|Original Published Date: November 21, 2017|
The results were clearly not there for the 2017 Phillies, but with their core of young major league players led by Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams, things should start to turn soon, On the farm, there is still plenty of help on the way. Leading the way as he’s done for the past several years is J.P Crawford. He got off to a tough year but turned it around in the second half, enough to earn a September call-up to the big leagues. His eventual double-play mate, Scott Kingery had one of the better seasons in the minors and should see Philadelphia next season.
The pitching is led by a quartet of young, impressive arms. The most impressive of the bunch is Sixto Sanchez and his 100 MPH gas. However, JoJo Romero, Adonis Medina, and Franklyn Kilome all had great years and showed that each has major league upside.
With all the positives, there was one big negative, Mickey Moniak. The 2016 overall first-round pick struggled in Low-A, particularly down the stretch. I saw him a couple of times and he constantly expanded the strike zone resulting in a lot of weak contact.
The tide is turning in Philadelphia and while it will take a couple more years to field a competitive team, it’s coming.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 SS
Living in New Jersey, I have a chance to see the Yankees and Phillies farm systems a lot. Therefore, I’ve seen J.P Crawford at nearly every level through his development. It’s been fun to see the progression at each level. This year was tough…he struggled for the first time ever and many around baseball lost faith. However, I was steadfast in my confidence that he would figure it out…er, well, ok…I was worried too. But after seeing him in a mid-April game in Scranton, he looked totally overmatched. The confidence in which he had played for three years prior was gone. He struggled mightily and for the first time, he had his head down.
To his credit, he worked hard at it and turned his season around in the second half and made his major league debut on September 5th. He didn’t set the world on fire but considering he was only 22-years-old, held his own at the big league level.
Scouting Report: Through his struggles, which some will blame on a low BABIP, he continued to control the strike zone. In the end, he struck out 97 times while walking an impressive 78 times. His strikeout-to-walk ratio nearly matches that of his previous years. What did start to emerge was his power. He added leverage to his swing and the ball started to jump. He has great bat speed and at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds (he’s heavier now), I always believed the power would develop and it indeed looks like it has.
Crawford is not a burner but has enough foot speed to steal low double-digit bases, especially early in his career. However, as he fills out, the speed will fade and with it, so will the stolen bases.
Finally, Crawford is a natural shortstop and has the footwork and arm to play the position for a long time. While there have been some ups-and-downs, and they will likely continue, he’s the Phillies future at short and has the skills to become a top 10 shortstop in the game.
Fantasy Impact: I think Crawford will be a better baseball player than fantasy player. The reason: his secondary skills, particularly his speed will not provide those eye-popping stats that fantasy owners crave. What he will do is hit, score runs and provide enough pop to drive in runs and hit 15-20 home runs. Add it all up and you have a shortstop who can hit .300, score 100 runs annually with 15-20 home runs and 10 stolen bases. That’s a pretty good player in my book.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 2B
Scott Kingery was one of the true breakout players in 2017. He started the season in the Eastern league and slashed .313/.379/.608 before the Phillies had seen enough and promoted him to Triple-A. While he slugged 150 points less in Lehigh Valley, given the extreme hitter’s park in Reading, some level of regression is easily explainable. Still, a slash line of .294/.337/.449 was still very good.
He also showed both power and speed, slugging 26 home runs and stealing 19 bases. The one negative mark was his aggressive approach at the plate. While he walked 8.8% of the time in Double-A, he regressed to a 4.5% walk rate upon his promotion, which was closer to his career 6.6% walk rate.
Scouting Report: I’ve had a chance to see Kingery play multiple times over the years and candidly would not have predicted the breakout he had. I did see him twice last year and he hit the ball hard in both games. He always had good bat speed, but he added loft to his swing and the home runs developed. He does have plus speed, so 20 or more stolen bases should be achievable.
I do worry about his aggressive approach and this could limit his upside. If he’s only going to walk 5 to 6% of the time, his on-base percentage will take a hit. But, assuming the power stays, he’s got 20/20 upside with a .260 batting average.
Fantasy Impact: Kingery should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues as he will likely see significant playing time in Philadelphia next season. The upside is a 20/20 performer but with pressure on his batting average. He’s a Top 100 prospect for sure and given how close he is to the major leagues, will be quite high.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP
I tried to get to Lakewood on the Jersey shore as much as I could this year to see the BlueClaws play. The team was stacked and early in the season, Sixto Sanchez, JoJo Romero and Adonis Medina were all pitching and pitching well.
Sanchez dominated Low-A. In 13 starts, he posted a 2.41 ERA while striking out 64 batters in 67.1 innings and only walking nine. After a stint on the disabled list, he was promoted to Clearwater where he found the sledding more difficult. He didn’t strikeout as many but the extreme control was still there.
Scouting Report: Sanchez stands 6-feet (at best) and 185 MPH with an 80-grade fastball. It’s easy gas and the ball just jumps up on batters. When I saw him in Lakewood, batters had no chance. They gave up very easily on the pitch. His best secondary pitch is his curveball that needs more refinement but with time, I think it will be a quality pitch. His change-up is behind his curveball and is something that will need focus on the future.
The obvious red flag is his size. He’s a small guy and while he does keep the ball down in the zone, usually 6-foot pitchers become relievers. However, most 6-foot pitchers don’t have an 80-grade fastball and that could be the difference-maker. For now, I say he stays a starter and the ceiling will depend on well his secondary pitches develop.
Fantasy Impact: Sanchez is a Top 100 pitcher and should be owned in most Dynasty League formats. He could start back in High-A to begin 2018 but assuming health, should end the year in Reading. Double-A, particularly his home park should present challenges for the 20-year-old.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
The Phillies surprised the baseball world by taking Mickey Moniak as the first overall player in the 2016 MLB Draft. It was a bold move and one that has not paid early dividends as he really struggled in the Sally League last year. In 123 games, he slashed .236/.284/.341 with five home runs and 11 stolen bases. In his defense, he didn’t turn 19 until May and played the entire season as one of the youngest players in the league. Plus, he played better in the first half before clearly tiring down the stretch. In July he hit .220 and in August, a mere .156.
But, when you’re the number overall player, well, you expect more.
Scouting Report: I had a chance to see Moniak play a couple of times last season and thought he had a chance to be a solid player. I don’t see a star through. I do like the swing. He has good bat speed and nice hand-eye-coordination that allows him to make solid contact. However, he did expand the strike zone and got himself into difficult hitting counts far too often.
While I think he will hit, I’m not sure how much power and speed he will have. His current swing is more contact-oriented and lacks loft. He could change his swing pattern, but until he does, I see below-average in-game power. I did not get him down the line but have reports that he’s an only an above-average runner.
Fantasy Impact: I wasn’t incredibly high on Moniak last year and after seeing him, my confidence has been shaken. I do think he will hit, but I’m not sure on his secondary skills. He’ll likely still make my Top 100 list, but has clearly dropped to the back-half.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, JoJo Romero put together an impressive 2017 campaign. After dominating the Sally League over the first three months of the season, the Phillies promoted him to the Florida State League where he handled it equally as well. Across both levels, he posted a 2.16 ERA, striking out nearly a batter an inning while walking 2.5 per nine.
Scouting Report: Romero has a nice three-pitch mix that starts with a plus fastball that he can run up to 94 MPH. It sits more 91 to 92 but with a nice sink that should allow him to keep the ball in the ballpark. His outpitch is a change-up that can get both right and left-handed batters. His curveball still needs work but with his delivery, it really runs away from left-handed batters.
The delivery is a classic-lefty delivery that starts on the first base side. The positioning does cause him to throw across his body which isn’t great for his shoulder but does provide nice deception. Finally, the delivery allows him to throw strikes and that could be his greatest strength.
Fantasy Impact: I like Romero and have added him to as many Dynasty League teams as possible. He doesn’t have over-the-top stuff, but can really pitch and has enough of an arsenal to pitch in the major leagues. I think he moves quickly and could even see time next season or at worse, in 2019.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
When asked what I thought of the trio of young arms at Lakewood in a Twitter question, I responded: Sixto Sanchez has the 80-grade fastball, JoJo Romero can really pitch and Adonis Medina might be a nice blend of the two.
Medina pitched extremely well last season in Low-A. In 22 starts, he pitched to a 3.01 ERA, striking out 10 per nine and walking 2.9 per nine. He gave up less than a hit an inning. His one blemish was he gave up seven home runs. While not a high total when you consider he threw 119.2 innings, it is a concern when you realize he stands at 6-foot-1 and does pitch up in the zone.
Scouting Report: Medina has a big fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH (T 95). Because the delivery is so easy, the ball just explodes out of his hands with a lot of late life. His best secondary pitch is his curveball that he’s able to throw for strikes. His change-up is his third pitch but he does a show a feel for it.
What makes Medina interesting is his smooth and simple delivery. It allows him to easily repeat his delivery and throw strikes. I saw him have excellent command of his fastball; able to hit the catcher’s mitt on both sides of the plate. It was an impressive display when you consider he was only 20-years-old.
Fantasy Impact: Medina has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter if not more. I do believe he will be homer-prone but the stuff is great and his ability to repeat his delivery and throw strikes should limit that damage. He’s not owned in many leagues, so now is the time to add him in your leagues.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
It was hard putting Franklyn Kilome as the fourth best pitching prospect in the Phillies system. While Sanchez 80-grade fastball puts him at the top, you can really argue Kilome and the other three in any order.
Kilome split time between High and Double-A and pitched well. He was particularly dominating in the Florida State League posting a 2.59 ERA, striking out 83 and walking 37 in 97.1 innings. After his promotion to Double-A, he did walk too many but in general, put up a fine stat line. However, it was only 29.2 innings so he will likely begin 2018 back in Double-A.
Scouting Report: Kilome’s signature pitch is his heavy sinking fastball that sits 93 to 95 MPH, bumping 97. The heavy sink combined with his 6-foot-6 frame allows him to induce a lot of ground balls. His best secondary pitch is his curveball – a classic 12-to-6 offering, that has nice shape and good velocity separation.
Kilome has very simple and clean pitching mechanics. He has a high three-quarters delivery that given his size is truly impressive to see. If he could extend his stride, the added momentum would give his stuff even more life. Given the difficulties that batters have in squaring his stuff already, he could become unhittable along the lines of Tyler Glasnow. Control though will be a problem early on.
Fantasy Impact: The ceiling for Kilome remains a number three starter on your fantasy team. He could strike out a batter an inning with a low ERA but given his groundball tendency, a slightly higher WHIP. If you’re owner, don’t worry about the placement on this list. The upside is still there.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 C
Jorge Alfaro is hanging on to rookie eligibility and therefore makes our list. He’s still a prospect, even with a chance to be a Top 15 offensive catcher in the game. But, he’s 25-years-old and the bloom is starting to fall off the rose.
The tools are still very alluring with Alfaro but they have yet to translate into consistent production at candidly any level. He split time between Triple-A and the Major Leagues this year and while his surface stats, particularly in the major league looks ok, if you dig down, he continues to have very poor control of the strike zone. In 324 at-bats in Triple-A, he struck out 32% of the time with a 4.6% walk rate. That is just not going to cut it and therefore, he’s fallen from a ceiling of a Top five catcher at the highest level to a Top 15; and I’m starting to waffle on that.
Scouting Report: If you’ve been reading about Alfaro on my site for the past five years, you know about the crazy bat speed and the chance for plus power. While the bat speed is real, the in-game power has never materialized. The reason? His uber-aggressive approach combined with his penchant to strikeout, is not allowing him to get to his power. I sometimes believe he’s trying to hit the ball 500 feet on every swing and it’s not working. It’s become a real problem and unless corrected, he’s not going to reach his ceiling.
Defensively, he has a double-plus arm but his receiving skills are still work-in-progress. As we saw with Gary Sanchez, who has a similar catching profile, it can work at the highest level. It does help if you hit 20 home runs in the first 50 games in the big leagues.
Fantasy Impact: Alfaro drops out of my Top 100 list and I’m really frustrated as a fantasy owner. The potential is there but the approach is limiting his upside and now I’m very concerned. It’s so hard to adjust your approach at the major league level and that’s what Alfaro must do. Candidly, I’m not sure he will and even with a high BABIP, I worry that he’ll hit enough to stick.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
How good is the Phillies system? Their first round pick last year and eighth overall, Adam Haseley is number nine on our list. It’s not that he wasn’t a good selection either. The upside for me is a regular full-time major league outfielder.
Haseley played college ball at the University of Virginia and had a great junior year. In 58 games, he slashed .390/.491/.659 with 14 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He also walked twice as much as he struck out.
After he signed with the Phillies, he split time between the GCL, the NY Penn League before settling in at Lakewood. He played well, slashing .284/.357/.762 with three home runs and six stolen bases. He also makes good contact (80%) with a reasonable 8% walk rate.
Scouting Report: Haseley has a lot of average tools but when you combine them together should provide him a long major league career. He has an advanced feel for hitting with the ability to control the strike zone with good bat speed. His swing though is more contact-oriented, so I’m not sure you can project more than low double-digit home runs. He’s a good runner and should also be able to steal low double-digit stolen bases.
Fantasy Impact: From a fantasy standpoint, Haseley might not have enough secondary skills (power and speed) to make him an impact player. However, he can hit and that should give him enough playing time to warrant rostering him in deeper Dynasty Leagues.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Cornelius Randolph, the Phillies 2015 first round pick (10th overall) has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle of a stacked system. While there are some swing and miss in his game, he has plus power that started to emerge last year in High-A.
In 122 games at Clearwater, he slashed .250/.338/.402 with 13 home runs. While the total is not huge, the Florida State League is comprised of large ballfields that tamp down power. In fact, 13 home runs tied for 5th best in the league. The problem, of course, is the strikeouts. In 440 at-bats, he struck out 24.5% of the time. He did improve his walk rate though to 11%.
Scouting Report: In his draft year, Randolph was one of the best high school hitters in the class. While his swing can get long as he has a tendency to get pull-happy, he does understand the strike zone. He has plenty of bat speed and natural power that has started to emerge.
What Randolph does not have is plus foot speed. He’s currently a fringe-average runner but will likely lose a step over the next few years as he matures and fills out. Therefore, I don’t see high stolen base totals; maybe five to eight annually.
Fantasy Impact: If Randolph could run better, the fantasy upside could be impressive. However, he’s not going to be a stolen base threat and that will hurt his fantasy upside. The bat and power should play with a chance to be .260/.340 batter and 20 home runs. He should be owned in all leagues with 200 or less minor league slots.
2018 Emerging Prospect
There are so many high upside young players in the Phillies system that I could have listed one of at least 5 or 6 that I think could breakout in 2018. I went with 18-year-old outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz. As an 18-year-old playing in the New York Penn League, he posted a .961 OPS with eight home runs and five stolen bases. He’s obviously very young but has an intriguing power-speed combination that will give Phillies fans and Dynasty League owners something to dream about for the next several seasons.