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Top 10 Prospects Watch (Pt. 2)

In our look at the first half of the Phils' top 10 prospects for 2006 as compiled by Baseball America, we found a mixed bag: pitchers Cole Hamels and Scott Mathieson are looking solid, outfielder Michael Bourn has cemented his prospect status, and young hitters Greg Golson and Welinson Baez have badly regressed. As the second half of the list shows, these trends continue: the pitchers are doing fine, and the hitters are really, really struggling.

6. Mike Costanzo, 3b

High-A: 85-361 (.235), 45 R, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 42 BB, 102 K, 2/3 SB/A, .328 OBP, .357 SLG

Here's where the darkness really starts to set in. Costanzo isn't a kid; the Phillies' top pick in 2005 will be 23 in September, and he hasn't hit at Clearwater. He's tied for tenth in the FSL in walks, is 15th in the league in doubles and 16th in RBI. A look at the splits, again courtesy of the superb Minor League Splits database, suggests that he might be a bit unlucky (.305 average on balls in play), but offers little else in the way of encouragement: Costanzo is hitting .242 against righties and .192 against lefties, and has been steadily mediocre in each month: .240 in April, .233 in May, .247 for June, .194 thus far in July, with an OPS under .700 in each month as well. Oh, and he's made 17 errors at third base. The Phillies probably will promote Costanzo to Reading next year anyway, but it's tough to get very excited about him right now.

7. Brad Harman, SS
High-A: 79-324 (.244), 45 R, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 34 BB, 75 K, .320/.302/.623

Like Costanzo, Harman finished 2005 a very hot hitter, and was pegged as a sleeper prospect for this season in a few national publications. Suffice it to say that hasn't really panned out. The Australian shortstop has been a mess both at the plate and in the field, where he's committed 27 errors. The splits show that Harman has warmed up a bit in July, batting .310 this month, but just one of his 18 hits has been for extra bases. Harman is just 20 (he's one of about four guys in the Phillies organization, including Ryan Howard, born on November 19), and a recent Jim Salisbury article in the Inquirer alluded to personal issues this season, so he remains a guy to watch---but not one likely to appear in Philadelphia anytime soon.

8. Tim Moss, 2b

AA: 37-206 (.180), 23 R, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 16 BB, 82 K, 6/8 SB/A, .242 OBP, .364 SLG
High-A: 32-114 (.281), 20 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 10 BB, 32 K, 12/15 SB/A, .349 OBP, .404 SLG

Moss was the team's top draft pick in 2003 (when the Phillies didn't select until the third round), a second baseman with athleticism but an unpolished approach at the plate. After two poor minor-league campaigns, things seemed to come together for him in Clearwater last year, as he hit 17 home runs and stole 28 bases with an .811 OPS. But at Reading this season, Moss regressed, hitting just .132 in April with an amazing 31 strikeouts in 68 at-bats. His power didn't totally disappear--in 206 Eastern League at-bats, Moss hit 7 home runs--but the team returned him to Clearwater on June 20 with a .180 average. Back in the FSL, Moss has fared a bit better, batting .281 with 12 steals, but as a 24 year-old repeating the level, his prospect luster is badly faded.

9. Jason Jaramillo, C
AA: 46-206 (.223), 23 R, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 24 BB, 37 K, 0/1 SB/A, .298 OBP, .359 SLG

A catching prospect so nice the Phils drafted him twice, as a high-schooler in 2001 (he didn't sign) and out of college three years later, Jaramillo was double-jumped from Lakewood to Reading this year so he could catch pitching prospects Gio Gonzalez, Scott Mathieson and the since-traded Dan Haigwood. The team professes to be happy with his defense, but Jaramillo hasn't hit and has struggled through some injuries. His splits suggest some bad luck: Jaramillo's average on balls in play is just .252, which is very low. And his 24 walks in just over 200 at-bats, against just 37 strikeouts no less, is pretty encouraging. The odds are that he'll repeat the level next year, but any fancies that he could step in for Mike Lieberthal in 2007 presumably have been dismissed.

10. Edgar Garcia, P
Short-season A: 2-3, 3.99, 38.1 IP, 40 H, 5 BB, 28 K

Like the rainbow at the end of the Great Flood, here finally is a prospect who hasn't damaged his status this year. As a 17 year-old in the Gulf Coast League last summer, Garcia more than held his own, putting up a 4-4 record, 3.56 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of better than 3 to 1. In the New York/Penn League this year, he's more or less repeated those numbers to this point, though the K/BB ratio has gotten even better. He's still years away, but with good health and good fortune, the Dominican native could take a place in the Phils rotation by the end of this decade.

The rest of the story

While almost every Phils position prospect has disappointed this year, the team has seen near-corresponding success on the pitching side, as Mathieson has blossomed into a top prospect; trade pickup Gio Gonzalez (4-9, 4.23) has struck out a league-best 118 hitters in 104.1 AA innings at age 20; 2002 second-round pick Zach Segovia (23 years old, combined 13-5, 2.89 at Clearwater and Reading) has restored his prospect status after years lost to injury and ineffectiveness, and previously-considered second-tier arms like J.A. Happ (23 year-old lefty, combined 2.87 ERA for Clearwater and Reading, 108 strikeouts in 103.3 IP), Carlos Carrasco (19 year-old RHP, 7-5, 2.87 at Lakewood, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning) and Matt Maloney (22 years old, 11-5, 1.87, 120K/114.6 IP at Lakewood) have emerged as serious prospects.

What would the list look like today? Here's mine:

1)    Scott Mathieson, 22, RHP, AAA
2)    Gio Gonzalez, 20, LHP, AA
3)    Michael Bourn, 23, OF, AAA
4)    Carlos Carrasco, 19, RHP, A
5)    Zach Segovia, 23, RHP, AA
6)    Edgar Garcia, 18, RHP, short-season A
7)    J.A. Happ, 23, LHP, AA
8)    Jason Jaramillo, 23, C, AA
9)    Brad Harman, 20, INF, high-A
10)    Matt Maloney, 22, RHP, A

Ironically considering their struggles at the big-league level, the Phils have a ton of pitching on the way. Some will be kept, some will be traded. Overall, I think a system that probably ranked in the bottom quarter of the big leagues has improved slightly this season--though if none of the hitters turn things around in the last six weeks of the minor-league schedule, GM Pat Gillick probably should look long and hard at his player development personnel and coaches on the batting side.