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Weekend Prospect Mailbag #2: Hard Throwing and Player Development

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The Phillies are nurturing hard throwers, but how do we fix some of their other dev problems?

Even the future needs to pay its dues and chart pitches
Even the future needs to pay its dues and chart pitches
Baseball Betsy

We've managed to make it to week two of this project, so congrats to us! Stat-wise, it was a big week for players like Alberto Tirado and Roman Quinn, and legend-wise it was a good week for the myth of Sixto Sanchez and #TheLegend (Jorge Alfaro, for those uninitiated). Let's jump right into all of this and more.

Prospect Spotlight: Franklyn Kilome, Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, Seranthony Dominguez, Alberto Tirado

I have gotten a bunch of questions on the Phillies' young pitchers and how I view them going forward. All five of the above throw at least 95; Kilome and Medina have been up to 97, Sanchez has been up to 99, and Tirado has hit 100. Between his fastball and slider, Tirado probably has the best stuff among the group, but is the least likely to stick in the rotation because of his command issue and a currently poor changeup. Kilome probably still holds court at the top because the projection in his body, coupled with the fastball and plus curveball, make his upside immense.

Sixto has shot up lists because he just keeps getting better and already is showing premium stuff at just 18 years old. Medina has age and advanced secondaries on Dominguez, even if Seranthony has the more dynamic fastball right now. The order they are listed at the top is the order I would rank them personally, and I expect next year that Kilome, Tirado and Seranthony will headline the Clearwater rotation. Sixto and Medina, meanwhile, will likely join Kevin Gowdy at the front of what should be another dominant Lakewood rotation. More encouraging than just these five are the second-tier guys like Mauricio Llovera, Luis Carrasco, and Felix Paulino who are also flashing solid stuff. In short, the international scouting and player development has been incredible of late.

The Mailbag!

If you have questions for future weeks, tweet them to me @Matt_Winkelman, or email them to philliesprospects@gmail.com. The goal is to answer 3-4 questions each week that are more abstract, and less about rankings or lists.

How much film/objective data do teams have/can get on other teams' prospects? In football, for example, if another team offers you Random Player X in trade, you already have full game tape of every pro game he's ever played, and likely most of the college ones, and you've likely had a scout size him up a couple times. If Cleveland randomly offers up Joe Shmo in High-A ball, their 25th best prospect, how much info would the Phillies have on him, and how much could they get?

I will start by saying I don't know exactly what Phillies are doing, so I will be more general on this.

By the time the middle of the year rolls around, there is a decent chance your primary scout for that region or team (orgs break it up differently) has seen a player in multiple series and filed reports. Likely, there are at least some other scouts in your org who have seen the player while doing their own assignments. Most teams are also taking video and have dedicated video scouts, and they are definitely filming their own teams, so you have bonus video if they played your team. Then, throw in all previous pro years of that data, plus anything you had on him as an amateur. For a guy who has been around a decent bit, this could be quite a cache of video; it might be less for a guy who was just drafted.

The goal, though, is to create a full set of reports on a player over time, to see growth and get different opinions.

The Phillies' low minors coaching staff is definitely up to the job; especially in the GCL to Clearwater range, the Phillies have seen players, particularly pitchers, exceed expectations. This is a hard thing to judge overall, though. Have a lot hitters flailed at Triple-A because of the coaching, or because that park can bury hitters, or is it that they started with a risky prospect? There is just so much that goes on behind the scenes that it is really hard to judge any of this.

We use the phrase "plate discipline" a lot in relation to strikeout and walk rates, but the truth is much more complicated.

Let's talk about Dylan Cozens's weakness as a jumping off point. Cozens struggles with breaking balls away, then velocity in. It is simple to say he should lay off breaking balls, but is he seeing and identifying them correctly. That is pitch recognition, not approach. The other two are more structural: Cozens has long arms, not particularly quick wrists, and a strong leveraged swing, and this makes harder for him to get the bat head to certain pitches (especially if he is struggling to identify pitches).

At that point, you are talking about changing his swing and body in some way. I wouldn't have him repeat the level, but it may be best if he shortens his swing at times and does not take huge hacks to try and destroy everything. Otherwise, pitch recognition is something that some guys get and other guys never can neurologically identify.

As for strategy on plate discipline, a common one is forbidding a hitter to swing at the first pitch and learn to track the pitch and be more selective. This is more a way to approach a problem like Nick Williams (though his might be more of a confidence and pressing issue right now).

@PompeyMalus: For young hitters, what skill is the most reliable indicator of future successful overall development?

The ability to make adjustments. It may seem simple, but baseball is hard! Teams have more and more information on how to beat batters, so batters have to constantly adapt to survive. I think this shows up most in the hit tool, because at each level, that is where hitters are challenged the most as pitchers get better and better. Guys who can just hit get on base more, they maximize their power, and they maximize their speed. This doesn't necessarily mean highest batting average, but in general, bet on the guys who can make the adjustments to constantly make hard contact.

Join us next week...if you dare.