First in a series of ten (seriously!) articles on the 2009 Phillies.
As recently as 2005, the Phillies farm system had the worst minor league winning percentage in all of professional baseball. Organizational winning percentage may not be the best way to judge system strength, but you get the idea. Things have turned around since then. So much so, that the organization has been able to unload six of their top ten prospects (Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp) at the deadline for pitching help, and they still have one of the best farm systems in baseball.
The biggest reason? The system's top three prospects -- RHP Kyle Drabek, and outfielders Michael Taylor and Domonic Brown. The three guys who were too good to trade for Roy Halladay.
More after the jump...
Drabek, coming off Tommy John surgery, posted a 3.19 ERA with 150 strikeouts and just 50 walks in 158 innings pitched between Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. Drabek only turns 22 early next month. The Phillies shut Drabek down in August when he led the minors in innings pitched; a judicious decision, considering his recent arm surgery. He projects as a #2 starter in the majors, but will likely spend all of 2010 in Double-A and Triple-A, barring disaster in Philadelphia.
Michael Taylor posted a combined .320/.395/.549 line between Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, with 20 home runs. An extremely strong contact hitter (just 70 strikeouts) with a line-drive swing, the 6'6", 250 pound outfielder looks to force his way into the big leagues as soon as mid 2010 -- whether it's with the Phillies or another team remains to be seen. He'll be 24 next season, so he's just about "done."
Domonic Brown has emerged as the organization's top prospect. An exciting mix of tools and skills, Brown went .299/.377/.504 mostly between Clearwater and Reading in his age 21 season. Brown will need at least one more full year in the minors and will probably start 2010 in Reading.
Aside from those three, there's a great deal of organizational depth, particularly among the pitchers -- lower level guys with high upside like Trevor May and Brody Colvin, and future reliever types like Joe Savery, Mike Stutes and Vance Worley, not to mention Justin DeFratus, Austin Hyatt, Jonathan Pettibone, Matt Way, etc. etc. You get the idea. Grab a bunch of nice arms, and hope to hit on a couple of them. It's as good a strategy as any. Oh, and Scott Mathieson is hitting the mid to upper 90s again.
Among the position players, catcher Travis D'Arnaud and outfielder Anthony Gose lead the non-Taylor/Brown positional prospects, but both are still at least a few years away.
Of course there are weaknesses -- no real third base or middle infield prospects to speak of (unless Freddy Galvis can actually figure out how to hit a little) -- and a disconcerting tendency to go for toolsy outfielder types with high picks. But in 2009, the Phillies farm system proved beyond any doubt that it belongs in the top third in MLB. Quite a change from a few years ago, when it was one of the very worst.