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2016 Williamsport Crosscutters Preview

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A talented and young short-season squad gets set for a new season up north.

Crosscutters first baseman Luis Encarnacion in the GCL
Crosscutters first baseman Luis Encarnacion in the GCL
Baseball Betsy

It is finally time for short season baseball! The 2015 GCL Phillies were one of the most exciting teams to follow in the system last year and, for the most part, those players have so far been hidden in Extended Spring Training this season. While the Phillies work to sign their '16 draft class, that EST group will form the core of the Williamsport Crosscutters to start the year, and will likely continue to be at the center of the team going forward. The team currently lacks a prospect of the caliber of a Franklyn Kilome like last year, but RHP Adonis Medina is not a bad consolation prize in leading a team heavy on raw, but high-upside, Latin talent.

The roster is subject to plenty change over the next few weeks as the Phillies organize their newly drafted players and reorganize the players already in the system.

Top Hitting Prospect: Juan Luis

If asked today, would I still have Luis as my No. 1 hitting prospect on this roster? Hard to say. But he is the top-ranked guy from my offseason list and he is very interesting. He is a projectable 6'4" center fielder who came to pro ball late (he was 18 when signed and played first year at 19). With time, he should be a plus defender in center field, thanks to plus-plus speed and a plus arm. There are some questions as to where he is going to put more good weight on his frame, but he has some power already and will hit the ball hard to the gaps. Almost everyone who saw Luis last year raved about him.

Top Pitching Prospect: Adonis Medina

Medina burst onto the scene last year when he went from a strike-throwing 17-year-old, sitting 89-91, to a guy still pounding the zone but sitting 91-94 and touching up into the 96-97 range. Medina will show a plus curveball at times, and he will flash feel for an above-average-to-plus changeup. Like most teenagers, his fastball command and overall consistency need work. He is also a bit on the short side, though he is solidly built, which means he will get a reliever projection thrown on him. There is no reason Medina cannot stick in the rotation, in my mind. His upside is a bit behind Kilome due to the lack of projection, but his stuff still ranks him among the best pitching prospects in the org.

Two Others to Watch: Seranthony Dominguez and Arquimedez Gamboa

On the subject of raw stuff, Dominguez is very much in the system's top tier conversation. He saw his velocity jump last spring and he struggled with control in Extended Spring Training before having his season end to injury two innings into the GCL. He was even better this spring, sitting 92-95 from the right side with life while touching 96 with his fastball. Dominguez also showed two potential above-average-to-plus pitches in his curveball and changeup. He was also able to command his fastball much better. If he can stay healthy and hold his stuff, he will likely rocket up prospect lists.

Gamboa might be the best hitting prospect on this team; he is certainly possessing the highest upside. The 18-year-old shortstop got $900,000 from the Phillies in the summer of 2014 because he is a premium athlete who will stick at the position. The now-departed Jonathan Arauz was the best prospect on the 2015 GCL Phillies, but Gamboa has higher upside. He has yet to show much of this upside at the plate, but there is the raw ability for a good hit tool and some pop to go along with a lot of speed. He may not put it together this year, but Gamboa is someone to watch closely, because he has the tools to be a top prospect in the Phillies system.

The number in parentheses next to a player's name below indicates their rank in my Top 50.

Catchers

Rodolfo Duran, Gregori Rivero

Duran was one of the youngest players on the GCL Phillies, and the organization liked him enough to play him over some other catchers with bigger bonuses. There are things to like about his ability to hit and his arm strength behind the plate. However, he is still really young and has a long way to go. Rivero is making a return trip to Williamsport after an injury shortened 2015. He can hit a little and has some pop at the plate. His glove and arm might be enough for him to be back up catcher in the Majors at some point.

Infielders

Jose Antequera, William Cuicas, Luis Encarnacion (37), Luis Espiritu, Arquimedez Gamboa (35), Lucas Williams (36)

Antequera is a light-hitting middle infielder with speed. Cuicas is much of the same, and is making a return trip to Williamsport. He has a bit more hit tool, but he lacks in power, and at 21 he is a bit old for the league. Espiritu is younger than the other two and can field it up the middle, but it is speed-and-lack-of-power profile operating here, too. Encarnacion is from the Carlos Tocci School of Being Much Younger Than You Would Expect. The 2013 million-dollar signing will spend almost the entire year playing at age 18. He hit the ball as hard as anyone on the GCL Phillies last year and has plus raw power. He was much more comfortable at the plate last year, but as a first baseman, he will need to show both power and an improved approach. Williams was the Phillies' third-round pick in the 2015 draft and is an unconventional third baseman. Defensively, he has the arm and athleticism to be very good. At the plate, he lacks the strength to hit for much power and his frame may allow him to have future average power, but it may be more fringy and doubles heavy. He showed a good feel for hitting in the GCL as well as a great approach at the plate. He also has at least plus speed and will steal more bases than your average 3B.

Outfielders

Jesus Alastre, Enmanuel Garcia, Juan Luis (28), Jake Sweaney

Alastre is a light-hitting CF/LF who can make a good amount of contact and has a knack for getting hit by the baseball. Garcia has spent the last three years in the DSL, where he has played 2B/3B/CF while putting up decent contact numbers with on-base ability. Up to now, he has lacked in power output. Sweaney is a bit of a wildcard: He was the Phillies 4th round pick in the 2013 draft as a catcher, where his bat was praised. He moved off catcher in 2014 and struggled at the plate in the GCL. He missed all of the 2015 season after having Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. At this point, he is a complete mystery.

Starting Pitchers

Seranthony Dominguez, Bailey Falter (42), Adonis Medina (13), Felix Paulino, Ranger Suarez

Falter was the Phillies' fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft as a big, projectable left-handed pitcher. His velocity is still mostly foundin the high 80s, touching the low 90s. He shows good fastball command he has solid movement on the pitch, but he won't rise up the system until more velocity comes along. He has feel for two offspeed pitches, with his changeup being the more advanced pitch. Felix Paulino dominated the GCL thanks to great control (five walks and 46 strikeouts in 50 innings) and a fastball up to 94 with movement. He showed a slider, cutter, and a changeup last year, but they will all need to improve over last season for him to stick in the rotation. Suarez put up silly numbers (one walk to 78 strikeouts) in the VSL in 2014. He did a little worse in the GCL last year, but he also saw his velocity increase to 89-92. Suarez is more of a command-and-control lefty, but he has the feel to make it work as a back-end starter.

Relief Pitchers

Carlos Indriago, Kenny Koplove, Jose Nin, Geury Ortiz, Jeff Singer, Gandy Stubblefield

Indriago was good in the GCL last year, throwing strikes and functioning well as the bullpen's swing man. Koplove finds himself back in the New York Penn League after struggling greatly for Lakewood; the 2015 draftee has a low 90s fastball as part of a three-pitch mix topped with a good curveball, but he struggled to throw strikes. Nin comes over after two solid years in the DSL Phillies bullpen. Ortiz is the older brother of big money signing Jhailyn Ortiz and is a decent prospect in his own right. He may actually be featured in the Williamsport rotation, as he was good for the DSL Phillies a year ago. He struggled to miss bats, but has a low 90s fastball and throws strikes. Singer is a local undrafted free agent who pitched for the dearly departed Camden Riversharks last year and reportedly topped out in the mid-90s. Stubblefield was the Phillies' 28th-round pick last year as a senior sign, making him the old man of this pitching staff, but he missed his fair share bats in the GCL bullpen last year.

This team will almost certainly receive some reinforcements from the draft, but the young Latin hitters - coupled with a projectable and young pitching staff - make this year's version of the Crosscutters very interesting.