With numerous uncertainties about the pitching staff for 2020, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen, the need to have reliable options in the prospect system that could make the jump to the Majors is higher for the Phillies than it has been in recent memory. Fortunately, there are multiple prospects (in addition to Spencer Howard) in the system who could make the jump this season and have an impact at the Major League level.
As I said in my review of Connor Seabold for The Good Phight’s prospect rankings, his ceiling isn’t elite. He’s not going to be the future #2 to Spencer Howard’s #1. He probably won’t even be a #3 unless the rotation becomes insanely depleted or he suddenly improves tenfold. But teams need five quality starters to truly succeed, and having someone who can give them a chance to win games in the back end of the rotation is an absolute necessity. Seabold could be that guy as soon as this season, if called upon.
An oblique injury kept him out of half of the 2019 season, but ironically enough the injury may have done more good than harm. Seabold spent a lot of his time while he was out of commission working on his changeup. Previously graded as average, taking the time to focus on little adjustments helped him transform it into an above-average pitch. With the velocity already where he wants it (around 80 MPH), adding the right movement to it has elevated his changeup to the next level. But Seabold wasn’t satisfied with just improving one pitch in 2019. During the Arizona Fall League, he focused on working on his slider in a similar fashion (just without the injury). With a working fastball and two above-average off-speed pitches, he’s getting closer to being MLB-ready every day.
Damon Jones also has the potential to be promoted mid-season and make an impact at the Major League level. Jones has been somewhat of an underdog since being drafted in 2017, but a really good 2019 campaign has put him on a lot of people’s radars. While he is currently a starter, and has the potential to be effective in that role, he may also be someone the Phillies could want to add to their bullpen at some point during the season, especially if it’s depleted again in 2020 like it was last year. Where Jones excels the most is in his command, especially with his curveball. If he does get the call, his ability to get hitters out could have a huge impact at the Major League level.
Of course, there are a lot of things that could factor into the potential for these players to have an impact at the Major League level this season. In addition to the regular things that can hold players back like injuries, regressions, and performances by other players in the system, there is still the looming question of what’s going to happen with the baseball season as a whole. If MLB decides, for example, to shorten the season to only 100 games, the opportunity for that “late season call-up” to happen decreases exponentially. Depending on how the pitching staff manages their workload and if they stay healthy, it’s possible none of these guys will see the big leagues this season—not even Howard. But should the Phillies need to make the call, they do have plenty of options that could have a positive impact right away.
As always, wash your hands and go Phils.