March 4, 2015

Minor Update: BP’s Top-11 Prospects Show Phils’ System’s Improvement

michael taylor

Baseball Prospectus released the first legit Top prospects list for the Phillies today (no, mine doesn’t count as legit) and the rankings show a marked improvement in the Phillies system over the last couple years. In their prospect rankings, BP ranks players anywhere from a 2-5 stars and they are very stingy in giving out high rankings, so don’t compare the stars to basketball or football H.S. recruiting sites.

Below, I have made a chart that shows BP’s rankings of the Phillies prospects over the past 3 years. The players with the same star rating are ranked in the order BP had them.

As you can see, just 2 years ago, the system was made up primarily of low level prospects, and was considered one of the worst in baseball. Now, we are one of only a few teams with no 2-star prospects in our top-11. In addition, several of lower players in these rankings (Collier, Knapp and D. Brown) all have the talent and tools to shoot up to a 4 or even 5 star prospect if they develop as the Phillies hope.

I was actually surprised at how close these rankings were to my own considering that BP uses crazy metrics to determine most of the rankings and I just use, well, basic numbers and common sense (which they frown upon over there, but that’s for another day). I had mentioned that I ranked Michael Taylor (who looks positively bad ass in the picture above) higher, and Lou Marson lower, than most people, and it seems like BP agrees with me. On the other end, I obviously like Jason Donald more than they do, and Travis D’Arnaud is a player that I did not have in my top-10 that maybe I should have. This article makes note that while D’Arnaud has the tools to be an above average offensive catcher, he is also a very good defensive catcher, which I did not know.

Since the scouting report on each player is premium information, I can’t relay exactly what was said, but a couple of our prospects (Drabek, D. Brown and Taylor, in particular) have big years coming up where they will either become untouchble prospects or potential question marks.

Finally, to give you an idea of where we stand relative to the rest of the majors in terms of our top-11, I compiled these non-scientific rankings of the 11 teams that BP has evaluated so far. The rankings are the average stars for each team’s top-11, as I did above with the past 3 Phillies seasons. If teams were tied, the team with the most 4-5 stars got the tiebreaker.

  1. Marlins, 3.82
  2. Braves, 3.56
  3. Rockies, 3.36
  4. Phillies, 3.36
  5. Brewers, 3.27
  6. Reds, 3.18
  7. Dodgers, 3.18
  8. Cubs, 3.09
  9. D-Backs, 2.91
  10. Mets, 2.91
  11. Astros, 2.64

The Marlins are #1, of course, because their entire operation relies on constantly having a strong farm system. They draft well, and trade away the vast majority of their major league talent for cheaper, minor league talent. The D-Backs and Mets are examples of how farm systems can drop in the rankings after just one big trade (Dan Haren and Johan Santana). The Brewers are also an example of this, as they may have been #1 if not for the CC Sabathia deal. A positive note for us on the Mets front is that their top 3 prospects, and only 4-star prospects, are all about 17 years old, and very far away from contributing to the major league roster. They also have plenty of time to completely fail, just like New York hype-machine casualties Lastings Milledge and Alex Escobar.

Once BP is done evaluating all the teams, I will post where the Phillies rank against all 30 teams. Until then, Baseball America will be releasing their Phillies top 10 on January 5th and I will put up a post about their thoughts on our system as well.

Keep up-to-date at our Phillies top prospects page.

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  1. bski says:

    Well, it looks like Gillick was as good as his word.  Rebuilding the farm system was one of his stated goals when he took over as GM. 

    It’s funny because the farm got depleted by all the deals made by Ed Wade, and we still couldn’t get close to winning a championship (Heck, we couldn’t even make the playoffs).  That’s a double negative whammy.

    Enter Gillick, who filled in around what we had without sacrificing much in the way of talent from the farm.  He never went for the big-time, farm-depleting deal.  He was able to build a title winner while simultaneously strengthening our farm system.  That’s a credit to his approach.

  2. Pete says:

    I didn’t want to talk about the premium info in the actual post, but I’ll share some here…

    Carrasco – They have him as a 2/3 starter and love his change-up

    Drabek – He is throwing as well as he has since HS with his fastball in the 91-95 area. His curve is a “plus plus” pitch and the best in the system.

    D. Brown – projects as a 5 tool player with 20/20 potential

    Knapp – hits 96-97 with his fastball, but a lot of mechanics to work on. I personally think he ends up as a closer.

    Hewitt – such an amazing athlete, he’s drawn comparisons to Bo Jackson. however, he can’t play baseball yet. they said he could have the furthest difference between his “tools and his baseball skill” of anyone in the minors.

  3. bski says:

    Thanks for all the info, Pete.  As others have said, we had better revel in all thing Phillies, as there isn’t much else out there for us right now.

  4. Stu says:

    Pete, what happened to Joe Savery?

  5. Pete says:

    Savery was on the “just missed” portion of this list along with Drew Naylor and Travis Mattair.

    He had a really disappointing season. He was in High-A the whole year, and had a 4.13 ERA in 150.1 IP. The ERA wasn’t terrible, but he gave up WAY too many hits, 171, and had a 1.54 WHIP.

    Pitched a little better near the end of the year (3.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP in last 10 starts), so there is hope, but the Phillies were thinking they’d get a lot more out of him last year. He’s a college pitcher, so he’s a little old to be starting in High-A next year. Might be a make or break year for him.

  6. bski says:

    I know this isn’t prospect talk, but I don’t agree with what Bill Conlin said today about Ryan Howard declining to play in the WBC.  Sure, on the surface his reasons sound lame and selfish but, from the standpoint of the Phillies 2009 season, I would actually prefer that he does not play in the WBC.

    Here is the way I look at it.  Howard must improve his game in several areas and I don’t agree that playing games, even though he would be playing against the best in the world, is the best way for him to improve. 

    I have seen this first-hand on the youth level for years.  Every kid I have ever coached would much rather play a game or a scrimmage instead of doing drills.  My take is that, regardless of what game you play, you need to be fundamentally sound in order to play the game well.  If you do not have at least a basic skill set there is no sense of stepping on the field or court.  Drills are boring but they do help you get, maintain, and improve the necessary fundamantals.  If you have poor footwork, mechanics, ball skills, whatever, all you will be doing is running around and playing poorly during any game.

    Howard must become more fundamentally sound and improve his skills in several areas, IMO.  To that end I would much rather see him stay home and, at a minimum, get himself in great physical shape, improve his swing, take 1000 ground balls a day, improve his footwork, and correct his poor throwing motion. 

    Now, if he comes into the 2009 season without improving in any of these areas, I will not only be disappointed but I will also be ticked off at him for staying home and doing nothing with that time.  In that case I would agree with Conlin because playing in the WBC would be preferrable to doing next to nothing on your own.

  7. Pete says:

    One thing to watch this year in the minors….

    If Michael Taylor tears up AA the way he did A, it may affect whether or not the Phillies re-sign Jayson Werth, who is a FA after this season. 
    I hate Bill Conlin, and I never read him. He’s a miserable, miserable person. 
    I actually think that Howard should play in the WBC though. Obviously whatever he has done in the last couple spring trainings didn’t work in terms of getting him off to a good start and maybe playing some meaningful games before the season starts would do that. Pitchers have legit excuses to not play, but hitters, I don’t see it. 
  8. bski says:

    I can see the other side of it, Pete. 

    When I said that Howard needs to improve his fundamentals, I didn’t mean that he should continue with the same things he has been doing in his previous offseasons. ( In that case, you are right.)  That’s basically what I was driving at in my final paragraph, although apparently not very clearly.  I was hoping that he would try a different offseason approach that would yield better results.  If not, I agree that he should play in the WBC.

  9. J Dubbz says:

    Here is a pretty cool article about the person that Greg Maddux was on and off the field:

    Not Phils or prospect talk, but a good baseball article.

  10. J Dubbz says:
  11. J Dubbz says:
  12. bski says:

    J Dubbz…Thanks for the links.   Just think, if the Yanks weren’t too cheap to sign Lowe now, they might actually have a shot at meeting us in the world series, right?

  13. J Dubbz says:

    I know it takes more than $$ to win a title, but wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of cash to throw around??

  14. jkay says:

    Pete: bout Jayosn Werth re-signing. doesnt it make the Ibanez signing a lil more annoying. my vision for the phillies outfield was to have one of the most feared defensive outfields in the league. Victorino’s the man. Werth is no slouch either (have you seen the cannon he packs) he just needs to get more disciplined in reading balls. burell’s departure meant a hole for a young stud (such as Taylor) to emerge and complete the trifecta. what they had in 2007 with victorino, rowand and werth/burrel, they could have that again, even better. the phillies are so good defensively, it would be ridiculous. not even a million howard errors could dampen it.
    now our only right handed power hitter will be fighting for his position with the rookie while the LF is occupied by the 2nd coming of Pat Burrell.
    any chance we re-sign werth long term? i am always in favor of a sure thing as opposed to projecting prospects like Greg Golson, who according to the phillies was a bust, the way they chucked him so quick.

  15. Zack, for bski says:

    bski, I liked your little Sixers’ composition.  I was actually thinking of writing one myself, but I’m so full of hate for what’s happened to the Sixers’ season that I’ve decided to try and think about other things for the next couple of days, being that it’s Christmas and everything.

    I do have a writing request of you, as a baseball writer of sorts – what do you think of what the Yankees have done, in all aspects?  A few quick thoughts:

    1. We could still lose Ryan Howard to them as a DH.
    2. Will Cole Hamels accept a contract worth less than Sabathia’s?
    3. The Phils have done well against Sabathia, Burnett and Texeira, I like our changes against them in the World Series.
    4. Is a salary cap for baseball needed?
    5. I don’t really think those guys set the market, because only the Yankees have that kind of money.  It’s like a bunch of guys vying for the one high-paying job, but when someone gets that job everyone has to settle for less money.

  16. bski says:

    Zack….I will do my best to give you some quick responses, as I’ve got to get out the door pretty soon (heading to the parents’ house for Christmas dinner).

    First, what do I think about the Yankees signings…..Well, besides the fact that they make me sick, I think that they are going to eat a lot of money on these deals. 

    Teixiera is the only one I can see giving them anywhere near the requisite level of production over the life of the deal to justify what they spent on him.  Even that is contingent upon what happens with the rest of the team.  There is no doubt that having guys like Jeter and A-Rod in the lineup will increase the production the Yankees get from Teixiera.  How long those guys (A-Rod and Jeter) remain in the lineup, if they maintain their level of production, or if their replacements duplicate what they brought will have a major impact on what they get from Teixiera, IMO.  I view Teixiera as a fine player, but not a guy that carries a team.  As such, you will get more from him when he is surrounded  by more.  At least that’s my take.

    As far as the pitchers, any contract over 3 or 4 years is ridiculous, IMO.  The Yankees know ther is no way on God’s green earth they will get 8-years of 200+ innings and a 1.1 WHIP from Sabathia. 

    I spoke about Burnett back when we were supposedly “interested” in him.  Burnett has only pitched more than 200 innings twice in his career (2002 and 2005).  Not coincidentally, he was injured in the following season each time.  Guess what?  Burnett pitched 221 1/3 innings last year, so where do you think he is headed.  Burnett will be Carl Pavano, the sequel. 

    The thing that really bothers me about the Yankees signing these pitchers is that they know they will not get all the years out of them and they don’t need to care because they can afford to eat the contracts.  Since almost nobody else can afford to take a financial hit like this, it pretty much eliminates every other team from ever landing a top of the rotation, free agent arm.  That’s just not right.

    1)  If Ryan Howard continues to put up the same numbers he has been, he is as good as gone from Philly.  The Phils have shown no inclination to sign him to the mega-deal he is seeking, and Howard has given no indication that he will lower his asking price.  My opinion has always been that the number of years he wants is the big hangup.  I would rather pay him more per year in exchange for a shorter deal, as I can’t see us getting the same level of production from him over the life of an 8-year contract.

    2)  If we are talking about today, Cole Hamels has no choice but to accept a deal worth less than Sabathia’s.  Hamels made a name for himself this year and established himself as a big game pitcher in the postseason, but he only has two seasons under his belt and he just went over 200 innings for the first time this year.  By comparison, Sabathia has 8 seasons under his belt, has shown himself to be more of a workhorse with each passing season, and has a Cy Young to his name.  As of now, Hamels just doesn’t stack up to Sabathia.  Now, depending on what He does through his arbitration years, Hamels could close the gap considerably.  In that case he probably would want, and get, a Sabathia-type deal.  One thing that is on our side, at least for now, is Hamels’ attitude about the big payday.  I posted a link to an interview with Hamels from a weekly column called Answer Man. Check out the very last question and answer to see what I’m talking about.

    3) The Phils might have done well against those guys individually, but I think it gets a whole lot tougher when they are all on the same team.

    4)  I’ve always thought a salary cap was needed, but I found an article on that might have changed my mind.  What do you think?

    5)  I said more or less the same thing here a few baseball topics ago.  Here is what I said on December 9th:

    Over the last few weeks I have read several times about the players’ union putting pressure on CC to take the highest offer and “set the market” for his fellow free agents (as opposed to taking less money to pitch somewhere he prefers).

    I probably view this differently than most, but I don’t think this (a top level player taking the highest offer) is the biggest contributor to the continually escalating salaries we see.  Nolan Ryan becoming the first $1 million man or Kirby Puckett becoming the first $3 million man is ok with me.  In fact, if anybody gets that kind of precedent setting deal, it should be just this type of player who gets it.
    I could be way off and this will probably sound counterintuitive, but I’ve always felt that the contracts given to the top level talents in the game actually place a ceiling on salaries, thereby holding down what the lesser talents can get.  I understand that the top level talents  jump over one another from one year to the next and, in the process, continue to raise the ceiling, but there is a small pool of these guys (much smaller than the less talented masses) so, again, I really don’t see this as the biggest issue.
    On the contrary, I’ve always felt that huge deals given to mediocre (or worse) players are the primary cause of wildly escalating salaries and, as such, are far more damaging to the economic structure of the game.  When a decent player (and there are a lot of them) gets a major deal then everyone who is better than him is in line for a big raise at some point.  There is always some team that is either desperate or stupid enough to lay out big money for an average (or worse) player, especially a pitcher. Then the CC’s and Manny’s of the league show how much better they are comparatively and cash in.
    Glad to hear from you again.  I hope I gave you what you were looking for.  Talk to you soon.  Merry Christmas, buddy.


  1. [...] Phillies have an improving system and probably the deepest system they’ve had in some time (thanks, Pat Gillick!). I’ve [...]