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Fringe benefits: Phillies prospect recap

Installment #2 of the look at guys who are hanging around the bottom of the Top 30 list as I work on it.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies system is improving, but if I'm going to be completely honest, there are still a lot of fringe guys out there (as is true with every system). It makes the bottom of the list tough to corral, as you're looking for potential more than performance. At the same time, some guys have performance track records, but perhaps are limited by not having a position or any number of other major flaws that prevent them from being top guys. Some years strikeout kings like a young Cody Overbeck get overrated, some years a guy limited to second base with a good track record like Cesar Hernandez gets underrated. I'll undoubtedly misunderestimate someone this year, but I'm going to put in the homework to give everyone the best overview of who I chose and why (as well as who I didn't choose and why). A few weeks back I looked at 5 guys on the fringe. Some were former top prospects, some are guys still finding their way. Let's look at some more recent draftees and figure out where they might fit.

Cameron Perkins - Drafted in the 6th round by the Phillies, Perkins kind of plays everywhere so far. Logging games at First, Third, Left and Right the last 2 years. You can eliminate Third as a position (as the Phillies also clearly have), he played it at Perdue, so the Phils kept him there for comfort purposes last year, but he had no long term future there. This season he played purely Outfield. Splitting time in Left and Right (though he could certainly play First in a pinch). Part of me says there's no way Perkins is fringe Top 30. Last year I liked him enough on almost no data to put him 30 on my list. He wrapped up the year hitting .299/.351/.457 with a .158 ISO. Reports seem to suggest he plays a solid Outfield and were it not for a hand/wrist injury I Think his offensive numbers had a chance at being much better. He crushed the ball in April and May, hitting .339 with an improving walk rate and an ISO pushing .200. Post injury he hit closer to .250 with an ISO in the .140-.150 range. It's hard to say what he may or may not have sustained without getting hit on the hand/wrist, but it's worth noting that even with the injury he was among the FSL leaders in Doubles. Sometimes as guys mature those doubles start popping over the fence. Ultimately I think he has a similar ceiling to Kelly Dugan. Fourth OF/fringe Regular at the MLB level. The difference for Perkins is that he is a large guy at 6'5" 200 lbs, and if he can leverage that strength into more power that is a big plus for him as a prospect, on the flipside, Dugan has always had very good walk rates, not so much for Perkins who semed immune to walks for stretches the past 2 years. Ultimately, until the power develops, I think he'll keep hanging out at the back of this list.

Jose Pujols - I'm now going to move on to guys I suck at ranking. International Free Agents. How to rank a kid that would otherwise be a Junior or Senior in High School? I ranked Pujols last year towards the end of the Top 30 on pure reports of Plus-Plus power. The shorthand of reports I saw was Domingo Santana with speed. I went on to make the bold prediction that Pujols would lead the GCL in Homers. I ended up not being very far off on that. Pujols finished tied for the GCL lead with several other players (including teammate Wilmer Oberto). There's a lot of work-in-progress here as Pujols sported at 30.9% K rate, but, quite positively, he also sported a 10.5% BB rate. He only hit .188, but he also BABiP'd to a remarkably low .245. He hit quite a few Outfield Fly Balls and popped a respectable 18.2% over the fences. His monthly splits suggest strong improvement as the season wore on (and a minor tweak to his swing midseason really seemed to unlock some power) June: .174/.208/.261, .087 ISO; July: .188/.300/.362, .174 ISO; August: .191/.276/.412, .221 ISO. It's really hard to predict on GCL stats. It's short season so SSS problems abound. Once you combine that with the fact that much of the GCL won't get past Rookie ball, it gets really hard to project. Pujols is certainly Top 30, I'm just not sure how high yet.

Deivi Grullon - I wanted to talk more about Grullon last winter, but honestly, I didn't know enough to say much. He was a relatively big money signing, but beyond that, I did not know too much. He now has a whopping 132 PA, so I only know so much more. That said, reports rank his Defense as a potential plus-plus tool. He may be an elite defensive Catcher and that is enough to make a young Catcher a top prospect. His triple slash ended up sneaky nice too, .273/.333/.364, 13.6% K, 7.6% BB. That isn't bad for a kid who's barely 17. Problem is, the sample size is so damned small. Scouts have raved about him, but they raved about Mitch Walding, Jiwan James, Anthony Hewitt and Sebastian Valle in the past as well. I don't like to rank guys high who have great numbers and bad scouting reports and I similarly dislike ranking guys high with no/bad numbers and great scouting reports. At the end of the day I want to read that a guy has the tools and I want to see the numbers that show he is developing the skills to unlock those tools. I can't see that in 132 PA. However, reports on Grullon's D are enough to get him into the Top 30, in all likliehood. I'm just not sure where.

Venn Biter - Everyone's favorite eater of overlapping circles. Ha, and I complained about determining what Grullon was with 132 PA. Biter has all of 65 PA in the GCL. His triple slash is intriguing .288/.328/.407, but that's with a .415 BABIP, a 29.2% K rate and a 6.2% BB rate. Who knows what he normalizes to in a full season. Biter has some power potential, but nothing more than ~50-60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's a 30th round pick in a draft everyone viewed as weak, but diamonds have been unearthed in all kinds of spots, even in the worst drafts. I have no idea what to make of Biter yet, so there's no chance he makes the Top 30, but I will be watching to see what he does in 2014 and beyond.

Mark Leiter, Jr. - When the Phillies picked Leiter this year I saw a guy with a lineage (Father Mark and Uncle Al, both pitched for the Phillies with varied degrees of success) who pitched at a small College against subpar competition and lit up a lot of guys with futures in beer leagues. He'd a be a nice Org. arm, a good guy for clubhouses perhaps and maybe his Dad and Uncle taught him enough to make it to the bigs in a bullpen role or back of the rotation arm. Then he comes out and goes all 1.20 ERA, 10 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 across 3 levels. Still, it's 45 innings of work, with the bulk of it in the GCL where he was 4 years older than a lot of the batters he was facing. Still, in a slightly lower number of batters faced in Low and High-A his numbers were similar. He's a Fastball/Change-up Pitcher which is a pretty good 'pen profile. He's developing his Curve and a Cutter. It's crazy early to get too excited, and if I'm being honest, I'm only slightly more excited about him now than I was in mid-June. The numbers look nice, but the sample is too small to make him a solid Top 30 for me. I may come around a bit, but reports haven't suggested anything that would make me rocket him up the list. He's an interesting guy to follow for now.

So what do you think? Am I off on guys? Am I missing something for any of them? Different takes can be helpfull to inform an opinion and spirited debate is always a good way to find new ways of seeing players and data.