Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #12 RHP Adonis Medina

Medina, image- MiLB.com
Widely ranked among the Phillies' top prospects by many outlets, right-handed pitcher Adonis Medina has already made a name for himself at quite a young age as coaches really like his potential while Phils' brass adores his ability.

Medina is equipped with a mid-90's fastball along with a curveball and a change up that are considered to have plus potential and has used that arsenal to impress at the lower levels of the minor leagues as a teenager. 

Signed in 2014 at age 17, Medina made his pro debut that year as part of the Phillies' Dominican Summer League club.  In 11 games (two starts) he tallied a 2-3 record with a save, a 1.27 ERA and a 7.5 K/9 mark.

In 2015, the six-foot-one 185-pounder competed with the rookie level Gulf Coast League team, sporting a 3-2 record with a 2.98 ERA and a 6.9 K/9 mark in 10 games (eight starts). 

Last season, at the age of 19 he pitched with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters and was the team's opening day starter.  In 13 games, all starts, Medina tallied a 5-3 record with a 2.92 ERA along with a 4.7 K/9 mark. 

Medina is praised for having a great feel for pitching.  His fastball arrives at the plate featuring sink, helping to result in ground balls from the opposition.  Additionally, both secondary pitches are strong.  The Dominican Republic native already has the control of an elder pitcher.

His ceiling would seem to be a big league starter, but development will certainly shed more light on where among a team's starting staff he could land as a contributor.

I would expect Medina to open the 2017 campaign with the Class A full-season Lakewood BllueClaws.  He'll be 20-years-old for the entire season.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.





Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #13 RHP Alberto Tirado

Alberto Tirado, image- Jay Floyd
Right-hander Alberto Tirado has an arm that scouts can go wild for. Acquired by the Phillies from Toronto in 2015 as part of the Ben Revere trade, the talented hurler could develop into a considerable performer on the mound for the Phillies.

Despite concerns with his control, what Tirado is known better for than missing the strike zone is missing bats.  Also he clocks big numbers on radar guns as well.  Both of those mesh well to result in serious strike out numbers.

Signed by the Blue Jays in 2011, Tirado would make his professional debut as a member of their rookie level Gulf Coast League team in 2012 as a 17-year-old. In 14 games started, combined with the rookie level Appalachian League and the Gulf Coast League teams, he tallied a 3-2 record with a 2.63 ERA and a .198 batting average against.

He returned to the Appalachian League the following season posting a 3-0 record with a 1.68 ERA and an 8.2 K/9 mark in 12 games (eight starts).

In 2014, splitting time between Class A short-season Vancouver and Class A Lansing, the Dominican Republic native posted a combined 2-2 record with a 5.00 ERA and a 9.0 K/9 mark in 30 appearances (10 starts).

He was honored as a Class A Advanced Florida State League All-Star as a member of the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2015. In 31 games there, pitching strictly in relief, Tirado sported a 4-3 record with three saves, a 3.23 ERA and a .213 batting average against while striking out 61 and walking 35 in 61 1/3 innings.

After he was dealt to the Phillies, as a member of the Clearwater Threshers, also in the FSL, he notched a 1-0 record with a 0.56 ERA and a .130 BAA. His strike out numbers were his usual dominant style (16 K’s in 16 innings), but he also walked quite a bit with 18 free passes issued.

Last season, the six-foot 180-pounder opened the season with Class A Lakewood as a reliever.  Following some missed time in May when he was assigned to the extended spring training roster, he appeared for a brief stint out of the bullpen with Clearwater, but would later return to Lakewood in order to gain experience as a starter, which worked out extremely well. Over 11 regular season outings in the rotation, Tirado posted a 7-1 record with a 2.19 ERA, a .195 BAA and an exceptional 14.0 K/9 mark.

In the postseason last year for the BlueClaws, Tirado was winless, however, going 0-1 in two starts, allowing three earned runs over nine innings.

Tirado’s offerings are described as electric. His repertoire features a fastball that has steadily been clocked in the upper 90’s, touching triple digits with some regularity. His slider and change up have great potential. The slider already compliments the fastball well, getting swings-and-misses with great movement.

On the mound, Tirado keeps things simple with his delivery, getting a good load and repeating his mechanics with ease.  

The youngster’s pitching coach with Lakewood last season, former big leaguer Brian Sweeney, cites Tirado’s mental toughness and ability to dictate the pace of the game on the mound as some of his strengths.

Last off-season I had Tirado pegged as a serious bullpen contributor at the big league level down the line, but if he continues on the path he was on last year, he could be destined for the Phillies’ starting rotation.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #14 RHP Sixto Sanchez

Sixto Sanchez, image- BaseballBetsy
Right-handed hurler Sixto Sanchez made a big impression last year, proving himself worthy of soaring quickly on many prospect lists and is regarded currently as one of the Phillies' most promising pitching talents.

The Domincan Republic native signed for a reported $35,000 at the age of 16.  He would begin his professional career in 2015 as a member of the Phils' Dominican Summer League team.  In 11 appearances (two starts), the youngster posted a 1-2 record with a 4.56 ERA and a .291 batting average against. 

As a member of the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies last summer, the six-foot 185-pounder made 11 starts, posting impressive numbers.  In 54 innings, Sanchez allowed just three earned runs, good for a 0.50 ERA.  Additionally, to go along with his undefeated 5-0 record, he would tally a .181 BAA with a 44-to-8 strike out-to-walk ratio.

The success he enjoyed in the GCL came while facing batters that were mostly multiple years older than he was, as Sanchez was only 17-years-old until July 29th.

The talented Sanchez is equipped with a rave-worthy repertoire, including a mid-to-upper-90's fastball with sink.  He also sports very solid secondary offerings with nice upside...a reliable curve ball that features good movement as well as a consistent change up.

Sanchez is said to be quite athletic and can field his position well.  He was mainly a shortstop prior to signing with the Phillies.

Expect Sanchez to be part of the Class A Lakewood rotation when the 2017 gets started in April. 

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #15 RHP Nick Pivetta

Nick Pivetta, image- Jay Floyd
Valued by the team that acquired him in 2015 in a trade for the organization’s all-time saves leader Jonathan Papelbon, right-hander Nick Pivetta used a successful campaign last year to launch himself into consideration as a rising commodity among the Phillies' collection of top pitching prospects.

A 4th round draft selection in 2013 by Washington, Pivetta would debut as a pro with the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League team, sporting a 1-0 record and a 2.13 ERA in four appearances. He would later be promoted to Auburn of the New York-Penn League that year. In five starts there, he would post a 0-1 record with a 3.38 ERA while striking out 17 and walking 11 in 21 1/3 innings.

The following season with Hagerstown of the Class A South Atlantic League Pivetta would post a 13-8 record with a 4.22 ERA, a .277 batting average against as well as a 6.7 K/9 mark in 26 outings (25 starts).

In 2015, he opened his campaign with Potomac of the Class A Advanced Carolina League. In 15 appearances (14 starts), Pivetta had a 7-4 record, a 2.29 ERA and a .225 BAA. He would earn a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg where he did not look great, going 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA prior to the swap.

After joining the Phillies, Pivetta would stay in the Double-A Eastern League on the Reading roster. He continued to struggle, recording a 7.31 ERA in seven starts there.

Pivetta opened his first full season in the Phillies’ organization in 2016 looking to bounce back with Reading and he definitely did. Through 22 starts for the Fightins, the six-foot-five 220-pounder posted an 11-6 record with a 3.41 ERA, a .235 batting average against as well as an 8.0 K/9 mark. He was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to close out the season, tallying a 1-2 record with a 2.55 ERA in five regular season starts.

The British Columbia native can bring the heat with his fastball, regularly clocking in the 95-96  MPH range. He serves up quality breaking balls from his arsenal, said to be separately a slider and a curve. His change up can assist with keeping batters guessing, but could use some refinement, per scouting reports.

With the Phils, Pivetta went through some mechanical changes that took some time to get used to.  Coaches say he matured a considerable amount over his first full year with his new organization.

Where Pivetta can continue to improve the most is with thinking ahead and having a plan on the mound. Learning from the Phillies' big league staff and guest instructors like Brad Lidge in spring training could certainly be beneficial to the youngster as well.

He is also set to participate in the World Baseball Classic with Team Canada along side veteran hurlers Eric Gagne and John Axford as well as former Phillies Adam Loewen and Scott Mathieson.  The WBC will definitely be another great learning opportunity for Pivetta.

A taste of relief this spring could be helpful exposure, so the player and the organization can see what other options they may have going forward.

For those that may regard Pivetta as a sleeper prospect, Pivetta’s manager with Reading last year, Dusty Wathan, feels that Pivetta deserves as much attention as all of the more highly regarded guys within the Phils’ system.

Look for Pivetta back with the IronPigs to open the 2017 season.  

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #16 LHP Elniery Garcia

Elniery Garcia, image- Jay Floyd
Elniery Garcia is one of the Phillies' most prominent pitching prospects and possibly the top southpaw among the organization's rising performers.

Signed as a 17-year-old in 2011, Garcia would open his professional career in the Dominican Summer League the following year, sporting a 2-1 record with a 4.18 ERA and a .253 batting average against in eight appearances.

The following year, he pitched in the rookie level Gulf Coast League posting a 1-3 record with a 5.15 ERA and a .291 BAA in nine starts.

In 2014, the progressing Garcia would split his time in the GCL and with the short-season Class A Williamsport team.  In 11 combined games (four starts), he tallied a 2-2 record with a 2.64 ERA and a .254 BAA while striking out 28 and walking six in 30 2/3 innings.

He would debut in full season ball the following year with Class A Lakewood.  In 21 starts for the BlueClaws,Garcia notched an 8-9 record with a 3.21 ERA, a .275 BAA as well as a 5.0 K/9 mark.

Last season, the six-foot tall 155-pounder stepped up and looked more like a standout talent.  In 20 games (19 starts) as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, en route to being honored as a Florida State League All-Star,  he posted a 12-4 record with a 2.68 ERA, a .219 BAA along with a 7.0 K/9 mark.

The left-hander would make his Double-A debut with Reading in the post-season last year, collecting a win in the Eastern League division series against Trenton.  In six innings of work, he surrendered three runs (two earned) while striking out four and walking one.

Garcia's repertoire includes a solid three-pitch mix.  In previous seasons, his fastball resided mainly in the low-90's but saw some added zip in 2016 getting up to 95 MPH on multiple occasions.  His curveball looks to be a go-to offering with good, sweeping movement.  His change up appeared to be a pitch    that the youngster focused on improving, as it's key for starters to have a good collection of offerings.

In his career, Garcia has added strength and has shown steady improvements.  Members of the coaching staff have praised his ability to work through difficult spots and they like his mental toughness.

A member of the Phils' 40-man roster, Garcia is set to get some exposure with the big club during spring training.

He'll pitch the entire 2017 season as a 22-year-old and would likely return to the Reading rotation to open the year. 

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #17 RHP Ben Lively

Ben Lively, image- Jay Floyd
Right-hander Ben Lively notched a highly successful season last year, helping to garner loads of attention as one of the Phillies' most promising young pitching prospects.

Originally selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, Lively would begin his pro career as a member of the rookie level Billings Mustangs in the Reds organization. In 12 starts that year the talented hurler posted a 0-3 record with a 0.73 ERA and an 11.9 K/9 mark. He was promoted to Class A Dayton to close out the season with a single start, allowing one earned run in four innings of work while striking out seven and walking one.

This was fresh off his junior season at the University of Central Florida where, in 15 games, he went 7-5 with a 2.04 ERA and an 8.6 K/9 mark as the team’s ace.

Lively would follow up his exceptional year by becoming the Reds’ minor league player of the year in 2014. Opening his first full professional season with Class A Advanced Bakersfield, Lively tallied a 10-1 record with a 2.28 ERA, a .201 batting average against along with a 10.8 K/9 mark in 13 starts. A stretch of 31 consecutive scoreless innings as a member of the Blaze got Lively some considerable attention and he was selected as a California League All-Star.

In mid-June, he was promoted to his hometown Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. There, he would sport a 3-6 record with a 3.88 ERA, a .232 batting average against and a 9.5 K/9 mark.

On New Years Eve 2014 Lively was traded to Philadelphia for OF Marlon Byrd.

After joining the Phils organization, he was assigned to the Double-A Reading Fightins' to open the 2015 season. The six-foot-four 190-pounder posted an 8-7 record with a 4.13 ERA and a 6.9 K/9 mark in 25 starts there. He missed a couple turns in the rotation in August with a shoulder strain.

He would open the 2016 campaign back with Reading and his numbers there were gleaming. In nine starts, the 24-year-old tallied a 7-0 record with a 1.87 ERA and a .185 batting average against, showing he had nothing left to accomplish in the Eastern League. An overdue promotion to Triple-A came in late May.

As a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last year, Lively posted an 11-5 record with a 3.06 ERA and a .196 BAA in 19 starts. He looked excellent down the stretch, helping his club reach the International League playoffs, sporting a 1.66 ERA over his last seven regular season starts.

A big key for Lively in 2016 was working ahead in the count, getting strike one consistently.

The Florida native’s repertoire features a low-90’s fastball, a quality slider, a change up and a curve ball. The fastball plays better than the velocity can indicate, as batters don’t often see the ball well when Lively is on his game. All of his offerings come with a deceptive delivery which helps the young hurler and he proved to be very consistent with all of his offerings last year.

Lively projects to remain a starter and should return to the IronPigs' rotation to open the 2017 season. A member of the Phils' 40-man roster, Lively will get a fair look with the big club in spring training.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #18 RHP Ricardo Pinto

Ricardo Pinto, image- Jay Floyd
With a couple considerable nods of recognition over the past couple of seasons, right-handed hurler Ricardo Pinto has proven to be a prospect on the rise in the Phillies' organization.

Two seasons ago, the Phils honored the native Venezuelan as one of their Paul Owens Award winners, an honor given to the top offensive and pitching performers in the team's developmental ranks each season, and last year Pinto represented the World team in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. 

Signed as an international free agent in December, 2011, Pinto debuted in affiliated pro ball in the Venezuela Summer League the following year. In 15 games (10 starts) he sported a 7-3 record with one save, a 2.74 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

He repeated the VSL in 2013, posting a 3-5 record with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 14 games, strictly as a starter.

In 2014, Pinto moved north, pitching with the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters, where he posted a 1-5 record and a 2.11 ERA with 48 strike outs and 15 walks in 47 innings over nine starts as a 20-year-old.

Taking on a full season schedule in 2015, the six-foot 165-pounder opened the campaign with Class A Lakewood, where he tallied a 6-2 record and a 3.09 ERA while striking out 60 and walking 18 in 67 innings over 11 starts. He earned a promotion in mid-June, moving up to Class A Advanced Clearwater. In 13 games with the Threshers, Pinto notched a 9-2 record with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.  Combined at the two levels, he posted a 6.5 K/9 mark.


Last season, Pinto took another step, becoming a key part of a solid rotation for Double-A Reading.  In 27 games (25 starts) he tallied a 7-6 record with a 4.10 ERA, a .253 batting average against and a 5.8 K/9 mark.

This off-season with La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League, Pinto appeared in eight contests in a relief role.  Over 14 innings of work, he posted a 2-0 record with a 3.86 ERA while striking out 10 and walking four.  The Phillies felt it was important for Pinto to get that experience in a high energy league where winning is critical each and every day.

Talent evaluators tend to place Pinto’s ceiling as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. If he can improve his slider to above average status, Pinto could live up to those expectations with ease.

Boasting a mid-90’s fastball and an exceptional change up, Pinto has the beginnings of a very solid repertoire. Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan has touted in the past that Pinto’s is the best change up among the organization’s pitching prospects. Development of a third offering, a breaking pitch, will be the determining factor of the type of progress he’ll see.  He's worked mostly with a slider through his career, but began working with a curve ball more frequently last year.  That was something he needed to develop more consistency with and give the opposition another weapon to worry about.

The Phils organization likes the way the 23-year-old competes, describing his approach as business-like. He attacks the opposition and appears daring, maintaining outstanding composure with a top-notch work ethic.

Physically, he may not project to add much to his frame, but that shouldn’t prevent him from refining his standout offerings to climb the ladder.

I would expect Pinto to open the 2017 campaign back in Double-A, but if he mounts success in the Eastern League, where he helped Reading reach the post-season last year, it is likely he'll see some time in Triple-A before too long.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Friday, February 3, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #19 OF Jose Pujols

Jose Pujols, image- Jay Floyd
Thanks to a powerful offensive display last season, outfielder Jose Pujols has become a prospect worth knowing in the Phillies’ organization.

The Dominican native was signed by the Phillies in 2012 at the age of 16.

Opening his professional playing  career as a member of the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2013, Pujols sported a .188 batting average with six home runs and 18 RBI in 45 contests.

The following year, Pujols split time between the GCL and short-season Class A Williamsport. In 57 combined games, the righty batter posted a .226/.273/.377 slash line.

In 2015, Pujols continued to show improvement with a .241 average, four homers and 30 RBI in 66 games with Williamsport.

He followed up that campaign by breaking out and setting the single-season home run record for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws with 24. Additionally, Pujols would post a .241 average with 21 doubles, three triples and 82 RBI in 128 games.

As Pujols gained more experience in the talented South Atlantic League last year, he took strides to display improvements. His on-base percentage in the second half saw a 53 point jump following the SAL All-Star break in 2016 and his contact at the plate seemed to take steps in the right direction additionally, as his strike out rate decreased and he proved to his coaches that he could lay off pitches out of the strike zone.

His manager with Lakewood last year, Shawn Williams, who will likely be followed by Pujols up a level to Class A Advanced Clearwater following a promotion for the skipper this off-season, cited Pujols as the most improved prospects he has seen during his four years working in the Phillies organization.

Strictly a right fielder, Pujols gets solid reads and can track down fly balls at a better than average rate, displaying the range of a typical center fielder.   He has a strong arm and is an asset to his team on defense.

Pujols will be 21 years old for the entirety of the 2017 season.  With a thin six-foot-three 175-pound frame, the youngster has plenty of room to add muscle and further develop on the physical side.  So, it's certainly possible that there is plenty more to come on the power front with this blossoming talent.




You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #20 OF Carlos Tocci

C. Tocci, image- Jay Floyd
Since he was signed by the Phillies for a reported signing bonus of $759,000 in the summer of 2011 on his 16th birthday, Carlos Tocci has been followed by a tremendous reputation. It took a while, however, before his output in the professional ranks appeared to live up to those expectations.

Right from the start of his career, the Venezuelan born outfielder was tasked with very challenging assignments. Tocci says that one of the things that resulted in him choosing to sign with the Phillies was that they pledged to allow him to begin his pro career in the United States instead of playing at home in the Venezuelan Summer League.

After participating in the Phillies’ fall instructional league in 2011, Tocci debuted in the minors with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2012, batting .278 with two doubles, nine RBI and nine stolen bases in 38 games. The following year, as a 17-year-old, he played the entire season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. Struggling against more experienced pitching, Tocci posted a .209/.261/.249 slash line in 118 games.

The unimpressive numbers didn’t sour the Phillies on his ceiling, though, as the organization maintained its opinion of the young righty batter as a very promising prospect. Tocci is a guy that has always been praised for his maturity, which coaches like a lot.

In a repeat campaign with Lakewood in 2014, Tocci, who grew up admiring MLB slugger and fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, continued to adapt to the elder competition, seeing some improvement at the plate with a .242/.297/.324 slash line in 125 games.

He entered his age 19 season in 2015 with plenty left to prove in the Class A South Atlantic League, so Tocci returned to Lakewood and posted impressive offensive numbers, at long last. Earning a nod as an All-Star while posting a .321 batting average with two homers, 25 RBI and 14 steals in 16 opportunities.

At mid-season, Tocci was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he sported a .258 average with a pair of home runs and 18 RBI in 68 games.

The 2016 season was a notable one for Tocci, who spent an entire season with Clearwater, tallying a .284 average with 26 doubles, two triples, three homers and 50 RBI.

This off-season Tocci had a solid campaign with the Tigres in Venezuela.  In 59 games the 21-year-old posted  .323 average with a  homer and 28 RBI.  

A lack of raw power for the six-foot-two 160-pounder is evidenced by the fact that it took 862 professional at bats before Tocci launched his first round-tripper, but he has begun to display a greater ability to drive the ball in recent season. The Phils have long wanted for Tocci to add strength to his thin six-foot-two 160-pound frame. He worked on that for four straight off-seasons, with a team-mandated workout plan and in-person training at the organization’s facilities in Florida. Touted as a contact hitter that has made loads of improvements at recognizing pitches, if Tocci can add the muscle, his offensive game will be much better off.

Featuring above average speed, Tocci certainly can become a threat to steal bases. He was successful in 13 of 19 attempts last season for the Threshers, which leaves room for improvement at getting reads on the opposition and better first steps.

Described as a glider, Tocci has excellent range in the outfield and shines defensively with his glove. He’s already a plus defender that can amaze on that side of the game.

With plenty of outfield depth in the Phils organization, Tocci could become a trade chip for the club that originally signed him, as players such as Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Tyler Goeddel, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, Roman Quinn and others may block Tocci’s path to the big leagues.

Expect Tocci to make his Double-A debut in 2017, likely opening the season on the Reading Fightin Phils roster. His efforts in the Eastern League this year should be telling for his future.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 Phillies Prosect Countdown: #21 RHP Mark Appel

M. Appel, image- Cheryl Pursell
Last off-season the Phillies landed former number one overall draft pick Mark Appel from the Astros in a trade for reliever Kenny Giles. Hopes were high that the new team and the player himself could capitalize on Houston’s exhausted patience with the once promising right-hander. However injuries, not necessarily performance, were of concern last year and Appel still remains surrounded by questions regarding his future.

At Stanford University, Appel enjoyed a tremendous college career in which he was honored as a multi-time All-American.  During his senior season in 2013, he notched a 4-0 record with three saves, a 0.90 ERA, a .203 batting average against and a 13.06 K/9 mark in nine games.

Following the 2013 draft, Appel made his minor league debut with Class A short-season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League. In two starts there, he struck out six and walked none, allowing two earned runs in five innings pitched. He was soon promoted to Class A Quad Cities and performed very well there. In eight starts, Appel notched a 3-1 record with a 3.82 ERA along with a .236 batting average against.

The following season, his first full year as a pro, Appel opened the season the Class A Advanced Lancaster, where he posted weak numbers. In 12 starts, he would sport a 2-5 record with a 9.74 ERA and a .372 batting average against. Despite that rough stat line, the Astros promoted Appel to Double-A Corpus Christi by the end of July. He would post a 1-2 record with a 3.69 and a .236 BAA in seven games there.

Appel returned to Corpus Christi to open his 2015 campaign. In 13 games, the six-foot-five 220-pounder would post a 5-1 record with a 4.26 ERA while striking out 49 and walking 23 in 63 1/3 innings in 13 starts. By mid-season, he was promoted to Triple-A Fresno. With the Grizzlies, he had a 5-2 record with a 4.48 ERA while striking out 61 and walking 28 in 68 1/3 innings through 12 starts.

Additionally, in 2015 he represented the Astros at the MLB All-Star Futures Game. He impressed with a blazing fastball clocking at 98 MPH for the first pitch he threw.

The 25-year-old sported a 3-3 record with a 4.46 ERA and a .267 BAA in eight starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year before he was sidelined with a shoulder strain in May and later experienced an elbow issue during his shoulder rehab that required season-ending surgery.

In the Astros organization, reports suggested that Appel lacked the edge it takes for a pitcher to succeed at the top levels of the sport. A self-proclaimed nice guy, he may need to alter his approach a bit and develop a bit of a more aggressive side.

Coaches in the Phils’ system feel that Appel is an exciting prospect and they recognized the strides he took after joining his new organization.

Appel, who is on the Phillies’ 40-man roster, spent much of this off-season rehabbing and working out at the team’s training facility in Clearwater, FL He is expected to be fully healthy at the start of big league spring training.

The pitch arsenal for Appel features a fastball that gets toward the upper 90’s with some regularity as well as two above average secondary offerings, a change up and a slider, both of which sit in the mid-80’s. Consistency with command is a big factor with Appel, who has a 3.2 BB/9 mark in his pro career. That needs to improve if he wants to reach the top level of the sport. He has been able to rack up solid strike out numbers (7.9 K/9) through his minor league tenure.

In his pro career, Appel has been a starter in 61 of his 62 appearances.  The time may come sooner than later to try him in a relief role.

Appel was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in the 15th round in 2009, but attended college instead. He was also drafted 8th overall by the Pirates following his junior season, but chose not to sign. With Stanford, he was a two-sport athlete, also lettering in basketball.

Look for Appel to return as a key member of the IronPigs’ staff in 2017.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link

Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #22 RHP Kevin Gowdy

K. Gowdy, image- Joe Wombough
Taken with the 42nd overall pick in last years draft right-hander Kevin Gowdy is a pitcher that the Phillies have very high hopes for in becoming a special part of the team's future.

Heading into the 2016 draft, Gowdy, who had a UCLA commitment, had tallied a 4-1 record with a 1.59 ERA while striking out 93 and walking just five in 56 2/3 innings as a senior.

He also won a gold medal with the United States U-18 team in the 2015 WBSC Baseball World Cup, pitching in two of his team's big victories in the tournament.

In four regular season appearances with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies after signing his first professional contract, Gowdy posted a 0-1 record while allowing four runs, striking out nine and walking two over nine innings. In the GCL title series, he threw two innings, allowing two unearned runs on two hits without recording a strike out or a walk.

His three-pitch menu is something the Phillies liked a lot about the young California that was said to be one of the most polished high school hurlers in the 2016 draft class.  His fastball can range low-to-mid-90's and he tosses it with great command.  A long, explosive stride along with his lean six-foot-four 170-pound frame helps him get some extra giddy-up on the fastball and put pressure on the opposition.  He's also equipped with a slider that has great movement with potential to become a plus offering as well as a change up that compliments his fastball well, dropping off 12-15 MPH from the heater.

The control for Gowdy is a big plus.  He is very consistent with his mechanics, which helps to solidify his delivery and offer reliable efforts on the mound.

Reports state that his work ethic and maturity are standout qualities for Gowdy as well, which will help him take strides toward higher levels at a quick pace.

On many outlets' draft projections, Gowdy was ranked higher than 42nd, so it seems that the Phillies were lucky that he was still available where they got him.  The team signed the young talent for a reported $3.5 million.

Look for Gowdy to be a part of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws at some point this coming season.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 Prospect Countdown: #23 RHP Drew Anderson

D. Anderson, image- MiLB.com
Righty hurler Drew Anderson hasn't gotten a lot of attention compared to other fast rising talents in the Phillies' system.  The 22-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2015 and returned to the mound last season in time to solidify his place as a formidable young prospect and proved himself as a name that fans should start becoming familiar with.

The Reno, NV native was selected in the 21st round of the 2012 draft out of high school.  Upon turning pro, Anderson posted a 1-1 record with a 4.76 ERA in eight appearances with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

The following year, his first full season as a pro, Anderson tallied a 6-3 record with a 2.00 ERA, a .214 batting average against and a 6.4 K/9 mark in 15 starts as a member of the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters.

In 2014, the six-feet-three 185-pounder posted a 4-4 record with a 4.68 ERA, a .266 batting average against and a 9.4 K/9 mark in eight starts for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.  He would miss time that year with an elbow strain and returned to action rehabbing with the GCL team in July but would miss the remainder of the season following a setback.

Rest and rehab didn't do the trick and when pain returned in his elbow the following spring, surgery took place in early April to repair his ulnar collateral ligament.

After missing the entire 2015 season, Anderson returned to action last year in late May after some rehab appearances in extended spring training. As a member of the BlueClaws, Anderson would sport a 1-3 record with a 3.38 ERA, a .220 batting average against as well as a 10 K/9 mark in seven starts.  He would earn a promotion to Class A Advanced Clearwater where he continued to stand out. 

Upon joining the Threshers, he was the starter in a game in which the team notched a combined no-hitter.  For the Threshers in eight starts, Anderson put together a 2-1 record with a 1.93 ERA, a .217 BAA and a 10.2 K/9 mark.

Anderson drew enough attention that the Phils added him to their 40-man roster this off-season in order to protect him from the annual MLB Rule 5 draft.  As a member of that roster, he'll be a part of big league spring training this year.

Prior to the surgery to repair his elbow, Anderson was known mainly as a control pitcher.  However, with conditioning work and improved strength in his lower half, he was able to add velocity following his return.  Reports had him touching 97 MPH with his fastball at multiple times last season, regularly clocking in the mid-90's.

Also in his repertoire are a very good curve ball and an improving change up that Anderson has targeted taking strides with.

Locating pitches and his command will continue to be a plus for Anderson, as his solid 2.9 BB/9 mark for his career will only improve as he refines the feel for pitches he's been working on in the lower levels of the minors.

The intangibles are what the organization likes about him the most.  Anderson is a focused and determined hurler.  He is tough, wants to compete and loves to learn about the sport that is his career.  He'll be a leader and a sponge for baseball knowledge as he moves upward in the developmental ranks.

The ceiling for Anderson could be a middle-of-the-rotation guy.  Look for him to be among the first wave of players sent to minor league camp from big league spring training in March and expect him to open the season with Clearwater again this year.  Being part of the Double-A Reading rotation before too long is probably quite likely for Anderson, who is looked at as a very promising prospect, as well.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2017 Prospect Countdown: #24 Second Baseman Jesmuel Valentin

J. Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin has become a solid contributor at each level he has played and could possess the ability to continue that success as he approaches the big leagues.

Selected as the 51st overall draft pick in 2012, Valentin was quickly a well-hyped prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. Upon signing his initial professional contract fresh out of high school, the switch-hitter debuted in the rookie level Arizona League, posting a .211 average while launching two homers and driving in 18 runs in 43 games.

In 2013 the Puerto Rico native began the season in the rookie level Pioneer League, where he batted .284 with four homers and 24 RBI in 62 games. A promotion to the Class A Great Lakes team followed and, as a 19-year-old, he struggled a bit, batting .212 with six doubles, a triple and five RBI in 33 games.

The following year, Valentin repeated Class A and proved ready for the challenge. In 108 games for the Loons, he batted .280 with seven home runs and 47 RBI in 108 contests, making himself a desirable commodity to the Dodgers’ potential trade partners. After joining the Phillies’ organization in August as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade, Valentin was assigned to Class A Advanced Clearwater where he recorded a .205 average in 12 games.

Following the 2014 season, Valentin made headlines as he was suspended by the Phils organization following a domestic violence arrest. Charges were eventually dropped, according to Valentin, and he would return to action.

In 2015 as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Valentin would tally a .273 average with a homer and 14 RBI in 31 games.

Last year 89 games with Double-A Reading, Valentin posted a .276 batting average with five home runs and 38 RBI. In July he was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh where he sported a .248 average with four homers and 14 RBI in 36 games. 

This off-season in 38 regular season games in the Roberto Clemente League, the five-foot-nine 180-pounder batted .257 with a pair of home runs and 18 RBI while playing for the Indios, which his father, former big league infielder Jose Valentin, manages.

Growing up around the game, Jesmuel cited to me in an interview last year that he grew close to Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 2003 when he was teammates with Jose on the White Sox.  Jesmuel would watch the Puerto Rican legend closely to learn as much as possible and the two bonded.

Defensively, Valentin is strong with turning two in the middle.  His arm may be best suited for second base, where he plays primarily. With some versatility under his belt, Valentin has manned shortstop in 105 professional games while covering the hot corner at third base in 14 games and taking on the outfield in 15 games.

Speed is not a big factor for Valentin’s game, so he won’t be stealing many bases (49 steals in 75 pro attempts, a 65% success rate), but he is a smart and aggressive ball player who can take an extra base in the right situation and not make mental errors in key spots. 

Valentin displays patience at the plate and can draw walks, notching a .348 on-base percentage for his affiliated pro career to date.  He can be a nice table setter for his teammates.

Look for Valentin back with the IronPigs this season, but if there is a vacancy in the infield due to injury or any other reason, he could be among the first names called upon to take a spot.

You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reading Fightins manager Greg Legg Interview

Prior to the Reading Fightins annual winter banquet on Tuesday, team broadcaster Mike Ventola spoke with new manager Greg Legg.  Topics of discussion include Legger's coaching style, the group he expects to manage this year, being a Pennsylvania resident and more.  Check out the video player below for the full interview.



Legg's history with the Phillies dates back to 1982 when the team drafted him as an infielder in the 22nd round. He would play for 13 pro seasons, including time spent in the majors with the Phils. Since 1994 he has served as a coach at various developmental levels of the Phillies organization. Legg previously managed Reading from 2002 through 2004.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #25 RHP Tom Eshelman

T. Eshelman, image- Jay Floyd
Righty hurler Tom Eshelman was acquired last off-season from Houston in the Kenny Giles trade along with former number one overall draft pick Mark Appel as well as pitcher Vince Velasquez and two other players.  If Eshelman progresses as the Phillies hope he will, the talented Californian could become the steal of that deal.

Scouts had Eshelman classified as one of the most polished pitchers in the 2015 draft.  After becoming Houston’s 2nd round draft choice (46th overall) and signing for a reported $1.1 million, Eshelman started four total games at two levels of the Astros’ system that year.

In 2015 as a member of the rookie level Gulf Coast League Astros, Eshelman allowed two earned runs while striking out three and walking two in four innings of work.  He was then promoted to Class A Quad Cities where he allowed three earned runs while striking out five and walking three in 6 1/3 innings.

After opening the 2016 season with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Eshelman would become a Florida State League All-Star.  In 11 starts there, the six-foot-three 210-pounder tallied a 4-2 record with a 3.34 ERA, a .251 batting average against and a 9.7 K/9 mark.  He would be promoted to Double-A Reading by mid-season.

As a member of the post-season bound Fightins, Eshelman wasn't as sharp.  In 13 starts for Reading, Eshelman posted a 5-5 record, a 5.14 ERA, a .307 batting average against and an 8.1 K/9 mark.  Those numbers shouldn't be alarming, as it's important to remember that he was pitching at the Double-A level in just his second pro season.

Eshelman would miss the Eastern League playoffs after requiring an emergency appendectomy in early September.

Continued physical development could help Eshelman add some velocity.  That would benefit him a lot, as the young hurler was peaking in the low 90's when I saw him pitch in July for Reading. He also is equipped with a slider that helps him get some swings and misses as well as a curve ball and change up that both can work as average offerings.

Control is definitely the big factor in the 22-year-old's game, as he notched a collegiate career record 0.4 BB/9 mark in three years at Cal State Fullerton, where he was a multi-time All-American.  He possessed a 313-to-18 strike out-to-walk ratio in his college career.  On top of that, in his 2015 junior season, Eshelman sported a 1.58 ERA in 18 outings for the Titans.

His ability to locate pitches helps Eshelman greatly, as he is often praised considerably for his control.  He possesses an ability to throw any pitch in any count, so the concept of a “hitter’s count” doesn’t really apply with him.  Considering that command is something that typically comes along later with pitching prospects and that Eshelman already has it, he’s well ahead of the game in that regard.

A deceptive delivery also plays in his favor.  Some buzz has surrounded the difficulty that batters can have picking up his pitches.

It's likely that Eshelman opens the 2017 season back in Reading as a key member of their starting rotation.  Look for him to perform better in the Eastern League this year.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 PhoulBallz Prospect Countdown Prelude

As a new year begins, so does my annual prospect ranking, which counts down the Phillies organization’s top 25 rising minor league talents. Over the next several weeks, with the organization in the midst of a rebuild, primed to give many young talents the opportunity to break into the major leagues and show what they can do, I’ll be serving up reviews for each of the top developmental talents that appear to have the brightest futures for the Phillies.

Taken into consideration when compiling the list is age, minor league performance relative to levels played, value to the organization as the player’s future potential and proximity to the big leagues.

These rankings will not include players over the age of 25 or individuals that have spent lengthy stretches in the big leagues.

For example, left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez, who spent the final month of the regular season on the big league Phillies roster, will not appear on this countdown. Tyler Goeddel (12th on this list a year ago), who was a Rule 5 draft selection and was on the major league roster for the entirety of last season will not be on this list, despite the possibility of the young outfielder returning to the minors to continue his development this year. Also, righty hurlers Jake Thompson (#2 on this list last year) and Zach Eflin (8th here last year) started double-digit games with the big league club and will not be ranked here.

Players that garnered consideration for this list but missed ranking among the top 25 names include a trio of talented hurlers and a young infielder fresh out of the draft.

Victor Arano is a right-handed pitcher that posted a 5-2 record with eight saves, a 2.26 ERA and a .213 batting average against in 46 relief appearances at two levels last season. Splitting the season between Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading, the Mexico native sported a 10.7 K/9 mark. This off-season the 21-year-old posted a 2.79 ERA in eight relief appearances in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Arano is on the Phillies' 40-man roster and it's been said that the organization is rather high on him as a potential impact reliever at the top level.

Outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz was an extremely difficult name to exclude from the list as he does have a very high ceiling, but at just 18 years old and having not played in a full-season league to date, he is far enough away from the majors that placing him outside of the top 25 was justifiable to me. In his first official pro season last year, the powerful Dominican sported a .231 batting average with eight homers, 27 RBI and eight stolen bases in 47 contests in the rookie level Gulf Coast League. Here's hoping the right-handed batter, who signed at age 16 for a reported $4.2 million, sees action with full-season Class A Lakewood this year.

A. Pullin, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Andrew Pullin had a remarkable campaign in 2016 after leaving baseball to deal with some personal matters at the start of the regular season. The 23-year-old, who was a 5th round draft choice by the Phils in 2012, posted a .293/.320/.476 slash line in 36 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater once he returned to action last year. After being promoted to Double-A Reading, the lefty hitting Pullin looked even better, as he notched a .346/.393/.559 slash line in 46 games. Overall Pullin saw a .165-point jump from his career OPS entering last year to his 2016 season totals. His coaches praise his hitting ability as a standout part of his game, but I want to see Pullin perform at a high level for a second season before I am prepared to rank him on this list.

Cole Stobbe, a 19-year-old shortstop, was last year’s third round draft choice and quickly impressed many with a solid campaign with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies. In 44 games, the Nebraska native tallied a .270 average with eight doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI. The six-foot-one 200-pound righty batter was a very well-rounded high school hitter, stroking the ball to all fields while displaying power, prior to the draft, and looks suited to change positions (possibly to third base) at some point with shortstop in this organization blocked by talent and depth. Stobbe could become a fast mover on this list, and in the minors, in the coming years.

Additionally, some youngsters that made last year’s top 25 while remaining in the organization's developmental ranks have slipped from the list.

Backstop Deivi Grullon steadily stands out as a very good defensive performer and as an exceptional leader for his pitching staffs. Many baseball insiders love his skill set, but with back-to-back campaigns at full season Class A Lakewood with an OPS under .700 (.608 and .695 respectively in 2015 and 2016), I felt Grullon had slipped behind others as far as Phillies prospect rankings go. The 20-year-old righty batter was ranked 24th last on this list last year.

Shortstop Malquin Canelo seemed to be a defensive standout that hasn’t proven his offense can play well at the higher levels yet. The 22-year-old right-handed batter put together a .246/.294/.330 slash line in 124 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater last year. Occasionally displaying a good ability to drive the ball, the five-foot-ten 160-pounder will need to do so on a more regular basis and he’ll need to develop a better ability to hit lefty pitchers (.202 average last year) if he is to become a valuable player at a position that is occupied by the man widely considered the Phils’ top prospect, J.P. Crawford. Canelo was ranked number 20 on this list last year.

In the coming weeks, check back here on PhoulBallz.com often for the unveiling of this year’s top 25 ranked prospects within the Phillies organization.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Off-season Check In: 2b Jesmuel Valentin

Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin reached the Triple-A level following a solid campaign with Double-A Reading in 2016. Overall in 125 games, the 22-year-old tallied a .269 average with nine home runs, 52 RBI and four stolen bases combined at the two levels.

Valentin, who is a talented defender, was originally a 1st round draft choice by the Dodgers in 2012 prior to being traded to the Phillies for Roberto Hernandez in 2014.  His father, Jose, played in the Major Leagues with the Mets, Brewers, Dodgers and White Sox.

The five-foot-nine 180-pound switch-hitter is slated to begin his 2017 in big league spring training with the Phils.

Recently, Jesmuel took time to answer some questions about his off-season efforts playing for Mayaguez in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League in Puerto Rico and spoke on his time with Lehigh Valley this year.  Read ahead for that full interview.


- How has playing in the PR/Roberto Clemente League been for you over the past month or two? 
 
Has been great so far, working a lot on important things to be prepare for my first big league camp, 'cause first impressions are important.  The goal is to make the team but, if not, I want to be the first guy they have in their mind.
 
- Is your dad around the Indios and, if so, what is his role?

Yes, my dad is the manager. He has been a big (help). He always has his fist on me so I can be the best player on the field.

- Is there anyone else there, coach or teammate, that you're learning a lot from or working with closely to improve?
 
Our team has a lot of big league time players like Yadier Rivera, Carlos Corporan, Kennys Vargas, Eddie Rosario, my uncle Javier Valentin is the hitting coach. Every game they give me tips to be better and to be prepared  for every situation or scenario.

- I saw that one of the teams in that league had not been paid in November and they ended up not playing and forfeited a game.  Is that right and have things improved for that team or those players?  
 
Yeah, those rumors where right.  All I know is that the team (is playing) now and everything is running good now.

- What are the crowds like for games there in Puerto Rico and how do the crowds compare to those here in the U.S.?

The crowds here are really low now our team has the best fans on the league. (From) now on the playoffs will be sold out. Compared to (affiliated ball) is that here (the fans) are louder and they live every moment of the game.

- Wrapping up the regular season this year with Lehigh Valley- was that important to you to make it to that level? 

It was.  That one more step was huge.  Why?  Because is a league closer to the big leagues and with a lot of big league players. So, already I had a taste of what is coming.
 
- What was your favorite thing about playing with the IronPigs?

I love the stadium, the fans were awesome, great crowds every day. Nice facilities, great atmosphere, short road trips, and better baseball.