Predicted to be the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies fulfilled much of that promise by being the only team to win 100+ games, but the dream ultimately ended with a NLDS loss to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. As you might expect with such a talented, experienced roster, there weren’t a lot of prospects introduced to majors, but Domonic Brown did make his debut with 210 plate appearances. Brown didn’t live up to his billing, but he was better than his .245 batting average (97 OPS+). The fact that he’ll be 24 all of next season should also keep everyone calm. Vance Worley, however, had quite the campaign, and while it was unexpected, it was also legit. There’s no reason not to feel pretty good about him in the back of the rotation next season.
Everything wasn’t so wonderful in the minors, though. The most significant loss came at the cost of 4 solid prospects for Hunter Pence. Jarred Cosart would have been the top prospect in the system and borderline Elite prospect. Jonathan Singleton would have been another Outstanding prospect. And Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana may have also made this list. In other words, the trade to the Astros took a significant toll on the Phillies farm system.
Of the guys left, few guys had standout seasons, and all of them have significant questions that remain. Trevor May and Jesse Biddle had solid seasons, but they weren’t spectacular. Many of the lower-levels tools players, such as Sebastian Valle, Freddie Galvis, Jiwan James, and Cesar Hernandez, remain raw and undeveloped. People might ask a few questions about Matt Rizzotti, who had a nice campaign in AA, but it’s hard to get excited by a 25-year old who was repeating AA and did worse.
The Phillies’ system isn’t good at the moment. May sits in the Outstanding category, but he’s borderline. Continuing the trend, the guys in the Good category are also on the border. And when you have two relievers in your Top 10, it’s just not a good thing, though I’ll say that Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus should be excellent relievers for the Phillies. The system has been thinned by all the years of trading for elite talent, but I don’t disagree with what they’ve done. They went big with a special group of guys, and I completely respect Ruben Amaro for what he’s done there.
Trevor May SP
Age/Level (as of 4/2012): 22/AA
May is certainly a big, strong young man, and he uses all of it in a delivery that requires some effort to throw that 92-94 mph fastball. He adds a plus curve and a developing but promising change-up to make his starter’s repertoire. Stuff has never been May’s problem, however. After flaming out in High-A Clearwater last season, he had to go back to Low-A Lakewood, and he returned to Clearwater in 2011, where he did much better. His mechanics threw him out of whack, and his already bad control became worse. The Phillies got him to make some adjustments, and he made some strides this season, though his control is still below-average. May, however, has no trouble striking out tons of hitters, and hopefully, more innings will improve his control and command.
Jesse Biddle SP
Biddle is a bit of a riddle. He has a large frame and projection, but when he entered pro ball, his fastball went from the low-90s to the high-80s. Yet, Biddle continues to strike out hitters at a decent pace due to an above-average curveball and a blossoming change. And although he is athletic and has a decent delivery, he has below-average control. So the question now becomes what he’ll be. Having two solid secondary pitches is excellent, and if that velocity comes back (which wouldn’t be surprising given that this was his first full season), his stock could really take off.
Sebastian Valle C
Projection: 2-4 WAR
Most of what Valle is remains tools. He has good hand eye-coordination and bat speed, and he can even knock a few out. But his approach is still a mess, and he’s never really produced big numbers. Behind the plate, Valle is a bit more refined with a strong arm and solid blocking/receiving skills, and it’s his defensive work that keeps him in good standing. As heads into AA, he’ll need to be better with the stick, but he seems to be a backup catcher at worst, which is still a nice thing to have.
Brody Colvin SP
Colvin may have just as good stuff as May, but he hasn’t been able to put it together or keep himself together to prove it. With a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s with sink and an above-average curveball, Colvin has the beginning of a solid arsenal and even has a decent change-up. Colvin, however, had back problems in 2011 and couldn’t stay on the mound, and when he was, the back affected the quality of his stuff. Mechanically, Colvin is a bit of a mess, but it’s all after he turns his back to first, as he steps way toward third and has to bring his throwing arm way around his body (leaving pitches up-and-in to righties). Colvin certainly has talent and will be given a pass for 2011, but he’s got some work to do.
Larry Greene LF/RF
Projection: 2-4 WAR
The Phillies first pick (supplemental round) of the past draft, Greene has impressive raw power, but that might be the starting and end point. Already a fairly built young man, he has little projection, and the size makes him rather slow, meaning he’ll have to play in a corner. His swing looks a little long, but he has good bat speed. As I’ve mentioned, Greene will need to hit, especially because of the position he’ll have to play, but he does have a big stick. We’ll just have to see if it’s enough.
Austin Wright SP
Call this overreacting to a small sample size. Drafted in the 8th round, Wright is a big, strong lefty that didn’t exactly produce in college, but when you’re a lefty with a 91-94 mph fastball, someone will give you a chance. Given that chance, Wright excelled in his pro debut of 70 innings, even having better-than-expected control, but he still has plenty of questions. While he adds a plus curveball, his change-up lags behind, and as a college senior, he has less time to develop, though I’ll repeat that I wouldn’t care too much about when a guy came up as long as he’s good. Finally and perhaps the biggest question for me, his delivery is almost all arm, and that seems like an injury waiting to happen.
Phillippe Aumont RP
Projection: Relief Ace
Aumont has been yanked in and out of the starting rotation his entire pro career, but he finally has a home in the late innings. Due to a mid-90s sinker and plus to plus-plus curveball, he has the stuff to be utterly dominating. His problem has always been his control, and with a delivery that brings his arm slot to the low ¾ range and a tendency to have his front shoulder fly open, it was an uphill battle making it better. Aumont’s control still wavers, but that’s less of a problem out of the bullpen. With a few adjustments, he could be really special.
Justin De Fratus RP
Projection: Relief Ace
I don’t really like putting relievers on these lists because they just aren’t that valuable, but when you have excellent stuff, it makes it a little easier. De Fratus doesn’t have the stuff that Aumont does, but he has significantly better control. His sinker sits in the low-90s, and he adds a plus slider to give him a nice 1-2 punch. A nice reliever candidate for 2012, he has nothing left to learn in the minors, but relievers just don’t add much value throwing 70 innings or less a season.
Jonathan Pettibone SP
Pettibone has certainly produced decently enough in the minors so far in his career, and he has pretty good stuff, with a low-90s fastball and an above-average slider. With a smooth and repeatable delivery, he even has above-average control. What worries me, however, is the fact that he can’t even strike out 7 hitters per 9 innings in A-ball. If you can’t strike out many in A-ball, it proposes that you’ll be worse as you move up the ladder, and few pitchers can even survive in the majors striking out about 6 per 9. Pettibone could improve, but it’s hard to project that.
Jiwan James CF
Projection: 1-3 WAR
Even if he never hits (which he might not), James is an elite defensive center fielder with above-average range and arm, so there’s probably a place for him on a major-league roster at some point. But as I alluded to, James isn’t much on the offensive end, and while he has some tools, they aren’t very special, either. If he starts to put things together, he could hit enough to be a solid regular, but he’s no spring chicken and hasn’t really improved in his years in the minors.
Big Question – Thinning System
Usually, I’d never advocate just throwing the future to the wind, but when you’ve accumulated such elite talent and need to win now, you have to do it, even if it means the farm system will wither due to trades and a few promotions. The Phillies have had an impressive run of success, and they likely have 2, maybe 3, years of being favorites to win the division and a World Series title. But that won’t last forever, and the farm system isn’t very good right now. There’s some talent in lower levels, and while the Phillies don’t spend a lot in the draft, they draft fairly well. But if they don’t start restocking that system, Eddard Stark has it right, “Winter is coming.”