Top 10 Prospects: The Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies
2010 MLB Record: 97-65 (first place, NL East)
Minor League Power Ranking: 5th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Domonic Brown, OF
Acquired: 2006 20th round (Georgia HS)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5

Notes: Brown had an impressive showing in the minors in 2010 by posting a wOBA of .427 in 65 double-A games and .417 in 28 triple-A contests. He was also able to sustain his ’09 power outburst and saw his ISO rate stay above .200 for the second straight season (peaking at .284 in AA). Although he strikes out a fair bit (21.6 K% in ’10), Brown shows good patience and posted a walk rate of 10.7 BB% in double-A. He showed the rough edges of his game during a brief MLB trial in which he produced a triple-slash line of .210/.257/.355 in 62 at-bats. His strikeout rate also skyrocketed to 38.7 K%. To be more consistent at the plate, I’d like to see the prospect stay back a little more; if he can avoid getting out of his front foot so early, he may be able to drive the ball more. Defensively, Brown has a strong arm and good range in right field; he just needs more experience to sharpen his overall skills in the field. Despite his struggles in The Show, Brown is the favorite – and deservedly so – to replace the recently-departed Jayson Werth, although he’ll likely miss at least the first month of the 2011 season after breaking his hamate bone. He won’t post Jason Heyward like numbers in 2011 (sorry, Bill James projections but I think The Fans are a little closer to reality) but Philadelphia fans will be happy that the organization refused to part with Brown during the Roy Halladay trade.

2. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
Acquired: 2009 8th round (California HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: After being overlooked as an amateur by most clubs, Singleton has reward the Phillies organization with outstanding pro results. The first base prospect – who is working out in left field due to the presence of incumbent Ryan Howard – had a solid first full season in the minors while hitting .288/.392/.477 in 375 at-bats at low-A ball. His power output was solid for his age and level of play (.189 ISO). What’s even more impressive about Singleton is his willingness to take a walk and solid pitch recognition. His walk rate sat at 13.8 BB% while his strikeout rate was below 20.0 K% at 19.7%. He has a nice set-up at the plate with a strong, well-balanced base. He also shows good bat speed and a nice, level swing. Defensively, Singleton has the potential to be average or a little above-average at first base. The prospect will move up to high-A in 2011 but be cautious of his 2010 splits. He hit .423 in May and .294 in June before slipping to .252 in July and .253 in August. His power also declined significantly. It was his first full season so he may have just been tired.

3. Jarred Cosart, RHP
Acquired: 2008 38th round (Texas HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Cosart or Colvin… pick your poison. You could flip these two in the rankings and I wouldn’t argue to hard. Cosart gets a slight edge in my books because I’m a sucker for velocity+ground-ball rates. The right-hander posted a 59 GB% in low-A ball in 2010 and produced a 2.47 FIP in 71.1 innings of work. Cosart showed above-average control with a walk rate of 2.02 BB/9 and he missed more than his fair share of bats with a strikeout rate at 9.71 K/9. On the list of accomplishments for 2011 will hopefully be surpassing the 100 inning mark and showing improved durability; Less than two years into his pro career he’s already missed time with elbow, shoulder, and back issues. He has the ceiling of a No. 1 starter and his repertoire includes a mid-to-high-90s fastball, curveball and changeup. Cosart has a low-three-quarter arm slot and there is definitely some effort to his delivery. He doesn’t use his lower half as much as I’d like to see; he generates much of his velocity through his arm action. His actions are stiff. If healthy, he should spend the year in high-A ball.

4. Brody Colvin, RHP
Acquired: 2009 7th round (Louisiana HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Colvin is a slightly safer choice than Cosart but the former’s ceiling is more of a No. 2 starter or workhorse No. 3. The right-hander has proven much more durable than Cosart to this point and he pitched 138.0 innings in low-A ball in 2010. To be honest, his large workload in ’10 is a little worrisome given that he was one year removed from high school (However, his numbers were actually improved during the second half of the year). Colvin showed solid control last season with a walk rate of 2.74 BB/9 and his strikeout rate was good – but not great – at 7.83 K/9. He also produced average ground-ball rates. His repertoire includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, curveball and changeup. His delivery is smooth and includes a three-quarter arm slot. Colvin’s secondary pitches are move advanced than Cosart’s at this point and he should spend the majority of the season in high-A but could reach double-A at some point later in the year.

5. Trevor May, RHP
Acquired: 2008 4th round (Washington HS)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A+
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Often overlooked thanks to Cosart and Colvin, May is a very impressive pitching prospect in his own right. The right-hander opened the 2010 season in high-A but posted a 4.76 FIP and saw his mechanics explode. Lack of control was the main culprit during his high-A struggles. His walk rate improved significantly after a demotion to low-A, going from 7.84 to 2.77 BB/9. His strikeout rate remained strong at both levels (12.74 and 11.57 K/9). His repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball, curveball and changeup; the delivery is pretty standard with a three-quarter arm slot and he generates power from his lower half, as well as a quick arm action. Like Colvin, May projects to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can solid his control issues.

6. Sebastian Valle, C
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Mexico)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Full-season ball hasn’t been quite as kind to Valle as short-season and rookie ball was in ’08 and ’09. After posting wOBAs of .351 and .390 at the lower levels, he slipped to .301 in a partial season in ’09 and .325 in ’10 at low-A ball. The backstop, though, did show good power this past season with an ISO rate of .174. What Valle needs to do is display a little more patience at the plate (5.6 BB%) and make a little more contact (22.6 K%). He has a lot of movement at the plate and a pronounced leg quick. Defensively, he has the potential to be an above-average catcher with a strong arm. Even if he doesn’t produce great batting averages or huge walk rates, Valle will have significant value with power and defense. Just 20, he has time to address his shortcomings.

7. Jiwan James, OF
Acquired: 2007 22nd round (Florida HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: A two-way player in high school, James originally entered pro ball as a pitcher but quickly converted to an everyday player after injuries struck and threatened his future on the mound. The outfielder oozes tools and showed flashes of his immense talent during his first full season as a hitter in 2010. James hit .270/.321/.365 in 556 at-bats, while playing for the prospect-laden A-ball squad. He used his athleticism to nab 33 bases but was caught 20 times, which highlights his need to polish his skills. After posting an ISO rate of .095, he needs to get stronger but has the frame (6’4” 180 lbs) to do so. James has a very quick bat but he needs to swing with a little more control. He also needs to use his lower half to help generate line drive pop. Defensively, James could develop into a plus defender in center field.

8. Jesse Biddle, LHP
Acquired: 2010 1st round (Pennsylvania HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/SS
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Biddle was signed out of high school by his hometown Phillies. The right-hander showed a lot of potential in his pro debut and received a promotion to short-season ball after nine successful starts in rookie ball. Despite command issues, Biddle showed good control and walked just nine batters in 33.0 innings prior to the promotion. He has a good fastball that sits at 90-94 mph. His four-pitch repertoire also includes a curveball, slider, and changeup. Despite his youth, he already has a mature frame and a clean delivery. He utilizes a high leg quick and a three-quarter arm slot. He shows a similar look with each type of pitch that he throws. With a strong spring, Biddle could open 2011 in low-A ball; he has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter.

9. Domingo Santana, OF
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/Short-season
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Just 18, Santana already stands 6’5”. He is still learning to control his frame and had a rough 2010 season, which was split between low-A and short-season ball. He opened the season in low-A ball but was over-matched with a line of .182/.322/.297 in 165 at-bats. Moved down to short-season ball, he hit .237/.336/.366 in 186 at-bats. Santana has major contact issues and has yet to see his strikeout rate dip below 37.3 K%. The raw player needs work on his pitch recognition. He holds his hands very high so lowering them might help level out his swing. He also has a lot of unnecessary movement in his stance. In the field, he looks like a prototypical right fielder with a strong arm. Santana has immense potential but he’s a long way from realizing it.

10. Aaron Altherr, OF
Acquired: 2009 9th round (Arizona HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/SS
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Like Brown and James, Altherr is another athletic outfielder. A two-way player in baseball and a multi-sport star in high school, he’s been brought along slowly. After two seasons in short-season ball, Altherr should open 2011 in low-A ball. His skills are developing nicely. His ISO rate almost doubled in ’10 over ’09 and he has enough speed to steal 20+ bases in a full season. He’s shown solid walk rates in his first two pro seasons and also made strides with his strikeout rate in a small sample size in short-season ball. In the field, Altherr is somewhat raw but he looks like he could develop into a solid right fielder with a good arm and range that could allow him to play some center field, as well.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect and rookie analysis. He also operates AstrosBall.com and can be reached via email at: marchulet@astrosball.com, or follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

47 Responses to “Top 10 Prospects: The Philadelphia Phillies”

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  1. Mike says:

    Don’t get how a list that contains all Low A ball or Rookie league prospects from last year (excluding Brown) can rank among the top 5 farm systems in all of minor league baseball

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    • Nik says:

      Because they are all really really good prospects?

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      • Mike says:

        I’m sure they are, but there’s too much volatility that goes along with having a list of prospects that haven’t even seen a true breaking ball yet in A+ or AA ball

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      • Nik says:

        Yes, but they also have more upside than many of the other team’s guys who are closer to the majors.

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      • Mike says:

        True. But they also have a greater chance to not reach their ceiling than the guys at AA or AAA do

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      • Preston says:

        I agree. Scouts always say the hardest jump other than to the majors is from A ball to AA. So for a system ranked this high you’d like to see more guys who have at least gotten a cup of coffee at the AA level.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Because you could extend this list to 18-20 players and not have a huge drop off in upside/talent. Even assuming an average amount of attrition, there is a huge pipe line of talent in the organization.

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      • baty says:

        I agree with the confusion… A ranking this high might be more indicative of the many significant young player graduations we’ve seen the last few years. They are deep, but I’m not seeing it.

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    • Ian says:

      It’s exactly what a good team needs. The lower you go the better prospects there are

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    • JoeDE says:

      I guess we should discount Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Or Jason Heyward or Mike Stanton last year. Or any innumerable amount of prospects I can name who are considered strong prospects from the low minors.

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      • baty says:

        There’s a big difference between “strong” and “prodigious”. I wouldn’t compare anyone on this Phillies list to that yet.

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    • MC says:

      Mike I agree with you – most of these Fangraphs prospect rankings tend to have 7-8 prospects at least in A ball or rookie ball.

      That’s like saying, when a baby is born – that is MLB’s top prospect because it “could” have a 10.0 WAR if everything goes according to plan…or according to the plan dreamed up by that baby’s supporters.

      75% at least of these A ball super prospects probably don’t even make it to the majors.

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  2. Nik says:

    I think Biddle makes the biggest jump this year. One of the reports on him already had him reaching 97. As a lefty with this size, that’s outstanding.

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  3. B says:

    Like the list, but I’d probably not have Santana on there. I’d probably put a couple of the lower ceiling, but higher probability of reaching it guys on there.

    Worley & Defratus or even Gillies although he’s not such a safe pick either.

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  4. Utley26 says:

    Biddle is LH. And Altherr is moving to 3B this season.

    Should be exciting to watch these kids evolve over the next few years

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  5. vivalajeter says:

    Question about Brown: I always see him listed as their top prospect, and I think I’ve seen that he’s considered a top-5 prospect in all of baseball. But at 22 years old last year, he spent half the season in AA, looked overmatched in the majors, and I read articles this spring (pre-injury) that he wasn’t quite ready to be a MLB regular. Shouldn’t a top-5 prospect be ready to make a meaningful contribution by the time they’re 23?

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    • TheUnrepentantGunner says:

      23 is still solidly young enough to make a debut for sure. Remember many college players dont even get drafted until 22 or so

      Brown also killed triple A last year, putting up monster lines. As you said, Keith Law had him ranked 3rd, but noted that he was so athletic that he would overwhelm any minor league talent, and needed alot of refinement at the big league level and might start off slow.

      That said, wrist injuries are BRUTAL, and I am less high on him as a result, especially if he starts out extra cold, presses, gets into a rut, and draws the ire of impatient philly fans.

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      • Nik says:

        As far as wrist injuries, this is the best kind to get.

        Tulo didnt have much of a problem with this same injury in the middle of last season.

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  6. Cecil Fielder Jr. says:

    Interesting that, with the exception of Biddle, all these top prospects were late (or relatively late) rounders or non-drafted free agents. The Phillis did a great job. They’re like the anti-Tigers in this regard.

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  7. Matty Brown says:

    Blue Jays are 4th!!! In your face most of America!

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  8. chomO says:

    The guys in the system aren’t THAT young. It’s not like they were all in rookie or short season last year. Colvin, Singleton, Cosart, May, Valle and James will all be at High A Clearwater next year with Colvin and Singleton having decent shots at AA by the end of the summer. The Phillies will, HOPEFULLY, have two cheap rotation, two OF spots (possibly three with Gillies), and closer (Cosart?) in the next three years supplementing the massive payroll spots of Lee, Halladay, Howard and Hamels. This will leave them some nice flexibility to make moves for a 3B and possibly SS. Sorry Mets fans, but the Phillies are going to be in contention for a while, albeit chasing the Braves starting in 2012.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      LOL, so in 3 years you expect this team to produce 2 solid OF, 2 solid SP and a solid closer? You do understand that many prospects don’t pan out, right? Any one of those prospects can develop into a solid player, but the odds of producing 5 of them are pretty slim.

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      • Nik says:

        You think it will be more than 5? Ok, I’ll take it.

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      • B says:

        Well isn’t the probability higher since these guys are rated pretty highly?

        By all means there will be busts, but you can literally go into any teams top 10 list and say the same thing.

        Who’s your favorite team? Because I can guarantee people can pick their system apart at the seam if they want to as well.

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      • Azmanz says:

        2 years ago, the Giants had one of the top farm systems in the league and 6 of the their top 10 prospects were all headed to High-A, San Jose. 2 years later, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner helped the Giants win a WS, and Tim Alderson was traded for Freddy Sanchez.

        Thomas Neal is still one of their top prospects, and Brandon Crawford still has a shot to be at least a bench player. (Angel Villalona shot some one tho, so he’s not gonna make it to the bigs)

        Just because a system is young, doesn’t mean that they can’t be good and contribute to the big league squad in a couple years.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        B, that’s kind of my point. You can go through any team and say that they won’t produce 5 meaningful players within 3 years. So why would we expect Philly to buck the trend? If 3 of their prospects can contribute within 3 years, then they should be thrilled.

        Azmanz, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. The giants produced a true stud (Posey) and it looks like they might have a very good pitcher on their hands (Bumgarner). They traded a 3rd prospect for an average 2B. So in two years, they’ve had 2-3 of their prospects make an impact at the major league level. They’ve done very well for themselves, and they haven’t produced 5 meaningful players.

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  9. NEPP says:

    Jiwan James has a ton of potential but he lost a ton of development time. He’s a longshot at this point as a result of that lost time. #7 is way too high for him.

    On Singleton: He played LF a bunch in the fall development league and the scouting reports on his defense were very positive.

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  10. chomO says:

    Optimistic view of course. The Phillies have done a great job at developing talent over the past decade, I wouldn’t be surprised if four or five from this group turned into productive major leaguers. Or not and they are bogged down by huge contracts to older players and stink for a long time. Either way Citizens Bank Park is a great time. Better?

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  11. CubsFan says:

    Way too much projection going on here. I don’t think you can justify ranking a system this high when so many of its best prospects haven’t even played in the high minors yet. I don’t see a single player here of the “can’t miss” variety. Those kind of players are few and far between but it seems to me that a club’s system would need to have at least one of them to make a legit argument for a top 5 ranking.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Can’t miss prospects don’t exist. Ask Mark Prior, Delmon Young, or Jesse Fopert.

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      • NEPP says:

        Delmon Young just came off the best season of his career posting an OPS+ of 121. He just entering his Age 25 season so its hard to call him a bust yet. He’s never going to be an on-base machine but he hits for average and his power is developing finally.

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  12. Pachoo says:

    I just can’t buy into the notion that the .Phillies system, where most of their best prospects are just too sly in the low minors warrants a top 5 placement. The #11 ranking that Baseball America gave the system seems more accurate.

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  13. gabriel says:

    The bottom of this list looks pretty weak. I’m a Jays fan, and I’d take A.J. Jimenez over Sebastian Valle, Moises Sierra over Jiwan James, and Jacob Marisnick over Altherr. I don’t expect any of those Jays farmhands to make their top ten list.

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    • Abreutime says:

      There’s a number of nice arms in the Phillies upper levels that are close to MLB ready that were not put into this particular top ten. Vance Worley, Justin De Fratus, Scott Mathieson, Michael Schwimer, Antonio Bastardo, etc. Their WAR projection peaks are relatively low, which puts them out of the top 10. But there is a lot of pitching depth. Prospect lists emphasis high ceiling guys, while overall system rankings include all athletes.

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    • B says:

      Cool that’s also why you’re some anonymous guy posting on a messageboard.

      I’m going to go ahead and agree with Keith Law, Scouts, BA, BP, etc. over some guy sitting on his couch who believes he’s a minor league expert.

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      • gabriel says:

        Others are making good points about organizational depth in AA & AAA pitchers and high-upside position players in the lower levels. Ad hominem adds nothing to the conversation.

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  14. hk says:

    This is purely speculation, but it seems to me that the last few years have seen a larger than usual graduation of top prospects to the big leagues and it’s possible that there aren’t as many top prospects in AA and AAA as there were in past years. Of Keith Law’s top 60 prospects, only 30 (1 per MLB team on average) have reached AA or higher. Further, the teams typically ranked ahead of Philly in the organization rankings all have multiple top prospects who have played at AA or above. Therefore, Philly’s team ranking does make some sense considering that they have a top 5 prospect who’s reached the bigs and a lot of depth in the lower levels.

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    • NEPP says:

      Its definitely a depth thing. There’s another 10 guys who could easily fill out the last 3 spots on this list with good arguments in their favor. Most systems simply dont have that level of depth with high ceilings. Even if 1 in 4 of their projection guys make it, they have a bonanza of talent in the minors. Couple that with a sudden willingness to spend and a great MLB roster and they’ve gone from laughingstock to premier powerhouse in the last decade.

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      • blackoutyears says:

        “Its definitely a depth thing.” I agree. It’s the same reason that the Indians are getting surprisingly high marks. I think people are confusing system rankings with a ranking of just Top 10s.

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  15. Art D. says:

    Don’t forget: if you follow closely all the other MLB teams, you’ll inevitably find plenty of high draft picks that don’t make it to the bigs. The cliche is true: it’s always a gamble based on the speculative narrative culled by scouts and others.

    The Phils have been picking “late” in the first rounds for several years and have tried to make up for their pecking order by drafting highly valued high school prospects who are strongly committed to one or another colleges. Cosart, etc.

    They end up paying a signing bonus equivalent to early round money. That’s a good plan in consideration of their choice placement. So, comparison with other teams choices should factor this in.

    This plan requires scouting over and above that of other teams. Dedicating good funding for the scouts together with rewards for “finds” and accountability works. Amaro has not, to my knowledge, tried to save money by cutting back on scouting and player development. Other teams don’t place as great a value on all that perhaps to save some money, a counter-productive approach.

    Given the high ranking of their minor lg prospects from “knowledgeable” pundits is a recognition that the plan is and has been working. It seems to me that their scouting team is among the best; credit to Amaro and Gillick!

    Should Lidge not be re-signed, and perhaps Madson too, who hit free agency at this year’s end, they could have several early compensatory draft picks in ’12.

    In the 2011 draft, look for the Phils to try to answer the impending need for a SS and 3bman; we DO have one extra draft choice in the first 2 rounds for the loss of Werth. Following the draft and its consequences is another satisfying way to enjoy a team, especially THIS team.

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    • don says:

      The other thing they seem to do, systematically, is look for guys who *were* very highly regarded a year or two before the draft but whose stock fell due to injury/attitude problems/poor performance and try to buy low.

      Obviously there’s a pretty high bust rate with a strategy like that but given the huge number of rounds in the baseball draft taking flyers on a few of those kind of guys seems to be paying off.

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    • baty says:

      Teams have been targeting potentially NCAA bound HS players for years, and sometimes you convince them, sometimes you don’t (Gerrit Cole could be pitching in the Yankees rotation for opening day… guys like Austin Wilson, Matt Purke, etc..) It’s nothing new.

      There really isn’t proof yet that their draft history the last several years has been more or less successful than other organizations. Over a decade ago, the Phillies had a monster stretch through the draft. Right now they have a deep system. How that translates to the major leagues, who knows… So far the greatest success over the last couple years has been with the Phillies commitment to exchange these prospects for better talent. The tough part for them will be transitioning beyond 2012. I see more prospect trades in the near future. I imagine that’s what this depth will be used for most.

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  16. MikeEMik says:

    A guy who wasn’t mentioned in this list of prospects that I’m surprised not to see is Freddy Galvis. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the kids Defense. I noticed other Phillies fans have stated the Phills will address needs at Shortstop via the draft basically writing off Glavis

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    • Mike B says:

      That’s partially b/c Galvis can’t hit a lick. Apparently the guy could be a top major-league defensive SS right now, but simply has no offense.

      I would guess they will target a SS in the draft; I’d be shocked if Rollins doesn’t re-sign.

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  17. PhilsPhan6 says:

    Right now, Galvis in AA was batting .276. In limited at bats in AAA (5 games with 19 at bats – because he is a sept. call up) he is batting .316 which is an offensive explosion for him. He’s also shown up a little bit more with his power. Last year in AA he had 16 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homeruns. This year in AA/AAA he has 22 doubles, 5 triples, 8 homeruns.

    If this continues, the Phillies will have a very nice offensive and defensive replacement for Rollins (if Rollins dosn’t resign.) He’s had only 16 errors in AA, in 5 games in AAA he has 0. Rollins has only 5. If Galvis can improve his defense even more, he would be Rollins type, better bat.

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