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Phillies Minor League Update

We aren't quite at the midway point, but I have come up for air from Draft coverage, so it seems as good a time as any for a look at the farm before the fresh meat arrives.

Deivi Grullon who took literally like 5 or 6 pictures with the Greyhound dressed as the Phanatic
Deivi Grullon who took literally like 5 or 6 pictures with the Greyhound dressed as the Phanatic

The year has not gone as expected for several prospects -- some good, most bad. Let's start with the good.

Willians Astudillo, C/1B/DH - Willians did nothing but hit in his return from a year lost to injury. Willians swings at virtually anything close to the zone. He swings early and often, but his contact skills are off the charts. It's not an approach that usually works well as guys move up the Org chart, but so far, Astudillo has kept his K rate really low, so there's hope there. I always thought of Willians as a fun oddity in the system, a guy neither walks, nor K's. I'm still not huge on his ceiling, but if this keeps working so well, he'll force himself into the prospect discussion. He currently sports a .324/.351/.431 slash line with 5.3% K and 4.4% BB (both pretty absurd), a fairly sustainable .333 BABiP,  and .107 ISO.

J.P. Crawford, SS - JP was ranked 19 overall on Keith Law's most recent Top 25 Prospects list, which should provide a good idea on where last year's 1st round pick stands. Only Cubs prospect Kris Bryant looks better from last year's draft. It's too early to suggest that JP is the second best player from last year's draft, but you can start building the case for it working out that way. Crawford's cooled quite a bit the last 3 weeks, but he was so intensely hot early this season that even weeks of bad games have still left him with a .297/.398/.411 line with 14.7% K and 13.5% BB (in spite of his struggles JP hasn't pressed and has allowed the walks to come when they're there), .114 ISO with 3 HR. The lone bad spot is that he's 10 for 17 on Stolen Base attempts, it's not worth running, at that rate, but additional technique and work might get him back closer to the 70% he was last year.

Samuel Hiciano, 1B/LF/DH - I really like Hiciano, his arm and mobility limit his to First or Left, but he's got big power and is a better Defender than I expected to see when I saw him play a few weeks back. Hiciano is climbing Phillies prospect lists this season and for good reason. His Batting Average is probably the top of what you can expect from him and he's more likely a .260-ish hitter, but be excited, because his ceiling is as a 30 HR hitting Left Fielder with that .260 Avg (probably an OBP in the .310-.320 range, so the calling card is the power). His current line is pretty well in line with his ceiling: .272/.321/.446, 22.4% K, 5.5% BB (I'm hopeful this may rebound some, as that is much lower than his previous numbers), .174 ISO, 55.6% SB.

Cam Perkins, OF/1B - All he does is hit, his Batting Average has risen every year, from level to level. Now his BABiP is stupid, absurdly high this year (.393 in Reading and .348 in LHV), but even if you correct that down into the .330 range he'd still be sporting a healthy average in the .280-.290 range. Add to that his K and BB rates are pretty respectable and I think Perkins could be the odd prospect who outplays his Scouting Reports. I won't bother separating out his Reading and LHV numbers, since he's only about a week into his time in Allentown and the sample size there is too small to bother judging on its own (His walk rate is low, but one more walk would give him the highest rate of his career, for example). His numbers: .338/.405/.477, 13.1% K, 8.8% BB, 3 HR, .139 ISO. I thought his ceiling was as a Ty Wigginton like super-sub. I know think that might be his floor.

Drew Anderson, RHP - The pickings for good pitchers are a bit slim, but Anderson has been legitimately pretty good this Spring. His opponent BABiP is absurdly high (.357) his current numbers are 44.0 IP, 3.68 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 3.42 SIERA, 46.1% GB, 9.41 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 2.7% HR/OFB (he's been pretty lucky in this area, offsetting his bad BABiP luck some). I think Anderson's a guy who represents the old Phillies Draft strategy pretty well, as a 21st Round pick the Phillies gambled on wisely and he's performing up to that gamble.

Ken Giles, RHP - Giles was the hot name this Spring and for good reason, he has a big heater and the MLB bullpen has been relentlessly abysmal. Giles was absurd in Reading, just overpowering all comers with the following ridiculous line: 15.0 IP, 1.20 ERA, 0.33 FIP, 0.49 SIERA (his 1.20 ERA was unlucky!), .348 BABiP, 17.40 K/9 (Sweet crap!), 3.00 BB/9. Pretty good for the pen, in fact most of those numbers would seem to suggest he's the second coming of Craig Kimbrell, but it's important to remember that you can't scout stats and everyone seemed to be trying to temper expectations on Giles a month ago, noting his control was still inconsistent and more advanced hitters wouldn't swing at some of the things Double-A guys were swinging at. "Bull) said Giles supporters "He's ready now, call him up and execute Bastardo!". Okay not that last part, but it was nearly that crazy. The Phillies promoted Giles to LHV where he got pretty lucky as more advanced hitters, in fact, did not swing at the things Double-A guys did, but the sequence of events limited damage to his ERA. His Triple-A line was a more pedestrian 13.2 IP, 2.63 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 5.58 SIERA, .263 BABiP, 5.93 K/9, 5.27 BB/9. Of course, all those numbers get the same Small Sample Size warning I gave for Perkins' Triple-A stats. I think Giles can be a top shelf, high leverage reliever. I'm just not sure he's there quite yet.

Colton Murray, RHP - It's hard for a guy with an awesome name like Colton Murray to fly under the radar, but he largely has. He's split time between Clearwater and Reading and has put up numbers suggesting he's the next reliever in line to disappoint Phillies fans (I keed, I keed) upon his eventual callup. First his Clearwater stats: 17.2 IP, 2.04 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 4.02 SIERA, 8.66 K/9, 4.08 BB/9. His Reading numbers: 17.2 IP, 1.02 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 3.09 SIERA, 9.17 K/9, 2.55 BB/9. Murray's biggest flaw is that he's a short Pitcher prone to a lot of fly balls (and therefore a few extra dingers). He's been lucky to avoid homers so far. He could be a nice reliever down the line.

Yacksel Rios, RHP - I will admit, Rios was so bad his first 2 pro seasons I've largely ignored him since. Again, Rios is a guy who represents the old Phillies draft strategy, a 12th Round High School pick, he was terrible in 2011, but has quietly and steadily improved each season. So far this year he has 38.0 IP, 3.08 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 3.91 SIERA, 7.58 K/9, 2.84 BB/9. Rios is a long way off and as a relief prospect he'll need to start dominating, but he's heading in the right direction.

Ranger Suarez, LHP - Here's a great name I only know passing information about. He's kind of the Willians Astudillo of  Pitching.  He's in his Third season of Pitching in the VSL as an 18 year old (well, his first season as an 18 year old, ah, you know what I meant). In 3 years, he's issued 3 Walks. Let me repeat that, in case you think it was a typo, in 3 years of Pitching, he has issued 3 Walks! On the flip side he has a 9.62 K/9 rate so far this year in 24.1 IP. I don't know a ton about his pitches or how he projects. Scouting reports on the DSL and especially, the VSL are tougher to come by than other Minor League scouting. Still, those numbers are far too absurd to ignore.

Now, let's talk top Prospects who have been not quite so hot:

Aaron Altherr, OF - On the surface Altherr's numbers look pretty bad, but there are some good signs in there if you're willing to dig and hope they correct themselves as he adjusts to Double-A (of course, it's worth remembering some guys just never adjust). I'm ignoring Altherr's Clearwater numbers since it was a handful of games in a rehab-assignment to start his season. First the bad stuff: .230/.281/.337 is a terrible triple slash for a serious prospect. .107 is also not the ISO you want form a 6'5" 220 lb Outfielder. And a 5.6% BB rate is pretty close to a career low. The positives: a 5.6% BB rate is close to a career low. We all remember Kelly Dugan last year abandoning walks, but he adjusted this Spring and prior to his Oblique pull was Walking at his career rate. Altherr's career rate is more in the 7-8 range, which isn't stellar, but would be acceptable. His BABiP is way down to .277 despite no changes in his batted balls to suggest it isn't bad luck (adjust his BABiP up and he gets into the .250-.260 range, which is where he'll live as a hitter if he reaches his ceiling). His K rate is down 6.6% from last year and is close to a career low. If his BABiP adjusts, he's still a legit Center Field prospect suffering a bad luck season with a floor as JMJ and a ceiling as Cameron Maybin.

Jesse Biddle, LHP - Biddle is an enigma whose stats are actually a little worse in his second year in Double-A. The one good sign is that his walks are well down from last year. In 2013 he sported a 5.33 BB/9 rate, while in 2014 he's at 3.86 BB/9. That's still a good bit higher than you want, but it's improvement. Truth is, we might just be looking at a #3/#4 Starter. His HR/OFB is up a bit, so maybe he's been a little unlucky. Ultimately, it's important to remember he's 22 and there's still time for improvement in his development curve.

Dylan Cozens, OF/1B - Thrillin' Dylan Cozens, like a lot of guys, has a mix of good and bad in his stat line. .249/.299/.440 shows the mix itself. His K's are up a bit, his Walks are down quite a bit, but his ISO (his real carrying tool) is a pretty stellar .191. He's got 8 HR (which, if you're curious ties him for 6th in the league with the enormous Aaron Judge and well behind middle infielder Travis Demeritte). What you want to see from Cozens moving forward are more walks and a few less K's (not a huge drop in K's, that comes with power hitting, just get back under 25%, where he's hovering presently). I'm fine with the rest of the numbers. If he can slash .260/.335/.470, I'd be pretty damned happy.

Maikel Franco, 3B/1B - Don't hit the panic button yet. There's some bad mamba-jamba going on here, sure, but Franco's adjusting to some swing tweaks and a new level and underlying numbers suggest it's not as bad as it looks. First the headline numbers: .212/.276/.339 with a .127 ISO. Those should be enough to keep calls for promotion at bay. Now the mix of underlying numbers: His K rate is up 4% points, but is still a really low 16.0% (For a guy who cranked out 31 HR last year, that's pretty stellar). His Line Drive and Ground Bal rates are pretty similar. His big change is an OFB rate that is down 10 points and a Infield Fly Ball rate that's up more than 6 points. The downshift in the fly ball numbers are the red flag there. The rest of his numbers suggest bad luck.

Andrew Knapp, DH/C - Knapp's pretty much solely a DH now as he recovers from Tommy John, but he's likely to be back behind the plate by late season. I'm taking his numbers with a bit of a grain of salt, as some guys have a hard time in the DH role, as they aren't engaged the same as they are when playing. That said, the numbers are pretty bad right now. .161/.236/.223. The Phillies were aggressive with Knapp sending him straight to Clearwater, which may have been a bit much for a guy coming off TJ and stuck at DH only and in his first full season. His numbers since going back down to Lakewood are better (albeit miniscule in sample size). K rate needs to come down about 10 points, but nothing to get too worked up over yet.

Carlos Tocci, OF - I saw Tocci up close 2 weeks ago. He's put on some good weight compared to where he was last year. I also noted he made more solid contact than I expected. He smoked several balls (some foul, some for hits or at fielders, but he's not blooping weak little grounders every at bat as Scouting Reports suggested last year when he was not strong enough to hit hard. Don't read any of that to suggest he's a power hitter, merely he isn't a Ben Revere Ground ball machine this year. He's still young for the level, but there are a few trends in his stats that I dislike, even if he looked better in person than I expected. First a 20+% K rate for a player with Tocci's tools is bad. The 16.8% he was at the last 2 years is really where he needs to be. This is made more alarming by the fact that for the 3rd year his BB rate is down a percentage point, to a Sebastian Valle like 3.7%. That needs to start heading the other way. Now both could be sample size noise, but it's a bad trend. When I saw Tocci, he attempted a steal of Second.  His jump was a little on the late side, but he still beat the throw, well, I saw him beat the throw, the Ump ruled him out, but it's one of the few times my bad seating was a good view and I thought he beat the tag cleanly. Still, with his speed and a better jump that wouldn't have been a close play, his poor success at stealing suggests that perhaps there's some technique work to do.

A few other notable names:

Deivi Grullon, C - Myself, MattWinks, Eric Longenhagen, John Sickels, etc. each rank in a vacuum essentially and I thought "Man, I'm ranking Grullon really aggresively". Only to see that everyone else ranked him higher. I have a hard rule that I won't rank guys high solely on Scouting and Short Season stats, which are really volatile. So for me it was very aggressive and I think Grullon has mostly lived up to those rankings. His arm is crazy good, his defense is sound and I would expect he'll end up being a Plus or better defender at Catcher. He's really young for his level and for a guy with a lightly regarded bat he's really doing well. Yes, he has a .237/.275/.342 slash (ignoring Clearwater where it's crazy he even played as an 18 year old), but that's with a low .274 BABiP that could regress 20-30 points higher. Honestly, I don't see any red flags in his numbers and I'd now rank him above Tocci, if I redid my rankings today. No joke, this kid could be special.

Mitch Walding, 3B - Mitch Walding is infuriating as a prospect. He has every tool you'd ever want in a 3rd base prospect. He's got the arm, a build that suggests some raw power a beauty of a swing, good patience as a hitter, he's athletic and he stinks. I can't explain it, Three years in and he's gotten worse every year and it's not bad luck, his BABiP is consistent and about where it should be, his batted ball percentage are all what you want to see, his HR/OFB are a little low, but not unreasonably. He's made no seeming progress since getting drafted. When I saw him in 2013 he made a beautiful play on a ball to his Left and later in the game botched a fairly routine throw to First. This year he made an awesome diving gram of a sure double and dropped the ball on the transfer allowing an infield single. He was a mess at the plate that day and looked like he didn't have a plan. His K rate is up to 30.6% (3rd straight year it's risen) and his ISO has dropped for the third straight year to .057 (lower than Carlos Tocci who's 2 years younger and 30 pounds lighter). Walding's only 21 and could still put things together, but I don't really see anything to like in his line this season.