At the end of each January, good news rings in my head- “Spring Training is coming!” There’s nothing better than the return of baseball to me, but sadly I’ve only once been to Clearwater for the Grapefruit League season (2011). This year, Spring Training fever has been delayed a little bit, in favor of Super Bowl fever, but baseball is my main love, in the end.
The 2018 Phillies should be a better team than the 2017 version. Some of the top young prospects in the organization have now arrived. Some are about to. Even so, the main intrigue in the Phillies universe, at least for one more Spring, is in the prospect world. Last year I went to 42 professional baseball games, and approximately half of them were minor league games. I expect that to be the case again. I spent a lot of time watching minor league games on TV too. With all that baseball, I was bound to have a top ten prospects list. Here is my version of that Phillies list:
- J.P. Crawford-SS- Philadelphia- A tough first half of 2017 dropped Crawford from being nearly the top prospect in baseball to the 30’s in most rankings. I think they’re all getting it wrong. Crawford actually impressed me, even in his struggles, holding up his fine defense and gifted plate discipline. The Phillies probably moved Crawford along a little fast, but his second half in AAA was so good that he got a September call-up, and played well enough that he is the likely Opening Day Shortstop of the big league club now. I still a first division starter, if not better, in Crawford.
- Sixto Sanchez-SP- Clearwater- So this guy is basically the consensus arm to watch. He’s one of the few prospects I haven’t seen live, but I’ve watched plenty of him to see the talent. He has a legitimate power fastball, with movement. He’s got breaking stuff that is electric. He’s got stuff, lots of stuff. This Summer could be a lot of fun to watch.
- Franklyn Kilome-SP- Reading- So Kilome’s control and command might not be finished products. Even so, I see this Summer as the Summer he leaps forward. Kilome can throw a baseball very fast. He’s lanky, and deceptive. His breaking stuff is capable of being MLB stuff. At the least, I see a back end of the bullpen arm. At the most? He could arrive for 2019.
- Scott Kingery-2B- Lehigh Valley- So, Kingery is the top rated second baseman on MLB Pipeline. The guy I saw is a really, really good player. He’s a plus hitter, has a good glove, and has plus speed. Even so, I think some have jumped ahead of themselves in over-rating Kingery. Yes, he hit a bunch of home runs, in Reading, where everyone seems to hit a lot of home runs. His power numbers came back to Earth in AAA. Does this mean he isn’t the future at second base? Of course not. I just am not as completely convinced he’s a dramatic upgrade on Cesar Hernandez, let alone worthy of comparisons to 2008 Chase Utley. He’s absolutely a future MLB starter type, and maybe even a star, but I want to see how 2018 gets started before we crown him. Even so, be excited.
- Mickey Moniak-CF- Lakewood- So people were rating the 2016 #1 overall pick as the top guy in the system, in some corners. He got off to a good start in Lakewood, but then tailed off badly as the season went on. I haven’t given up on his sweet swing though. Moniak was playing his first full season of professional baseball. He was playing against mostly older players, players with college experience. Growing pains were to be expected. Expect Moniak to bounce back fine.
- Jorge Alfaro-C- Philadelphia- Alfaro tailed off after a fast start in AAA. He had some concerning splits in his slash line, especially in his OBP. Even with his plate discipline issues, Alfaro’s ability keeps him on this list. He has plus power and a great arm, the kinds of tools that could make him an elite starting catcher. Still though, since he’s out of options, he will have to improve his shortcomings in Philadelphia. If things work out though, he’s got elite talent.
- Adonis Medina-SP- Clearwater- He doesn’t throw 100 mph, and he’s not the kind of big frame you expect in a top of the rotation guy, but Medina has three pitches and guys don’t hit him hard. He probably projects in the mid-to-back-end rotation range, but he continues to defy expectations at each level.
- Adam Haseley-CF- Clearwater- Last year’s top pick out of Virginia could move fast this Summer. He went from Rookie League to Williamsport, and from Williamsport to Lakewood in his first partial year in pro ball. Like Kingery, he’s a top talent from an elite college program, so we may see very quickly if he is going to work out. His first year suggests he will hit his way to the majors in short order.
- Jhailyn Ortiz-OF- Lakewood- Ortiz was expected to hit for power when the Phillies signed him at age 16. He hit .302 this past Summer though at Williamsport, and the 19 year old seems ready to make the jump to full season. His talent still suggests special capabilities ahead.
- Jojo Romero-SP- Clearwater- The lefty throws four pitches for strikes, and he’s had solid success early. This is a big year for him to prove that his early success was real.
CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE- Enyel De Los Santos- SP- Reading, Thomas Eshelman-SP- Lehigh Valley, Cornelius Randolph-OF- Clearwater.