Hello loyal TGP readers, this will be the first of what I hope to be many posts here regarding Phillies prospects. I'll generally do a weekly prospect roundup early in the week, but for my debut, the folks here at TGP thought it would be a good idea to deal with a more timely issue: the prospects at stake in the Halladay negotiations. I couldn't agree more.
So consider this your prospect primer for the Halladay deal -- we'll discuss each player's merits in one paragraph, then his value to any potential deal in another. We all know J.A. Happ, so let's start with a look at who else the Blue Jays have been reported to initially demand: Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown.
Kyle Drabek, RHP, Reading
The top prospect in the Phillies' system, Drabek is a 21-year old righty with top-of-the-rotation stuff. A full two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Drabek now features much smoother mechanics, but still flashes the mid-90s fastball and spike curve that made him the 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He ripped through High-A Clearwater this year, posting a 1.82 FIP and 10.8 K/9 in 61.2 IP, and is currently adjusting to Double-A Reading, with a 3.53 FIP and 6.5 K/9. For a guy with only 110 pro innings before this year's that not half bad.
Drabek is the type of deal centerpiece that J.P. Ricciardi covets. He's not on the Buchholz, Hughes, or Chamberlain level, but he's got ace stuff and could be ready to pitch in a big league rotation next year. If he stays healthy, his worst case scenario is as a mid-rotation starter or dominant reliever. It's dubious whether the Phils can get a deal done without including Drabek.
Dominic Brown, L-OF, Clearwater
The top hitting prospect in the Phillies' system, Brown is a 21-year old outfielder with the kind of tools that make scouts drool. A .300/.379/.507 line in the pitcher-dominated High-A Florida State League is highly impressive, particularly the power; the .207 ISO, while still maintaining the solid plate discipline (12.1% BB, 20.7% K) that made him such an intriguing prospect in the first place, is evidence of a big-time breakout.
In Brown and Michael Taylor (see below), the Phillies have a pair of athletic, toolsy outfielders with high ceilings and the performance to back it up. Because of his age, Brown is probably a touch better prospect than Taylor at this point, but he's also a level further away and has yet to make the jump to Double-A. The Jays will certainly require one of the two to make a deal, and Brown looks like their preference; whatever the case, the Phillies can't afford to surrender both.
Check below the jump for the other usual suspects.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Lehigh Valley
Carrasco is your typical post-hype prospect: the 22-year old been on the prospect radar for a long time, but hasn't shown the kind of dramatic improvement that might have vaulted him to the top of the prospect charts. His fastball sits 93 or so with good life, and he has a developing curveball, but reports on the quality of his changeup are mixed -- some scouts see it as a real plus pitch, while others think he slows his arm down too much for the pitch to really be effective. All scouts agree on one thing: Carrasco's mental makeup is the biggest thing holding him back, as he has a tendency to let bloop singles and errors turn into big innings. His 4.01 FIP and 2.95 K/BB this year are solid numbers, but his 14 HR in 114.2 IP are not.
Word has it that the Phils would love to replace either of Happ or Drabek with Carrasco, but there's no way Toronto does a straight 1-for-1 swap on either count; Carlos would have to be accompanied by another prospect (or 3) for that to work. Now would be a good time for the Blue Jays to buy low on Carlos, though.
Michael Taylor, R-OF, Lehigh Valley
One of the biggest risers on prospect lists this year, Taylor's 6'6", 250-lb. frame, NFL-style athleticism, and Stanford intelligence have Bill Conlin drooling. After junking the notorious "Stanford swing" before last offseason, Taylor has gone on an absolute tear, culminating in a promotion to Lehigh Valley the other week after posting a .333/.408/.569 line in 363 Double-A plate appearances (with solid 9.9% BB and 16.0% K rates, and an 18:4 SB:CS ratio to boot).
It seems that the Jays prefer Brown to Taylor, and when it comes down to it, the Phillies probably do too. Still, you won't see them complaining if they can get a Halladay deal and hang onto a guy who legitimately projects as a middle-of-the-lineup right fielder with all five tools.
Jason Donald, R-SS, Lehigh Valley
A disappointing year for Donald in Triple-A (.230/.293/.324, 25.5% K) has put a dent in his perceived upside. As a shortstop with solid hands, a good arm, but questionable range, he projects better as a second baseman or a utility infielder at this point, as his bat probably won't play at third base. Donald's been rehabbing in the Gulf Coast League the past few weeks as he struggles to recover from injury.
The Blue Jays were apparently very high on Donald this time last year, as the Phils traded names with Toronto regarding A.J. Burnett, but his stock is certainly down. With Toronto rejecting the Phils' latest offer including Donald, it's questionable at this point how much interest Toronto has in Donald.
Jason Knapp, RHP, Lakewood
The organization's 3rd round pick in the 2008 draft, Knapp is a big-bodied (6'5", 215-lb.) starter with a big-time fastball. His full-season debut as an 18-year old has been nothing short of remarkable: a 2.85 FIP and 11.7 K/9 in 85.1 IP. He needs to cut down on the walks (4.1 BB/9) and develop his secondary offerings, but he has all the tools to be a front-end starter.
That being said, Knapp is a long, long way away, and plenty of things can go wrong in the meantime. The organization seems to value him very highly -- he's not untouchable, but it's likely the Phils will do everything they can to hang on to the young fireballer. With Knapp on the DL now with shoulder fatigue, it looks unlikely that he'll be any part of a Halladay deal.
Lou Marson, R-C, Lehigh Valley
Marson had a breakout campaign at Reading last year, posting a .314/.433/.416 line with an impressive 17.4% BB rate. After a rough start to his Triple-A campaign, Marson got back in the groove in June and July, raising his season averages to .299/.382/.376. He's still hitting for no power, but his plate discipline is still solid, and he's still in line to be the Phillies starting backstop, possibly starting in 2010.
We haven't heard Marson's name much with regard to the Halladay talks. Toronto has Marson's polar opposite -- plenty of power, no plate discipline -- J.P. Arencibia, in Triple-A, but his .234/.285/.421 line this year might have the Jays looking elsewhere for their catcher of the future. The Phils remain high on Marson, though, so it remains to be seen whether they'd be willing to part with him.
Travis d'Arnaud, R-C, Lakewood
The Phils' supplemental round selection in the 2007 draft, d'Arnaud was praised by scouts for his defensive ability first and foremost. When his bat suddenly came around last year (.305/.367/.464 across two levels), he jumped up prospect charts. With that backdrop, d'Arnaud's .244/.308/.408 line in Low-A this year seems like an abject disappointment, but the poor surface numbers mask the fact that d'Arnaud hasn't really been hitting all that terribly this year. In fact, d'Arnaud still projects as an above-average major league catcher provided he continues to develop over the next 3-4 years.
The Blue Jays were apparently very high on d'Arnaud heading into the 2007 draft, and they sent scouts to Lakewood -- presumably to watch him -- earlier this month. He wouldn't be the key cog in any deal, but d'Arnaud has good value as a complimentary piece, and it wouldn't surprise me at all for the Blue Jays to ask for d'Arnaud's inclusion in any deal that gets done.
A Blue Jays club official told Jayson Stark the other day that there is "a list of seven or eight names" that the Toronto has interest in, and it's likely that the eight above players comprise that list. Ricciardi and Ruben Amaro will mix and match from the above pool of players (and Happ, of course), trying to come up with a package that both sides are happy with. It may or may not get done, but rest assured: the guys listed above will be discussed ad nauseum over the next five days.