Prospect season is still coming hot and heavy and today, Baseball Prospectus made it to their top ten Phillies prospects (the link is behind a paywall but seriously, you should have a BP subscription at the very least). Here is the top ten.
Obviously, there is a lot of excitement to be had around Mick Abel topping this list. The team’s top draft pick in the 2020 draft, it isn’t often that a Phillies farmhand gets the glowing report that he received as a teenager, especially when he is a pitcher.
Abel emerged as the best prep pitcher in the 2020 class. Heading into the spring evaluation period prior to the draft, you could have argued for one of maybe three different arms, but two of those—including Abel—never pitched in games. What we knew from the previous summer: he had a projectable 6-foot-4 frame, showed good movement on a mid-90s fastball, a snappy breaking ball with swing-and-miss potential, and feel for a changeup. During pre-draft workouts and especially after the Phillies selected him, it became increasingly clear not only that he was clearly the best high school arm, but also may have been a steal at the 15th pick. He’s already getting stronger, as expected, with velocity readings ticking up into the upper 90s.
If that doesn’t give you the feels about what he’s got, I’m not sure what will.
Actually, yes I do know. This is what they wrote about his developmental track.
For pitchers coming from cold weather parts of the country, there’s usually a certain level of caution when first integrating them into a professional routine. First priority is building up strength, something Abel has already shown an ability to do. His natural proclivity to spin a ball with fluid mechanics gives him the complete starter kit to quickly pick up whatever he needs to on his path to a potential top-of-the-rotation monster.
Excuse me while I swoon. Of course, there are always concerns when one is dreaming on a teenaged arm. There is always the injury risk as we’ve seen with countless prospects, Phillies or non-Phillies prospects. They are, as the saying goes, designed to break your heart. There is also the risk of clutching them close to your heart in trade talks. All of this is part of the inherent risk of running a farm system. While the team may not have many untouchables in their farm system, Abel is probably close to it.
A lot of this list seems pretty on point. Spencer Howard being second on this list probably happens because he didn’t have much of a season last year to iron out any issues that he is still experiencing. His debuting at the major league level last year was out of necessity since they didn’t have much quality in the rotation, but his getting minor league innings last year would have been huge for his development. Now, with the team struggling with financial constraints to add someone else to the big league rotation, it looks like Howard will have to develop in the majors, no easy task.
The worrying thing, of course, is the lack of no doubt about it prospects behind Abel and Howard. Without giving away everything BP says, there is a lot of “If he _______” written in the reports of players, something that is normal. What is also normal now for these guys, as well as other minor leaguers around the game, is that the lost 2020 season really hurt them as far as getting the time to erase that “if” from their game. 2021 is a monster year for several of these names, Morales and Rojas chief among them as they seem like the best bets on the list to pop were they to start to close some of the holes in their game.
Once you get past the top ten, there are several “keep an eye on” types to round out the summary. Four of them - Conner Brogdon, Jojo Romero, Damon Jones, Ramon Rosso - all look like they’ll be fighting for playing time in the bullpen this year, Brogdon with the biggest lead to make the team. Mickey Moniak and Nick Maton are there as possible bench pieces. My guy, Kendall Simmons, makes the list as someone who could also boom or bust this year with more plate appearances against arms that are further along in their own development.
The team has prospects, there is no doubt. The depth is still a little shallow, something the authors notice in their state of the system comment.
There’s not nothing for Dave Dombrowski to “work with” here, but the Phillies’ system continues its slow slide since the peak of the rebuild years.
Hopefully a minor league system will see some of these guys getting the plate appearances and innings they need to get going in their development. If things click, this list could look a lot different in one year.