Sunday, January 11, 2015

Prospect Nation 2015: The Prelude

ProspectNationThe dawn of a near year brings along with it the annual Phillies Nation “Prospect Nation” countdown, running down the organization’s top 25 up and coming players. In the coming weeks, as a brand new season approaches, I’ll be bringing you player reviews for each of the top developmental talents that appear to have the brightest futures for the Phillies.

Always taken into consideration when compiling the list is age, minor league performance relative to levels played, value to the organization as well as future potential and proximity to the big leagues.

These rankings do not include players over 25 years old or individuals that have spent lengthy stretches in the big leagues. As such, infielder Carlos Alonso, who played his age 26 season at Double-A last year, will not make the list, despite deserving some consideration. The same applies 28-year-old to relief pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who debuted with the Phillies late last season. Additionally, a guy such as infielder Cesar Hernandez that has played considerable chunks of two seasons in the major leagues won't be regarded as a prospect any longer.

A youngster that I felt was very close to this list and certainly would have placed among the top 25 if not for the solid group of off-season prospect additions that the Phillies acquired is second baseman Andrew Pullin. The 21-year-old converted outfielder showed loads of development as a middle infielder and was one of Class A Lakewood’s most consistent offensive contributors last year, tallying a .270 average with nine home runs and 61 RBI in 129 contests. Pullin, a 5th round draft selection in 2012, is a player that coaches are thrilled by, as they cite his adaptability and improved approach at the plate, making more contact and having a better plan as the season progressed. The six-foot 190-pounder has loads of potential to develop into a talented contributor at his position.

Also a near miss was multi-positional fan favorite Willians Astudillo. The 23-year-old catcher/first baseman/third baseman/outfielder placed second in batting in the Class A South Atlantic League last season as a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws. He posted a .333 average with four homers and 61 RBI in 117 games. Described as an extremely skilled contact hitter, Astudillo’s physical build leaves some critics doubting his ability to do what he has done at higher levels. Generously billed as five-foot-nine and 182 pounds, it is likely that Astudillo is multiple inches shorter and multiple pounds heavier than media guide claims. With just 20 strike outs in 465 plate appearances last year, the youngster impressed his teammates, his coaches as well as his opponents. This year in the Class A Advanced Florida State League should be very telling for the Venezuelan with a career .772 OPS in 328 affiliated pro games.

Another player missing from the rankings is right-handed hurler Franklyn Kilome, who is held in high regard by many prospect heads. The 19-year-old Dominican sported a 3-1 record along with a 3.12 ERA while striking out 25 and walking 11 over 40 1/3 innings in 11 appearances (eight starts) in the rookie level Gulf Coast League. Projections and upside are the key factors in reviewing this talented youngster. At six-foot-six and 175 pounds the frame seems mighty thin for now, but as his body matures his quality repertoire should improve as well.

Players currently still in the Phils’ developmental system that were ranked last year and will not appear in 2015 include righty pitcher Shane Watson along with catchers Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp.

Watson, the Phillies’ top draft selection (40th overall) in 2012, underwent his second shoulder surgery in a year recently, to correct a nagging issue with the capsule, trying to clear room for the bone to move around within the joint. He also made headlines this off-season when it was announced that he’d be facing a suspension due to an apparent positive recreational drug test. The 21-year-old is slated to begin a throwing program in February under the watchful eyes of the Phillies trainers and staff in Clearwater. Watson, a six-foot-four 200-pounder hasn’t pitched since 2013 when he tallied a 4-6 record and a 4.75 ERA in 16 starts for Lakewood.

Joseph is another player that’s dealt with repeated injury concerns. Once the prized return from San Francisco in the deal that sent Hunter Pence out west to increase his jewelry collection, Joseph hasn’t shown the type of bat he was touted to have prior to being dealt. In 91 games sprinkled over two-plus concussion plagued seasons in the Phillies’ organization, the 23-year-old has notched a .222 average with 11 home runs and 46 RBI.

Rupp, who would have aged out of the rankings at 26 years old, fizzled in 2014, after making his big league debut the previous September. In 59 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the Phils’ 3rd round draft choice from 2010 posted a .165 average with six homers and 19 RBI. What’s worse is that Rupp began his minor league campaign last year with a homer in each of his first four games, so after April 6th, the six-foot-two 250-pound Texan batted .157 and laced two homers in his next 55 games for the IronPigs. In 18 big league contests last year, Rupp sported a .183/.234/.250 slash line.

As pitchers and catchers report date approaches, check back here regularly for the unveiling of this year’s countdown of the top 25 ranked prospects within the Phillies organization.
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