Some rinky-dink blogs compile lists of who they “think” are the best prospects the Phillies and other baseball organizations have to offer.
But really, how easy is that? All you have to do is scout hundreds, if not thousands of games, know something about scouting, scour in-depth scouting reports and basically devote your entire life to minor league baseball.
I know, anyone can do that, right?
And while Baseball America’s Top 20 Phillies prospects list came our recently, identifying the top young go-getters in the organization, that list is only the beginning.
You see, it’s not enough to know who the top prospects are, especially because many of these prospects are still three or four years away from becoming everyday Major League baseball players. What’s equally important is to know who to follow once the 2013 season begins.
This year, Phils fans will be especially mindful of their minor league talent. The team is officially in a transitional phase, trying to squeeze one last drop of championship production out of a rock of aging players, while at the same time grooming some young guys and waiting for others to reach the big leagues.
So with that said, here are the 10 Phillies prospects I will be watching closest in 2013.
(Quick note: Darin Ruf, ranked as the #9 prospect by Baseball America, is not on this list, mainly because it is presumed he will start the season at the Major League level. However, if he does begin the season in AAA, you can go ahead and place him at the top of this list. Duh.)
#1 – Cody Asche (3B Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs)
While ranked just #7 by Baseball America in their top 10 list, the 23-year-old Asche is the player in the Phils’ organization most fans will have their eyes on this year. Much of the team’s offseason plans centered around the hope and expectation that Asche will take over as the everyday third baseman in 2014. That’s why Ruben Amaro traded for Michael Young and why they had no real interest in making a serious push for Chase Headley or David Wright (not that either player was very realistic anyway). Of all the Phils’ prospects, Asche seems closest to hitting the Major League level, and another solid offensive season by him this year will crystalize the team’s plans for third base in 2014. In 130 games at AA and AAA last year, Asche hit .324/.369/.481 for an OPS of .849 with 12 HRs and 33 doubles.
I think Asche is another stopgap. – Keith Law, ESPN
The uncertainty over Asche is why he’ll be under more scrutiny than any other Phillies prospect this year.
#2 – Jesse Biddle (SP Reading Phillies)
Biddle is the newly-crowned #1 prospect in the organization and, as such, will be watched closely this year, much like Trevor May was last year. May didn’t handle the attention all that well, suffering a down year before his trade to the Twins as part of the Ben Revere deal. Biddle is the Phils’ best young pitching prospect, and at just 21 years old, heads to Reading to start the ’13 season with the weight of high expectations on his shoulders. The Phils are in no hurry to rush Biddle, and will probably keep him in Reading for most of the 2013 season. But if all goes well, he could earn himself a shot at a spot in the Phillies’ rotation in 2014.
#3 – Tommy Joseph (C LeHigh Valley Iron Pigs)
Ranked as the third best prospect in the Phils’ organization, Joseph came to the team as part of the Hunter Pence trade with San Francisco. While the Phillies already have a productive catcher in Carlos Ruiz, he’s on the last year of his contract, and his status with the team moving forward is up in the air. But perhaps a more important reason to watch his progress is that he is perhaps the Phils’ best trade bait should they decide to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline next year. Still, despite being ranked as the Phillies’ third-best prospect, he’s no sure thing, according to some…
After slugging 22 home runs and posting a .787 OPS as a 19-year-old with Single-A San Jose, Joseph followed that up with a less-impressive 11 homers and .715 OPS between Double-A Richmond (Giants) and Double-A Reading (Phillies). Joseph also spent 34 of the 108 games he started at first base or as a designated hitter, reinforcing the notion that he won’t be a catcher at the Major League level. It could still happen, but Joseph needs to take some strides defensively first. While he has a strong arm, he struggles at blocking pitches in the dirt. – Crashburn Alley
Joseph will likely be bumped up to AAA to start the year, and a fast start by him likely makes the Phils’ contract negotiations with Carlos Ruiz a lot more team-friendly. A good enough start by Joseph may actually keep the Phils from negotiating with Ruiz at all. A bad 2013 by Joseph, however, puts the Phillies in a very tough spot behind the plate.
#4 – Maikel Franco (3B Clearwater Threshers)
As a 19-year-old in Lakewood last year, Franco had a solid season at the plate, hitting .280/.336/.439 with 14 HRs, 84 RBIs and 32 doubles. He’s ranked as the Phils’ 8th best prospect by Baseball America, and has maybe the best infield arm in the system. While still a few years behind Asche, Franco could be the back-up plan for the future if Asche doesn’t pan out. However, Franco is still at least two years away, probably three, from reaching the Major League level. But when it comes to position players, and especially infielders, anyone who puts up productive numbers will have the spotlight on them. He’ll likely start the season in Clearwater.
#5 – Roman Quinn (SS Lakewood Blue Claws)
Taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Quinn surprisingly leapt up near the top of the Phils’ prospect list this year, reaching all the way to #2. This probably says more about the lack of surefire, Major League-ready talent in the system rather than Quinn’s ability. But make no mistake, Quinn is an intriguing player who had a terrific first season in the minors at just 19 years old. Baseball America says Quinn is the best athlete in the Phils’ minor league system as well as the fastest baserunner. And while he didn’t put up any power stats last year (just one home run), his slash line (.281/.370/.408) and speed (11 triples and 30 stolen bases) all point to a player that could replace Jimmy Rollins when his contract is up in a couple years. The only reason he ranks this low is because Rollins has a stranglehold on the position for at least the next two years, possibly three. Which means Quinn will have time to develop at his own pace here in 2013.
#6 – Johnathan Pettibone (SP Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs)
Pettibone was ranked as the team’s #4 prospect, and a sterling spring training could earn him a spot in the big league rotation. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan are ticketed to hold down the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, but an injury could open the door for Pettibone or Tyler Cloyd. Pettibone is not a flame thrower, but “knows how to pitch,” posting some of the best numbers of any hurler in the organization the last few years. In 2012 at Reading and LeHigh Valley, he posted a 13-8 record with an ERA of 3.10. He’s the most Major League-ready of any prospect in the Phils’ top 10 list.
#7 – Cesar Hernandez (2B LeHigh Valley Iron Pigs)
Hernandez was not listed among the top 10 prospects for the Phillies, but he plays an important position that could be a big hole for the team if Chase Utley is not signed to a contract extension. Hernandez is considered the best defensive infielder in the Phils’ minor league system and, while he doesn’t hit for much power, had a productive year at the plate at AA and AAA in 2012 (.291/.329/.404, 30 doubles and 12 triples).
#8 – Adam Morgan (SP Reading Phillies)
Morgan, ranked as the Phils’ #5 prospect, is a strikeout guy, averaging 9.6 Ks/9 last year at Clearwater and Reading, with a 3.35 ERA. He’ll like start the year in Reading, and is an arm worth watching.
#9 – Sebastian Valle (C Reading Phillies)
Last year, Valle was the #3 prospect in the organization. The fact he’s nowhere to be found in this year’s top 10 speaks volumes about his struggles last year. Between AA and AAA, Valle hit .253/.271/.428 with 17 HRs. While the home run total is nice for a 22-year-old catching prospect, his inability to get on base and high strikeout totals (114 Ks in 411 plate appearances) make his offensive game very uneven. Still, he warrants close attention as he is one of two catching prospects in the Phils’ system. The hope is that both Valle and Joseph emerge as legitimate catching prospects, allowing the Phils to keep one and trade another for valuable pieces at the big league level. He’ll likely repeat AA this year, while Joseph takes the everyday catching duties at LeHigh.
#10 Larry Greene (OF Lakewood BlueClaws)
Greene was the Phillies’ first pick in the 2011 draft, taken 39th overall, and while he was drafted as a potential power bat, he hasn’t really shown much power yet in games. He got off to a bad start last year, coming into the season out of shape and was held back for extended spring training. Eventually he was placed at low-A Williamsport, where he showed an unexpected ability to hit for average (.272) and get on base (.373). But he also struck out a ton (78 Ks in 303 PAs). Greene possesses a powerful arm in left field and, if his power game comes around, could be a solid positional prospect. He’ll enter 2013 at just 20 years old, so there is still lots of time for him to develop that power game. Overall, it was a decent first professional season for the youngster.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Tocci, Tyson Gillies, Brody Colvin, Jiwan James