Monday, February 15, 2016

Prospects Looking To Make An Impression


Closer LooksLooking for a reason to follow Spring Training with the Phillies? Prospects, prospects, prospects. In the third part of a seven-part series previewing the Phillies ahead of Spring Training, with pitchers and catchers set to have their first workout on Thursday, looks at the most notable prospects who will be at camp in Clearwater, Fla. And there will be plenty, with six of seven Phillies ranked in MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects list in the Bright House Field clubhouse: RHP Mark Appel: A late addition to the Ken Giles trade with the Astros, Appel is No. 70 in MLBPipeline's Top 100. The former No. 1 pick is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he might have the best stuff in a talented rotation. Everybody seems to hope a change of scenery will benefit Appel. He no longer will have the pressure of pitching for his hometown team, like he did in Houston. In Philly, he will be one of many top pitching prospects competing for a job. RHP Jimmy Cordero: The Phillies acquired the hard-throwing Cordero in the Ben Revere trade with the Blue Jays in July. His fastball sits pretty comfortably in the high 90s to 100 mph. He has topped 100 on more than a few occasions. Cordero posted a 2.55 ERA in 45 appearances last season with Class A Advanced Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Double-A Reading. He struck out 64 and walked 24 in 67 innings, but Cordero got better as the year progressed. He posted a 1.18 WHIP with Dunedin, a 1.22 WHIP with New Hampshire and a 0.88 WHIP with Reading. His performance with Reading excited more than a few Phillies folks, who think he could be the future closer. RHP Zach Eflin: He's not in MLBPipeline's Top 100, but Eflin is considered one of the top 10 prospects in the organization. Eflin is expected to open the season in Triple-A, but he certainly is worth watching. Eflin's stuff is arguably as good as Appel's, but he needs to set up and finish hitters more consistently. The Phillies think once he gets it, his strikeout ratio (4.6 per nine innings last season with Reading) will take a jump, so keep an eye on that. RHP Jake Thompson: One of the key pieces in the Cole Hamels trade with the Rangers, he ranks 55th on MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. Thompson is expected to open the season in Triple-A, but he is probably the most advanced of any of the top pitching prospects in camp because he has a good feel for his abilities and how he can best attack hitters. He posted a 1.80 ERA in seven starts with Reading last year. C Jorge Alfaro: The Phillies acquired the No. 96 prospect in baseball in the Hamels trade. Alfaro is healthy following ankle surgery in 2015, so the Phillies hope to see what they got in the potential front-line catcher. He has tremendous power at the plate and a strong arm. He is expected to open the season in Double-A because he lost so much development time last year. C Andrew Knapp: The Phillies named Knapp their Minor League Player of the Year in 2015. It should be fun to watch Knapp and Alfaro compete in Spring Training. Both are expected to open the season in the Minor Leagues, but they are considered the club's catchers of the future. What happens if both live up to the hype? What a nice problem that will be. SS J.P. Crawford: He is the No. 5 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline, and it is easy to see why. Crawford has hit a combined .290 with a .790 OPS in three Minor League seasons, showing a knack for the strike zone. He has walked 160 times and struck out 163 times in his career. Many think Crawford has the offensive talent to hit .290 to .300 in the Majors. They think his power will improve, too. If he does maintain or improve offensively, Crawford could be a perennial All-Star. He is expected to open the season in Triple-A, but a strong performance there could have him in the big leagues soon. OF Roman Quinn: The No. 99 prospect in baseball, Quinn has tremendous speed and abilities in center field. He hit .306 with a .791 OPS in 232 at-bats with Reading last year before a torn hip flexor derailed his season. Health is key for Quinn. OF Nick Williams: The Phillies were excited to land Williams in the Hamels trade. He got them even more excited when they watched him play with Reading, where he hit .320 with an .876 OPS in 97 at-bats. Williams, who is the No. 64 prospect in baseball, is expected to open the season in Triple-A, but the Phillies' outfielders should feel him breathing down their necks.

Today In Phils History - The Phillies hired former player with the Philadelphia Bobbies Edith Houghton on this day in 1946 making her the 1st woman scout in professional baseball. In 1976, Bob Boone, Jim Kaat, and their wives attended a White House prayer breakfast for athletes hosted by the President and First Lady. Jerry Koosman came to town on this day in 1984. Finally, happy 42nd birthday Ugueth Urbina.

With the Phillies having finished the 2015 season with a spectacularly awful record of 63-99 it will be interesting to see what kind of team new President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak put on the field. At the same time I am definitely looking forward to the games against Boston with former GM Ruben Amaro on the field. Given the departures, lingering contracts, a history of injuries, bipolar performances, and unproven talent, it should, at the very least, be an interesting season for the Phillies. Who knows, maybe they can avoid 100 losses... hopefully by more than one game!

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