The Phillies farm system is stacked with talent in no small part thanks to the efforts of their international scouting department.
It’s safe to say that the Phillies farm system is among the best in baseball. While recent drafts and trades have helped stock the system with talent, a large group of prospects also stem from the international scouting department. Thanks to their efforts, the Phillies went from a farm barren of any impact talent to one that keeps on producing major-league contributors.
Looking at the major-league roster alone you can see the fruits born from international scouting. Reliever Hector Neris, second baseman Cesar Hernandez, shortstop Freddy Galvis, and third baseman Maikel Franco all came to the Phillies as international signings.
Turning towards players still in the minors, some of the best Phillies prospects are international signings as well. Pitchers Sixto Sanchez and Franklyn Kilome both ranked among the top ten prospects in the system according to Baseball America. Other international signings like pitcher Ricardo Pinto and outfielder Jhaiyln Ortiz litter MLB.com’s top-30.
Team director of player development Joe Jordan credits the scouting department with covering all their bases to find talent. He told Josh Jackson of MiLB.com:
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"“We have a lot of scouts in every venue of player evaluation in the world. We get talent from everywhere, and that’s good — player procurement is what you want. We’ve had people make a lot of good decisions, and we’ve gotten a lot of good recommendations, and we have a great group of teachers working with our players.”"
Sal Agostinelli has been one of the key pieces in bringing the farm system to the top. The team’s director of international scouting helped sign numerous players, including Hernandez, Galvis, and even Carlos Ruiz. He won the Dallas Green award in 2015, which is given to “an amateur or professional scout who best exemplifies the Phillies standard for scouting while demonstrating the same loyalty, work ethic, dedication and passion as the award’s namesake.” Green said “Sal really jump-started the international scouting program that we have today. He’s been instrumental in our two schools in the Dominican and Venezuela, setting them up, getting them running and going down there and bringing the kids along.”
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One area that the department has particularly succeeded in is finding talented players without breaking the bank. In his top-ten prospect chat, Baseball America’s Ben Badler said, “One of the strengths of their international program has been the ability to find under-the-radar pitching—Sixto Sanchez, Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina, Jose Taveras, Ricardo Pinto, Elniery Garcia, Mauricio Llovera, these guys all signed for less than $100,000.”
Franco received a $100,000 bonus when he signed in 2011, one-tenth of the one million dollar bonus the team gave their first-round draft pick Larry Greene that same year. Franco is now a major-league player; Greene is out of baseball.
If the Phillies want to continue to build upon their strong farm system whenever they are playoff contenders again, their international scouting department will have to carry that responsibility. The amateur draft won’t be as viable of an option because they would be picking much later on compared to now. With the new cap on international spending, being able to cash in cheaper players will be key. The Phils have a leg up on the rest of the league because they already do this.