Phillies Minor-League Preview: What Changed and Prospects to Watch
There hasn’t been a pitch thrown in minor league baseball since 2019. Covid-19 not only prevented games from being played but forced major changes to the way these all-important leagues are structured. During the winter Major League Baseball instituted what amounts to a hostile takeover of the farm system. Overnight more than 40 lower-level teams were dissolved in an effort to close the proximity between affiliate and parent clubs. Also, all MLB teams will now have only four full-season affiliate clubs.
The Phillies system will remain very close to what fans have been accustomed to in years past. The only major difference is that the Lakewood, (previously low-A) moved up a division to High-A and were rebranded as the Jersey Shore Blue Claws.
This week the Phillies tweeted out where the top prospects in the 23rd ranked system will begin the season. Here are a few guys to keep an eye on as the temperatures rise and the Phillies’ bullpen falls apart.
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs AAA
For better or worse, it seems the 2021 Iron Pigs will be filled with guys that are likely swing back and forth between Allentown and South Philly. Lehigh Valley lacks the top-end prospects but makes it up for it with a chance to see potential future starters like Mickey Moniak and Spencer Howard.
Adonis Medina– Medina made his big league debut in September 2020 and after giving up two runs in the first, put up three zeroes and retired the last eight batters he faced. With the back end of the rotation looking extremely shaky during April, Medina could potentially lock down a spot before the end of the year.
Reading Fightin’ Phils AA
I can’t sugarcoat the state of AA Reading in 2021. Other than Francisco Morales and a few depth pitchers in Ethan Lindow and James McArthur (ranked #24 and #30 in the system) there isn’t a whole to get excited about here. Simon Muzziotti, 21 is a potential big leaguer in CF but unfortunately, he is stuck in Venezuela with visa issues due to the pandemic.
Francisco Morales– Ranked #4 in the Phillies system, at only 21 years old Morales is clearly the best pitching prospect behind Mick Abel and Spencer Howard. Morales is 6’4” and throws a nasty fastball-slider combination with his fastball sitting in the high 90’s. It’s not clear whether he will be a starter or reliever in the show but the Phillies could definitely use more guys who throw hard. If Morales can’t develop a quality third pitch he will likely end up as a late-inning reliever.
Jersey Shore BlueClaws A+
Players today do not necessarily need much experience in AA ball to reach the big leagues. Look no further than Nick Maton who recently broke onto the scene with the Phillies after posting only 62 career AA at-bats. The Phillies clearly have more talent in Lakewood than Reading, so don’t be afraid a drive up Rt. 9 from the shore this summer and check out the BlueClaws.
Bryson Stott-Selected 14th overall in the 2019 draft, Stott is the Phillies #3 ranked prospect. Bryson got some run in spring training this year and from all accounts has not looked overmatched one bit playing with older and more experienced guys. He lived with Bryce Harper in Clearwater this spring and just looks likes a good baseball player. Keep and eye out for Bryson to potentially join the Phillies when they expand the MLB rosters in September.
Kevin Gowdy– I’m not someone who likes to look back at past drafts and play the ‘what-if’ game, but the 2016 draft was arguably the most important and consequential in recent Phillies history. The story is well-known at this point. The Phillies drafted Mickey Moniak at #1 because he was willing to take a below-slot signing bonus. With that extra money, the Phillies selected Gowdy with the first pick in the 2nd round. They snatched him away from a scholarship at UCLA by offering him a signing bonus of 3.5 million which is more than double the slot.
Since then Gowdy has pitched just 86 innings in the minors after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2017 and 2018. After spending $10 million coming away with only a utility outfielder in Moniak is massive failure for the Phillies scouting department. On the bright side, Gowdy is still only 23 and has the natural ability and talent to turn things around and reach the majors.
Luis Garcia– Not the fat, awful Luis Garcia you remember coming out in relief for the pathetic 2020 Phis. Garcia was one of the top international infield prospects in 2017. Garcia turned heads by absolutely crushing the competition in his first pro season as he posted a .369 average and won the Gulf Coast League batting title albeit in a small sample size. The next year Garcia did a complete 180 and ended up batting .180 as he looked totally overmatched in Lakewood. Garcia is only 20 and scouts have hope he can show enough improvement to eventually reach the big leagues.
Clearwater Threshers A-
If you find yourself visiting the world-class beaches on the Gulf Coast this summer don’t forget to stop in for a Threshers game. Clearwater arguably is the Phillies deepest squad and gives you a chance to check out a few potential future stars. If you are sick and tired of shitty umpires like me, then you will rejoice that the newly branded Southeast League will feature an automated strike zone for the first time in professional baseball.
Mick Abel– With Spencer Howard graduating, Abel, the Phillies 2020 1st rd pick out of high school in Oregon becomes the #1 ranked prospect in the Phillies system. At only 19, he’s obviously raw and at least a couple of years from making his debut but scouts are drooling over his 6’5” frame and potential four-pitch mix. It’s too early to tell but his ceiling is that of a #1 pitcher in the rotation.
Casey Martin– The Phillies 3rd round pick out of the University of Arkansas in 2020 was the starting SS/3B on two College World Series teams. Some scouts have Martin graded out as an 80 runner as he can absolutely fly on the basepaths. His mix of power and speed is truly rare and it will be intresting to see if Martin can adjust to pro ball and move up quickly through the system.
Johan Rojas– An international signing in 2017-18, the 20 year old jumped into the top #10 team rankings after crushing the ball during his first two years in the pro ball. Along with the aforementioned Muzziotti, Rojas has the ceiling to be an everyday CF in the league.
Back to CBP: The Phillies inched closer back to .500 and are now 14-15 on the season, a half game behind the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East. Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.11 ERA) will be on the mound tonight to face Brewers’ pitcher Eric Lauer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) in game two of their four game series.
Mandatory Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer