a harbinger of future performance.  Plus, his defensive profile is going to make him a below-average defender at third base.  Left-hander Jesse Biddle is the second ranked prospect and has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter provided he can improve his control.  The next closet player to the majors is Cuban émigré Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.  The reports I received on Gonzalez were not great and are in-line with the three year $12 million contract he signed over the summer.

J.P. Crawford had an outstanding professional debut and could be the future successor to Jimmy Rollins.  Severino Gonzalez also had a nice year and could see Philadelphia in 2014 with a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.  While I waxed poetically about the potential of Roman Quinn, he did not have the impact that many anticipated in 2013 and his most recent ruptured Achilles tendon put his status as a future major league regular seriously in doubt.

1. Maikel Franco (3B)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling:Role 6
Ht:6-1 Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2013 A-AA 541 89 31 103 1 .320 .356 85.4 5.5 .325

Part of the fun of tracking prospects is to see those players that you thought had potential, develop, and then rise up prospect lists throughout the year.  Enter Maikel Franco.

Franco started off the year as a top 200 prospect after slugging .439 in the Sally League in 2012.  However, he exploded in 2013 with a slash line of .320/.356/.569 over two levels and the prospect world took note.  He’ll likely start 2014 in Triple-A and could be in Philadelphia sometime later in the summer.

While the results were outstanding, the scouting report doesn’t quite match the performance.  On the positive side, he has plus bat-speed and excellent hand-eye coordination.  While I’m not sure he’ll hit a bomb every 17 at-bats at the highest level, it’s easy to project him with plus future power.

However, there are several negatives in his game.

  1. While there is bat speed, the swing is very long.  While the setup is quiet, his load is very long and exaggerated.  Once there, he seems to use the length in the load to allow him time to alter his swing mechanics in order to adjust to the velocity and location of the ball. While hand-eye coordination is not usually easy to see, it’s quite obvious with Franco.  In one sense, it’s impressive and shows a lot of athleticism, I just don’t think it will work long-term.
  2. The swing is also very aggressive, which is not uncommon in players with elite bat speed.  If you combine the funky swing mechanics with his aggressiveness, I don’t see how he continues to bat .320 and believe a .260 batting average with a .310 on-base percentage is more realistic.
  3. I think he’s a first baseman in the long run.  He’s not fleet of foot and that hinders his fielding.  Sure, if he bats .250 and hits 30 home runs, the Phillies might overlook some of his defensive liabilities.  The problem of course is that Ryan Howard plays first and is owed a lot of money.

While I did rank Franco as the number one prospect in the Phillies organization and he’s likely a top 75 prospect, he’s a Role 5-6 player for me – a solid regular with the potential for some very good years.  However, he’s not a perennial all-star caliber third baseman.

Fantasy Impact:  Franco could be a better fantasy player as I believe the power is real and given the state of power in today’s game, he could be extremely valuable.  I’d also consider drafting him in 2014 in NL-Only formats as I believe he could receive significant playing time in Philadelphia.

2. Jesse Biddle (LHP)

2014 Age: 22 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 225 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 AA 138.1 104 56 10 5.33 10.02 3.64 1.34

Last year I wrote:  Jesse Biddle has size, stuff, good mechanics and improving command and is starting to move into the upper echelon of pitching prospects.   At the end of April, that statement was looking pretty smart as Biddle dominated Double-A with a 40K/12BB ratio in 31 innings with a 1.74 ERA.  However, the rest of season did not go well as Biddle struggled with his control and finished with an ugly 5.33 walks per nine.

Biddle has a solid arsenal with a fastball that sits 90-92 MPH, a slow curve that sits anywhere from 70-74 MPH, and a pretty good change-up that he runs up to the plate at 77-78 MPH.  It’s not a plus arsenal but it should yield better results than a 3.64 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.

When I saw Bilddle at the Futures game, his control problems were pretty apparent – he wasn’t finishing off his pitches consistently.   Look no further than the first batter he faced to see the problem.

He started A.J. Jimenez off with a 90 MPH fastball that was a good pitch and just missed on the outside.  The second pitch was another fastball down the middle for a strike.  His next three pitches, all 90 MPH fastballs were at least a foot outside.  He left his shoulder open on his landing and had no chance of finding the strike zone.  Pitching from the stretch, he looked much better and was finishing off his pitches more consistently.

While I don’t believe Biddle will ever have elite control, I also don’t believe he’ll have a 5.33 walk per nine either.  Assuming he can get back to a mid 3’s walk rate, I think a mid-rotation ceiling is still possible.  The arsenal is good enough to get swings and misses, particularly his curve ball.

Fantasy Impact:  Biddle is still a Top 100 prospect for me and I’m still a believer.  While he won’t be a fantasy stud and could struggle with his ratios, his arsenal is good enough to get nearly a strikeout an inning, which has fantasy value.

3. J.P. Crawford (SS)

2014 Age: 19 Ceiling:Role 5-6
Ht:6-2 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2013 R-LowA 195 34 1 21 14 .308 .405 82.1 16.4 .371

Taken as the 16th overall prospect in the 2013 draft, J.P Crawford is typical of the raw athleticism that the Phillies love to draft.  While this high risk/high reward strategy can yield Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd it can also result in Anthony Hewitt and Larry Greene.  While I think Crawford has major league potential, he only turns 19 in January and is therefore at least three years away.

Drafted as a shortstop, Crawford has the hands and range to stay at the position long-term.  His bat-to-ball skills were better than advertised during his 142 at-bats in the GCL where he had a 25K/25BB ratio in 142 at-bats.  While the contact rate was good, it was the patience that he showed that was the most encouraging.  It wasn’t just a passive approach that yielded the walks but he had a plan with good pitch recognition.  While the surface stats didn’t carry forward in his brief promotion to Low-A, he still managed a 10K/7BB ratio in 52 at-bats.

At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Crawford should continue to fill out and gain strength.  While he’ll likely never have above-average power, he should develop gap power and allow his plus hit tool to play.  He also has above average speed and should be able to steal 15-20 bases at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  Crawford should develop into a high contact and high on-base hitter that would be perfect at the top of a lineup.  He doesn’t have plus speed but should have enough speed to steal 15-20 bases, with possibly more early in his career.  That’s not a fantasy stud but should be a useful fantasy starter in a deeper format.

4. Miguel Gonzalez (RHP)

2014 Age: 27 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right
ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 DNP

The Phillies decided to enter the Cuban arms-race and signed 27-year-old Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a three year $12 million major league contract.  There were rumors of a much larger payout for the 6-foot-3 right-hander, but health concerns about his elbow apparently push his contract numbers down.

While I only have reports on his arsenal, I’m told he throws both a four and two-seam fastball that sits 91-93 MPH and tops out at 94.  The two-seamer is the better of the two pitches and has some arm-side run with good sink that produces a lot of ground balls.  His secondary pitches are limited primarily to a slider that he throws in the mid 80’s with a lot of bite.

The pitching mechanics are far from smooth with a high leg kick and a traditional drop-and-drive approach.  He does throw from a high three-quarters delivery, which given his height, should allow him to get good plane on the pitch.  The momentum is just ok with some recoil in his delivery that is not good for long-term health.

I’m anxious to see Gonzalez live next Spring as I missed him during the fall instructs.  While he should start the year in Philadelphia, I would temper my expectations and put a ceiling of a back of the rotation starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Gonzalez posted a 74K/29BB ratio in 113 innings during his last year pitching in Cuba (2010-2011).  I’ll do the math for you – that’s less than six strikeouts per nine!  He’s likely to be rusty and could also need some conditioning after a long layoff.   I’m going to let somebody else draft him in 2014 and will spend my Dynasty League money elsewhere.

5. Severino Gonzalez (RHP)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 150 Bats: Right Throws: Right
ETA: 2014-15
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 A-AA 103.2 84 23 5 1.91 10.33 2.00 1.02

Severino Gonzalez is one of better prospects that the main stream prospect community has yet to discover.   However, the Phillies sure know what they have and promoted him through two levels and even had him pitch in the Double-A playoffs.   The results were sensational with a 119K/22BB ratio in 103.2 innings with a 2.00 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP.

Signed in 2010 out of Panama, the 6-foot, 150 pound right-hander has a nice arsenal with a fastball that sits 89-92 MPH with a lot of glove-side run.  The pitch plays up as he is able to command it very well – spotting it to both sides of the plate with ease.  His best off-speed is a slow curve that really freezes batters as he is able to throw it with the same release point as his fastball.  He’s also showing a feel for a change-up.

Gonzalez has a lot of arm speed and his delivery is on the violent side.  He throws with such torque that his balance is below average.  However, he’s clearly able to repeat his delivery as he has excellent timing and that’s what it’s all about.

While the mechanics and arsenal suggest a bullpen arm, I’m not so sure.  I’ve gotten reports that Gonzalez is continuing to add velocity, which is plausible given his projectable body.  If he can sit 92-93 MPH and continue to improve his secondary pitches, he could develop into a nice mid-rotation starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Severino is a high risk/high reward pick in a Dynasty League.  The Phillies are clearly moving him quickly through the system and he has responded to each promotion.  If that continues, he could surface in Philadelphia as early as next year.  A player that nobody has heard of with an upside of a mid-rotation starter is the definition of a sleeper.

6. Roman Quinn (SS)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling:Role 5
Ht:5-10 Weight: 170 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2013 LowA 260 37 5 21 32 .238 .323 75.4 10.4 .297

As with a number of Philadelphia prospects, I expected Roman Quinn to climb the prospect ranks and even potentially become a Top 100 prospect in 2014.  However, Quinn struggled badly at times in Lakeland and put up a pedestrian slash line of .238/.323/.346 before a fractured wrist ended his season in late June.

A Roman Quinn apologist, who I’m one, would argue that the only difference between 2012 and 2013 was a low BABIP of .297 and an unsustainable high number of triples (11) and even HBP (11) in 2012.  Secondly, with 80-grade speed, he should have been able to post a .330+ BABIP and therefore his .238 batting average should have been 40 points higher.  Plus, he hit 5 home runs.  Come on…he’s really better than his 2013 production, right???

All true from a stats standpoint, but I had a chance to see Quinn live a couple of times and he really struggled both offensively and defensively.  He made a lot of weak contact and had trouble catching up to better velocity.  In an early May battle with Rafael DePaula, Quinn was overmatched.  Granted, it was a cold evening and DePaula was sitting 92-93 MPH, but Quinn was late on everything.  While he does have very good bat speed, he was constantly on his front foot and had trouble adjusting to off-speed pitches.

Defensively, I don’t believe Quinn will stay at shortstop, particularly with the signing of J.P. Crawford.  A move to center field seems likely.  The speed should help him with the transition, but it’s unknown how long it will take him to become proficient at a new position and what additional pressure that would put on his bat.

Turn the page forward to November and we have news of Roman Quinn rupturing his Achilles tendon.  This is a significant injury that will likely delay his development even further.  While the talent is there with bat speed and 80 grade running speed, missing time at 20-years-old will hurt his development and potentially his overall ceiling.  Let’s hope he can make a return sometime in 2014.

Fantasy Impact:  With the potential for elite stolen bases, Quinn is a must own in most Dynasty League formats.  However, not knowing the recovery time of his most recent injury could temper that statement.  If he’s back by May, he’s a must own.  If he misses most of the season, it might be time to move on.

7. Adam Morgan (LHP)

2014 Age: 24 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Left
ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 R-AAA 78.3 90 34 10 2.99 6.55 3.91 1.48

After a step-up year in 2012, Adam Morgan regressed after his promotion to Triple-A to start the 2013 season.  His strikeout rate dropped, his walked rate increased, and he got hit extremely hard giving up 84 hits in 71.1 innings with 10 home runs.

The biggest deficiency in Morgan’s game is the lack of plus secondary pitches.   The slider is flat for me and the change-up, while slightly better, is still a fringy pitch.  The fastball is a good pitch and while it only sits 88-91 MPH, Morgan has very good command of it.  He’s able to spot it to both sides of the plate, which in turn, allows the pitch to play-up a grade.

The pitching mechanics are acceptable and I believe are leading to his good command. The balance and posture are both good and he gets decent momentum to the plate.

Fantasy Impact:  I’ve cooled on Morgan and while I believe he’s rosterable in a deeper fantasy league, I think his ceiling is a number four starter.

8. Ethan Martin (RHP)
Ethan Martin barely kept his eligibility for our Top 10 list as he logged 40 innings in 2013 for the Phillies.  His debut highlighted both the upside and current troubles of his game.  He’s got a great arm with a fastball that averaged 94 MPH and a slider that can get swings and misses.  His change-up is developing but should be a usable pitch.  The problem is he can’t throw strikes and averaged over five walks per nine in both the Majors and Triple-A.  The mechanics are ok; he’s just not able to get his timing down in order to repeat his delivery.   The upside is there but at the moment, he’s a spot starter or a bullpen arm.  He’ll turn 25 next season, so time is ticking.

9. Tommy Joseph (C)
It was not a very good year for 21-year-old catching prospect Tommy Joseph.   Not only did he struggle with concussion symptoms before being shutdown in July, he never got going offensively.  He wound up posting a .179/.229/.285 in 123 at-bats.  Given all that happened, I’m giving him a bogey for 2013 and I’m hoping he starts 2014 fully healthy.   I still like the swing and believe he could still develop average power to go along with sound defensive skills.

10. Mitch Gueller (RHP)
Selected in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft, Mitch Gueller has a live arm but is extremely raw.  His arsenal is made up of a low to mid 90’s fastball as well as a curve ball and change-up.   However, none of his secondary pitches are consistent and he struggles to command his fastball.  That said, the arm is lively and the fastball can really jump up on hitters.  While he’s probably a bullpen arm long-term, I’m not willing to count him out as a starter just yet.

2014 Emerging Prospect:

Zach Green (3B)
As a teenager in the New York Penn League, Zach Green led the league in home runs with 13 but also led the league in strikeouts with 91.  He’s a big strong kid at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds but the swing is long and most of his power is derived from a highly leveraged swing.  While it’ll take a lot of dreaming, there could be something there.  Keep an eye on Green as he enters full season ball in 2014.

13 comments on “Philadelphia Phillies

  1. So how would you rank these three in terms of fantasy contribution for 2014 and 2015?

    Addison Russell, Franco or Polanco?

    Thanks Rich!

  2. Rich, What is your feeling on Darren Ruf? Both him and Howard had about the same amount of games played last year and Ruf had slighty better stats. I don’t think his stats are so much better that he takes over the starting job but they was good enough that he should play somewhere. I have both him and Howard in a keeper league and need to determine if either are worth keeping.

    • I honestly think Darin Ruff is a backup 1B or extra bat. Tons of swing and miss and his bat but of course he has plus raw power and could hit 30 home runs. Sounds a lot like Ryan Howard with the exception that one guy is owed $100M and the other is not.

      Howard is a complete wildcard but after missing so much of the past two years, unless your keepers are really deep, I’d let him go. His ADP currently is 207 and is the 21st first baseman off the board.

  3. Rich,
    What are your feelings on Cody Asche. The Phillies are going to allow him to compete for the 3B job.

  4. […] definitely a wide array of pitches. Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 (click here for his full Top 10 Phillies’ prospects) recently discussed Gonzalez arsenal, […]

  5. Thanks Rich. I grudgingly agree – especially after Rollins commented that he would invoke his no trade rights to chase franchise records (no mention of helping the team win mind you).
    Really enjoy you and Tim on the podcast, I live in the UK and have listened to quite a few baseball / fantasy baseball podcasts and yours is the one that I have stuck with.

  6. If rollins leaves at the end of 2014, do you think Crawford could take over in 2015, or should we have to suffer another year of J-stroll and wait for Crawford in 2016??? The other wild card here is whtehr Freddy Galvis can start hitting as his defense is right up there with the best.
    Great write up by the way, i’m going to keep a keen look at Severino Gonzalez

    • 2015 would be really aggressive, would think 2016 at the earliest. Don’t be surprised in the Phillies re-up Rollins for 2-3 more years. It would fit their pattern and Rollins has a few more years left – declining years mind you, but he’ll play for a few more years.

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