Thanks to their plethora of talent in the short-season leagues in 2016, the Phillies could stack their Lakewood roster with prospect talent next year.
The Phillies picked up plenty of intriguing prospects through the draft and international signings in the past few years thanks to their poor record at the major-league level. They landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft as well as making several other strong selections. Baseball America said that this year’s draft class was the fourth-best among all major-league teams.
All the prospects acquired through the draft and international signings made their way either to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies and short-season Williamsport CrossCutters. After strong seasons there, many of those prospects will get their first crack at full-season action with Low-A Lakewood in 2017.
Matt Winkelman of The Good Phight, when asked about where he expects prospects to begin next season, said he expects Mickey Moniak, Sixto Sanchez, Kevin Gowdy, Adonis Medina, Arquimedes Gamboa, Cole Stobbe, JoJo Romero, Bailey Falter, and Daniel Brito to all start in Low-A Lakewood. If you read my recent prospect rankings, you’ll notice that Moniak (No. 3), Medina (No. 9), Sanchez (No. 13), Gowdy (No. 16), Stobbe (No. 21), Falter (No. 25), and Romero (No. 27) all landed in the Top 30. That’s seven Top 30 prospects as well as several other borderline prospects.
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Lakewood’s hypothetical rotation of Medina, Sanchez, Gowdy, Romero, and Falter would rival Double-A Reading’s “Fab Five” rotation from 2015 featuring Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Tom Windle, and Jesse Biddle. I live about an hour from Lakewood, and I feel much more inclined to go to a game if the BlueClaws trot out a different quality pitching prospect every day.
Sanchez and Gowdy are the ones I’d be more concerned about staying in the rotation due to their youth, but the Phillies can always return them to extended spring training before sending them to Williamsport.
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Lakewood’s infield would also be rich in prospect talent. Stobbe, the Phillies 2016 third-round pick, would man third base. Brito would be the team’s second baseman. The Venezuelan put together an impressive season in the GCL with a .284/.355/.421 line despite being just 18 years old. Meanwhile, raw but tool-heavy Gamboa should slot into the lineup at shortstop. He was the eighth-best prospect of the 2014 international signing class according to Baseball America.
Finally, No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak will no doubt have the most buzz of any prospect at Lakewood.
The bar is high for Moniak, as with all other top draft picks, but he put together a solid start to his pro career in the GCL. In 46 games, Moniak posted a .749 OPS with 10 stolen bases. He may not even spend the whole year at Lakewood; Ben Badler of Baseball America said “Moniak is polished enough that, if the Phillies want to push him, he might even be a candidate to finish the year in High-A, like the Astros did with Kyle Tucker this year.”
The storyline around the Phillies’ farm system this year was the incredible amount of talent between Double-A and Triple-A. That first wave of prospects is starting to make its way to the majors; the second wave isn’t too far behind as they’ve reached the full-season leagues.