|Original Published Date: November 20, 2018|
So who was more of a surprise in 2017, the Braves or the Phillies? I think you can argue the Phillies. I didn’t think they had enough to contend but did until September when their young players tired and they fell out of contention. The team is intriguing, particularly their positional players and they are all young. Plus, they have money to add a couple of free agents in the off-season in what could be an enormous feeding frenzy, unlike anything we’ve ever seen to-date.
The strength in their system is no long positional player but is pitching. It’s led by one of the best pitching prospects in the game in Sixto Sanchez. He can light up the radar gun but missed the second half of the season with an elbow issue and then had a “set back” that caused him to miss the Arizona Fall League.
Adonis Medina, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez, Spencer Howard, and Enyel De Los Santos all have big league arms and should be contributing in the Major Leagues over the next couple of season.
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1. Sixto Sanchez (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
As I write this capsule, it was just announced that Sixto Sanchez would skip the Arizona Fall League due to a setback in his recovery from his elbow injury. That is not good news. Sanchez last pitch back on June 3rd where he was dominant for seven innings giving up two hits while striking out five and walking two. In fact, across all of his eight starts, he was dominant. In 46.2 innings, he pitched to a 2.51 ERA while striking out 8.7 per nine and walking just about two per nine.
While we hold our breath to learn the extent of the “setback”, it’s easy to get excited about the upside of Sanchez. He has easy velocity where his fastball will touch triple-digits. When I saw him in 2017, the slider while inconsistent had s a chance to be plus offering. The delivery is simple and smooth so I’m not surprised at his walk rate.
The only concern is his size. You don’t like to see front-of-the-rotation starters who are 6-feet but tell that to Pedro Martinez and Luis Severino. The ceiling is a solid number two starting fantasy pitcher but if he needs Tommy John surgery, the risk of meeting that ceiling obviously goes up.
2. Alec Bohm (3B)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
With the signing of Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta last offseason, the Phillies lost two of their three top draft picks. For most teams, that would have meant picks 1 and 2, but the Phillies finished with the third worse record in 2017 so they got to keep their top pick. With that selection, they drafted Alec Bohm, a polished college hitter. In his 166 games at Witchita State, he slashed .317/.393/.548 with 33 home runs while walking almost as much as he struck out.
Perhaps he was tired after a long college season, but his professional debut left a lot to be desired. In 33 games across the GCL and NY Penn League, he slashed .224/.305/.284 with no home runs. While it was a tiny sample size, both he and the Phillies had to be disappointed. That said, he demonstrated at a high level (college) that he can control the strike zone with plus raw power. I expect he shows a lot more in 2019.
3. Adonis Medina (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
I saw the trio of Adonis Medina, Sixto Sanchez, and JoJo Romero last season, and thought as I watched all three that I would not be surprised if Medina had the best career. While he doesn’t have the elite fastball of Sanchez or the polish of Romero, he had the best secondary pitches to go along with a fastball that touched 95 MPH.
In 22 games in the Florida State League, he pitched to a 4.12 ERA but struck out almost 10 per nine while walking less than three per nine. Driving his higher ERA were the 11 home runs he gave up. At 6-foot-1, he’s just going to be more prone to the long ball and why his ceiling is less than Sanchez. That said, the stuff is quality and he’s getting better.
One final note. I’ve seen several games in Redding and while it isn’t quite the hitters park that Lancaster of the California League is, it’s not far off. Balls fly out and Medina’s stock could take a hit as his ERA could blow-up.
4. JoJo Romero (LHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
At the end of April, JoJo Romero reminded us how difficult it is to pitch in Redding and quite frankly to pitch in Double-A. After four starts, he was pitching to 7.20 ERA with almost as many walks as strikeouts. It was very un-Romero like.
He got things going in May and June and was really cooking in July when he hurt his oblique and did not pitch again after mid-July. This all means that he’ll likely start back in Double-A with still an outside chance to see Philadelphia late next year. I still believe the upside is a number three starter
5. Ranger Suarez (LHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
While not as famous as many of the other elite pitching prospects in the Phillies system, Ranger Suarez has quietly worked his way through the system to make his big league debut this past September. He spent most of last season splitting his time between Double and Triple-A where he no problems. In 21 starts, he pitched to a 2.75 ERA while striking out 6.8 per nine and walking 2.5 per nine. The strikeouts were disappointing and a little surprising as I expected his stuff would miss more bats than he showed. In 2017, he struck out over a batter an inning.
Suarez is one of those guys that will have a long MLB career. He can flat out pitch with stuff that is good enough to succeed. He doesn’t profile as a top of the rotation arm, but as more of a number four, perhaps a bit more as he gains experience. He’s an interesting name to monitor in fantasy baseball as he should see plenty of opportunities in Philadelphia in 2019.
6. Adam Haseley (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Adam Haseley, the Phillies number one pick in the 2017 MLB Draft is making quick work on the minor leagues. In his second year, he’s already made it to Double-A and after hitting .316 over 39 games, it doesn’t look like he’ll be there long.
Haseley hit in college and he’s hit in every level in the minor leagues. In 330 at-bats in High-A, he hit .300 with a 15% strikeout rate. He only walked 5.4% of the time, but when you are making contact at that rate, you keep swinging. What Haseley doesn’t have is a lot of secondary tools. In other words, he has average power and average foot speed that will limit his home runs and stolen base potential. As a fantasy owner, that hurts his value and drops him on the list.
I think the ceiling of Haseley is a Top 60 outfielder with a chance to hit .290/.350 with 10 to 12 home runs and 12 to 15 stolen bases. However, he will likely hit at the top of a lineup with plenty of opportunities to score runs.
7. Spencer Howard (RHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
Spencer Howard saved the best for last when he pitched a no-hitter in the Sally League playoffs. He struck out nine, gave up one walk and threw 73 strikes in 103 pitches. That’s pretty impressive, not to mention dominant.
That wasn’t his only shining moment either as he pitched very well in his 23 starts pitching to a 3.78 ERA striking out nearly 12 per nine while walking 3.2 per nine. He has premium stuff with a fastball that sits 93 to 95 MPH and a plus slider that is his primary out-pitch. He does lose his release point and when he does, he’ll have bouts of wildness. But, I like the athleticism and the overall stuff to put a number three starter ceiling on him.
8. Enyel De Los Santos (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Middle Reliever
The hype machine really started this spring when Enyel De Los Santos was sporting a sub 3.00 ERA with a 2.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It led to an impressive MLB debut against the Mets where he pitched 6.1 innings striking out six and walking three and the win. It didn’t last and De Los Santos was eventually returned to Triple-A.
De Los Santos has proven he can pitch in the big leagues but the stuff and control point to a number four starter. He has a good fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH but his secondary pitches just don’t miss enough bats. He needs to choose between his slider and curve and improve one. Plus, his delivery lacks extension and therefore I think there is definite reliever risk in the profile.
9. Luis Garcia (SS)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS
The Phillies signed Luis Garcia in 2017 for $2.5 million dollars. The Phillies believed that they could skip Garcia over the Dominican Summer League and give his first exposure to professional ball in the states. The gamble paid off.
In 43 games, he hit .369 with an 11.2% strikeout rate and an 8.0% walk rate. He also flashed his speed by stealing 12 bases. He also has good bat speed, so he could also develop some power down the road. He is only 17, so the range of outcomes are from a utility player to a Top 15 shortstop. For Dynasty League owners, he’s definitely a kid that you want to monitor.
10. Jhailyn Ortiz (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
I got pretty excited in 2017 when Jhailyn Ortiz slugged .560 and hit eight home runs in the NY Penn League. I didn’t know a lot about the Dominican outfielder, but the Phillies plunked down $4 million to sign him and it appeared that things were coming together.
After a tough year in 2018, it’s clear that Ortiz has a long way to go. He played poorly in his first exposure to full-season ball and hit .225/.297 striking out 33% of the time while walking 7.7% of the time. Look, he’s only 19 years old, but the minor leagues are littered with kids who posted a 30% strikeout rate in Low-A and never made it to the big leagues. It would make sense for the Phillies to start him back in Low-A in hopes that he can improve his contactability before moving him to High-A.
11. David Parkinson (LHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
The Phillies are deep with young pitchers, some who throw hard with high upside and some that get the most out of their average stuff. As fantasy owners, we downgrade the later pitchers but many times they turn into our fifth or sixth starting pitcher on a fantasy team and we win a Championships. After all, how many Max Scherzer’s and Jacob deGrom’s are there?
David Parkinson is a lefty with average stuff but by pounding the strike zone has been very effective. Across Low and High-A, he was 11-1 with a 1.45 ERA striking out 10.2 per nine while walking 2.5 per nine. While the wins are irrelevant, I put that in to indicate how unhittable he was. He gave up 6.6 hits per nine. Parkinson is not the next Clayton Kershaw but if you told me he’d pitch to a league average ERA with 12 wins and eight strikeouts per nine, I would not be surprised.
12. Will Stewart (LHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
When I started the research for the Phillies, I had never heard of Will Stewart. I simply saw the stat line he put up in the Sally League and did a double-take. In 20 starts, he pitched to a 2.06 ERA striking out over a seven per nine while walking a minuscule 1.66 per nine. And, he’s a lefty.
My first two assumptions were 1) He’s a command a control lefty, meaning average to below-average stuff but can throw strikes and where he wants them or 2) He has a pitch young hitters can hit such as a change-up. You see this often in the lower minor leagues.
I did some asking around and discovered that Stewart pounds the zone with a low 90s fastball. Ok, so not a flamethrower but far from a command and control guy. What did his arsenal look like? I was told a fringe slider but a plus changeup that he can throw anywhere he wants. Ahh, the ole change-up. This usually means that unless his breaking pitch improves, he’ll get exposed as he moves to the upper minors.
So, while the performance was impressive, there are concerns as raised above. He’ll need to improve his slider before I’m willing to put a higher ceiling on him. That said, he’s a lefty, pounds the strike zone with a fastball and change-up that should miss some bats.
13. Daniel Brito (2B)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Daniel Brito had a nice season splitting his time between Low and High-A. In 119 games, he hit .252 with 16 stolen bases and four home runs. Given his lack of power, he needs to learn to make better contact and control the strike zone better to make an impact at the highest level. His strikeout rate in 2018 was 18% and his walk rate was 7%. If he projected to hit 20 plus home runs, that would be fine but he’s not and that is the area of focus for the 20-year-old second baseman.
14. Mickey Moniak (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire Pickup
Going 1:1 overall makes you rich, but the expectations are also rich. Mickey Moniak is finding that out and so far, it’s been very difficult for the 20-year-old.
While you can get excited about his .270 batting average in High-A last season, his underlying strikeout rate (21.5%) and walk rate (4.7%) were nearly identical to what he did in 2017 when he hit .236 in Low-A. The difference was a .334 BABIP. He’s showing very little power and some speed on the basepaths.
At this juncture, Moniak’s ceiling looks like a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. Of course, he could be a late bloomer and given the $6.1 million dollars the Phillies have invested in him, he’ll be given a lot of chances. As a Dynasty League owner, and I know it’s painful, it’s time to weigh your options.
15. Dylan Cozens (OF)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins were book-ends moving through the minor league system until Hoskins broke out in a huge way in 2017. While I always liked Hoskins more, Cozens still has similar raw power and if he can adjust his swing, he could become relevant in fantasy circles. Granted, it’s more likely than not, that he’s bound for Korea or Japan, but you can’t just ignore that he has 40 home run potential.
The problem, of course, is contact. He’s logged a 35% strikeout rate over the past two years and in his very limited time in the big leagues, he struck out over half the time. That clearly will not work and why he needs to make adjustments. Can he? Time will tell. Time, meaning…next year.