In the Rule 5 draft portion of the MLB Winter Meetings, on Thursday, the Phillies selected outfielder Ender Inciarte from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Inciarte, who has played 310 career minor league games in center field, posted a career high OPS of .797 combined at two levels, the Class A Midwest League and the Class A Advanced California League, in 2012. Additionally, Inciarte uses speed as a key to his offense, as he stole 46 bases in 58 opportunities last season but sports just a 73% success rate in stolen base attempts during his pro career.
Comparatively, Phillies’ outfield prospect Tyson Gillies, who has had a considerable amount of injury issues since joining the organization, had an OPS of .809 at three levels in 2012 (.822 in 68 games at Double-A), which ranked as his third best season in that department through his minor league career. Gillies came over from Seattle in the December 2009 Cliff Lee trade after being picked in the 25th round of the 2006 draft. The 24-year-old has played 263 of his 324 professional defensive games as a center fielder and provides strong defense anywhere in the outfield.
Another Phillies outfield prospect, 23-year-old Jiwan James, who was limited by a left knee ailment throughout the 2012 season, has never posted an OPS greater than .690 in a season in which he played in more than 30 games. James was selected in the 22nd round of the 2007 draft, by the Phils, as a pitcher. James has manned center field 350 times in his pro career with great range and made national headlines with his remarkable defensive play for Reading this past July. James, who typically has relied on speed (32 SB per season avg, 2010-2011), stole just eight bases in 16 attempts during the 2012 regular season in the Double-A Eastern League, due to his knee troubles.
Leandro Castro, who has 91 games in center field under his belt, in the minors, tallied a .742 OPS as an All-Star with Double-A Reading in 2012 and sported a .785 mark with Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2011. Castro stole 13 bases in 22 chances (59% success rate) this year. With defense that doesn’t hurt a team, the 23-year-old projects more as a corner outfielder, but very likely needs to increase his power to catch on the majors. Castro was originally signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent in 2007.
Zach Collier, who was added to the Phils’ 40-man roster this off-season, put together a strong Arizona Fall League campaign (.371/.461/.532) following a drug suspension shortened season in which he put forth a solid effort with the Class A Advanced Threshers, posting a .269 average with six homers, 32 RBI and 11 steals in 78 games. Collier stole 35 bases in 2011 during a full season with Class A Lakewood. The 22-year-old, who was taken with the Phils’ supplementary round draft pick in 2008, is a solid defender that has played 143 regular season games in center.
The overall thought here is that the 22-year-old Inciarte is not any great improvement over the options the Phillies already had on the way up in their developmental ranks. Although, he does seem to measure up fairly well to the other young outfielders in the Phils’ system. He is more durable than Gillies. He provides more impressive offense than James. He is younger and faster than Castro. He is about even with Collier, at this stage.
Inciarte, a native Venezuelan who was originally signed as an amateur free agent, has posted a .225/.284/.288 line in 35 games, playing with Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League. His Zulia teammate, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis, has tallied a .304/.348/.458 line in 43 games. Galvis, 23, played in 58 games with the big league Phillies in 2012, prior to being sidelined with a back injury and being suspended after testing positive for banned substances.
The Phillies will need to keep Inciarte on their 25-man big league roster for the entire 2013 season, or risk losing him back to Arizona.
Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft when they are not on their major league organization’s 40 man roster and 1) were signed to a contract at age 19 or older and have been in that organization for 4 years, OR 2) were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in that organization for 5 years.
Additionally, the Phillies selected Brendan Lafferty in the minor league portion on the Rule 5 draft. The 26-year-old UCLA product was an 18th round draft choice in 2009. Prior to college, Lafferty was drafted by the Phillies, but he chose not to sign. This year in the Double-A Texas League, Lafferty sported a 1-1 record with a save, a 4.77 ERA in 43 relief outings. Also, he struck out 71 batters, while walking 40 in 60 1/3 innings.