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Mailbag #14: A Paralyzing Fear of Having Nice Things

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What's gonna happen to all the prospects?

Don your finest blazer. It's mailbag time.
Don your finest blazer. It's mailbag time.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In a week, the Winter Meetings will have occurred, which will probably render everything I write here now irrelevant. Until then, you all came through with some good questions! So let's distract ourselves from how much the MLBPA screwed over both itself and its future members in CBA negotiations with some questions about those future members.

Player Spotlight: Josh Tobias

Tobias is a good case study of looking at a player as a whole and not a collection of individual tools. Tobias got stuck in Lakewood for most of the season because of Scott Kingery, despite the fact that, at age 23 with four years of SEC baseball experience, he was overqualified for the assignment. In talking to evaluators there seems to be some consensus building that he is going to hit; some say average, some say a bit above, but he has a Major League hit tool. He is also a decent runner, not a burner but not a slug either. Tobias hit 7 home runs in 93 games for Lakewood, and that might have overstated his power. He is mostly going to hit doubles, and maybe he can get into the 8-10 home run range if he ever gets 600 PA in a season. If he could play second base well, then he might have enough to him to be a fringe regular at the position, and this is where we come to a problem.

No one carries a second base-only bench player. There just isn't the space on a 25-man roster if we insist on bullpens of seven-plus pitchers. The second problem is that Tobias's bat is just not a regular at a less rigorous defensive position. To move Tobias off of second base is to give up on him as an everyday regular. The good news is that you don't need to be an everyday player to have value. During the 2016 season Tobias played 7 games in left field as the Phillies began an experiment. This winter he has played primarily left field and his college position of third base to go along with a single game at first base. No one is going to crazy for a utility player, and Tobias is never going to rank high on prospect lists if he becomes one before being promoted. However, a switch hitter who can play (to some extent) second base, third base, first base, and left field is a Major League player simply because it offers a team the flexibility to carry more bat oriented players in their other bench spots. Tobias still needs to continue to hit, but there is a pathway to a Major League role opening up for him.

Questions:

Right now I have Nick Williams as my No. 2 outfield prospect in the Phillies system. Now that may change before I publish my full list, but I doubt it. Herrera obviously slots in front of all of the prospects, so that puts him No. 3 all told. The one prospect in front of him is Moniak, who is still a few years away and is a pure center fielder. I think Williams's upside is still intact and his upside is a borderline All-Star corner outfielder who can do some of everything on the baseball diamond. Is he high risk? Absolutely. But you could say the same of everyone in this grouping. Essentially, if Williamsreaches his ceiling, only Moniak really has the upside to unseat him, but in reality Moniak fits better in center with Williams in one of the corners.

  1. Mark Appel
  2. Jake Thompson
  3. Ricardo Pinto
  4. Zach Eflin
I might go Thompson No. 1 on certain days, but with his velocity having backed up recently coupled with a decline in slider consistency, I will go Appel No. 1. Appel's stuff at peak is really good...the problem is that peak rarely happens. However, the allure of simplifying Appel to fastball-slider and let him get past his issues by airing it out is intriguing. Pinto has the mentality for the bullpen and his fastball could play up, I just wonder how bat-missing his changeup will be, although it could end up being really good. Eflin has the velocity to work in the bullpen, but his lack of a plus secondary pitch is concerning out there.

I don't have a finished list, but I am going to put the cutoff at outside my current Top 30.

  • Bailey Falter - If his stuff takes another step forward, you are looking at a left-handed, mid-rotation starter with size and feel for pitching. Right now, he is a bit further away and while he shows three good pitches, they have room for growth.
  • Daniel Brito - Good defensive second baseman who can hit. If he makes the jump to Lakewood next year, with a good year, he could jump up lists.
  • Kyle Young - Take Bailey Falter's writeup, make him 6'10", and subtract a year developmentally. Young probably is over a year from the leap, but if it happens it could be special.
  • Francisco Morales, Brayan Gonzalez, Jonathan Guzman - Gonzalez and Morales were just signed to big bonuses and Guzman just dominated the DSL. All are high-upside Latin American players, one having a rise of Gamboa or Sanchez-like proportions is not something to rule out.
A bonus breakout player even though he is not a darkhorse anymore: If Seranthony Dominguez survives the Rule 5 draft, he has the fastball to dominate, especially if the secondary pitches go from flashes to consistent weapons.

Yes. Can they outbid the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, and Red Sox? Probably not. That isn't to say they are out of the hunt, but I wouldn't make them the favorite among that group. It also looks like the CBA will keep him in Japan until 2019 unless they make some exception.

Most likely? Platoon three-corner (1B/LF/RF) bench bat. I don't think he is going to hit lefties or offspeed pitches without some major adjustments. However, he is on the correct side of the platoon and there is a place in the world for a player that hits right-handed fastballs and mistakes. There is a chance he hits enough to be a regular with a bunch of homers and strikeouts, and also a chance he just never hits at all. But I still believe there is enough there to make it work in some form in an optimized role.

Barring the Phillies doing anything drastic on the trade front, I see the bench being Cody Asche not-Cody Asche, backup catcher, Altherr (if he loses RF battle to Quinn) or maybe Goeddel if he has a good spring, a backup SS, and a LH 1B/OF. The backup shortstop could be Jesmuel Valentin, or it could be a free agent like Andres Blanco or a player in that mold. That 40-man spot would come from one of the pitchers (Gonzalez/Klein/Morgan/Garcia), and the same thing will happen for the backup catcher if they go with a veteran like they would with the rumored A.J. Ellis reunion. The left-handed bat spot I could see develop into an open competition with a bunch of non-roster invites, or if a free agent somehow sneaks through and is on a one-year deal. Again, the roster spot is going to come from the pitchers who won't make the roster. The only two prospects I could see being rushed into bench roles are Valentin and Knapp, and both probably profile better on the bench long term, so it is not a big deal.