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Where ESPN’s Keith Law ranks Phillies top 25 prospects

It was a list that strays a bit from conventional wisdom, that’s for sure.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
Ben Lively, Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins all make Keith Law’s top 25 Phils prospects.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, ESPN’s Keith Law released his organizational rankings and put the Phillies’ farm system at No. 14 overall. That’s a good bit lower than where he had them last year (No. 6), and will probably be a bit worse than where other prospect ranking organizations will have them heading into 2017.

Last week, he released his Top-100 and put three Phils’ prospects within the top 45, Jorge Alfaro, Mickey Moniak and J.P. Crawford. It’s hard to disagree on any of those choices.

This week, he’s releasing his top 10 prospects per team, and on Monday, he listed his Top-25 within the Phillies organization. It was not a conventional list, to be sure.

NOTE: Law’s rankings are a combination of his observations, as well as the observations of teams and scouts who contribute to those rankings.

The ranking of Rhys Hoskins at 4 and Dylan Cozens at 5 are eye-opening and extremely optimistic. Law mentioned the bump both players got from hitting in homer-happy Reading last year and didn’t touch much on their potential downside, of which there is a considerable amount (especially for Cozens). Law wrote...

Long-term, Hoskins has the better hit tool, but I think his power last year was illusory. Cozens remains hopeless against lefties (.197/.262/.378 with a 42 percent K rate) and is a below-average defender in right. Both would have made the main list if I’d gone to 150.

This is also likely the only Phils’ top-10 prospect list on which you’ll find Mark Appel. The right-hander acquired from Houston in the Ken Giles trade missed almost all of last season after elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. Law is still high on his stuff, though.

The stuff that made him the No. 1 overall pick is largely still there, but he has had problems working from the stretch for the past several seasons, losing all fastball plane in the process, something the Phillies had him work on while rehabbing this summer.

Unfortunately, he’s mostly become an afterthought heading in 2017.

Roman Quinn’s spot below Hoskins and Cozens is something you also probably won’t see anywhere else, either. Quinn’s problem has always been his health, but if he can stay healthy, he has already shown he can hang in the big leagues. But health is the key, and Quinn has displayed the durability of a house of dry spaghetti during his pro career.

His ranking of Elniery Garcia ahead of Franklyn Kilome and Sixto Sanchez was surprising, too. He wrote...

Elniery Garcia was the system’s most pleasant surprise, a potential No. 3 or No. 4 starter who throws 92-94 mph, with both a curve and changeup that you could project as future 60 pitches and average control but not command. Franklyn Kilome reached full-season ball and was good, but the results don’t match the stuff. His breaking ball made some progress last year, but his long-term issue is command. He did improve as the weather warmed up, with a 2.73 ERA after skipping a late-April start. To compare them, Kilome has more velocity and is much bigger, but Garcia has better secondary stuff and has already had success at a higher level at the same age.

That report doesn’t mesh with what prospect folks who closely watch the team saw last season. The reports on Garcia’s velocity were at 89-94 mph with a peak of 95, and his changeup is still a work in progress.

As for Kilome, using statistics to ding him for last year doesn’t tell the whole tale either. He had three bad starts to begin the season but then became one of the most dominant pitchers in the South Atlantic League. Kilome has some negatives to his game, but his stats last year were skewed by a very bad start.

As for Sanchez, Law had him at No. 15 on his list which is, again, lower than the consensus.

Conversion guy Sixto Sanchez (15) throws 90-97 mph for strikes but has nothing else above average at the moment, with the changeup ahead of the breaking ball; he’s a great signing for $35,000.

By the end of last year, Sanchez was averaging 95-97 mph on his fastball, with a peak of 99 with movement. And reports we’ve gotten are that his secondary pitches flashed quite well at the end of the year.

Our prospect guru ranked Kilome as the team’s No. 5 overall prospect, with Sanchez at 6 and Garcia all the way down at No. 22. So there is a big divide here.

You may have noticed you haven’t read Nick Williams’ name yet. That’s because Law has him at No. 12 on his list.

Outfielder Nick Williams (12) stalled in Triple-A with a .287 OBP and just average power, and he earned a benching for a lack of hustle. Williams’ lack of any plan at the plate has always been a problem; since his arrival in the Cole Hamels deal, he has 21 unintentional walks and 156 strikeouts in 625 PA. Outside of one month in the Texas system after the Rangers explicitly told him to try to be more patient, he has been a hacker. He’s young enough to change that, but there’s no evidence that it will happen.

Look, I understand being down about Nick Williams. After earning a spot in Law’s top 100 last year, he had a terrible season in 2016. It’s understandable why Law, who values plate discipline, is very down on a player who seemed to regress in that area for the last two months of the season. The Phillies are certainly hoping there’s a turnaround season in store in 2017, but Law may be right about Williams. This is likely the defining season for Williams this year.

One prospect that Law seems to be on top of is Victor Arano, a young right-handed reliever who could appear in the big league bullpen at some point this season.

Victor Arano (16) is a pure reliever, a right-hander with electric stuff and plus control. If there’s a Ken Giles in the system right now, it’s him...

...Arano is the best bet because he’s probably ready -- he certainly throws enough strikes for it -- and the Phillies’ bullpen is not a strength.

Finally, Nick Pivetta, ranked No. 21, is probably a bit low as well. Our rankings have him at No. 14, and he could factor into the rotation at some point this season if injuries take hold again.

Law also wrote up smaller bits on Adonis Medina (13), former first-round pick without a position Cornelius Randolph (14), second baseman Daniel Brito (17), right-handed fireballing reliever Alberto Tirado (18), slugging young power-hitter Jhailyn Ortiz (19), Ricardo Pinto (20), and Ben Lively (22).

It is a fascinating list, one that will certainly generate some debate (and perhaps some annoyance or anger) among folks who watch Phillies prospects more closely.