My colleague, John Stolnis, broke down the Phillies top ten prospects in his weekly report, but I felt it necessary to highlight a few Phillies minor leaguers who’ve fallen into the “under the radar” category. These players may not have cracked the Phillies top ten, but it’s not a necessity for major league success. As most fans are aware of, simply making one of these top ten lists does not guarantee a player’s trip to Citizens Bank Park. I’ll be rooting for Trevor May and Sebastian Valle to succeed just like everyone else, but nothing is certain.
It’s not like evaluating talent is easy. Just like players, if scouts are hitting at thirty percent they can have a very long career. For an example of this inexact science, just look at the Phillies 2008 draft. The Phillies took Long Beach State right-hander, Vance Worley, in the 3rd round. Worley certainly wasn’t a highly rated prospect, but he has put up great numbers at every level. He’s also a key piece of the 2012 club. The Phillies first-round pick, Anthony Hewitt, has ridden on the opposite track. Hewitt was a highly touted short stop out of high school, who possessed a lot of raw tools and athleticism that seems to make the Phillies brass go wild. Hewitt has yet to live up to his potential and will most likely start the year in A ball in his 5th season. At some point, production has to trump talent. Before my ranting on player evaluation gets out of hand, here are my three minor leaguers to watch.
RHP Julio Rodriguez (8th Round pick)
Rodriguez did make the top 20, but ranked at only 16th, I snuck him onto the list. He is sort of the forgotten member of the “baby aces” crew, but he shouldn’t be ignored after his stellar 2011 season. Rodriguez is tall and lanky, without any one pitch that turns heads. His best weapon is his command. His 1.01 WHIP shows just how pinpoint his control is, which led to an organization low 2.76 ERA. If Julio can keep producing as he makes the leap to Reading, I wouldn’t be shocked to find him cracking the Phillies top ten list soon.
RHP Austin Hyatt (15th Round Pick)
When I look at Austin Hyatt, I can’t help but think of Vance Worley. While Worley was drafted much higher than Hyatt, he was never considered a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. I know most fans and experts were surprised by Worley’s season, but it shows how far a well-located fastball can take you. Without a dominating arsenal of pitches, Hyatt relies on locating his fastball. His 10 SO/9 were solid, and his 12 wins led the Reading Phils. Hyatt should be getting a promotion to the IronPigs soon, and he could only be an injury away from getting a spot-start with the big club.
OF Tyson Gillies (25th Round Pick)
Gillies came to the Phillies in the much-maligned Cliff Lee trade. We can all agree that it was a mistake to trade Lee, but it’s too soon to completely close the door on the deal. Since coming to the Phillies, Gillies has played 54 games in his two injury-shortened seasons. On top of that Gillies served a suspension for drugs, but not the performance-enhancing kind (“sniff, sniff”). With everything that’s gone wrong for Tyson, he’s finally healthy and ready to prove his worth. It’s understandable why the Phillies like Gillies, as he hit .341 with 44 stolen bases in A ball with the Mariners. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think that Gillies can’t return to form. His season will be even more interesting to watch given Shane Victornio’s pending free agency.
The Phillies recently had their 2012 Winter Banquet that raises money for IronPigs charities. IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg was a guest at the event, along with Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel. Hurry to Lehigh Valley if you have the opportunity to catch an IronPigs game, as Sandberg will be managing in the big leagues soon.
The Reading Phillies have a mascot-naming contest of sorts for Baseballtown hot dog guy! As Philadelphia sports fans, we know how great mascots can be, or not be in the case of Hip-Hop (RIP). To get in on the hotdog naming, head to www.readingeagle.com/hotdog.