Monday, January 29, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #20 RHP Jose Taveras

Taveras w/ Lakewood in 2016, image-Jay Floyd
Starting pitcher Jose Taveras is a rising prospect worthy of Phillies fans’ attention. Protected by the Phils from December’s Rule 5 draft, Taveras was added to the team’s 40-man roster this off-season and could be part of the team’s near future.

The Dominican native began his pro career with the Dominican Summer League Phillies in 2014. In 15 appearances (13 starts), Taveras posted an 8-4 record with a 1.05 ERA, a .202 batting average against and 7.4 K/9 mark.

The righty followed that up with a solid 2015 campaign for Class A short-season Williamsport, where he notched a 7-4 record, a 3.88 ERA, a .273 BAA and an 8.5 K/9 mark in 13 starts.

The next year with Class A Lakewood, Taveras posted an 8-8 record with a 3.28 ERA, a .229 BAA and a 10.1 K/9 mark in 25 appearances (20 starts) for the BlueClaws.

Last year was a virtual coming out party for Taveras, who really seemed to make a name for himself. In 25 regular season starts in 2017 combined at three levels (Class A Advanced Clearwater, Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley), the six-foot-four 220-pounder tallied a 9-6 record with a 2.22 ERA, a .215 batting average against and an 8.2 K/9 mark. His efforts in 2017 wrapped up with a dominant stretch in Triple-A, rocking a 1.32 ERA in his seven starts for the IronPigs. He allowed zero earned runs in five of his starts there.

With considerable punch out numbers, Taveras sports a low-90’s fastball, which is just about average. Additionally, he typically can use his secondary pitches as complimentary weapons, relying on a strong changeup and a curveball to mow down the opposition. His delivery can be deceptive, which is something that is helpful to the talented hurler, as batters tend to be late on the heater.

Taveras is aggressive and attacks hitters. He’s got the ability to change an approach in given situations, giving him an advantage as well. If something isn’t working, or if command is an issue on a given day, Taveras is a guy that can adjust and keep his team in a game.

Coaches love his preparation and the work he does on the mental side of the game.  Described as very reliable, Taveras takes the ball every fifth day and could be a useful hurler at the top level for the Phillies this year when vacancies in their rotation come about.


Keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #21 SS Jose Gomez

Jose Gomez, image- MiLB.com
Last season's trade of pitcher Pat Neshek to Colorado copped a nice return with two prospects nabbed from the Rockies landing inside the Phillies' top 25 heading into the 2018 season.  The first of those two was reliever J.D. Hammer, who came in at number 24, and now infielder Jose Gomez makes the list at number 21.

Gomez, a native of Venezuela, was signed as an amateur free agent in 2013 at the age of 16.  He would make his pro debut the following year.  In two seasons in the Dominican Summer League he notched a .271 batting average with two homers and 46 RBI through 133 games.

In 2016, playing in the short-season Rookie level Pioneer League, Gomez made a big splash, leading the league in hits with 98 and tallying a .367/.426/468 slash line in 66 games for Grand Junction. 

Opening the 2017 campaign with Class A Asheville, where he posted a .324 average with 20 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 33 RBI in 81 games prior to the trade.

After joining the Phillies organization, the five-foot-11 175-pounder batted .265 with two doubles and four RBI in 24 games, mostly with Class A Advanced Clearwater. 

The righty hitting Gomez has primarily manned the shortstop position, but has mixed in plenty of playing time at third base as well as second base and even sprinkled in 13 appearances at first base during his minor league career thus far.

The 21-year-old is considered a contact hitter, maintaining a solid strike out rate and showing an ability to hit the ball to all fields. 

On the base paths, Gomez has shown some speed which could continue to translate to more steady contributions.  He's got 73 stolen bases in 117 attempts (62% success rate).   Lower levels of the minors get by with a small number of coaches and usually have a spare player manning the first base coach's box.  As Gomez rises through the minors, a true coach that keeps time on the pitchers' delivery and tendencies should help Gomez become more of a threat with his feet.

The Phillies would likely have Gomez open the 2018 season back in Clearwater.  If his offensive efforts there match what he has done at other levels, it won't be long before he earns a shot at Double-A ball.


Keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #22 3B Cole Stobbe

Cole Stobbe, image- MiLB.com
After making a transition to third base from shortstop last year, Cole Stobbe (pronounced STOW-bee) looks ready to climb the developmental ladder and garner some attention among the Phillies' top prospects.

Selected in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB amateur draft, the right-handed hitting infielder signed quickly with the Phils. 

As a high school player prior to the draft, Stobbe was a very well-rounded high school hitter, stroking the ball to all fields while displaying power.  He was committed to playing college ball at Arkansas before being drafted by the Phillies.

The first pick of the third round, Stobbe had already seen two of his teammates from the USA Baseball 18-and-under national team get picked by the Phils. Those players, first overall selection Mickey Moniak and second rounder Kevin Gowdy, also signed.

Stobbe made his pro debut as a shortstop for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies. In 44 games, the Nebraska native tallied a .270 batting average with eight doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI.

In the fall instructional league following the 2016 season, he got playing time at third base and the organization felt comfortable transitioning Stobbe to the hot corner.

Last year with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters, playing nearly the entire season as a 19-year-old, Stobbe notched a .280 average with eight doubles, a triple, eight home runs and 22 RBI.

Defensively, the six-foot-one, 200-pounder has quality range and a strong arm with a quick release.  Those were things the Phils liked for the third base position.

Speed doesn't appear to be a great part of Stobbe's game, as he's been successful in just five out of 14 steal attempts in the minors.  

Coaches like Stobbe's work ethic and attention to details.  He's definitely a student of the game.

Look for the 20-year-old to possibly open the 2018 season as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

Keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #23 First Baseman Darick Hall

Darick Hall, image- Jay Floyd
The driving force behind the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws' lineup, Darick Hall was named the South Atlantic League's Most Valuable player for the 2017 season.  The first baseman, deservedly, has gained recognition among the Phillies' talented crop of rising prospects.

A 14th round draft selection in 2016, the Dallas Baptist product made his professional debut with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters that same year.  In 57 games there, Hall tallied a .282 batting average with nine home runs and 29 RBI.

The left-handed hitter moved up to full-season Class A in 2017 and with Lakewood sported a .272 average with 28 doubles, a triple, 27 home runs (team record) and 96 RBI (another team record) in 114 games.

Hall would close out his 2017 campaign with a week in the Class A Advanced Florida State League playing for Clearwater.  In seven games with the Threshers, the six-foot-four 236-pounder posted a .231 batting average with a pair of homers and five RBI.

The clean-up hitter's presence in the lineup for a Lakewood club that had several teenagers that were learning what minor league life was like playing everyday, traveling up and down the east coast, was crucial.  Hall, who played three seasons of college ball helped his teammates learn what the professional athlete life is all about. Hall is a guy that can lead by example and he did just that all year long.

Aside from his missle-like long balls, the 22-year-old's daily work and preparation are what impressed his coaches most.

From a family where two of his uncles (Ladd Hall and Shane Hall) were drafted by big league teams, Hall feels structure is key to his game.  Everything from diet and practice to making a game plan and following through have been critical to his success.

On defense, Hall is solid.  He played a majority of his games last year at first base, mixing in some playing time as the BlueClaws' designated hitter as well.

Look for Hall to open the season back with Clearwater, but in may not be long before he's making his Double-A debut.

Keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #24 RHP J.D. Hammer

Hammer, image- MiLB.com
Acquired as part of the return from Colorado in last summer’s Pat Neshek trade, right-handed pitcher J.D. Hammer has stood out as a promising prospect that could prove valuable in the near future for the Phillies. 
 
Originally a 24th round draft pick on the Rockies in 2016, Hammer made his professional debut that year in the Rookie level Pioneer League for Grand Junction.  In 27 relief outings there, the Marshall product posted a 0-2 record with three saves, a 3.92 ERA while striking out 52 batters and walking 11 in 43 2/3 innings.
 
Following the 2016 season, Hammer, who had previously dealt with vision challenges and struggled with reading signals from his catchers, had an examination and was prescribed glasses, according to reports.  In a short amount of time, the new frames have become what Hammer is known for and have helped him excel. 
 
Last year, Hammer pitched at multiple levels during the regular season.  Opening the season in the Class A Sally League with Asheville, Hammer dominated, posting a 4-1 record with seven saves, a 1.20 ERA while striking out 47 batters and walking only five in 30 innings of work.  He was promoted in June to Class A Advanced Lancaster.  As a member of the JetHawks’ bullpen, the six-foot-three 215-pounder posted a 0-1 record with six saves and a 5.25 ERA. 
 
Following the trade to the Phillies, Hammer was assigned to Class A Advanced Clearwater.  He was a stud for the Threshers bullpen, posting a 2-0 record with a 0.57 ERA while striking out 20 and walking two in 12 games (15 2/3 innings).
 
This off-season Hammer pitched in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.  In 10 appearances for Glendale, he notched a 0.66 ERA with no decisions, three saves and a .093 batting average against.  

Hammer features a fastball that usually sits around 96 MPH and can touch higher.  He also offers a solid breaking pitch, a slider/curve hybrid with nice movement, and can pound the strike zone.   

Primarily a third baseman and shortstop in high school, Hammer didn't take the mound until he was in junior college.  The transition clearly worked well, as he's gotten pretty far as a hurler and couldn't muster much offense even at the JuCo level.
 
The 23-year-old will be among the crop of minor leaguers invited to big league spring training this year as a non-roster player.  If he impresses in Grapefruit League play the same as he did in the Fall League, Hammer could be on the fast track to a spot in the big leagues.


Keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #25 Second Baseman Jesmuel Valentin

Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin has become a solid contributor at each level he has played and could possess the ability to continue that success as he approaches the big leagues.

Last year in spring training with the big league team Valentin proved he could contribute and earned consideration at making the Phillies opening day roster. His 2017 was cut short at the Triple-A level due to an injury in May, so he wasn't healthy for a call up during the season. But now, fully healthy and on the diamond in the Roberto Clemente League (the Puerto Rico Winter League), Valentin is hopeful he'll get another shot at his big league dream this year.

Selected as the 51st overall draft pick in 2012, Valentin was quickly a well-hyped prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. Upon signing his initial professional contract fresh out of high school, the switch-hitter debuted in the rookie level Arizona League, posting a .211 average while launching two homers and driving in 18 runs in 43 games.

In 2013 the Puerto Rico native began the season in the rookie level Pioneer League, where he batted .284 with four homers and 24 RBI in 62 games. A promotion to the Class A Great Lakes team followed and, as a 19-year-old, he struggled a bit, batting .212 with six doubles, a triple and five RBI in 33 games.

The following season, Valentin repeated Class A and proved ready for the challenge. In 108 games for the Loons, he batted .280 with seven home runs and 47 RBI in 108 contests, making himself a desirable commodity to the Dodgers’ potential trade partners. After joining the Phillies’ organization in August as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade, Valentin was assigned to Class A Advanced Clearwater where he recorded a .205 average in 12 games.

Following the 2014 season, Valentin made headlines as he was suspended by the Phils organization following a domestic violence arrest. Charges were eventually dropped, according to Valentin, and he would return to action.

In 2015 as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Valentin would tally a .273 average with a homer and 14 RBI in 31 games.

In 2016, in 89 games with Double-A Reading, Valentin posted a .276 batting average with five home runs and 38 RBI. In July he was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh where he sported a .248 average with four homers and 14 RBI in 36 games. 


Last year, in 21 Grapefruit League games, Valentin tallied a .366 batting average with six doubles and four RBI.  He was the last man cut from big league camp.

Valentin talking with me, image- Cheryl Pursell
He would go on to sport a .229 average with a home run and seven RBI in 29 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley before injuring his shoulder on a diving play in an extra-inning contest on May 12th.

Valentin is the son of former Major League infielder Jose Valentin.

Growing up around the game, Jesmuel cited to me in a 2016 interview that he grew close to Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 2003 when he was teammates with Jose on the White Sox.  Jesmuel would watch the Puerto Rican legend closely to learn as much as possible and the two bonded.

Defensively, the 23-year-old is strong with turning two in the middle and has very good range.  His arm may be best suited for second base, where he plays primarily. With some versatility under his belt, Valentin has manned shortstop in 108 professional games while covering the hot corner at third base in 14 games and taking on the outfield in 15 games.

Speed is not a big factor for Valentin’s game, so he won’t be stealing many bases (49 steals in 75 pro attempts, a 65% success rate), but he is a smart and aggressive ball player who can take an extra base in the right situation and not make mental errors in key spots. 

Valentin displays patience at the plate and can draw walks, notching a .348 on-base percentage for his affiliated pro career to date.  He can be a nice table setter for his teammates.

Look for him back in big league spring training this year making his presence known and competing for a spot as a backup infielder.   

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospect Countdown Prelude

Each year I compile my annual prospect rankings and count down the Phillies organization’s top 25 rising minor league talents. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting reviews for each of the top developmental talents that appear to have the brightest futures for the Phils organization.

Taken into consideration when compiling the list is age, minor league performance relative to levels played to date, value to the organization as well as the player’s future potential and proximity to the big leagues.

These rankings will not include players over the age of 25 or individuals that have already spent lengthy stretches in the big leagues.

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
For example, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro, who are both previously, highly-ranked Phillies prospects, graduated to the big leagues last season and spent a month or more at the top level and won't be included in this year's rankings.

Others moving to the majors and progressing out of prospect status are pitchers Ricardo Pinto, Ben Lively and Nick Pivetta.

Yacksel Rios, a reliever, spent more than a month with the big league club last year as well.  The 24-year-old sported a 1-3 record with three saves, a 1.92 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 mark in 37 games combined with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year.  While Rios only appeared in 10 MLB games and could still get consideration for this list, I'll use his time in the majors as an excuse to make room for someone else.

Outfielder Carlos Tocci was taken in the Rule 5 draft in December by the White Sox and was then traded to Texas.  The 22-year-old Venezuelan, who was ranked 20th on this list last year, had a very good season in 2017, batting .307 and making the Eastern League All-Star Game in 113 games for Reading and wrapped up the season at the Triple-A level with Lehigh Valley.

Players that garnered consideration for this list but missed ranking among the top 25 names include several hurlers.  Righty Kevin Gowdy, who missed the entirety of the 2017 and underwent Tommy John surgery in August.  The 20-year-old is expected to miss most of or all of the 2018 season as well.  Gowdy was the Phillies' 2nd round draft selection in 2016.

Austin Davis, image- Jay Floyd
Reliever Austin Davis started to really make a name for himself with a remarkable 2017 campaign at the Double-A level for Reading.  In 32 relief outings following some time with Clearwater the 24-year-old lefty sported a 4-2 record with three saves, a 2.87 ERA and just about a strike out per inning pitched.  Davis should be a valuable contributor out of the bullpen at the Triple-A level this year and may get a shot at the majors when a spot opens up.

Class A starting pitcher Nick Fanti made headlines last season with a pair of no-hitters for Lakewood and could begin to get consideration on Phils' prospect lists with various outlets.  The 21-year-old left-hander posted a 9-2 record with a 2.54 ERA and more than a strike out per inning in 21 games for the BlueClaws.  Already showing he can dominate in the Sally League, Fanti will move up a level this year and hopefully will continue to improve.

Righty pitcher Spencer Howard, who was the Phillies' 2nd round draft pick last year, is getting some attention among rising prospects.  The 21-year-old righty sported a 1-1 record with a 4.45 ERA and 12.7 K/9 mark in nine starts for Class A short-season Williamsport in his first experience as a pro last year.

Additionally, some players from last year's list have simply fallen out of my top 25.

Mark Appel, image- Jay Floyd
Mark Appel, the former 1st overall draft pick that the Phillies acquired in the Ken Giles trade from Houston, missed the list as well as considerable time for the second straight year due to injury.  At 26-years-old, the right-hander has aged out of these ranks.  Appel was 21st on this list last year.

Outfielder Jose Pujols showed loads of power and potential with the Class A BlueClaws in 2016, but his skills at the plate did not translate well up just one level with the Class A Advanced Threshers last year.  He saw his .746 OPS with Lakewood fall to .552 with Clearwater.  The 22-year-old Dominican ranked 19th on this list last year.

Right-handed pitcher Alberto Tirado, who ranked 13th on this list last year, was converted to a starter in 2016 and then back to a reliever in 2017.  While the organization has tweaked things with the 23-year-old Dominican Republic native, he hasn't looked as promising as he once did.  In 10 relief appearances in Double-A after a solid campaign with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Tirado posted a 6.75 ERA with no decisions while striking out eight and walking 19 in 12 innings pitched.  I am hopeful that Tirado can bounce back and help a pitching staff at the upper levels this coming season.

Check back here on PhoulBallz.com often, as the new season approaches, for the unveiling of this year’s top 25 ranked prospects within the Phillies organization.