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Minor League assignments, 2006

As the Phillies' winter tour rolls through south Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, Pat Gillick and others have let slip some hints as to where several of the top prospects in the Phillies system are likely to begin the 2006 season. Right now it sounds like outfielders Michael Bourn and Chris Roberson will open at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as will newly acquired lefty starter Daniel Haigwood. It was generally expected that Bourn would repeat Reading after being double-jumped in 2005, but Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle reports that the outfielder's Arizona Fall League performance changed minds in the Phils front office. Gillick mentioned in his chat Friday that Haigwood was likely to start at Scranton.

But even without Bourn and Haigwood, the Reading team might be the most exciting Phillies affiliate to watch in 2006. Minor-league coordinator Steve Norowyta reportedly said last week that he expects Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez, and Scott Mathieson--arguably the team's top three pitching prospects--to begin 2006 in the R-Phils' rotation. They'll be throwing to catcher Jason Jaramillo, who skips over high-A Clearwater after a solid full-season debut at Lakewood last year. Second baseman Tim Moss, who raised his prospect status in '05 with a strong year in Clearwater, also goes to AA, along with outfielder Jake Blalock.

Where the Phils' younger prospects will begin this season is less certain. Presumably, 2004 first-round pick Greg Golson will move up to Clearwater, though his youth and so-so performance at Lakewood a year ago might signal a return engagement in north Jersey. Third baseman Mike Costanzo, the Phillies' first selection (second round) in last June's draft, also could begin at Lakewood or Clearwater. Lefty J.A. Happ, the Blue Claws' best pitcher in 2005, might have started at Reading but for the acquisitions of Haigwood and Gonzalez this winter; as it is, he'll pitch for Clearwater.

Also in minor-league news, Baseball America has released their 2006 Prospects Handbook, which includes their top 30 picks for each club. BA rates the Phillies system 22nd out of the 30 major-league clubs; given the prominence of the two former White Sox farmhands on their list, the Phils likely would have sunk into the bottom five before the Thome trade. With Mike Drago's commentary, here's the full list:

  1. Cole Hamels, LHP
  2. Gio Gonzalez, LHP
  3. Greg Golson, OF
  4. Michael Bourn, OF
  5. Scott Mathieson, RHP
  6. Dan Haigwood, LHP
  7. Welinson Baez, 3B/SS
  8. Mike Costanzo, 3B
  9. Brad Harman, SS/2B
  10. Jason Jaramillo, C
  11. Tim Moss, 2B
  12. Edgar Garcia, RHP
  13. Chris Roberson, OF
  14. Shane Victorino, OF
  15. Eude Brito, LHP
  16. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
  17. Michael Durant, 1B
  18. Carlos Ruiz, C
  19. J.A. Happ, LHP
  20. Jake Blalock, OF
  21. Matt Maloney, LHP
  22. Josh Outman, LHP
  23. Louis Marson, C
  24. Brett Harker, RHP
  25. Jeremy Slayden, OF
  26. Tim Kennelly, 3B
  27. Chris Booker, RHP
  28. Kyle Kendrick, RHP
  29. Scott Mitchinson, RHP
  30. Yoel Hernandez, RHP
I think Ruiz and Hernandez are much too low here, Golson too high, but then I like those higher-minors guys who are more likely to actually reach the majors. For another good prospect list, check out our pal phillychuck at his Phuture Phils blog. His list includes Josh Kroeger, who presumably was still an Arizona farmhand when BA went to press; PC's ranking of Kroeger as the Phils' #9 prospect sounds about right to me, though I have this hunch he's a guy who will either be a solid big-league regular or have another job by the time he's 30.