[Part IV of a four-part series]
As the boys get going down in Clearwater, we close up our 2011 Top 30 prospect list. There's actually a nice symmetry to the whole thing -- I've spent the last couple of pieces analyzing the farm system based on what happened in 2010 (and before) and what we can reasonably project of these young players going forward, and this series attempts to crystallize the view from the precipice of the 2011 season.
It's important to remember how fluid this process is, though. For quick reference, let's just take a quick peek at last year's Top 30. We have 3 graduates (Antonio Bastardo, Scott Mathieson, and John Mayberry Jr.), 2 guys shipped off via trade (Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar), 2 guys outrighted off the 40-man roster and gone (Yohan Flande and Jesus Sanchez), and 6 guys who tumbled off the list (Jonathan Pettibone, B.J. Rosenberg, Mike Stutes, Matt Way, and Zach Collier), leaving 17 from last year's list. Truthfully, that list would have looked radically different had it been redone in June, because that's the nature of the beast -- some prospects have breakout years, some get hurt, and some flat line when you expect them to have big years. It's why, for all the increased importance of cost controlled young players in today's game, there's still an incredible unpredictability to developing prospects; it's more art than science, with a heaping teaspoon of randomness thrown in for good measure.
All we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. I hope the prospect geeks out there, like myself, are excited for another minor league campaign, and we'll do our best here at TGP to stay on top of things. Without further ado, then, check below the jump for our Top 10 prospects for the 2011 season.
10.) Justin De Fratus, RHP, Lehigh Valley
De Fratus has always shown supreme control throughout his pro career, walking just 1.8 batters per 9 innings, but his stuff took a leap forward in 2010 with a full-time shift to the pen, with his fastball even touching the upper 90s at times. The result was another great campaign statistically -- in 65.0 innings between Clearwater and Reading, he managed a 2.25 FIP on 9.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.42 HR/9, and a 51% GB -- but also one in which scouts started really taking notice. De Fratus only enhanced his reputation by impressing in the Arizona Fall League, and while he's only an outside shot to break camp with the big league club due to roster constraints, he looks like a future stalwart of the Phillies bullpen.
9.) Tyson Gillies, OF-L, Reading
I guess I'm just not sure why a lot of outlets seem to be so down on Gillies. Phuture Phillies dives a bit more deeply into the rationale for slotting Gillies in the Top 10 in his rankings, but here's the 30-second bunnies version: his 113 plate appearances in 2010 aren't a meaningful sample, his tools are still the same, and he's only 22 years old. He gets bumped down the list because he's lost a year of development, and his risk profile is higher now than it was a year ago, but his plate discipline (career 10.0% BB, 19.7% K) and excellent speed mean that he can still be an old school leadoff man and above-average center fielder if it all comes together.
8.) Vance Worley, RHP, Lehigh Valley
Worley's upside isn't much more than that of a #4 starter, but he looks like a solid bet to succeed in that role after a big bounceback year in 2010. He's sort of a poor man's Joe Blanton -- his fastball isn't plus, but he mixes in two offspeed pitches and a change, and pounds the strike zone well. In 171.0 innings between Reading, Lehigh Valley, and Philadelphia last year, Worley managed a line of 6.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, 47% GB, and a 3.43 FIP. If not for the super-rotation, Worley would be competing for a starting role in spring training; as it is, he's likely slated for Triple-A, and would be the second starter called upon should the need arise (though he's almost certainly a superior option to Kyle Kendrick).
The Mexican backstop once again had a bit of trouble with SAL pitching, as while he flashed solid power potential (.174 ISO and a team high 16 home runs), he had some trouble controlling the strike zone (5.6% BB, 22.6% K) and wound up with a slightly above average 102 wRC+ on the campaign. Scouting reports indicated that he made real progress defensively, though, posting a 33% caught stealing rate (the best of his young career) and generally convincing scouts that he'll stick behind the plate. I worry about him handling higher level pitching, but he's still just 20 years old, and with the low offensive bar for major league catchers, someone with Valle's power has a chance to be an above average regular.
We asked on the eve of last year's minor league season if May could improve his command, and the answer was a resounding "maybe." In 70.0 innings in Clearwater, the big righty issued 61 free passes, and even 90 strikeouts could only drop his FIP for the stint to 4.76; once demoted to Lakewood, May kept the strikeouts while cutting down substantially on the walks (just 20 in 65.0 innings), good enough for an impressive 1.94 FIP. He shows little platoon split and obviously has swing-and-miss stuff, but as Scouting the Sally notes, he has work to do on repeating his mechanics, developing his secondary stuff, and refining his command. He's still young and projectable enough to see him as a mid-rotation starter, but there's a ways to go still.
We've written quite a bit on Biddle since his selection by the organization in the 1st round of last year's draft, so I'll just say here that his pro debut (10.3 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 0.41 HR/9, 43% GB, 2.78 FIP in 43.2 innings) was very impressive for a cold weather prep pitcher who had never faced much in the way of high level competition. At 6'6", 225 lbs., Biddle is a huge southpaw, and while he needs definite work with his command and refining his secondary offerings, that's perfectly understandable given his background. He's a long way from the majors, and the club will need to monitor his workload this year, but he's got all the tools to be a front line starter. All he really needs now is innings.
The $900K the Phillies spent to buy Colvin out of his LSU scholarship already looks like money well spent, as the power righty showed enough in his pro debut to convince scouts that he can be a front line starter. His final 2010 line -- 138.0 IP, 7.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.46 HR/9, 50% GB, 3.23 FIP -- was actually dragged down by a rough April, and doesn't really do justice to how good he was for most of the campaign. At 6'3", 195 lbs., Colvin still has a bit of projection left, and has the frame to withstand 200 innings a year. His secondary stuff is inconsistent right now, but if he can refine it as he gets more innings under his belt, he has the look of a front-of-the-rotation workhorse.
In last year's rankings, I tried to temper my own personal excitement for Singleton, reasoning that: (a) he was an 8th round pick with only 100 pro at bats; and (b) the offensive bar is very high for first base prospects. Well, the big lefty had shattered that logic by his second week in Lakewood, dominating the circuit before wearing down physically in the season's second half. All told, his .288/.392/.477 full season debut was highly impressive, all the more so considering his age (he didn't turn 19 until after the season) and his precocious approach at the plate (13.8% BB, 19.7% K). A bat like that will play anywhere, but the thinking now is that Singleton is athletic enough to try his hand at the outfield, which can only help his stock.
The only thing keeping everyone from truly wild enthusiasm regarding Cosart is the fact that he's only managed to throw 95.2 pro innings up to this point due to various injuries. That's certainly a red flag, but the upside here is so substantial that I had to bump him to #2 on the list. Cosart has a true plus fastball, with reports having him touching as high as 98 on the gun, and his curveball is already a plus pitch as well. His 2010 performance was excellent -- 9.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.38 HR/9, 59% GB, 2.47 FIP -- and he's athletic to boot, which will help him maintain his mechanics. At this point, the Texas flamethrower needs two things: (1) to hone his change up; and (2) to stay healthy and log innings.
When Brown first tackled Double-A after a midseason promotion from Clearwater in 2009, he posted a solid .279/.346/.456 line in 118 plate appearances, with a less solid 8.6% BB and 25.2% K. He returned to Reading after the offseason and proceeded to rip the Eastern League to shreds, hitting .318/.391/.602 with much improved plate discipline (10.7% BB, 21.6% K). Why do I point this out? Because while the athletic right fielder has had a transition period at each level he's earned promotion to, he's shown an ability to make the necessary adjustments. The major leagues should be no different in that regard, and while Brown still has some rawness to his game, he should prove to be a solid contributor if he's able to win the starting right field job outright. If not, and he winds up back in Lehigh Valley... well, I'd just hate to be a pitcher in the International League in that case.