Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Insider's Opinions on Shipped Prospects

As the projected Roy Halladay trade continues to draw closer to finality, I wanted to offer some input on the minor leaguers that the Phillies are set to ship to Toronto.

In all, the Phillies will have sent away 7 total prospects for Halladay and other pieces. Add the four prospects (Jason Knapp, Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco and Jason Donald) it took to acquire Cliff Lee from the Indians in July, to the group currently being discussed, Travis D'Arnaud, Michael Taylor and Kyle Drabek, and the Phillies will have given up 7 of their 10 best prospects, as ranked by Baseball America in January 2009. Of those seven, I had the chance to watch 4 of them play quite a bit this year, and got to know them a bit through interviews and off the record conversations.

The two biggest days in this site's history, traffic-wise, have been on days that Phillies/Cliff Lee trade news has erupted on the baseball world. As baseball fans everywhere search for the big Phillies prospects' names online, they stumble upon PhoulBallz.com. For you new readers and others, ahead lies some notes on three of those players that I am personally familiar with, along with links to their PhoulBallz interviews.

Michael Taylor- The most well spoken minor league ball player I have had the honor of speaking to. His talent is visible at all times on the field. I had the opportunity to watch him for a single series in Trenton in June, among a couple more games throughout the season, but in that single series on the road, Taylor displayed his speed by stealing bags, displayed his exceptional arm by gunning out a runner, his excellent bat by driving home runs, his solid range by tracking down fly balls some guys his size wouldn't come close to, and his smarts on the field by not trying for extra bases when the situation didn't call for it.

Taylor's 5-tool reputation is no exaggeration. The Stanford U. man has the skills and is ready to see Major League pitching this coming season.

Kyle Drabek- Not to insult Drabek, but when interviewing both him and Taylor back to back, it is very easy to tell which player was drafted out of high school and which player went to college. That's not specifically a remark about Drabek's intelligence, as it pertains to both men's maturity levels as well. Drabek is young-minded and needs some maturation in general.

Drabek's talents supercede any shortcomings elsewhere. The young man who just turned 22 years old last week, went 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 25 starts between High A Clearwater and Double A Reading in 2009. Reading Phillies manager Steve Roadcap told me in August that Drabek was a no-brainer to have a solid Major League career in his future. Drabek has been a power pitcher throughout his minor league career, even after his Tommy John surgery...striking out 150 batters in 158 innings in 2009. He could be ready for a call up sometime this season, but more likely should be Major League ready in 2011.

Travis D'Arnaud- No one will work harder to improve than D'Arnaud. He spent plenty of time in spring training with every elder catching prospect that he could, to learn from them, while he had the opportunity. He worked countless hours with career minor league catchers and current coaches in the Phillies system Dusty Wathan and Tim Gradoville all season long to improve his defense. Around mid-season, as his batting average struggled to stay above .200, Travis could regularly be found in the indoor batting cages after a game, while his teammates showered and ate, to work on his own fundamentals. Travis hit .302 after the SAL all star break to end the season with a respectable .255 batting average. He also led the BlueClaws with 71 RBI in 2009.

The emergence of Sebastian Valle, another catcher, at the low A level late this season possibly made D'Arnaud expendable in the eyes of the Phillies. D'Arnaud is truly a bright young player who wants to succeed. Toronto will be lucky to have an individual with such great desire to excel at the sport he loves.

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I'll be on The Shore Sports Report on coastal New Jersey's Fox Sports 1310 and WOBM AM 1160 today at 4:20pm to discuss the Phillies' hot stove. Tune in or click this link.

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