If you listen to the critics, the Phillies’ farm system has absolutely no talent in it.
And you know what? They might be right.
Their best offensive minor league position player is a 25-year-old first baseman/outfielder playing in AA (Darin Ruf). Folks, that ain’t great, no matter how good Ruf has been this year. And he’s been very good.
Every year, people who follow the young farmhands throughout baseball put out their Top 10 lists of team prospects. It’s an arbitrary list, with most of the players from number three on down usually different from list to list. Sometimes there’s a consensus #1 and #2 prospect, but after that, it’s a hodge-podge of raw abilities and unknowns. And rarely is the preseason Top 10 the same as the top 10 at the end of the season.
Guys get hurt. Guys under-perform. Unknown prospects surprise. It happens every year.
And it’s no different for the Phillies.
With that, it’s instructive to look back at those preseason rankings and see where the kids are as we near the half-way point in the minor league season. And because each publication’s Top 10 preseason prospects list is different, the one we’re using here is the most well-known publication, Baseball America.
I warn you, this likely will not be very pretty.
#1 – Trevor May – (C-):
The Phils concensus #1 prospect has had an up-and-down first half to say the least. He started out like gangbusters, beginning the season 5-0 with an ERA in the mid-twos, but then fell off a cliff, going winless (I know, wins are a stupid stat, but it’s illustrative of my point, so back off saber-nerd) until Friday night. On the season, May is 6-4 with a 4.78 ERA and a WHIP of 1.306. He’s still striking a bunch of guys out (73 in 69.2 IP) but is also walking too many guys (27). Still, there are scouts who like what they’ve seen from May in 2012, which is good, if you’re into that kind of thing. May needs to be more consistent if he wants to move up to LeHigh Valley, but it seems as if that will probably happen before the end of the year, provided he doesn’t become so obsessed with his DJ alter-ego that he turns into the best pitching prospect spinnin’ the wax four nights a week at Club Egypt (does that place still even exist, by the way?). His season has been too up-and-down to give him a higher grade than C-.
#2 – Jesse Biddle – (B+):
Biddle, also a consensus pick as the Phils’ #2 prospect, is having a solid season so far for the A+ Clearwater Threshers, posting a 2.98 ERA in just over 60 innings. He’s striking out 10.4 batters per nine innings and has a 3.33 K/BB ratio. Those are excellent numbers for a young pitcher, and apparently the Florida State League agreed, putting Biddle in the All-Star Game earlier this week. And Biddle didn’t disappoint there, either, striking out the side in his one inning of work. A promotion may not be far off.
#3 – Sebastian Valle – (C):
Valle came into the season as a highly touted catching prospect with a solid bat and an improving defensive presence behind the plate. However, his offensive season has only been mediocre so far. He’s hitting just .259 with a terrible OBP of .277 and an OPS of .690. He is getting some extra-base hits, with 7 HRs, 8 doubles and one triple. However, his strikeouts are way up, 55 Ks in 201 ABs. Valle has to cut down on the strikeouts and learn to work pitchers better before he’s advanced to AAA. Still, he’s very young and there’s time for improvement. But he’s not an imminent Major Leaguer.
#4 – Jonathan Pettibone – (B-):
Pettibone has been the best starter on the Reading staff this year, posting a team-best 7th quality start on Monday. He also leads the team in innings pitched, and is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA. He still doesn’t strike a lot of guys out, just 56 in 86.2 innings this year, but has been working on adding other pitches to his repertoire, which may account for his elevated walk levels. Still, Pettibone doesn’t appear to be anything more than a back-of-the-rotation guy at this point. Of course, that’s what everyone said about Vance Worley too, so time will tell. My guess is Pettibone stays at AA through the end of the season, barring some kind of hot streak or rash of injuries at LeHigh Valley.
#5 – Phillippe Aumont – (C):
Aumont was one of the guys many thought would be on the Phillies by now. But an injury at the start of the season set him back, although he now appears to be on his way to finding his stuff again. Aumont has four saves in his last four outings, has struck out seven in four innings while walking only one. Aumont’s strikeouts have been there all season (27 in 18 innings), but so have the walks (17) leading to an unsightly WHIP of 1.78. Still, the Phils are in dire need of right-handed relievers in the bullpen, so one would assume that if Aumont continues to pitch the way he has the last four games, he could earn a call up to the Phils. That probably isn’t going to happen right away though, and I’m sure the fact that he’s still in AAA after an injury to start the season is part of the disappointment with his 2012 season overall.
#6 – Freddy Galvis – (B+):
Really, Galvis did everything that could be asked of him, if not more. Everyone knows Freddy’s story by now. Even though he wasn’t hitting for much of an average (.226) or getting on base all that much (.254), he had a knack for getting big hits with runners in scoring position (24 RBIs) and played a flawless defense at second base, which he had never played regularly until this spring. Ruben Amaro Jr. called him probably the smartest guy on the field, which is really saying something about a 22-year-old. If Galvis can figure out how to get that OBP above .330 at some point, he’d probably be a 3 or 4 WAR player, because of his defense. He’s got a bright future, and hopefully he’ll be back in 2012. He’s not going to be a superstar, or probably even an All-Star player. But he can certainly develop into an everyday Major League infielder, if he continues his progression.
#7 – Justin De Fratus – (Incomplete):
De Fratus is on the 60-day DL with elbow problems, torpedoing his 2012 season before it ever began. His absence has been a killer for the Phillies, too. He was expected to be one of the strong right arms that Amaro and Manuel were depending on to help bridge the gap from starter to Jonathan Papelbon. Because his season never really began, we have to give him an incomplete grade at the moment.
#8 – Brody Colvin – (C-):
It’s been a struggle for Colvin so far this year. Playing for the Threshers, Colvin is 3-4 with a 4.68 ERA, with 48 Ks and 30 BBs in 59.2 innings. It’s a common theme among young pitchers in the Phils system this year… too many walks. Of course, he’s still young, but so far this year, the results for Colvin have been a little disappointing.
#9 – Jiwan James – (C-):
James is another guy who got off to a fast start for the Reading Phillies but has cooled off considerably since the first two weeks of the season. He’s hitting .252/.290/.408, with 6 HRs and 25 RBIs, 8 doubles and three triples. He’s also striking out too much (61 Ks in 206 ABs) with only 12 walks. He’s a speed demon and plays a good defensive outfield, but his production certainly hasn’t warranted a promotion to AAA yet either.
#10 – Maikel Franco – (C-):
Third-base prospect Franco has not hit well so far for the low-A Lakewood Blue Claws in 2012, hitting .207/.269/.338 with 6 HRs and 27 RBIs.
So, what’s the overall grade for the Phillies’ farm system this year? Considering there isn’t one single offensive player in AAA who could come in and make any kind of difference for the Phils (and yes, that includes the oft-injured Domonic Brown, who hurt himself just as he was starting to heat up again), I’d say it’s rather craptastic at the moment. Let’s go with a C-, and I think that’s being very generous.
Still, there are good things on which to focus. Ruf and Cesar Hernandez are having terrific offensive seasons in Reading, and will both hopefully get a promotion to AAA sometime this year. Tyler Cloyd has a 2.15 ERA for the IronPigs in nine starts. And recent top picks Roman Quinn and Larry Greene have just started their baseball years with short-season Williamsport Crosscutters. So there are things to look forward to.
Still, if Ruben Amaro does have to trade away some pieces from the big league club when the trade deadline rolls around, an infusion of young talent into the farm system wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
I mentioned a moment ago that Quinn and Greene have started their seasons at Williamsport. It’s nice to see the two young players are sticking together as the year begins.
Speaking of cuddling, Jesse Biddle was snapped doing some cuddling with a lady friend (at least, I’m assuming that’s a lady friend, judging from the hair from behind)…
But the big story from the last couple of weeks involved the huge concert that DJ Hey Beef, a.k.a., Trevor May, put on after a Reading Phillies game a couple weeks ago. Luckily, someone snapped some photos of it for our benefit…
Yup. These are our prospects.