There was a time when we cared more about the prospects than we did about players who were on the big league club. Those were dark years, friends, during the bottom of the rebuild, when we built our hopes on the farm system and urged ourselves to #TrustTheProspects because, one day, they would be the building blocks of the next “good” Phillies team.
And as we stand on the doorstep of the 2020 season, some of those prospects are big league contributors, although not stars. At least not yet.
Rhys Hoskins has showed flashes of being an All-Star first baseman, but hasn’t put a full season of productivity together yet. Scott Kingery could be an All-Star second baseman if the team finally lets him play there full time, which it seems they’re willing to do this year. Aaron Nola was a first round pick and has been the team’s best draft pick of the last decade. But few of the other top prospects from that time — Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Roman Quinn, among others — have done much at the big league level.
So as the Phils sit with a $200+ million payroll and begin the season with a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, it’s important not to look past the kids on the farm, because the children truly are our future. On Episode 362 of Hittin’ Season, The Athletic’s Keith Law stopped by to chat about his top-100 prospects list, on which two Phillies (you know the ones) are present.
To no one’s surprise, Law has right-handed starter Spencer Howard as the team’s No. 1 prospect, No. 22 overall, ahead of third baseman Alec Bohm, at No. 38 overall.
“I don’t know anybody in the industry — team, scout, anybody — who has Bohm over Howard,” Law said. “Howard is clearly their No. 1 prospect.”
So why Howard over Bohm?
“Howard has a lot more upside, and I think he still has a lot of growth because he hasn’t pitched a lot... whereas Bohm, as good a hitter as I think he is, he’s probably never going to be an average third baseman. He’ll be fine, I think he’s good enough to stay there. I think he’s going to hit, but he’s probably not going to be a superstar. He’ll be an above average regular probably for a while, who does a little everything — hits for average, gets on base, has above average power but maybe not MVP caliber type. I just don’t think that gear exists in him, whereas with Howard, I feel pretty good he’s going to be a No. 2 starter as long as he stays healthy enough for it, but there might be a little bit more in there, too.”
Law noted that Bohm probably should be a little ahead of where he is now because the Phillies decided to start the college bat in low-A ball at the beginning of last year.
“Why did Bohm, a division-one product picked third in the draft, why does that guy go to Lakewood? That made absolutely no sense to me.”
Bohm hit .367/.441/.595 in 22 games at Lakewood last year before he was sent to Clearwater after the first month of the season.
“Well no kidding, he was older than almost everybody he was facing, it makes no sense.
“That’s why Bohm only got 63 games at AA last year at the end of the season. If you actually start him at Clearwater, which is where you’re supposed to start college players you take in the first round, he spends at least half the year in AA and maybe finishes the year in AAA, and then his timetable is further along.”
No other prospects appeared in Law’s top-100, and with regard to the health of the farm system as a whole, he noted the Phillies have made a number of curious decisions when deciding where to place their players in the system.
“You send Luis Garcia and Daniel Brito to [Lakewood] when they’re like 13 years old, it makes absolutely no sense.”
“This has been an issue even before [Matt] Klentak. You remember Carlos Tocci, who was also in Lakewood when he wasn’t old enough to shave. But they keep doing it. They did it with Brito, they did it with Garcia, there is a track record of it not working, yet they keep sending college products to Lakewood, which to me doesn’t make sense. You’re much better off sending those [college players] to Clearwater.”
As for why the team hasn’t had many of their top prospects turn into stars at the big league level, Law says some iffy draft day decisions and development have been at issue.
“If you go back the last five years, it’s a combination of really big misses in the first round of the draft and questionable development decisions. I think the latter is still a fair criticism, while the former does look like they’re drafting better. The last two years at least, their decision particularly at the top of the draft, have been better.”
“We’re not seeing a lot of examples of guys getting better, hitters or pitchers, as they move up the chain in the Phillies system. Obviously, they’ve made staffing changes there the last two years and I want to give them at least another year before coming down on them and saying they’re wrong, but we’ve been seeing some pretty high profile players get into the system, into full-season ball, and not progress. And that to me is an indictment of the system.”
To hear the rest of Law’s assessment of Howard and Bohm, their timetable to reach the Majors and where he has the Philles ranked among NL East contenders, make sure to check out the latest episode of Hittin’ Season right here!