Phillies: Why the top prospects are still in the minor leagues

Phillies baseball is an embarrassment at this moment, but that does not mean you rush the process, yes I said it, for instant gratification

Why do we care about this Phillies team? Frankly, most do not and the attendance and television viewership will prove that in the near future.

Some of the worst batting averages, starting rotation ERAs, and bullpen production in all of baseball reside at One Citizens Bank Way. Is it for a lack of effort, or a lack of talent?

That’s not what we’re here to discuss, though the idea of breaking down Maikel Franco’s approach is tantalizing.

No, we’re here to look at the top prospects in the Phillies organization, and why on Harry Kalas’s good green earth they aren’t making themselves home in the City of Brotherly Love.

Each fan has their guy in Lehigh Valley that should have been called up yesterday, be it Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins, or Roman Quinn. I’m here to look at why this organization has decided to not bring up some of the top offensive prospects in the game, despite having the worst offense at it’s (supposed) highest level of competition.

We begin with baby-bomber/bash-brother number one.

Rhys Hoskins: Among the leaders in minor league baseball in home runs Rhys Hoskins is atop every Phillies fan’s wish list. While as enticing 30 home run power can be the Phillies have quietly had production from Tommy Joseph, a slugger barely two years Hoskins elder.

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Feb 25, 2017; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (70) hits a home run during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Before you write off Tommy Joseph, here’re his numbers through 152 major league games and 515 professional at-bats: 29 home runs, 71 RBIs, a .255 batting average.

Deeper into the numbers, you see Joseph having 44% of his career hits be for extra-bases and a strikeout/walk rate trending in the proper direction. Joseph hits a home run every 16.1 at-bats, which lands at approximately half of the major league average of 29.1 at-bats.

There’s no room for Hoskins on the Phillies 25-man roster, at least not in this moment in time. As strange as it sounds, the Phillies could very well have their first baseman of the future on their major league roster. He can hit 30 home runs and be the middle of the lineup bat that drives in guys ahead of him.

Jorge Alfaro: The man every Phillies fan and executive prays will be the crown jewel of the Cole Hamels trade sits behind the backstop in Lehigh Valley night in and night out. Some consider Alfaro to be the best catching prospect in baseball, but there are some harsh realities with Alfaro and his immediate future.

Sep 12, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro (38) singles in his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Pirates, 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Most alarming are the 48 strikeouts and three walks in Lehigh Valley this season. The Columbian slugger can not be the superstar Matt Klentak dreams of if he strikes out 250 times a year and has an on-base percentage less than 30 points higher than his batting average.

You can not forget Andrew Knapp, who may not be as exciting as Alfaro, but can still provide a quality bat in the Phillies lineup. Knapp is the top prospect called up this year by the Phillies, and while the organization appears to be moving him into a larger role they must discover what they have in the switch-hitting backstop.

Knapp should be the starter, but Cameron Rupp will get as many opportunities to drive up his trade value back to where it sat last summer. I pleaded for the team to send him to the Indians when the Mike Napoli situation fell through and Rupp’s stock was astronomical.

So yes, Alfaro does excite but he’s not ready to be in a major league lineup with only 36 career games at the Triple-A level.

J.P. Crawford: Must I waste my words with the Phillies top prospect? His adjustment period to each level of baseball is frightening, and the .200 batting average is unacceptable.

Yes, he gets more walks than strikeouts (something he can teach Alfaro) but to be the next Jimmy Rollins and supplant a Gold Glove candidate such as Freddy Galvis Crawford will need to raise his batting average 50, 70, maybe 100 points before the organization contemplates promoting him.

Dylan Cozens: Baby-bomber number two in Lehigh Valley struggles as frequent as his counterparts in Philadelphia. You can marvel at the 40 home runs last year, a number that pushed him past the infamous Darin Ruf in Reading’s history books.

Meanwhile, I marvel at the .234 batting average, a .299 on-base percentage, and only 47 games in Triple-A.

Phillies, Dylan Cozens

Feb 26, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Ryan Groins (17) waits for the ball as Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Dylan Cozens (77) slides into second base on a steal attempt in the second inning of the spring training game at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

But beyond the numbers, there are two major reasons an outfielder such as Cozens isn’t driving down the turnpike to Citizens Bank Park: Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders.

Arguably two of the largest acquisitions made by the organization this offseason, Kendrick and Saunders were the trade pieces Klentak hoped could push the farm system forward.

Kendrick missing most of the season with an injury and Saunders struggling are each disappointment, but the organization can’t toss even the slightest chance of getting a Double-A pitcher at the trade deadline out the window.

Kendrick and Saunders won’t make it past July, maybe August considering how the waiver trade period pans out.  A hot week at the plate in July could push the bidding upwards for a playoff hungry team looking for a final piece.

I’m not saying Kendrick or Saunders will acquire you a haul equivalent to the Hamels or Ken Giles transactions warranted. Even Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez got the organization something. Rushing a bat such as Cozens just to have Saunders rot on the bench is a waste of the organization’s time.

Nick Williams: Phillies baseball almost became exciting with the rumors of Williams making his major league debut this week. The pieces in this rumor made sense: Maikel Franco would move to Lehigh Valley to be remolded, Howie Kendrick could transition back into second or third base, and the fans had a potential star in the lineup.

Mar 11, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Williams (65) runs home to score a run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The reasons mentioned above regarding Cozens all hold true with Williams, although the potential of Williams has been seen much more consistently this year with six home runs in seven games last week.

If the long-term view of the organization, at least in terms of this season, is for Franco to spend the next two months in Lehigh Valley learning how to hit, then I’m fine with Williams being promoted. If not, the kid needs to build on his 173 games in Triple-A.

 

Roman Quinn: Finally it’s the next Mike Trout that the fans have been begging for across social media. Charlie Manuel loves the kid, and when healthy Quinn could turn into something at the next level.

It’s understandable why the town is infatuated by the kid who looks like the fastest player in baseball.

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Sep 12, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Roman Quinn (24) waits on deck during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

But here’s the big fact that holds Quinn off the Phillies 25-man roster: a batting average crashing towards .270 in Lehigh Valley, a team with whom the outfielder has just 197 plate appearances for.

They need more from Quinn, and are better served with Aaron Altherr starting in center field and Odubel Herrera getting spot starts to work his way back.

Herrera can’t hit a ball off a tee at this point, and the organization looks bad for giving him an extension. But in reality, can you blame them all that much for doing so?

He’s the lone All-Star of the 2016 season and was considered to be the greatest Rule 5 acquisition since Shane Victorino.

But thanks to the Rule 5 Draft, Herrera never got a single at-bat at the Triple-A level. That’s where ball players turn into professional hitters, and the consequences of Herrera never getting that opportunity are shining through this season.

Herrera is the prime example of why you don’t rush a prospect up to the major leagues, and the team has learned that.

Phillies baseball is at the lowest of lows, a torture to witness each night and something unseen in the franchise for 20 years.

But the team is on the right path, as difficult as it seems watching a group of misfits stumble through 27 outs every night.

The prospects will come when the time is right, and even then they won’t bring instant gratification. This team, at least in my mind, knows what they’re doing in the midst of a rebuild.

They have true prospects such as Mickey Moniak, Franklyn Kilome, and whomever they get in the draft at eight overall, and at this point number one overall in 2018.

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