Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BA's Prospect Rankings Up for Debate

BA ranked Jesse Biddle as the Phils' #1 prospect
On Monday, Baseball America released its annual list of top 10 prospects in the Phillies organization. The rankings feature some plenty of names that are deserving of considerable regard, but also includes some debatable placement.

Generally, I feel that prospect rankings issued by national writers or their publications are a somewhat questionable, as such members of the media do not get to see many of the same players on a regular basis and, as such, must rely on other people's accumulated scouting reports and other material to publish full reviews.  Limitations of how frequently a player is viewed over a season can prevent an analyst from witnessing development or getting to see the type of work individuals put in outside the lines.  A player's progress is key in reviewing his potential and in ranking him among other prospects, as are his age, his proximity to helping the big league team and other factors as well. 


What's wrong with the list-

Failure to include third baseman Cody Asche in the top five is quite an oversight.  The University of Nebraska product ranks 7th on the list and proved to be one of the Phils' best young talents in 2012 when he posted a combined .324 average with 12 home runs and 72 RBI at Class A Advanced and Double-A during his first full pro season.

Shortstop Roman Quinn holding down the number two spot is not on point.  With other players more deserving, the 19-year-old Quinn having not yet shown the sort of efforts that could solidify such a ranking should be considered for the list, but should not be at the top of it.  Quinn, the Phillies' 2nd round draft choice last year, batted .281 with a homer, 23 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 66 pro games with short-season Class A Williamsport after debuting as a pro in 2012.

Catcher Sebastian Valle is nowhere to be found on the list.  This is alarming, as the Mexican born 22-year-old put together an All-Star campaign (.261 avg, 13 HR, 45 RBI in 83 games) with Double-A Reading prior to earning a promotion the Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2012.  Valle, who was widely regarded as the Phillies' top positional prospect last off-season did not suffer a drop off in skills, so why should he fall completely out of consideration for a similar spot this year?

Darin Ruf being on their list is dubious.  Proclaiming a 26-year-old as a prospect, no matter how explosive and impressive of an offensive season he had (.317 avg, 38 HR, 104 RBI in 139 games) at Double-A, simply is not what this type of list should be about.  Ruf, a clear late bloomer, is deserving of recognition for his exceptional efforts in 2012 and is a candidate to make the big league Phillies' opening day roster next season, but simply is not fitting of a classification that should be reserved for more youthful players.  Additionally, Ruf has already debuted in the majors, which seemingly was enough to remove players like Freddy Galvis and Phillippe Aumont from last year's BA rankings.

What gets the approval on the list-

The pitchers included in BA's top ten all deserve to be ranked among the best the organization has to offer.  Lefty hurler Jesse Biddle topping the list is deserved.  The 21-year-old proved himself worthy of solid praise ever since he signed his first professional contract.  In 26 starts for Class A Advanced Clearwater, the Philadelphia native tallied a 10-6 record with a 3.22 ERA and 9.55 K/9.  An All-Star for the second consecutive season, Biddle is steadily proving himself to be a top prospect for his hometown team.

Other pitchers included on the BA list, Jonathan Pettibone (4), Adam Morgan (5) and Ethan Martin (6) are certainly valid picks.

Pettibone, a 3rd round draft pick by the Phils in 2008, was a strong contributor for Double-A Reading in 2012.  Now a member of the Phils' 40-man roster, Pettibone faced a troublesome beginning to 2012 that saw him post a 1-3 record along with a 4.78 ERA in his first six outings. In the 13 starts which followed that difficult stretch, Pettibone tallied an 8-4 record with a 2.74 ERA. The 22-year-old right-hander was then promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in July, where he went 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in seven starts for the IronPigs.

Morgan, the Phils' 3rd round draft choice in 2011, proved to be a fast mover in the organization this year in his first full pro season, as he sported a 1.29 ERA in five July starts in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.  For that, he was named the Phillies minor league pitcher of the month and earned a promotion to Double-A Reading, where he went 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in six starts.  The 22-year-old lefty posts strong strike out numbers, averaging more than a K per inning. 

Martin, acquired by the Phillies from the Dodgers in July as part of the Shane Victorino trade, performed excellently for Double-A Reading after joining the organization. The 23-year-old right-hander was 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA in seven regular season starts following the swap. Martin, who can reach mid-to-upper 90's with his fastball, is another strike out pitcher and has averaged 9.19 K/9 throughout his minor league career.

Placement of third baseman Maikel Franco on the list is a must.  The Dominican born righty hitter put together quite a season for Class A Lakewood in 2012, batting .280 with 14 homers and 84 RBI in 132 games.  Franco who was 19-year-old old until there was just about a week left in the minor league season, proved to be the Phils' most promising young talent as he put in the extra work needed to excel in the professional ranks.

Tommy Joseph, also a Double-A Eastern League All-Star catcher this year, had a solid 2012 (.257 avg, 11 HR, 48 RBI in 108 games) and is a quality leader on the field.  The 21-year-old was acquired by the Phillies from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade and adds some serious depth to the catcher position in the organization's developmental ranks.  Joseph, who places 3rd on BA's list, likely won't rank that highly when PhilliesNation's annual prospect countdown begins in January.

As PhilliesNation's Ian Riccaboni wrote, BA's Phillies prospect lists typically have proven accurate in naming players that are destined for the big leagues. Overall, Baseball America is a certainly a reputable source, but that surely doesn't make them the end-all-be-all of player potential.  Stay tuned here in the coming months, for full reviews for the Phillies' top 25 prospects heading into the 2013 season.

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