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|1. J.P. Crawford, SS|
|Born: 01/11/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Tyler Pastornicky, Francisco Lindor, Abiatal Avelino, Gavin Cecchini, Jorge Polanco|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: In a draft class that was dominated by the top three picks – at least initially – it’s Crawford, not org-mate Mark Appel or Colorado right-hander Jon Gray, who could prove to be the second best player taken in the opening round – behind NL MVP Kris Bryant, of course. Crawford opened up his professional career with a flourish by slugging .308/.405/.400 between the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic Leagues and has never looked back. He split his sophomore campaign between Lakewood and Clearwater, hitting an aggregate .285/.375/.406 against significantly older competition. And after a quick tune-up back in the Florida State League in 2015, the former 16th overall pick topped the average mark in Class AA by 21%, as the youngest qualified player in the league. Last season, per the usual, Philadelphia sent the lefty-swinging shortstop back to the Eastern League for another (dominant) refresher before sending him up to the International League for 87 games. Overall, Crawford batted a combined .250/.349/.339 with 19 doubles, one triple, seven homeruns, and 12 stolen bases.
Here are a couple quick facts to chew on:
- Crawford was the only 20-year-old player with at least 300 trips to the plate to post a double digit walk rate in either Class AAA league.
- Since 2006, there have been just 10 players to meet the above criteria: Melvin Upton Jr., Lastings Milledge, Daric Barton, Andrew McCutchen, Colby Rasmus, Anthony Rizzo, Wil Myers, Anthony Gose, Domingo Santana, and, of course, Crawford.
Projection: Continuing the second note from above, consider the following: five of them, Upton, Barton, McCutchen, Rasmus, Rizzo, and Myers, have earned at least 3.6 fWAR in a season. And a sixth, Santana, posted a 111 wRC+ and 110 wRC+ in his first two extended looks at the big leagues. So, yeah, the odds are clearly in Crawford’s favor.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“Crawford was the only qualified 20-year-old hitter in the Eastern and one of just three in any Class AA level. But here’s something more impressive, a list of players younger than 21-years-old in Class to post a walk rate above 12% since 2006:
- 2015: J.P. Crawford, 12.1%
- 2012: Jon Singleton, 15.9%
- 2011: Wil Myers, 12.5%
- 2008: Travis Snider, 12.3%
- 2007: Colby Rasmus, 12.6%
That’s it; five players in the last eight seasons. Ready to be impressed again? Good. Here’s a list ranking the players by their strikeout rate, lowest to highest:
- J.P. Crawford, 11.1%
- Colby Rasmus, 19.4%
- Wil Myers, 20.9%
- Jon Singleton, 23.6%
- Travis Snider, 27.4%
Crawford has a well-rounded offensive toolkit: above-average speed, something in the range of 25 to 30 stolen bases, solid average power with 10-to 12-homeruns and 30+ doubles in his future, a walk rate that should settle in between 9.0% and 10.5%, with a hit tool capable of posting perennial .300 averages.”
Despite a bit of a down year from the young shortstop – his overall production with the IronPigs was 10% below the league average – there’s nothing to dissuade from last year’s analysis when I pegged him as a 4.0- to 4.5-win player. He actually put together a very Crawford-like line during a 43-game stretch between June 11 and July 30, hitting .308/.369/.414, which also happens to be completely in line with his career numbers. One final note: according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Crawford’s been an above-average defender over the past two seasons.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|2. Mickey Moniak, CF|
|Born: 05/13/98||Age: 19||Bats: L||Top CALs: Oscar Rojas, Eddie Rosario, Daniel Ortiz, Abraham Almonte, Cody Bellinger|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: Armed with the first pick in the draft for just the second time in franchise history – Pat Burrell, who was the first, worked out pretty well – the Phillies grabbed the ultra-toolsy center fielder out of La Costa Canyon High School last June.
Projection: Let’s just side step the initial analysis for a moment and just appreciate the Phillies’ work in the opening round the last four years: J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, Cornelius Randolph, and Moniak. Crawford’s on his way to becoming a star and one of the better shortstops in baseball. Nola has tallied nearly four wins above replacement in his first 188.2 career innings. And Randolph currently ranks as the team’s fourth best prospect – in a loaded system. Back to the analysis: Obviously the data’s pretty limited, but Moniak showed a promising foundation during his debut. Solid power, plenty of speed, strong hit tool, and a decent eye at the plate. Plus, the lefty-swinging center fielder handled both southpaws and right-handers equally well.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|3. Cornelius Randolph, CF|
|Born: 0602/97||Age: 20||Bats: L||Top CALs: Jose Martinez, Seth Conner, Aaron Hicks, Mitch Dening, Jesse Winker|
|Height: 5-11||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: Just when it looked like the former 10th overall pick was getting hot in the Sally after a dreadful nine games (.108/.214/.162), a shoulder injury knocked him out in late April for more than two months. And because shoulder injuries take some time to shake Randolph didn’t look comfortable once he made his way back to the BlueClaws – even after an extended stint on the DL. He batted a disappointing .247/.356/.282 over his next 24 games. But the toolsy center fielder got hot on the eighth of August and slugged .301/.371/.398 with seven doubles, one triple, and one homerun over his final 33 games.
Projection: So there’s an awful lot going on here in terms of noise vs. meaningful data. Randolph was getting his first taste of full season ball and, of course, the shoulder injury – both of which certainly depress his overall production line (.264/.347/.343). But digging deeper into the numbers, it’s easy to see the promise of the lefty-swinging outfielder. Strong plate discipline: he posted 57-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Glimpses of power – especially near the end of the year. Some speed. And despite all the obstacles he faced in 2016, his overall production topped the league average mark by 10%. I expect him to have one of the better minor league seasons in 2017.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|4. Franklyn Kilome, RHP|
|Born: 06/25/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Yeiper Castillo, David Baker, Chris Lugo, Daniel Gonzalez, Nik Turley|
|Height: 6-6||Weight: 175||Throws: R|
Background: It wasn’t so much a tale of two stories, per se; it was more like a tale of three starts and then everything else. The 6-foot-6, 175-pound Dominican-born right-hander got off to a terrible start over his first three games in the Sally last season, throwing just 9.2 IP while allowing 17 earned runs and posting a putrid 7-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And that’s not including the pair of batters he beaned or the fact that the opposition slugged .435/.542/.630 against him. Beginning with his fourth start of the year, however, Kilome was…simply one of the best pitchers in all the minor leagues. Over his final 20 starts, the fire-balling youngster tossed 105.2 innings with an impeccable 2.73 ERA and a downright, flat-out dominating 123-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio; his strikeout percentage was nearly 30%.
Projection: Obviously, when you put a string of three craptastic starts together, especially in your first three games of the years, your overall numbers tend to be a bit skewed. But make no mistake about it – Kilome is one of the more underrated arms in the entire minor leagues. So, let’s dig deeper into his numbers from last season:
- He had two games where he posted a double-digit strikeout total without issuing a walk.
- He had six games where he punched out at least eight hitters and three other starts when he fanned seven batters.
- After a bit of clunker against Delmarva in last August, Kilome finished the year by throwing 13.0 innings without allowing a run and posting a 15-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Even if he wasn’t in a system chock full of minor league bats, Kilome would easily be Philadelphia’s top MiLB arm. He’s one of the rare youngsters with a chance to develop into a legitimate ace. Obviously, he still has ways to go – especially navigating through the injury nexus – but remember this name.
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|5. Jorge Alfaro, C|
|Born: 06/11/93||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Justin O’Conner, Sebastian Vaile, Wellington Castillo, Lucas May, Brian Peacock|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 225||Throws: R|
Background: A quick point to highlight the importance of catching production: there were only 11 players to don the Tools of Ignorance and tally more than 2.0 wins above replacement in the big leagues last season. If you stop and think about it, that’s roughly one-third of the league had one catcher produce at league average level. On the other hand, there were 25 second basemen, 23 shortstops, and 23 third basemen to reach that mark. Hell, there were 12 relievers that topped the 2.0-win threshold last season (yes, I know; it’s comparing apples to oranges, but it’s still an intriguing comparison). OK. Fine. I get it. You get it. Catching is hard on the body. So, let’s just look at how many teams had a net value above 2.0-wins above replacement at the position: just 17. Hell, three teams actually got negative value from their catchers (Indians, Padres, and Rays). So when you have a young backstop with a relatively strong track record and a promising skill set, that’s a catcher you potentially build around.
Enter: Jorge Alfaro.
Alfaro spent the year – again, for parts of the third consecutive season – back in Class AA where his production, more or less, remained unchanged. He got his first taste back in 2014 in the Rangers organization, hitting a solid .261/.343/.443 in 99 trips to the plate. The Rangers sent him back to Frisco the following year and he, once again, put together a solid triple-slash line (.253/.314/.432) before an ankle injury abruptly ended his campaign.
Last year, Alfaro spent all but the final few weeks of the season with Reading, batting .285/.325/.458 with 21 doubles, a pair of triples, and 15 homeruns.
Projection: Defense and power – that’s the name of Alfaro’s game. Last year he gunned down 44% of would be base stealers and paced all Class AA catchers with 15 homeruns. The walk rates will definitely limit his ceiling, but, again, the major leagues is so bereft of catching talent that he could easily be one of the game’s better backstops within two years.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|6. Thomas Eshelman, RHP|
|Born: 06/20/94||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jeff Locke, Garrett Olson, Jesse Litsch, Jensen Lewis, Josh Lindbolm|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 210||Throws: R|
Background: One of the most interesting collegiate pitching prospects in recent memory – perhaps, even over the last couple decades. Eshelman wasn’t notable for his size – he stands 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds – or his power arsenal, because he doesn’t own one, or his ability to miss bats, because he averaged less than eight strikeouts every nine innings. What he was known for, however, was some of the finest damn control in the draft class. Hell, it might have been among the best ever in NCAA history. Eshelman walked just three hitters his entire freshman season, spanning more than 115 innings. He promptly followed that up with just eight more free passes in 123+ innings of work during his sophomore campaign. And he allowed a video game-esque seven base-on-balls in 137.0 innings during his final year with Cal State Fullerton. For those counting at home, that’s just 18 walks in his entire freakin’ college career, one in which he threw 376.1 innings – or an average of less than one walk every nine innings.
Just to put that into context, former top prospect Jarred Cosart, who posted the worst walk rate in the majors among arms with 50+ innings, walked 22 in his first 23.0 innings last year. What made Eshelman so interesting/intriguing was no one was really quite sure how an extreme control/command pitcher would fair in the professional ranks. Well, two years later we now know.
The right-hander, who’s middle name is Darwin (enter your own evolutionary joke here…), basically jumped right into High Class A last season without really missing a beat: he posted a 3.24 FIP to go along with an impeccable 21.5% strikeout-to-walk percentage. After just 11 starts, the Phillies moved him up to Class AA for the remainder of the year. In 13 games, he threw 61.1 innings with an unsightly 5.14 ERA – more on that below – to go along with a 19.8% strikeout-to-walk percentage.
Projection: First, here’s what I wrote prior to the 2015 draft:
“He’s not overpowering so he’ll likely get overlooked by some of the bigger arms in the class (Walker Buehler, Dillon Tate, Phil Bickford, Carson Fulmer, Michael Matuella), but Eshelman is a safe, fast-moving back-of-the-rotation caliber arm that could easily be in the big leagues within a season-plus of the draft.
Something to watch when he does make his pro debut: groundball totals. If Eshelman proves to be an above-average worm-burner, watch out. In terms of big league comparison, think Cincinnati’s Mike Leake.”
And I still think he’s going be a very reliable big league starter, despite the ho-hum 5.00+ ERA in the Eastern League. And here’s why:
- It’s important to remember that when he made the jump to Class AA, easily the minors’ biggest test, Eshelman had around 70.0 innings between that and his work in college. Talk about a fast development curve (like I suggested two years ago).
- Four clunkers with the Fightin’ Phils really, really skewed his overall numbers. So let’s break it down… The four clunkers: 14.1 IP and 23 ER. The rest of his stint in Class AA: 47 IP, 12 ER, and a 2.30 ERA.
- Even with the clunkers thrown in, his overall FIP in Class AA was a strong 3.29. Plus, he suffered from a poor .373 BABIP.
Convinced yet? You should be… Think of him as a lesser version of Aaron Nola, although not by much.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: 2017
|7. Kevin Gowdy, RHP|
|Born: 11/16/97||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 170||Throws: R|
Background: The Phillies handed the RHP about $1 million more than any other second rounder got last June. Gowdy, the 42nd player taken, threw just nine innings during his debut, fanning nine and walking a pair, though he allow five runs, four earned.
Projection: Just how badly did the Phillies want to secure the services of Gowdy? That $3.5 million signing bonus they gave him was more than 30 first round picks got last June. Basically they gave him a bonus requisite of a player just outside the top 10. Per the usual, we’ll take a wait-and-see approach until more data is available.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|8. Roman Quinn, CF|
|Born: 05/14/93||Age: 24||Bats: B||Top CALs: Mikie Mahtook, Adron Chambers, Sean Henry, lane Adams, Shane Peterson|
|Height: 5-10||Weight: 170||Throws: R|
Background: The former second rounder’s career got off on a rather inauspicious start – one, in which, looked like the toolsy former shortstop would quickly be labeled a bust. But something clicked for Quinn – perhaps it was maturation or simply due to the fact he moved away from shortstop – but he’s really blossomed into a dynamic force at the plate in two injury-shortened seasons in Class AA. Quinn strung together a strong showing in the Eastern League in 2015, hitting .306/.356/.435 with six doubles, six triples, four homeruns, and 29 stolen bases en route to topping the league average production mark by 29%, the best showing of his career, in just 58 games. Last year, he slugged .287/.361/.441 with 14 doubles, six triples, six homeruns, and 31 stolen bases to go along with a 125 wRC+ in 71 contests. Overall, during his stints in Class AA, easily the most important minor league test, Quinn’s sporting a solid .295/.359/.438 triple-slash line, with 20 doubles, 12 triples, 10 homeruns, and 60 stolen bases (in 78 attempts). Yeah, that’ll play.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“So the question is: Can the surging – and oft-injured – center fielder repeat his 58-game run of dominance moving forward?
Well, let’s delve into the numbers. The speed is clearly a game-changer on both sides of the ball, and Quinn has averaged a smidgeon over 71 steals per 162 games. His walk rate last season, 7.0%, was a touch lower than his career norms (8.8%), so there’s hope that it can inch back up. His pop, .129 ISO, is also very similar to his previous total (.119 ISO). And his strikeout rates were a touch lower. But the two main differences last season were a career high .360 BABIP, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a plus-runner with gap power, and his improved performance against RHP. The switch-hitting Quinn was coming off of back-to-back showing in which he posted OPSs of .651 and .673 against righties, but hung a .769 mark in 112 plate appearances last season. Call me skeptical, but I’m going to need to see him repeat that level of production before I’m entirely convinced. For now, he looks like a fringy everyday player with some noticeable risk – and that’s before you factor in that he’s never topped more than 88 games in a season yet. One final thought: CALs best case scenario is Peter Bourjos, another speedy center fielder with a career 90 wRC+ and plus-defensive ability, which seems about right.”
Well, call me convinced. I’ve mentioned – numerous times, now – how important the Class AA test is and Quinn passed it with flying colors. And he also put together another solid showing against right-handers too. The only question that remains is whether he can stay healthy. Quinn hasn’t topped 88 games at any point in his minor league career, a span of five years now.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|9. Nick Williams, CF|
|Born: 09/08/93||Age: 23||Bats: L||Top CALs: Jose Osuna, Yorman Rodriguez, Willy Garcia, Quincy Latimore, Tyler Colvin|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 195||Throws: L|
Background: Well, it finally happened – the supremely gifted outfielder finally had a down year. Or, in other words, his lack of patience at the plate finally caught up with him. Taken in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Rangers, part of the same class that added Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo to Texas’ organization, Williams was in the midst of arguably his finest professional season to date before Phillies acquired him as part of the Cole Hamels deal: he was batting a solid .299/.357/.479 with careers bests walk and strikeout percentage (7.7% and 18.6%, respectively). But he fell back into his bad habits of swinging early-and-often when he made his way into the Phillies’ system and that, unfortunately, carried over into his 2016 campaign when he made the move up to the Class AAA. In 125 games with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Williams batted an OBP-deficient .258/.287/.427 with a career high 33 doubles, six triples, and 13 homeruns. His strikeout rate ballooned back up to borderline red flag territory, 25.8%, and his walk rate deflated to less than 4.0%.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“Cursed with a bit of a swing-from-the-heels approach during his first couple seasons, Williams shaved off some significant strikeout numbers from his previous career norms; between 2012 and 2014 his K-rate was a smidgeon under 27%, right on the border of red flag territory. And during the same stretch he walked in just 4.8% of plate appearances. Last season, however, he fanned just 18.8% of the time while posting a career best walk rate. He’s evolving into a more complete player. I’m not certain that he’ll repeat those numbers moving forward, but at the bare minimum he’s a solid league-average starter with a much high upside.”
Well, he clearly didn’t repeat those levels of plate discipline. And it took his overall production nose-diving from the +30% range down to barely league average. Again, it’s all going to come down to his ability to take more than four free passes every 100 plate appearances.
That and, you know, some better showings against fellow southpaws. Here are his OPS totals against left-handed pitching since 2013: .798, .705, .602, and .571. See a trend as he’s moved up the ladder? Yeah, not good – not good at all.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2017
|10. Alberto Tirado, RHP|
|Born: 12/10/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Blake King, Sean Reid-Foley, Wilmer Font, Tyler Matzek, Braulio Ortiz|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: Acquired along with Jimmy Cordero from the Blue Jays in exchange for speedy center fielder Ben Revere. Tirado, a rail-thin right-hander out of the Dominican Republic, continue to tantalize and frustrate, offering up gobs and gobs of swings-and-misses and crap-tons – the official metric used by the finest of analysts – of walks. The wild card right-hander led the South Atlantic League in strikeout rate, 14.09 K/9, and finished with the second best strikeout percentage, 35.3% among all hurlers with 50+ innings. And, of course, he finished with the fifth highest walk rate, 5.28 BB/9, and walk percentage, 13.2%.
Projection: Tirado began the year as a short-stint reliever, making 10 appearances between Low Class A and High Class A. Now of those 10 appearances, he walked as a many or more than he struck out seven times. Then after missing about a month of action, Tirado came back as a full time starter, throwing 53.1 innings with a laughable 83 strikeouts and 25 walks to go along with a 2.19 ERA. But just look at what he did against the Sally over his final eight starts: 41.0 IP, 68 K, 16 BB, and a 1.76 ERA.
In last year’s book I referred to Tirado as “an enigma, a puzzle that could lead to developing a promising mid-rotation caliber arm or he could leave the development system telling stories of what may have been.”
The #2- or #3–type is certainly there. But it’s a long shot that he ascends to that level… Hopefully, he doesn’t get thrown into a relief role before he has enough time to figure it out.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
Risk: High to Extremely High
MLB ETA: 2019
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com