2014 Phillies Prospect Predictions

The Phanatic is currently out on bail after this sexual assault. - Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Every year a guy who was previously fringy seems to suddenly flip a switch and rise op the rankings. Who are the candidates for a breakout 2014? Who will make the big club? Who is overhyped? Will Burt escape from the Aliens? Will Benson get the door? Confused? You won't be after this episode of Prospect Predictions.

I am not making predictions for the big league club, aside from pain (to paraphrase Clubber Lang). I cover the Minors, so I'll stick to making my predictions there. On the day when most affiliates seasons kick off, I'll start with Breakout players.

Every breakout is different and not every breakout suggests future star. I think it's important up front to clarify what I mean by breakout. I consider Darin Ruf's 2012 to have been a breakout season, even though it made me think of him as a future bench bat, where I previously figured he was likely a AAAA guy at best. This past year both Kelly Dugan and Aaron Altherr went from the fringes of the Top 30 to as high as 4 on some Org. prospect lists this winter. A lot of things can lead to breakouts. For Altherr and Dugan, they were healthy in 2013. Both had experienced odd, unrelated injuries their first few years and never seemed to settle in and stay healthy long enough to sustain success. In 2013 both got in full seasons (albeit with a few dings, but no more injury problems than every athlete has over a long season) and both shot up rankings because they were finally able to show what they could do when healthy. For other guys it can be minor changes to swings, approach or the player simply developing a better feel for the game.

This year's possible breakout players:

Brian Pointer, OF - Pointer has a pretty average tool profile, similar to Kelly Dugan, though with perhaps a bit more speed. He's also struggled mightily, especially in Lakewood last year. He'll move to Clearwater, in all likeliehood in 2014 (where last year saw breakouts from Altherr, Dugan and to some extent Franco, though he was already highly regarded). There's a few things I like about Pointer, his K rate, while still high, came down about 5 percentage points last year, while his BB rate (always a strength) trended up each year he's been in the system. Pointer's a pretty good baserunner and actually has pretty good power (mostly doubles power now, but power often develops last). Now, Pointer's a .230 hitter currently with a BABiP near .300, so he certainly isn't a threat for batting titles, however, I do think he could improve, with further improvement in K rate and a little luck to a guy who could get to a .260/.350/.400-ish line (basically Justin Upton in 2013, with a bit less power). Warning signs: Pointer is pure platoon material right now, as he's fairly useless against Lefties. He's fast enough to play anywhere in the Outfield, but not good enough to stand out anywhere. Summary: If Pointer has a breakout, it will be of the variety that might get him to the 11-20 range as an intriguing future reserve OF.

Samuel Hiciano, OF - Hiciano's a 19 year old OF, who I moved in and out of my Top 30. What ultimately kept him out of my top 10 was sample size. Hiciano had some injury issues and he was limited to ~150 PA in the NYPL. In those 150-ish PA he hit 7 Homers in the historically power stingy NYPL. Small sample warnings abound, but he did this with a 12% BB rate. All of his power was pretty much HR and his HR/OFB was an unusually high 18.4%. Lakewood will have a crowded OF, but it would be interesting to see him get a full season. Warning signs: For one, small sample size. Also, he sported a K rate of nearly 25%, which is the ceiling of where you want a prospect to be, so it's a small red flag for now. Summary: So, Hiciano may have had some small sample luck in his Homers, but he also did much of this while injured and in a small time frame. If he shows this kind of success (even half of it, frankly) over a full season, he'll rocket up lists. He'll need to get some better control over his K rate, but there's good promise here.

Larry Greene, Jr., OF/1B - This one's a risky prediction and probably a bit of a wishcast. If I'm looking for good signs one would be that Greene has always sported a good walk rate. Of course that because he just sometimes doesn't swing. What I'm really hanging hopes on here are reports of Greene overhauling his swing. A big part of Greene's problem is that his swing is a disaster. his top half and bottom half move independently. If that's fixed he'll unlock all that raw power he was drafted for. Warning signs: Sure, he'd unlock his power, but if he's still striking out nearly 36% of the time, no one will care. The swing fix won't fix his pitch recognition and with a move to First in his future he'll need to start hitting a lot. Summary: This one's a long shot, I'm sad to say. If Greene can unlock his power, at least he'll be fun to watch, if nothing else. Also, he showed up to camp in good shape and that type of dedication will be important here.

Now, looking at broader predictions:

Maikel Franco - Franco will spend the whole regular season in Triple-A working on adjusting his exagerrated hand load in his swing. He will struggle at times early in the season as he adjusts, but will remain the top prospect in the system. Pressure will increase to promote him when Cody Asche is included in the Cliff Lee trade, but the Phils will opt to suffer with Jayson Nix and allow Franco to master his new swing in AAA.

Jesse Biddle - Biddle won't come out on fire like he did last year, but he will finish the year in Triple A and be poised for a Starting spot on the Phils in 2015. He will lead the Eatern League in Strikeouts prior to his call-up to Lehigh Valley.

Carlos Tocci will improve on his success last year with more hard contact leading to more hits. Tocci will boost his average into the .260-.270 range with a big uptick in Doubles. He'll also use his speed more effectively on the basepaths and by the end of the year, he'll be flirting with Top 100 rankings on the various prospect lists.

Zach Green will lead the SALLY in both Home Runs and Strikeouts, followed closely by Dylan Cozens in both categories.

The Fightins' will win the First Half of the season for their division in the Eastern League guaranteeing them a playoff spot. However, second half promotions of Dugan, Collier, Biddle, Joseph and Giles leave the Fightins' undermanned and they lose the first Round of the playoffs. The September roster expansion for the Phillies sees the MLB debut of Maikel Franco, Kelly Dugan, Jesse Biddle, Tommy Joseph and Tyson Gillies.

In June the Phillies will select LHP Brady Aiken with the #7 pick in the First Round. Aiken check so many Phillies boxes: Tall Lefty, Southern California. mid to upper 90's Fastball and he fits the new paradigm as prior to suddenly adding a lot of velocity this Spring he was seen as having excellent command and control for a Pitcher his age. He'd be a perfect fit for the Org. and his ceiling is as high as any player in the Draft. I'll go way out on a limb and suggest that the Phillies double down on LHP and take Hawaiian Kodi Modeiros in the Second. The Phillies have drafted from Hawaii before (Catching/ukelele prospect Chase Numata), so it's not out of the realm of possibility. Kodi has a wipeout Slider and good heat, but his height could cause him to drop out of the First (he's ~6 feet tall). The Phillies are doing well with shorter Lefties in the system now with Severino and Yoel Mecias, so perhaps the height won't be an issue for them. Even if he ends up in a bullpen role down the road, his Slider will keep him from being a LOOGY.

Top 10 Prospects next winter: 10. Jose Pujols 9. Kodi Medeiros 8. Kelly Dugan 7. Tommy Joseph 6. Aaron Altherr 5. Carlos Tocci 4. J.P. Crawford 3. Brady Aiken 2. Jesse Biddle 1. Maikel Franco

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