Minor league systems are one of the most talked about parts of an organization. There is just something about looking towards the future to see what parts of the system can develop into the next Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna or Fernando Tatis. Many players won’t even scratch that tier of talent, but there is always the hope that whoever our favorite prospect might be would at least merit some conversation.
It’s why whenever a list comes out ranking the Phillies’ collection of minor league talent, there is always some discussion about whether a player is overrated, underrated or just...rated. You have your favorite guy, I have mine and both of them are going to be good. Admittedly, I do not watch a lot of minor league baseball, but I do know most of the bigger names that are around the game. For purposes of evaluation, I depend on others to help steer me towards who is good and who won’t make it. So, I asked our prospect guys some questions about the team’s minor league system. Here is what I got from them.
Who made the biggest leap this year in the system for both hitters and pitchers?
Alex Carr: To me, it’s a tie between Bryson Stott, Luis Garcia, and Jhailyn Ortiz. Stott dashed the swing-and-miss concerns in a hurry, and managed to rise all the way up thru the system, succeeding at every single level. Garcia was less of a numerical leaper and more a peripheral leaper. He’s multiplied his power tenfold, which was a big concern in his development — now he just has to meld his already solid contact tool with the newfound power, and we should start seeing big results. Jhailyn Ortiz finally started making use of his enormous raw power. Excellent year for him that likely gets him added to the 40-man this offseason.
Jay Polinsky: The former has more contenders than the latter unfortunately. I’d say Bryson Stott, Logan O’Hoppe, Jhailyn Ortiz and of course Matt Vierling all had tremendous leaps this season. Of the pitchers, Bailey Falter graduated, so maybe Ethan Lindow, Griff McGarry and Jordi Martinez?
Matt Winkelman: On the hitting side, Matt Vierling got some buzz last offseason based on Instructs, but he still didn’t make my Top 50 prospects. This year he started and ended hitting really well. He hits the ball probably harder than anyone in the system (though he needs to get it in the air more) and can play 4+ positions (third is probably still a stretch). He is a borderline top 10 prospect in the system right now and you can see a path to him being an everyday contributor for a good team. As for pitchers, I think Cristian Hernandez is the trendy pick, and there is a good reason for that. He isn’t an amazing prospect and probably projects more as a solid #4 starter, but he was totally off of everyone’s radar coming into the year. He is up to 96, has a starting pitcher’s arsenal and good control. More importantly, when compared to a lot of their other young arms, he stayed injury free all year (he was part of the COVID shutdown in the complex which cost him a month of starts).
Who had the most disappointing season (even though many didn’t play baseball at all last year and they should get some leeway)?
AC: Francisco Morales had the most disappointing season in my eyes. He showed flashes, and still has ridiculous stuff, but the control isn’t there. He’s obviously still very, very young, and Reading was clearly going to be a tough leap for him, but it was a rough year all the same.
JP: Two immediately jump to mind. Please, please give Adam Haseley another chance. We don’t know what exactly he was going through. He has a great approach at the plate and honestly should be in some consideration for a platoon in CF next season if they don’t acquire someone to play there full-time in FA. The other is Francisco Morales, who yes, had an extremely disappointing season. However, the stuff is still there. His fastball/slider combo can be absolutely unhittable at times. Maybe he should be a reliever, but he deserves at least one more season to see if he can fix his command issues and remain a starter.
MW: From a name recognition frame, it is probably Adonis Medina, who did pitch in the majors but when the Phillies needed starting pitching, just wasn’t an option, but I think he was trending in that direction already. The real answer is probably Casey Martin. The Philles gave him second round money in the 2020 draft because the talent was huge. He was also highly risky, and we knew he would take some time and struggle. I don’t think hitting under .200 with a 28% K rate in A ball was what was expected. He still has a lot of defensive versatility and he has speed, but he has to make contact at some point or it is going to look like a lost pick.
Griff McGarry has made some noise lately with his Trackman data. Is he the real deal as a starter, or are we looking at more of a reliever?
AC: I’m of the opinion that McGarry will eventually slot into a fireman/closer role, but what he’s shown from a starter’s perspective has been really impressive. The stuff is ludicrous. Control needs work.
JP: Admittedly I haven’t seen much of McGarry, but seeing how excited some of the prospectheads are for him is giving me some feels. From scouting reports, command was going to be the big thing with McGarry in that if you can fix that, you have a potential TOR starter on your hands. It’s still way to early to tell if all of this is “real” yet.
MW: He has a starting pitcher’s arsenal. It is two distinct fastballs, two distinct breaking balls, and a changeup. The control is the big wild card here, and while much improved he wasn’t exactly painting as a pro. If he can throw strikes, he can be a mid rotation starter because the fastball is a real weapon because it got up to 98 as a pro with the riding action to miss bats up in the zone. That said, like most starting pitchers with question marks, the cheap answer is to say he is probably a reliever long term, but he does have the chance to start and I think the Phillies give him a real shot at that in 2022. If he is a reliever, he could be a real nasty late inning high leverage guy.
Johan Rojas, Alex’s prospect favorite, turned it on at the end of the year and has been getting some favorable writeups from national prospect prognosticators. He’s not a factor at all in the CF job for 2022 is he? If not, what is the arrival ETA?
AC: I wouldn’t say Johan has a shot at the 2022 job, he’s still a year-and-a-half to two years away in my eyes, but the glove could play at the MLB level right now, and the speed is a real weapon. His end to the season was pretty awesome to watch.
JP: Definitely not a factor for 2022 IMO. Yes, he improved a good deal but he is still fairly raw at the plate and has to work on his plate discipline before even considering MLB time. I’d estimate a 2023-2024 arrival.
MW: Not at all a 2022 factor and if I had to bet, I would say he doesn’t get above AA in 2022. There are some approach and pitch recognition issues that still need to be sorted. He is Rule 5 eligible after next year and if he is in the org that is an easy protection, so that puts him in the high minors in 2023 on the 40 man roster, and I think that is the opening of his ETA, but 2024 would not be a disappointment given he just reached High A. He might make some top 100s this offseason, but I think there are enough worries he is probably just off a list for me, but he is still a really good and exciting prospect.
Bryson Stott: shortstop in Philadelphia in 2022? Shortstop in Philadelphia ever? More likely: traded or different position?
AC: I don’t think they trade Stott. This team needs young, controllable players to keep the payroll stable, and Stott has defensive versatility. I don’t think he’s a shortstop in the long run, but he might have to be next year depending on what route this team takes in Free Agency. I see him long term as the 2B that replaces Jean Segura once he graduates from the club.
JP: This question is spicy. I think the org likes him a lot so unless they are making a big play for like Jose Ramirez or another rumored big-time hitter on the trade block, he will be in the Phillies lineup as soon as this coming season. Like Bohm, they will keep him at SS until he shows he can’t do it full-time.
MW: I think in the Phillies ideal world, Stott starts 2022 in AAA because they have competent major leaguers in the infield. He then would be the primary backup at 2B, SS, and 3B if there is an injury or ineffectiveness. He can certainly play SS, but I think he is not a good enough defender to be any team’s primary plan there (he could certainly play it if needed by injuries or something like that), so second or third is probably the long term position. Unless he is the key to a young, under control starter I don’t think they trade him. If I had to make a long term bet I would say he bounces around in 2022 and then takes over for Jean as the primary second baseman when his contract is over (either 2023 or 2024 depending on what they do with the option). Now if they go out and lock in a superstar shortstop, Bohm somehow can play 3B, and Segura continues to have a resurgence, maybe he is trade bait for something they need. That, however, is way too many things going right to count on it.
Mick Abel has had some shoulder issues this year, but they don’t seem concerned? Should we be? Are the training wheels going to fully come off in 2022?
AC: Thankfully, I think the issues with Abel this year were considered minute. Based on what I know, there’s nothing to be worried about. I can also say with confidence that Phillies fans haven’t even seen the start of what Abel can do. He was on a fastball-heavy diet in 2021 in attempts to straighten out his command. Once he starts mixing his breaking stuff, things will get really exciting.
JP: I still think we see training wheels in 2022 to some degree. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had some internal cap at around 100 IP. Shoulder issues are scary (much scarier than elbow), so its something to be concerned about, even though the Phillies were just being “cautious”.
MW: Yeah, it was really minor and I wonder if they had planned on limiting him late in the summer anyway since he didn’t really pitch in 2020. I wouldn’t be concerned by the shutdown or his stats this year. In a lot of his starts they limited his pitch usage or forced certain pitches, in ways that were focused on future growth. He hit 99 this year with the fastball, and it has all of the characteristics you want in a heater. The slider is a plus pitch at least, and the changeup and curveball are good too. I don’t know if they fully unleash him in 2022, but they probably loosen the reins enough that we really see what he is. Best case he ends the year in AA and has us debating when he will be up in 2023. He is really, really good and if he pitched all year, he would be a top 5 pitching prospect in the minors.
Who is your favorite prospect in the system that doesn’t show up on the top 10 lists and why?
AC: Last year, I would’ve said Johan Rojas, or maybe Logan O’Hoppe, or even Matt Vierling — but all of those guys have some pretty bright lights shining on them now. My current favorites that are still flying under the radar because of lack of exposure, travel issues, or injury: Yhoswar Garcia, Erik Miller, Simon Muzziotti, Jamari Baylor, and — my favorite relief prospect in the system right now — Billy Sullivan.
JP: I’m not sure if he will make Top 10 lists, but Erik Miller is my guy currently. He dealt with a number of injuries this past season, so he didn’t get much of a chance to shine. However, the FB/breaking ball combo looks REAL good. With a full healthy season, I can’t see a reason why he can’t be the 3rd best pitching prospect in the system (after Abel and Painter).
MW: Does Yhoswar Garcia count? He had an injury and missed time this year, a year in which he really needed to play so his stock has slipped some. He falls under the same class of player as Rojas, as an uber-athletic guy who just goes all out all the time and has enough tools to be really exciting as a prospect and guy to watch. He still needs some strength (though his exit velocities weren’t terrible), but he only played those 18 games and had an awful K rate. He still is mostly unknown and is older than a lot of first year Latin players (he just turned 20), but he could really be something exciting.
Give your best nonbiased state of the Phillies system right now.
JP: I don’t follow much of any other system really, but you can tell from looking at Phillies prospect lists that this system is top heavy with guys like Stott, Abel, Painter and then things fall off quite precipitously. This is probably a bottom half system, but could see some movement with further breakouts from guys like Griff McGarry, Luis Garcia, Johan Rojas, Ethan Wilson and Simon Muzziotti. Phillies are very much at the point where most of their system is “interesting”, rather than actually really good.
MW: It isn’t great. Abel is their only elite prospect and he has some knocks. Painter and Stott are good prospects, and so are Luis Garcia and Johan Rojas, but none of them are big time prospects in the grand scheme. They have some interesting guys in the minors, but it also isn’t brimming with high upside guys waiting to break out. I do think there is solid depth and they really nailed the 2021 draft and got some interesting NDFAs in 2020 that are still off the radar. I don’t think there are waves of talent that will buoy the Phillies the next few years, nor are there excess pieces to trade for help. However, I do think there are things to work with and they could probably grow into a mid tier system over the next year or two, there just isn’t a sleeping giant here.