Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Prospect Packages: What the Phillies Can Offer

In recent years, the Phillies have acquired elite talent, adding Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in separate blockbuster trades. The packages of players sent away to make those deals all included highly ranked prospects.

Fans and experts alike presume the Phillies have depleted their system of prospects with the amount top minor league players traded in those deals. That's far from true, as many individuals currently in Philadelphia's developmental system have proven worthy of high recognition.

If the Phillies are going to put together similar groups of players to add a key contributor at the big league level again this season, they'll surely need to send away more ascending young talent. In order to understand what type of package the Phillies would be required to deal, it's important to look at what they gave up in those previous trades.

Cleveland/Lee trade...July, 2009- RHP Jason Knapp, IF Jason Donald, C Lou Marson, RHP Carlos Carrasco.

Knapp was the young ace of the Class A Lakewood staff and had earned attention with his high-90's fastball. The emerging young hurler with ace potential on the BlueClaws staff this year is last season's top draft choice Jesse Biddle. But Biddle, a 19-year-old Philadelphia native, doesn't throw quite as hard as Knapp - his fastball has been ranging in the low-90's in recent starts. In his latest 10 starts, Biddle has been sharp, posting a 1.85 ERA.

Donald was a force with Double A Reading in 2008 (.304 avg, 14 HR, .889 OPS in 92 games) and turned 25-years-old in 2009, after he was sent to Cleveland. The current Phils prospect most comparable to Donald is likely third baseman/first baseman Cody Overbeck, who has ripped up Double A pitching, but has now hit a bit of a skid at Triple A Lehigh Valley. The 25-year-old Overbeck leads the Phillies organization thus far in 2011 with 21 homeruns, combined at two levels. Overbeck, an 8th round draft pick in 2008, has even dabbled in the outfield this year, adding to his versatility and appeal to potential trade partners.

Marson, a solid catcher that was 23-years-old at the time he was dealt, was originally a 4th round draft pick by the Phillies in 2004. Looking around the Phils' system for catchers with similar potential, draft spot and age, last year's 3rd round pick Cameron Rupp stands out. Regarded for his defense, Rupp, who will turn 23 later this year, has had a scorching hot July, batting .391 in 17 games for Class A Lakewood.

Carrasco was ranked as the Phillies' top pitching prospect headed into the 2009 season, by multiple outlets. Currently, the Phillies' top minor league arm is Jarred Cosart (pictured), who sports a 97-98 MPH fastball along with a strong curveball and an improving change up. Cosart, a 21-year-old, was a Florida State League (Class A Advanced) All-star this season and represented the Phillies in the MLB Futures Game.

Toronto/Halladay trade...December, 2009- C Travis d'Arnaud, RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor.

The former supplemental 1st round draft choice d'Arnaud was among the Phillies' top prospects from the start of his professional career. The presence of an emerging young catcher, Sebastian Valle, made d'Arnaud expendable in December, 2009, but now Valle is the well regarded Philadelphia catching prospect that teams will inquire about. A Florida State League All-star and a representative for the Phillies in this year's MLB Futures Game, the 21-year-old is among the best position player prospects in the organization.

Drabek was untouchable in the July, 2009 Lee trade, but the Phils pulled out all the stops to acquire Halladay. As the Phillies top pitching prospect at that time, the current Phils farmhand who hits that bill would again be Cosart.

Taylor, a 5th round draft choice out of Stanford in 2007, combined to bat .320 with 20 HR and 84 RBI at Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2009. With power potential that has unfortunately stalled a bit since his departure from the Phillies, Taylor, 23-years-old at the time of the trade, was a very desirable corner outfielder. The closest thing the organization currently has to that, despite positional and age variances might be Reading first baseman Matt Rizzotti, the 25-year-old Eastern League All-Star. Rizzotti has been hot lately (.338/.419/.550 in July) and could be appealing to an American League club as a designated hitter option, which could result in a secondary trade, the same way Taylor was sent from Toronto to Oakland..

Houston/Oswalt trade...July, 2010- RHP J.A. Happ, OF Anthony Gose, SS Jonathan Villar.

The closest thing the Phillies currently have to what Happ was when this deal happened is Vance Worley. Happ was a very solid big league performer who was never quite ranked highly among pitching prospects in the system, but earned his spot by outshining other pitchers on the club. Worley is in the process of becoming the Phils' next "he could help you now" trade chip.

Gose, a young leadoff-type, commanded attention with his speed. The Phils closest player to Gose this year might be Jiwan James, who isn't as fast as Gose, but has the high ceiling and a potentially better bat. Being a switch-hitter is also a nice feature of James' offensive game.

Villar was touted for his defense and got his offensive game on track last season with Class A Lakewood. Middle infield is an area of the developmental system in which the Phillies do not possess much depth right now. At the time of 2010's Astros trade, Villar was 19 years old. The Phillies' best shortstop prospect right now is 21 years old...his name is Freddy Galvis. The Dominican born Galvis is having the best offensive season of his career, having upped his batting average more than 30 points in his second full season in the Double A Eastern League, and already reaching career highs in doubles and homeruns.

With the rumor mill nearly cranking out more trade partners for Philadelphia than the Phillies' organization produces sought-after youngsters, there are a few particular offensive pieces that could become the next blockbuster acquisition.

The newest name that is reportedly available, Rays outfielder BJ Upton, could command a heavy return. The 2nd overall pick in the 2002 draft has always been regarded as a player with all the tools to validate such a selection.

Upton is making a bit over $4.8 million this season and is under team control for next season as well. The 26-year-old righty hitter had an outstanding season in 2007 (.300 avg., .894 OPS, 24 HR, 82 RBI) in his first year as a regular in the majors. However, Upton's output has declined, with his batting average dropping in each season since then and his OPS being at least 150 points lower than his 2007 mark in 4 of 5 of the seasons that followed. His 2007 was heavily BABIP driven (.393) and he has not come close to matching that mark since.

Reports have Tampa Bay targeting pitching prospects in any deals they discuss, which the Phillies are extremely deep with. Brody Colvin, a 96 MPH fireballer made a name for himself last season, helping Lakewood lock down a second consecutive South Atlantic League title. The righthander missed time earlier this season with a back strain, but has been strong lately, posting a 2-1 record and a 2.52 ERA over his last 6 starts. The 6'3" tall, 200-pound Colvin was ranked as the Phillies' #3 prospect in this year's preseason rankings done by PhilliesNation and PhoulBallz.com. Other hurlers that could appeal to the Rays might be right-handed reliever Eric Pettis, who has excelled in the past year and proven to be quite a steal in the 35th round of the 2010 draft out of UC Irvine. Pettis, a 23-year-old has posted a 1-3 record with 5 saves and a 2.75 ERA in 33 combined games with Lakewood and Clearwater. Another one of Clearwater's group of "Baby Aces", right-hander Julio Rodriguez has been outstanding this season. The FSL All-star has held opponents to a .189 batting average and he sports a 12-6 record with a 3.17 ERA while striking out 106 batters in 110 2/3 innings.

Another name that has been tied to the Phillies on the rumor front is veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran. The 34-year-old has proven to be injury prone in recent years but has shed that label in 2011. In 96 games this year, Beltran is batting .291 with 15 homers and 64 RBI. A free agent after this season, Beltran is regarded as the biggest available difference maker on the trade market, so while other options might be more appealing long-term, a team hoping the bring it all home this year might target Beltran over guys who could be controlled after this year.

The Mets are reported to have a high asking price for Beltran. A package that begins with Colvin or Clearwater All-star Trevor May, who has struck out 151 batters in 112 innings, could be what New York is looking for. May, a 4th round draft pick in 2008, is a righty hurler that was ranked as the team's 6th best prospect prior to the season. Reports have stated that the Mets would want Vance Worley (6-1, 2.02 ERA in 12 MLB games this year) in any deal with the Phillies for Beltran. It's also possible that the Mets would demand the Phillies' top positional prospect, first baseman/outfielder "The Boss" Jonathan Singleton. The 19-year-old Singleton, who was an 8th round draft pick in 2009, is a .286 hitter in 224 career games as a pro and has shown serious power potential. The Phillies have reportedly cooled off on Beltran, and the New York Post says the Mets are having a hard time finding a team that will part with a Top 40 prospect for him.

The name with the heaviest ties to the Phillies this season has been Houston outfielder Hunter Pence. With whispers circulating that the Astros would demand highly regarded Philadelphia rookie Domonic Brown for Pence, the possibility of the 28-year-old wearing red pinstripes seems less and less likely. However, if the Phillies can use their abundance of younger prospects to draw interest, then another July deal with Houston and former Phillies general manager Ed Wade could happen. Singleton should be on the wish list of any potential swap mate, but the Phillies have other outfielders with solid pop and considerable upside. 22-year-old Dominican Republic native Leandro Castro is performing well with Clearwater (.277 avg, 10 HR, 31 RBI in 56 games) and 18-year-old Domingo Santana is taking strides this season with Lakewood (.267 avg, 7 HR, 29 RBI in 90 games). A combination of one of those guys, along with a member of Clearwater's Baby Ace squad (Cosart, Colvin, May, Rodriguez or righty Jonathan Pettibone) as well as a hurler that is closer to the big show like 25-year-old Austin Hyatt (9-5, 4.09 ERA, 125 K's in 112 1/3 IP for Double A Reading) or 25-year-old Michael Schwimer (6-1, 8 saves, 1.75 ERA, 73 K's in 56 2/3 IP for Triple A Lehigh Valley) could be the sort of deal that gets this done.

With five days left until the non-waiver trade deadline, there is sure to be much attention to many of the names mentioned here. No matter what sort of young talent a potential suitor is looking for in return, the Phillies have it in their system. Whether or not they are willing to deal it will determine a deal getting done. It is better to be in this position than, say, the Brewers, who simply don't have enough minor league firepower left to make a move.

Keep in mind, though, that the Phillies' have a history of adding a cheap, veteran bat for their bench after the non-waiver deadline, in August (see Matt Stairs, 2008...recalling Miguel Cairo in 2009 and Mike Sweeney, 2010), while acquiring pitching help in prior to the deadline, in July (see Joe Blanton, 2008...Cliff Lee, 2009 and Roy Oswalt, 2010) so be prepared to wait and lower your expectations for offensive help.

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