Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Prospect Nation 2016 Countdown Prelude

The dawn of a near year brings along with it our annual “Prospect Nation” rankings, which counts down the Phillies organization’s top 25 up and coming young players. Over the next several weeks, with the organization in rebuild mode, I’ll be bringing you reviews for each of the top developmental talents that appear to have the brightest futures for the Phillies.

Always taken into consideration when compiling this 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.

For instance, a talented youngster such as Darnell Sweeney, who wrapped up the regular season on the Major League roster after having played in 37 games for the Phils last year, will not be on this list. Hurlers Alec Asher and Severino Gonzalez, who each made seven starts in the majors last season, are also excluded from the list.

Players who garnered consideration for the countdown but missed the list include a very good collection of right-handed pitchers.

RHP Nick Pivetta was the trade return from Washington for reliever Jonathan Papelbon last summer. He has a promising arm, but posted a 7.27 ERA in 10 starts at the Double-A level last year after tallying a 2.29 ERA through 15 games (14 starts) in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. Pivetta's ceiling is very likely the majors, but the manner in which he'll perform there could range from David Buchanan in 2014, who went from unranked on this list to notching a 3.75 ERA in 20 big league appearances that year, to Buchanan in 2015, who looked like he didn't belong in the majors when he sported a 6.99 ERA in 15 games started with the Phillies last season.

RHP Adonis Medina is a 19-year-old Dominican that many insiders believe has big upside. Still years away from upper levels of professional baseball, Medina already hits mid-90's with his fastball and has impressed scouts with the potential of his secondary offerings (a curve and a change up). In 10 games (eight starts) at the rookie level Gulf Coast League last year, the six-foot-one 185-pounder posted a 3-2 record with a 2.98 ERA and a 6.9 K/9 mark.

RHP Alexis Rivero looked solid as a closer with Class A Lakewood last year (3-0 record, 2.62 ERA, seven saves in 25 games) and earned a promotion to Class A Advanced Clearwater (1-2, 2.67, three saves in 16 games). The 21-year-old Venezuelan shows an ability to hit upper-90's on the radar gun, which, paired with his excellent slider, is great for a late inning reliever. I would anticipate Rivero getting a look at the Double-A level this year.

RHP Shane Watson was the Phillies' top draft selection (40th overall) in 2012. After missing two full seasons with shoulder issues, he made it back to the mound this past summer. With Class A Lakewood, the 22-year-old notched a 1-5 record with a 4.53 ERA in 11 starts. His control needed refinement, as he struck out 34 and walked 25 in 47 2/3 innings. Watson, who clocked 96 MPH with his fastball late in the season, was likely still getting used to pitching with his surgically repaired shoulder as well as his bulked up frame which now can be measured around 240 pounds, up from his pre-surgery bio listing of 200 pounds. Look for Watson in the Clearwater rotation this year.

Additionally, several youngsters that made last year's list and remain in the organization have slipped from the top 25. Much of that shifting has to do with the manner in which the Phillies have beefed up their farm system and less to do with backwards progress from following players.

LHP Jesse Biddle has been battling injuries for some time. He sat out several weeks in 2014 with a concussion and most recently the Phillies' 1st round draft pick from 2010 has undergone Tommy John surgery to repair his damaged elbow. The 24-year-old made it to Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year, posting a 2-4 record with a 6.25 ERA in nine starts there. He is expected to miss the entire 2016 campaign while he recovers.

2B Jesmuel Valentin was suspended last season related to legal matters that have since been resolved The 21-year-old is still very promising, as he posted a .273/.351/.424 slash line in 31 games to close out the season with Clearwater last year. The switch-hitter is playing in Puerto Rico this off-season to make up for missed time on the diamond.

3B Zach Green has displayed plenty of raw power in his career thus far, but he didn't make progress in 2015, after missing much of the season with a broken left wrist. In 26 games for Clearwater last year, the 21-year-old righty batter sported a .173 average with a home run and seven RBI. Look for Green, the Phillies' 3rd round pick from 2012, to return to full health this year and, hopefully, get his swing back.

OF Cam Perkins reached Triple-A Lehigh Valley in his second full pro season in 2014, but wasn't convincing with his efforts there, as he posted a .216/.259/.298 slash line in 74 games. Last year, back at Double-A Reading, he sported a .252 average with 11 homers and 51 RBI. Perkins is a smart ball player that will likely get another shot at Triple-A this year. The righty batting 25-year-old was the Phils' 6th round draft choice in 2012.

OF Aaron Brown had a good season for Clearwater last year, batting .257 with 11 home runs, 47 RBI and 10 steals in 110 games there, then posted a .627 OPS in 13 games in the prominent Arizona Fall League this off-season. The 23-year-old also pitched in college at Pepperdine prior to the Phils making him their 3rd round draft pick in 2014, but his hit tool is serious and he's strictly an outfielder now. With a big time ability to hit hard and drive the ball, look for the lefty batter to re-enter the top 25 soon and to spend time at the Double-A level this year. For me, Brown was the player I had the most difficulty leaving out of this year's countdown.

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

Follow this year's full prospect countdown by clicking this link.
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