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Phillies Top 30 Prospects 2016 - The guys who just missed

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It's harder than usual to whittle things down to 30 players this year, so I ended up leaving some of my favorites off. I still want to write about them though.

God, I love funnel cakes. I should have ranked them.
God, I love funnel cakes. I should have ranked them.

It would have been really easy this year to write a Top 40, or even a Top 50 for the Phillies (as Matt Winkleman just finished doing over on the excellent PhilliesMinorThoughts.com). My own laziness prevents me from doing that, but I'm just unlazy enough to profile a few of the guys on the outside looking in here. The players listed below aren't necessarily players 31-34, as I don't bother formally ranking past 30, but at various earlier drafts they rolled on and off the list. For that reason it's safe to say these guys and a few others not here would certainly fall in the 31-39 range somewhere, but more importantly, their being left off the top 30 is really just by a thread and there's really a grouping from the low 20's to the mid 30's that could get rearranged in any number of rankings with fairly good reasoning.

Jhailyn Ortiz, LF/1B

Jhailyn was on my list before the Giles trade pushed almost everyone down a spot or two. Of course, that was an early draft and he may have fallen off later drafts anyway. Jhailyn is the kind of prospect I usually do rank in the mid to late 20's the year of signing (as I did previously with Pujols and Encarnacion), but the quality of this system is better than in previous years and that made it hard to rank a guy we all honestly know so little about. What we do know: He's NFL Linebacker sized - 6'2" ~260 lbs; he's unusually fast for that size with solid athleticism; he's got big power in that bat; he was at one time the top International prospect; The Phillies traded 2 Pitchers to get the slot money to sign him; he's a Right Hander as both a fielder and hitter. What was heard from Fall Instructs: his approach at the plate was pretty sound for his profile; he looks playable in Left Field (for now); he's not fat, a rather important data point, given his weight. Ortiz's skill set is pretty rare. If he can keep his speed and athleticism he could be a 40 HR Left Fielder. I honestly have no idea how realistic that is yet, until he gets into game situations and we can see how well he controls the bat and recognizes pitches. Right now his floor is Larry Greene, Jr. and his ceiling is maybe something like good Yoenis Cespedes. I can honestly say that 3 years from now I could see Ortiz in the Top 10 or completely left off my list of 70-80 players I write down to consider for the Top 30. His delta is about as wide as anyone to recently enter the system, for that reason I figure I'm safe to rank him just off my list and let him earn his way onto the list next winter. I will note that if he has to move to First, the Right Hander profile is a bit of a negative.

Cord Sandberg, LF

Cord is kind of a frustrating prospect and may be taking Mitch Walding's place as the guy who frustrates me the most in the system. When he was drafted I was intrigued by his mix of tools (plus power potential, plus arm, above-average speed). Then in the GCL he flashed what seemed to be an unexpectedly good approach for a multi-sport athlete. Over the seasons since his debut almost everything has moved backwards. His arm and speed weren't quite as good as expected and moved him to Left Field (though his speed is still fairly good). His approach and pitch recognition have been a bit of a mess. His power has been more average too. A few of these items are connected, as his lack of pitch recognition causes him to adjust his swing to make contact and that leads to a lot more weak contact (as shown by a roughly 50% Ground Ball rate). I'll admit that all of this sounds a bit damning for a guy just outside the Top 30, but the tools are still there, if he can make a few adjustments, for him to be a solid starter in Left Field. Probably more as a 15-20 HR guy, but his speed and arm are unusually good for Left, giving him potential to be Alex Gordon like as a Defender (maybe even Gordon like in everything except BB rate, frankly), and at 21 years old, there's still a lot of time for him to put things together. I'd like to see him get a second stint in Lakewood though before moving to Clearwater.

Luis Encarnacion, 1B

Encarnacion is a full time First Baseman now, and that means he needs to HIT to remain a prospect. Fortunately he has one of the loudest bats in the system with the potential to hit 30+ Home Runs. That is a long way off though. Right now, Encarnacion is an 18 year old who already has 2 years experience playing in the states. This past year he slashed .271/.313/.370 in the GCL in his second trip through. Those are solid numbers for a 17 year old and I've been excited in the past by similar output from recent draftees who were a year older. His K rate was 18%, a very respectable number for a power hitter, though this brings up the obvious critique that he showed very little power in getting to that number. That is fair, though power has long been noted as the last thing to develop for most players (which makes sense, since it is dependent upon the development of the hit tool. Unlike the other tools which can exist independent of each other). In an ideal world over the next few years Encarnacion (who needs a short nickname) would double both his BB rate and his ISO without dropping his average more than ~10 points. That's a pretty tall order, but given Encarnacion's profile as a Right Handed First Baseman his path to the Majors requires that type of improvement occurring.

Jose Pujols, RF

Don't get me wrong in my leaving Pujols off the list, I'm still high on him and I do think he made improvements in 2015. It's just that he hasn't translated those improvements to performance yet. He's noted to have good Pitch Recognition despite the high K rate. The issue is he has some extra movement in his swing that's caused him timing problems on of-speed pitches. The movement comes and goes a little in the videos I've seen (for what that's worth), so there's hope that he's working through it. If he does fix that he has the bat speed to be able to wait on pitches, adjust his swing and make strong contact. All swing changes carry risk though, so I'm not totally comfortable assuming he comes out the other side without other issues or that he can even totally eliminate the hitch and adopt a new swing consistently. He's a similar work in progress in the Outfield, but the tools are all there. He's got good speed, one of the stronger arms in the system and the glove to play Right, he just needs to get comfortable in his routes and throw to the right places (things that Anthony Hewitt, Dom Brown and others never mastered, so I don't want to gloss over the needed improvements as foregone conclusions either).

Aaron Brown, RF

Brown might be as close as we have to a 5 tool player in the system right now. He has the potential for Plus power, Plus-Plus arm, he looks to be a Plus defender in Right (and a very capable defender in Center), an above-average runner, but he's still a below average hitter. Of course, that's the most important of the tools; though for a guy in his first full year as a hitter .257/.324/.406 with a 20% K rate and 6% BB rate is pretty solid. Brown then struggled in a brief AFL appearance that, while not anywhere near enough sample to draw conclusions from, did help temper my outlook on Brown back to more reasonable levels. I've admitted before that I have a bias towards highly athletic players, but it's because those skill sets are so rare that occasional gambles on that potential are worthwhile, in my eyes. It's unlikely Brown unlocks all of his potential (that's pretty safe for me to say, as only a handful of prospects ever really do), but even if he just gets to the point of being a slightly below average hitter, the other tools are enough for him to be a fringe starter. If he only ever gets to below average he could carve out a John Mayberry, Jr. role given his ability to play Center. He's not there yet, but of this group of players he's the most likely to actually have a Major League role in his future.