2014 Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies system starts off nicely but drops off rapidly after the third slot. Serious injuries have taken a huge bite out of the rankings for players such as shortstop Roman Quinn, catcher Tommy Joseph, as well as pitchers Shane Watson and Adam Morgan.


#1 Maikel Franco | 65/AA (3B)

20 581 173 36 31 30 70 1 .320 .356 .569 .411

The Year in Review: Franco enjoyed a breakout season at the plate in 2013 while splitting the year between High-A and Double-A. In total, he slugged 70 extra base hits — including 31 homers — and hit more than .300, which helped pull up his on-base percentage despite a low walk rate. Franco did a nice job of making hard contact and struck out about 12% of the time.

The Scouting Report: Offensively, Franco’s key tool is his plus power, which comes from his above-average bat speed. For a power hitter, he makes unusually-high contact but he’s too aggressive at times and struggles with his pitch recognition. He can also be quite streaky at times. Franco will look to increase his versatility in 2014 while reportedly splitting his time between the hot corner and first base. He has a strong arm, which would be wasted at first base, but his range is just average at the hot corner and will likely head in the wrong direction once he starts to fill out more and slow down.

The Year Ahead: Franco murdered Double-A pitchers in 69 games last year so a strong spring could push him to Triple-A. If he keeps hitting like he did in 2013, the Dominican third baseman could displace MLB sophomore Cody Asche during the second half of the season.

The Career Outlook: The corner infielder reminds me of a young Edwin Encarnacion and he could eventually develop into a middle-of-the-order threat for the Phillies.


#2 Jesse Biddle | 60/AA (P)

21 27 27 138.1 104 10 10.02 5.33 3.64 3.76

The Year in Review: It was an up and down year for the southpaw. Biddle struck out 154 batters (the third highest total in the Eastern League) in 138.1 innings and was hard to hit (104 base knocks) but he struggled with both his command and control, as witnessed by his 82 walks — which led the league.

The Scouting Report: Like with many young, talented pitchers, Biddle will live and die by his command and control. The good news is that there are no major red flags surrounding his delivery so they will hopefully sort themselves out with addition innings and experience. Biddle has an average fastball in the low 90s, and he backs that up with a promising curveball and a good changeup. He has a strong frame that suggests he could eventually develop into a workhorse capable of providing 200+ innings a year.

The Year Ahead: Biddle should move up to Triple-A in 2014 if the Phillies feel his issues with finding the plate are improving.

The Career Outlook: Biddle has a high ceiling but he’ll have to become more consistent to realize his full potential.


#3 J.P. Crawford | 60/R (SS)

18 228 60 9 1 32 35 14 .308 .405 .400 .390

The Year in Review: The 16th overall selection from the 2013 amateur draft, Crawford hit better than expected during his pro debut. He posted a .908 OPS in 39 Rookie ball games to earn a promotion to Low-A ball. He struggled in 14 games after the promotion but still did a nice job of controlling the strike zone. He played solid defense all season long.

The Scouting Report: A premium athlete, Crawford has a chance to develop into the Phillies’ shortstop of the future based solely on his defensive acumen. He has a strong arm with smooth actions and solid range at shortstop. He has enough speed to steal 15+ bases in a season and beat out a few infield singles. His offensive game needs the most work. Crawford, 19, needs to become stronger at the plate and quicker to the ball but he has solid bat speed and makes decent contact.

The Year Ahead: Crawford should return to Low-A ball in 2014 and will likely spend most, if not all, of the year at that level.

The Career Outlook: Carl Crawford’s cousin could be a four-tool star but he’ll have to continue to develop his bat as he moves up through the minors.


#4 Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez | 55/DNP

The Year in Review: Gonzalez hasn’t thrown much in the past few years due to his defection attempts and time off while sorting out his impending move to Major League Baseball.

The Scouting Report: The enigma. Depending who you speak to, Gonzalez is either a future No. 3/4 starter or a middle reliever. The right-hander has a low-90s fastball that can hit the mid-90s and he backs it up with a splitter, changeup and inconsistent breaking ball. One challenge Gonzalez will face will be working down in the zone more consistently. Injury concerns caused his first pro contract to be reworked after the Phillies front office saw something in his medical reports that they didn’t like.

The Year Ahead: As alluded to above, no one knows what to expect from Gonzalez but the Phillies expect him to contribute at the big league level right away. The spring time storyline will be fun to watch.

The Career Outlook: Again, time will tell when it comes to just what kind of impact the 27-year-old Cuban has for the Phillies in 2014 and beyond.


#5 Severino Gonzalez | 55/AA (P)

20 25 14 103.2 84 5 10.33 1.91 2.00 2.25

The Year in Review: The native of Panama saw his prospect value increase significantly in 2013 after entering the year off almost everyone’s radar. He played at three levels and began the year in Low-A before ending the season in Double-A. He made a total of 25 appearances but just 14 starts. He broke the century mark in innings pitched for the first time in his pro career.

The Scouting Report: Gonzalez is a command/control pitcher with just enough fastball velocity to make things interesting. The skinny right-hander throws in the low-90s with his heater but it’s almost more notable for its movement. He throws two breaking balls — a curveball and a slider — and occasionally mixes in a changeup. There are some durability concerns with Gonzalez’s slender frame and his 14 starts in 2013 tied a career high.

The Year Ahead: Gonzalez appeared in just one Double-A game so he’ll almost certainly return to that level in 2014 after spending most of the previous season in A-ball. He’ll look to solidify his status as a future big league starter.

The Career Outlook: The 21-year-old hurler doesn’t have a massive ceiling but he has a good chance to be a long-term big league contributor with the floor of a long reliever/spot starter and ceiling of a No. 3/4 starter.


#6 Carlos Tocci | 55/A- (OF)

17 459 88 17 0 22 77 6 .209 .261 .249 .245

The Year in Review: For good or bad, the Phillies have been aggressive with Tocci and he was assigned to full-season ball in 2013 despite the fact that he didn’t turn 18 until late August. He struggled in 118 games and hit just .209 with a .510 OPS. He was completely lost in the second half of the season with an OPS hovering around .400.

The Scouting Report: Tocci is all about projection. He shows flashes of developing into a good hitter because of his advanced approach but he needs to get stronger and add muscle to his slender frame. Pitchers aren’t afraid to go right after him because he lacks pop — even when he hits the ball on the screws. Defensively, he projects to develop into an above-average center-fielder with good range and a strong arm.

The Year Ahead: Tocci should return to Low-A ball to open the season. If he shows some signs of life, though, he might spend a little time in High-A ball before the year is up.

The Career Outlook: The Venezuelan outfielder still has a lot of filling out to do and until he does he’ll continue to be overpowered by opposing pitchers.


#7 Aaron Altherr | 55/A+ (OF)

22 576 137 39 12 47 148 25 .268 .331 .438 .351

The Year in Review: Altherr enjoyed the best offensive season of his career but that performance came in A-ball and during fifth pro season. The 140 strikeouts in 123 games is worrisome but the increase in pop (.455 slugging percentage) is promising.

The Scouting Report: A superb athlete, Altherr is a long-term project. The Phillies have tinkered with his swing and it’s still long and inconsistent. He generates enough bat speed to put a charge into the ball when he makes good contact. If he learns to make enough contact he could hit 20+ home runs but he may never produce a strong on-base percentage. He also has above-average speed and plays a good centre field thanks to his solid range and strong arm.

The Year Ahead: Altherr will face a stiff test with his contact rates when he moves up and faces the more advanced pitchers and tougher environments of the Double-A Eastern League.

The Career Outlook: The Arizona native has a lot of polishing to do on his overall game but he has a chance to develop into an average or better regular if he can trim the Ks.


#8 Roman Quinn | 50/A- (SS)

20 298 62 7 5 27 64 32 .238 .323 .346 .317

The Year in Review: Quinn began the year with three inconsistent months at the plate and then missed the second half of the year due to a fractured wrist. He managed to steal more than 30 bases before getting hurt.

The Scouting Report: Quinn’s best asset is his plus-plus speed, which helped him swipe 32 bases in 67 games in 2013. He’s a switch-hitter who’s still working on pitch recognition and he also needs to improve his two-strike approach and better understand what pitchers are trying to do to get him out. Defensively, he’s still working to smooth out his actions but he has a good arm and above-average range at shortstop.

The Year Ahead: After missing the second half of 2013, Quinn spend all of 2014 rehabbing from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that occurred in November.

The Career Outlook: A year and a half of missed development time is the absolute last thing that this prospect needed while looking to jumpstart his offense.


#9 Cesar Hernandez | 50/MLB (2B/OF)

23 131 6.9 % 19.8 % .289 .344 .331 .305 90 -3.3 -3.9 -0.4

The Year in Review: It took five years for Hernandez to climb above the A-ball level but he finally reached the Majors in 2013. Prior to his promotion to The Show, the young Venezuelan performed well in Triple-A and stole 32 bases in 107 games. At the big league level, Hernandez split time at two positions but he was overpowered at the plate.

The Scouting Report: Another athletic player, Hernandez improved his versatility in 2013 by spending time in center field after playing most of his career at second base. He is a very good defensive second baseman and shows flashes of developing into an above-average outfielder. At the plate, he has a line-drive approach, which works well with his plus speed. He needs to get stronger and he strikes out too much for a player who should be focusing on getting on base and utilizing his legs.

The Year Ahead: Philadelphia doesn’t project to have the most potent back-up infielders so a strong spring could help Hernandez beat out Freddy Galvis or Kevin Frandsen for a roster spot.

The Career Outlook: Hernandez likely won’t see much time as a big league regular but he could develop into a value back-up player capable of playing both the infield and the outfield.

Additional Notes


#10 Tommy Joseph | 50/AA (C)

21 131 22 4 3 7 30 0 .179 .229 .285 .240

The Year in Review: Injuries wiped out Joseph’s season and concussion concerns could threaten the young catcher’s future behind the plate. Before getting hurt, though, his offense sputtered and he was demoted from Triple-A. He later played at both High-A and Double-A.

The Scouting Report: Joseph is an offensive-minded catcher with above-average, right-handed power. He has an inconsistent approach at the plate and doesn’t project to get on base at a terribly high rate. He shows a strong arm behind the plate and has had some success controlling the running game but he needs work on his receiving, blocking and game calling.

The Year Ahead: Joseph will look to stay healthy in 2014 and will need to avoid suffering another significant blow to the head, which is by no means an easy task for a catcher. He’ll open the year back in Double-A.

The Career Outlook: It’s hard to envision Joseph remaining behind the plate for his entire career. If he does in fact have to move at some point it will put a significant strain on expectations surrounding his offensive production.

The Next Five:

11. Andrew Knapp, C: An offensive-minded catcher, Knapp is still relatively new to the position so he’ll be given some time to improve his receiving, game calling, blocking and throwing –although he does show above-average arm strength. Where he really shines, though, is at the plate. He’s a switch-hitter with good power potential but he needs to make a little more contact if he’s going to hit for average as he moves up the organizational ladder.

12. Dylan Cozens, OF: Cozens, 19, is a huge kid at 6-6, 235 pounds. He’s still learning the finer aspects of the game after splitting his focus in high school between baseball and football. He has above-average raw power from the left side. He runs well for his size and has a strong arm; he projects as a power-hitting right-fielder.

13. Cord Sandberg, OF: Similar to Cozens, Sandberg was a two-sport star in high school and turned down the opportunity to play college football. He has above-average, left-handed power but is still learning to tap into it in game situations. He has good bat speed. Sandberg has a patient approach and has an idea at the plate. Defensively, he should be above-average in left field thanks to his range and solid arm.

14. Shane Watson, RHP: A big, strong-bodied right-hander, the 40th overall selection in the 2012 draft looked like a future steal but shoulder surgery will wipe out most of his 2014 season. When healthy, he flashes two potentially-plus offerings in his low-to-mid-90s fastball and curveball. His changeup also has a chance to be average.

15. Adam Morgan, LHP: Morgan was well on his way to becoming one of the best left-handed pitchers in the minors before injuries derailed his career. When healthy, he shows an above-average fastball and two solid secondary pitches. Shoulder surgery will knock him out of action for most, if not all, of 2014.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

22 Responses to “2014 Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies”

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  1. DD says:

    Marc, what do you see as the main differences between Kolten Wong and Cesar Hernandez?

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      I’d say the biggest difference is in the strength… Wong has more pop to go along with the natural feel for hitting.

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  2. gabriel says:

    Bottom five farm system overall? Even Franco and Biddle aren’t terribly impressive, and as you note, there’s a significant drop after them.

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    • DD says:

      Keith Law actually ranked them 14th, which surprised me. His main point was while ther isn’t star level talent, there are a good number of average regulars and depth.

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      • gabriel says:

        I saw that Law had them ranked in the first half of teams, but I have to say I thought the list curious. Maybe I’m just overestimating the overall average talent, but I can’t see the Phillies in the top half, though I do appreciate Marc’s comment that it isn’t as weak as I’d originally suggested.

        The Phillies and the Jays’ in Law’s rankings were among the oddities: I really don’t quite understand how Law can put the Phillies in 14th and the Jays 24th. To my eyes, the Jays are clearly ahead, both in terms of top-level prospects and in terms of organisational depth. It does occasionally seem to me that Law sometimes departs from conventional wisdom simply to have something notable to say.

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      I haven’t ranked the systems yet but it feels like a 15-22 range for me… But, I have liked some of the players they’ve grabbed in the last two drafts

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  3. Dave says:

    How nice will it be for Philly to have Asche at 3B and Franco at 1B this year! Oh wait, 1B is “occupado”.

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      Asche really isn’t anything more than a placeholder — probably a replacement level player (who will still have his uses).

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      • LaLoosh says:

        hang on, are we saying that Asche wouldn’t be a plus at 2B ? The bat looks like it would work well there.

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      • DD says:

        Asche is considered roughly average with the glove at 3B, and it’s hard to see him being better defensively at 2B. However, i think it’s in his interest to get reps at 2B in the spring as well as LF and RF to give him a better chance to hang on as a utility guy, providing the usefulness Marc is talking about.

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      • Pitnick says:

        The projection systems, for whatever they’re worth, all see Asche as well above replacement — between 1.1 and 2.6 WAR.

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        • AMB says:

          I’m not sure why everyone writes Cody Asche off as ‘replacement level’ or a ‘placeholder’ (not just on this site).

          I’m no scout but it seems like he’s managed to hold his own in both AA and AAA (producing at 30-40% better than the league average with the bat) while being age appropriate for each league and he didn’t look over matched in a late season call up last year (like Cesar Hernandez did).

          He looks like he can run a little bit and can be something approximating league average with the glove.

          Add that up and you get a 3B with the ability to be 10% above league average with the bat (with some upside), average running the bases and slightly below average with the glove and you have a player who is worth 2 or more WAR per year.

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        • Steven says:

          I’m assuming Marc means replacement level as in an average starter (around 2 WAR over a full season)? If so, that’s right around those projections.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          An average starter isn’t replacement level, Steven. If he’s worth 2 WAR, he’s worth 2 wins above replacement.

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        • Steven says:

          I know that an average starter is worth 2 WAR. I was saying that I thought Marc might have meant “replacement” as saying his ceiling is an average starter, which makwes him a placeholder until Maikel Franco. I’m not sure if this is actually what he meant, though.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Yeah, I’m guessing that he just really isn’t an Asche fan.

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  4. NEPP says:

    The Phillies already tried Asche at 2B in the minors and he was utterly hopeless there. That was their original plan/hope for him. He simply doesn’t have the footwork for the position from all accounts. He’s basically a 3B or bust…which is a shame given that his bat would play much, much better at 2B.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      if that’s the case, then he’ll either be about avg as a 3Bman, or a super UT guy. sounds similar to what the Mets have at 2B, Dan Murphy. He also began as a horrid 2Bman but became serviceable. The Phils are probably best off trying to work with him at 2B. For now, Utley is at 2B so that move won’t come for a while.

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  5. Wobatus says:

    I think Kelly Dugan could be a useful 4th OF type, lefty bench bat, although his BB rate plunged in AA and his K rate is elevated.

    I’m a bit surprised Law ranked them as high as he did. Franco carries a lot of the system, although I suppose I am not that familiar with it.

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  6. Ringoo says:

    You should link this to the ‘Top 15 Prospects’ box on the home page. I could see people missing this article because of that.

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