Post-NonApocalyptic Look at What's Left on the Farm

Hello, cummerbunds. I typically spew my ignorance at Liberty Ballers but I decided to meander over here for some strippers and baseball in light of recent events. While I'm sure everybody's pal PhillyFriar (who I encountered and occasionally dine with over at Phuture Phillies and the Twitters) will come out with his own list with superb Providence-centered analysis, I can't help but shoot my load a bit early, if you will, so here goes.

It's not certain that Domonic Brown will remain with the team once Shane Victorino comes back, but let's operate under the assumption that he has graduated from prospect status. Now that Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar have been shipped to Toronto and Houston respectively (read this), we're left with a group of prospects that is still somehow very impressive, despite the Vikingesque rape/pillage/plunder of Ruben Amaro. Since July 18th, 2008, the Phillies have acquired 4 starting pitchers via trade: Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and now Roy Oswalt.

Mo' money after the jump.

Here are the prospects we've given up in those deals:

  • Adrian Cardenas
  • Matt Spencer
  • Josh Outman
  • Jason Donald
  • Lou Marson
  • Carlos Carrasco
  • Jason Knapp
  • Kyle Drabek
  • Michael Taylor
  • Travis d'Arnaud
  • Anthony Gose
  • Jonathan Villar

That's a first baseman short of a full team. Thus far, the fellas we've dealt have had varying degrees of success, while the pitchers have helped us to two World Series appearances. There is a finite number of prospects in a given system, but it seems like the Phillies scouting department continues to conjure them from nowhere. Amaro is treading in dangerous waters without his swimmies if he continues to package cost-controlled prospects for older, more expensive arms. With that said, let's look at who's still hanging around.

Rather than make a top 30 list that could change by tomorrow, I'll break it up into four tiers.

Tier 1: Top 50 list, borderline elite

Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Jonathan Singleton

Cosart and Colvin figure to climb up the organizational ladder step by step with each other, and though it would have to be a fairly wide ladder to accommodate both of their bodies, I think Looper/Lamar/Proefrock can find the appropriate one. Extended ladder references aside, both of these guys are big and projectable with mid-90's fastballs, a nasty curve (Cosart), a slurve that will eventually be a tight slider (Colvin), and control with plenty of room for improvement. In Singleton, you have a guy who has been lauded with praise (some over the top) for his plate discipline and contact. Once he gets more power into his swing (12 bombs this year), he could turn into something special. He's got plenty of time before we have to worry about him being blocked by Howard, although a few reps in the outfield couldn't hurt.

Three guys that are all 18-19 years old, two with top-of-the-rotation stuff, one with middle-of-the-order power. I suspect they'll each crack top 50 lists around baseball this offseason. It'll be oodles of fun watching them go through the system together.

Tier 2: Above-Average starter potential

Trevor May, Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont, Jiwan James, Justin De Fratus

I debated leaving Aumont out, but this list is about potential, and he's got more than anybody in the system. Still just 21, he's a 6'7 beast that can touch 97 with late sink so I'm going to give him plenty of time to figure it out. May, as you probably know, has big league swing-and-miss stuff but lacks the consistency to control it. Has 2/3 upside despite his demotion to Lakewood. Gillies gets a pass for this season and especially with Gose gone, he'll have free reign as the top outfield prospect closest to the majors. When he comes back next year, I expect him to return to form. James was predicted by many to be the next Dom Brown before the season started due to his scary athleticism. After a rough April/May, he's rebounded to the tune of a triple slash of .356/.399/.424 and rave reviews from scouts. De Fratus has always been a favorite of mine, and up until this year, the Phillies have handled the college right-hander pretty gently. But after an aggressive move to Reading, JDF has responded with 2 runs in 9 IP and a 9/1 K/BB ratio. Due to the pinpoint control and multitude of pitches he can throw at you, I give him the nod over the numerous other relievers we've been developing at the higher levels.

Tier 3: Cost-Controlled Fringe Guys

Antonio Bastardo, Mike Zagurski, Scott Mathieson, Michael Schwimer, Mike Stutes, Vance Worley, Mike Cisco, Sergio Escalona, Drew Naylor, BJ Rosenberg, JC Ramirez, Cody Overbeck, Harold Garcia, Matt Rizzotti, Freddy Galvis, Steve Susdorf, Josh Zeid, Austin Hyatt, Matt Way, Jesus Sanchez, Nick Hernandez, Luke Wertz

Whew. Most of these guys are relievers and I can't express how excited that makes me. It's so much more effective to groom your own relievers rather than overpay for guys that just happened to have hung around the majors for a few years (Danys Baez this year, but think back to Mesa, Alfonseca, Cormier, etc....Terry Adams still haunts me). None of these guys are going to set the world on fire (I should hope not!) but saving money on the bench with Garcia, Rizzotti, and Susdorf or in the pen with Bastardo, Schwimer, and Mathieson allows you to go after high-end free agents and resign your own guys to fat extensions. I'm higher on some of these guys (Schwimer, Garcia, Sanchez) than others (Cisco, Naylor, Galvis) but each one of them can serve a purpose on the major league team that will supplement the franchise players and continue to produce a contender.

Tier 4: Toolbox_medium (that's a toolbox)

Jon Pettibone, Colby Shreve, Julio Rodriguez, Sebastian Valle, Anthony Hewitt, Leandro Castro, Domingo Santana, Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan, Kyrell Hudson, Zach Collier, Miguel Alvarez, Jesse Biddle, Maikel Franco

Here's where the lottery ticket strategy comes into play. I graduated James to the second tier and the case can be made for some of these guys as well, but if any one of Hewitt/Santana/Altherr/Hudson/Dugan/Collier realizes their potential, we could have another Dom Brown on our hands. The athleticism and tools some of these guys possess is unfathomable for kids their age. Santana's walk rate is super impressive but the strikeouts are ghastly. Collier won't play until next year after a hugely disappointing '09. Valle is tremendously streaky with a boatload of talent and the only legitimate catching prospect in full season ball. If he can stay behind the plate rather than moving to 3rd or left, he'd be even more valuable as a trade chip down the road. Truth is, one or two of these guys are going to make it -- and that's fantastic.

There's a lot to like in the lower levels of the Phils system. While there's a nagging concern the major league team is getting too old, if Rube times it right, we could have a fresh supply of big league studs by the time our current core declines. Big props to Marti Wolever and his crew for assembling all this. It's going to be amazing watching the next wave of prospects develop. Ride the high, kiddies.