Since 2010, the Phillies have traded away a bulk of their prospects in acquiring "needs" to better the club. While we might have gained Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton and Cliff Lee over the years, they certainly haven't come without a cost. Prospects are very much a lottery ticket with no certainty of EVER hitting, no matter the pedigree or hype. We've seen Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, Jared Cosart, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, Josh Outman, Adrian Cardenas and Travis d'Arnaud make it to the majors in some form with different teams. Some highly touted prospects haven't seen the field (Jason Knapp) or haven't made it to the majors yet (Jonathan Singleton and Domingo Santana).
This time of year we often dissect lists from the leading experts in examining baseball prospects. The Phillies farm system has often been called "barren" even since the beginning of the Phillies masterful run in 2007. I can say that not much has changed. There aren't blue chip prospects. There is no Byron Buxton, Oscar Tavares or Archie Bradley in the system. I can say there is a glimmer of hope and it's beginning to shine through that cloud of doom and gloom that has trailed the team recently. There are 3 Phillies prospects featured on all these lists: Maikel Franco, Jesse Biddle and JP Crawford. Here is a cheat sheet on the rankings from each sourced linked above:
Maikel Franco - 3B/1B
Franco is obviously the prize of the Phillies organization at the moment, or at least the closest to the majors. Maikel Franco broke out in 2013 putting together a slash line across A & AA of .320/.365/.569. He also belted 31 homers. He is only 21 years of age. He has immense raw power and good hit tool. He doesn't walk, but doesn't strikeout. He needs to make solid contact in order for his power to play up in the majors. MattWinks has done a wonderful breakdown on Franco and what he needs to do to succeed. Highly suggested reading. His path to the majors right now is cloudy. I highly doubt a colossal spring training would prevent him being the starting 3B on Opening Day. The Phillies still need to see more of 3B Cody Asche, whom has already arrived in the majors. The Phillies plan on having Franco play some 1B this season in order, to what I assume, to give him some position flexibility. There have been concerns of his ability to stick at 3B, but I think the arm and foot work are fine. His right handed power would be crucial in the lefty heavy current lineup. Jaypoozle's MLB ETA - Late 2014/ Opening Day 2015
Jesse Biddle - SP
Our 1st round pick from 2010 has been better gradually, but not without his bumps. 2013 had it's highs and lows for Biddle who at times could DOMINATE, but also struggle with his control. We did learn that he battled whooping cough a majority of the season in addition to pitching the final month of the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. I'm not a pitcher, but I can't imagine any of those ailments not hindering your performance. The fact is, he is likely a top5 lefty starting pitcher IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE. There isn't a wealth of premium lefty starting pitchers this year that haven't already reached the majors. Biddle dominates with a good mid-range fastball (low 90's) that he compliments with an above average curve and a change-up. Biddle's ceiling is likely a #2 starter, but more than likely a SOLID #3. That is something to be excited about on a team that could use an injection of youth in the rotation. Jaypoozle's MLB ETA - Late 2014/ Opening Day 2015 - If he shows command, he could get a call up sooner than later.
JP Crawford - SS
Probably my favorite prospect in the entire system. He is our 1st round pick of 2013 and played for the GCL Phils and Lakewood Blueclaws. He flat out CRUSHED the Gulf Coast League as a 18 year old rookie playing his first professional baseball. In the GCL he had 142 at bats, had 49 hits and 25 walks for a .443 OBP. He showed speed on the basepaths (12 steals) and played good defense. The body still has to fill out, but his defensive profile coupled with a blossoming bat is enough to convince me that we have our future SS. He will likely begin the year in Lakewood where he finished last season (to very unimpressive results). He could be a fast riser in the organization. Jaypoozle's MLB ETA - 2016 Opening Day
You can see the farm getting better (Keith Law ranked it 27th last year and now sits at 14th!!!). Can you imagine if Adam Morgan and Shane Watson hadn't needed shoulder surgery? Or Roman Quinn didn't rupture his Achillies? Or Tommy Joseph experience ongoing concussion issues? The farm is climbing back, by the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, this could be one of the better farm systems in the league. Guys mentioned above, with the 2013 draft class (Jan Hernandez, Andrew Knapp, Cord Sandberg) and high risk/reward prospects (Carlos Tocci, Jose Pujols, Zach Green, Dylan Cozens, Yoel Mecias), are the reason to hold out hope. They won't all be All-Stars, but for a moment you can envision SOME of these guys going onto to be successful major league players.