A lack of Phillies prospects on any MLB wide list or poll is hardly surprising. Two Phillies did make the cut, but they were more our of pity than merit. The shape of the roster has changed drastically over the past five years, particularly from acquiring big name players for heaps of prospects. In with the old and out with the new. Year after year of this practice has left the farm system bereft of future stars, and lacking in any positional depth short of potential middle relievers. Without many exciting young players rising through the ranks you might have missed the announcement from MLB.com ranking the best baseball prospects across baseball. To save you from delving into all 100 prospects here are the Phillies-centric cliff notes for this years top prospect list.
The Phillies don’t have any players in the top 10, but there is a name that will be familiar to most. Travis d’Arnaud, former Phil, former Blue Jay, current Met ranks as the 6th best prospect on the list. The hot hitting catcher has yet to make an appearance in the bigs, but he’s already been a part of two trades for Cy Young award winners (Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey). If not for a few injuries Travis may have already made a name for himself in Toronto. Unfortunately for the Phils, they will have to get used to facing their former farm hand now that he’s in the Big Apple. Not that the club doesn’t have some catching prospects of their own, but d’Arnaud flourishing for the rival Mets just won’t sit well.
d’Arnaud has company among former Phillies on the list, with Jonathan Singleton coming in at 27. Singleton was apart of the Hunter Pence deal, and is working his way through Houston’s system. Everything written about the young first baseman sounds like Ryan Howard, raw power but misses a lot of balls. The agony of his future success isn’t set in stone just yet, as he was handed a 50-game ban for drugs. It may be nothing, but if he can’t play without the juice then the Phillies may end up looking smart for once.
The list thankfully isn’t completely barren of Phillies farm hands. Local boy, and GFS alum, Jesse Biddle makes it all the way to 60! If there was one player deserving of making the cut it was Biddle. The hard throwing lefty has been handled carefully by management, and has rewarded them with a steady string of improvements. He may not be Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels just yet, but he has three plus pitches and his control is heading in the right direction. A strong season in Reading could catapult Biddle into the top 30 next year, and have Phillies nation clambering for his promotion.
Biddle’s spot at 60 isn’t earth shattering, but the second Phillies prospect on the list may surprise fans. Ethan Martin, acquired from the dodgers in the Victorino deal, somehow found his way into the 80th slot. Most regarded his addition in the trade, acquired with reliever Josh Lindblom, as a throw in. But he seemed to turn a corner when he arrived in Reading going 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA. Martin brings the cheese, but his new found control could garner him a promotion to Lehigh Vallery, or even Philadelphia this summer.
Martin’s addition to the list, and the absence of any other prospects, would seem to indicate that he is the 2nd best rated prospect in the system. That’s a huge leap for a player who’s only been in the organization for a few months. Common wisdom might have put Brody Colvin or Tommy Joseph behind Biddle, but prospect lists are a “what have you done for me lately” business.
What is most shocking about Martin’s position on the list, is that he’s nine spots ahead of former Phillies baby ace Jared Cosart. Cosart was once the top rated starter in the Phils system, but went to Houston along with Jonathan Singleton in the fateful Pence deal. Cosart has the stuff to be great, but hasn’t put it all together yet. Rumblings out of Houston indicate he may make a shift to the bullpen, and even compete for the vacant closer’s role. Cosart is a good lesson that a top prospects ascendancy to greatness is never guaranteed.
No position players made the cut for the Phillies. It’s not a secret that the pitching depth has shined over the position players in recent years, but it’s a disturbing trend that needs to be corrected. Ruben shouldn’t be celebrating the fact the team has two great pitchers on the list when division rivals have a total of eight players ranked ahead of Biddle alone.
The Phillies, like Japan, are dealing with an aging population that is unsustainable in the long term without major adjustments. The only upside to a team wide collapse in 2013 is the Phillies could finally press reset, and acquire some much needed young talent across the board.