[Part IV of a four-part series]
Was the anticipation killing you? It shouldn't have been, given that I haven't changed the contents of the Top 10 since December's offseason Prospect Roundup. I did, however, tweak the order a bit -- as I said before, this is a fluid process, and as more information becomes available, things are bound to change.
Without further ado, then, I present the Phillies' Top 10 prospects heading into the 2010 season.
10.) Jarred Cosart, RHP, Lakewood
Cosart slots in just ahead of Brody Colvin because we have some actual pro numbers to go off of -- albeit just a 24.1 inning sample. But the scouting reports from the GCL were very positive, with Cosart sitting at 93-94 with his fastball and mixing in a curve that flashes plus. Cosart was a two-way star in high school -- a big plus, as athleticism is often one of the more underappreciated attributes that contribute to a pitching prospect's success. After some lingering shoulder soreness last year, he'll need to be moved slowly, but looks primed for a breakout year in Lakewood in 2010.
9.) Antonio Bastardo, LHP, Philadelphia
Those who closely followed the Phillies' farm system knew that Bastardo was ultimately ticketed for the bullpen, and Ruben Amaro made it official the other day. That's a good thing -- as a reliever, Bastardo can focus on what he does best, raring back and throwing low- to mid-90s gas and mixing in an occasional changeup and slider to keep hitters honest. If the Dominican Winter League is any indication (17 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 26 K, 0.53 ERA), he should prove to be an asset to the Phillies' pen. As long as he stays healthy -- and, with a history of shoulder problems, the hope is that the lighter workload will help in that regard -- there's no reason he can't become a left-handed set up man.
8.) Sebastian Valle, C-R, Lakewood
There's one thing that bugs me as I try to evaluate Valle: I can't square the fact that scouts praise his pitch recognition and approach at the plate with his subpar plate discipline numbers (6.8% BB, 22.3% K in 2009). He's this high because he flashed some serious power (.224 ISO in Williamsport) at a young age, he plays a premium position, and he's still only 19 years old. His defense needs a lot of work -- he allowed 11 passed balls and only threw out 18% of basestealers last year -- but that's par for the course for young catchers. Valle's at least 3 years away, but if he can make steady improvements to his receiving and his plate discipline, he could develop into an above-average major league catcher.
7.) Domingo Santana, OF-R, Williamsport
Already 6'5" at age 17, Santana simply oozes power potential, and his present power ain't too shabby either. He hit.288/.388/.508 in 139 GCL plate appearances, launching 6 homers and posting a .220 ISO in perhaps the most pitcher-friendly league in the minors. It all added up to a 168 wRC+ -- most of that done at age 16 -- and makes Santana a big-time sleeper heading forward. The major red flag for Santana is his contact ability, as he struck out in 37.3% of his at bats last year. Santana has the raw ability and the patience (11.3% BB) to overcome the issue, and time is certainly is on his side, but the organization would be wise to bring him along slowly so as not to stall his development.
6.) Anthony Gose, OF-L, Clearwater
Speaking of young outfielders... Gose played most of 2009 at age 18, and managed to hold his own at Lakewood (106 wRC+). His bat is by far his weakest tool right now (6.1% BB, 21.6% K, .094 ISO), but he did show an improved approach in the second half of 2009, and the hope is that he'll grow into some power as he matures physically. The other parts of his game make him a potential All-Star center fielder: he led the minors in stolen bases (76, at a 79.2% success rate), had 13 outfield assists, and was rated by managers as the best defensive outfielder in the SAL. Clearwater will be a big test for Gose's bat, and he'll need to continue to make adjustments at the plate to make it to the show.
5.) Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Reading
Here he is, the big mover and shaker since the last prospect rankings. The fact that he'll be pitching as a starter next year is part of the reason for the bump -- I still think he winds up in the pen long-term, but he should be given every shot to start until the Phillies are sure he can't handle it. The other reason is that, barring catastrophic injury, Aumont is a lock to pitch in the majors at some point, and I think it's fair to bump him above a slew of raw A-ball guys who may reach the majors, and may never get past Double-A. Aumont will be tasked with developing his secondary offerings this year, and if he can command his slider a bit better, it will go a long way toward assuring him a successful big league career -- and a guy with a mid-90s sinker and a usable secondary pitch could make for a heck of a closer one day.
4.) Trevor May, RHP, Clearwater
May's emergence softened the blow of losing Jason Knapp in the midseason Cliff Lee deal, as he posted a 2.56 FIP with 11.1 K/9 in 77.1 innings at Lakewood last year. At 6'5", 220 lbs., May has a workhorse frame, and while he sits low-90s with his fastball right now, he has the projection to add a few ticks to his velocity. His changeup is rudimentary and his control needs work (5.0 BB/9), but neither of those things is unusual for a cold weather draftee (May is from Washington) -- indeed, the success he had at age 19 despite being a cold weather pitcher is quite impressive. The organization should aim to get May about 110 to 120 innings in Clearwater this year, with particular focus on cutting down on the free passes. If it all goes well, May looks like a nice mid-rotation starter.
3.) J.C. Ramirez, RHP, Reading
Perhaps I'm conveniently overlooking Ramirez's disastrous 2009 by slotting him here, but I'm willing to cut him some slack for pitching in High Desert, one of the most difficult ballparks for pitchers in the entire minor leagues. The Prince of Paramus combines a lively mid-90s fastball with an above-average slider, but his changeup needs a lot of work, which shows in his platoon split. Still, Ramirez is just 21, and we can expect a bounceback year for him as he leaves the California League behind. A return to the confidence that he showed in 2008 (when he impressed with a 8.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.65 HR/9, 48.0% GB, 3.55 FIP line), along with the development of a passable changeup, would make Ramirez a good bet to be a solid #2/3 starter.
2.) Tyson Gillies, OF-L, Reading
It's appropriate that all three prospects received in the Cliff Lee deal will start in Reading -- after all, Double-A is generally the biggest test for prospects as they climb the ladder, so we'll get a chance to see what we've got almost right away. Gillies will man center field for the R-Phils, and he's looking to build on his breakout 2009, which saw him post a 146 wRC+ in the High-A California League. As I alluded to in the last Prospect Roundup, it will be worth monitoring whether Gillies is able to: (A) further tighten up his plate discipline; and/or (B) add a bit of power to his game. With Shane Victorino now signed through 2012, Gillies won't need to be rushed -- the plan can be for him to be a finished product by the time he's patrolling center field full-time at CBP, and if his development proceeds as planned, his skill set and high energy style will remind a lot of people of the guy he's likely to be replacing.
1.) Domonic Brown, OF-L, Reading
The temptation at this point may be to rush Brown to the majors in 2011 whether he's ready or not, if for no other reason than to prove that he deserved to be the lone untouchable while the system's 2nd through 4th best players were shipped off. That would be a mistake, because for all Brown's athletic ability and rapid improvement, he still has some rough edges to his game (in particular, his jumps and routes in the outfield). That being said, Brown still looks like a potential game-changing right fielder, with excellent plate discipline and developing power in the batter's box, speed on the basepaths and in the outfield, and a plus arm. He should spend most of the year in Reading, and it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Ben Francisco replaced Jayson Werth to begin 2011, with Brown honing his craft in Lehigh Valley until he's fully ready -- after all, as we saw with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, good things come to those who wait.
I had been hinting at a larger shakeup of the Top 10, but to make a long story short, I scrapped the idea of moving May ahead of Ramirez at this juncture. Ramirez is more advanced and has stuff that's as good as (if not better than) May's, and as I said above, I fully expect a bounceback from him in 2010. May could wind up posting better numbers by virtue of being in the FSL, but he has work to do on his command and on trying to keep the ball on the ground (just 36.6% GB last year), so I'll keep Ramirez where he is.
Looking at the list as a whole, what jumps out more than anything is how young this Top 10 is. The Phillies dealt away 7 prospects in the Lee and Halladay deals, 5 of whom had made it to at least Double-A. If you want a reason why Lehigh Valley is going to be a bunch of mercenaries this year, that's it -- there's simply very little prospect depth in the upper minors at this juncture. Brown, Gillies, Ramirez and Aumont making the jump to Reading helps matters, but a quick look at the rest of the list shows that the high ceiling guys seem to be concentrated in Lakewood, with the guys headed to Reading or Lehigh Valley falling into the categories of "potential back-end starter" or "reliever."
That's the bad news. The good news is that just as Michael Taylor and Lou Marson broke out in 2008, and Jason Knapp broke out in 2009, I fully expect someone to jump into the Top 10 with an eye-popping season at one of the lower levels in 2010. I'd venture to guess Jonathan Singleton or Jonathan Pettibone, but it could be any number of talented young guys -- the beauty in collecting so many lottery tickets is that one of them is bound to pay off.
And... that's about it. I hope you've enjoyed my incessant rambling on Phillies prospects, and I'll try to answer any questions or comments left below. I'm sure there will be a couple of newsworthy items to report on as spring training gets underway, but for the most part, it's time to simply sit and wait till early April, when the minor league box scores come rolling in again.