Biddle is number one but Sickels says Ruf is the real deal. Photo by: Ian Riccaboni
Minor League Ball released their list of the Top 20 Phillies’ Prospects. For those unfamiliar with Minor League Ball, it is run by John Sickels, who was Bill James‘ research assistant from 1993 to 1996 and was ESPN’s Minor League Baseball Analyst from 1996-2005. Sickels was among the first national pundits to give Darin Ruf the seal of approval as a Major League-quality hitter (on August 16, 2012) and has a pretty strong familiarity with the Phillies organization. His list of Phillies’ prospects differs a bit from the Baseball America Top 10, with Sickels seemingly favoring potential slightly more than Minor League body of work.
Sickels list is interesting for not who is on it but for whom is omitted. In Sickels’ opinion, the Phillies have a very deep body of players who will become Major League regulars in their ranks, with Biddle the only true standout. Considering that, some of the omissions are quite surprising, as quite a few players who were once thought to have high ceilings seem to have come back to earth. Luckily for the Phillies, Sickels likes a lot of the players acquired at this year’s trade deadline.
Biddle Takes the Top Spot, Quinn Third
Germantown Friends’ Jesse Biddle was Sickels’ number one, just as he was in Baseball America’s list. Sickels’ lists Biddle as a B+ prospect, which on his scale, means you can essentially pen him in to see Major League work and expect to see something more than a regular out of him. Sickels’ says of Biddle: “Good bet to be a mid-rotation starter, if not more.” Baseball America’s choice for number two, shortstop Roman Quinn, debuts on Sickels’ list at number three, stating “Blazing speed and knows how to use it well, needs more defensive polish and a better grasp of the strike zone to be a full-scale leadoff hitter, but the 80-speed covers a lot of problems and ensures the Phils will give him plenty of time.”
Ruf Gets More Strong Praise
Ruf opened up many eyes last year and the late bloomer tag seems to be taking hold. Ruf’s consistence high performance since being drafted in the 20th round in 2009 has Sickels placing him at seventh, two higher than Baseball America. Sickels starts out his review of Ruf with “I believe in the bat. Defense and age 26 keep him from elite prospect status, doesn’t have further projection, but that’s OK since he’s already good.” Sickels was sold on Ruf heading into 2013 as a 10-15 HR role player before his late 2012 and Winter Ball outbursts. Sickels says of Ruf: “I thought he was more of a .260, 10-15-homer role player bat, but I can see him as a .280, 20-25 homer guy now. “The Phillies Have Really, Really Deep Pitching Ranks
In addition to Biddle, the Phillies have five pitchers who rank at a B- or higher.
One of the biggest contrasts of Sickels list compared to Baseball America’s is the positioning of left-handed pitcher Adam Morgan. Sickels ranked Morgan at number 2, stating “This guy deserves more attention. Stuff kicked up a notch from college, into the low-90s, and he already knew how to throw strikes and locate his secondary pitches. Can also be a mid-rotation starter.” Sickels ranked RHP Jonathan Pettibone at number five, putting his ceiling at “durable inning-eating number four starter to me.” Sickels has LHP Ethan Martin at eight, “Upper-rotation stuff, but if command remains shaky he’s more of a number four, or a reliever. Still high upside,” and 2012 supplemental picks RHPs Shane Watson and Mitch Gueller as B-s as well. Sickels states that both Watson and Gueller have #2-3 starter potential, stating Watson has a more refined approach while Gueller is more athletic.
Two Third Basemen in Top Ten, Two Catchers in Top 20
Cody Asche and Mikael Franco ranked sixth and ninth respectively, with Sickels liking Asche’s defense and “sweet swing” and stating Franco is “making progress”. Sickels believes catcher Tommy Joseph can be an everyday regular but does with good defense but is not sold on his power while Sebastian Valle is a C+ prospect who Sickels believes needs a full year at Triple-A. Valle is struggling in the Mexican Winter League with a .193 average in 30 games.
Two Relievers on 40-Man on List
Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus appear on the list at 13 and 17 respectively, with Sickels believing that Aumont will get a full run in the Phils’ ‘pen this year despite control issues and that De Fratus may see time this year or next with the club. Joining Aumont and De Fratus from the bullpen side includes righty Kenny Giles, who can hit 100 MPH, at 14, and Kevin Brady, swing man out of Clemson at 16, who Sickels sees a breakthrough candidate. Lefties Austin Wright, 15, and Hoby Milner, 20, are two pitchers who Sickels sees as quick risers should they move to the bullpen.
2011′s number one pick, outfielder Larry Greene, was given a C+ grade but left off of the Top 20. The same applies for toolsy outfielder Carlos Tocci, RHP Julio Rodriguez, and RHP Seth Rosin. Complete omissions include RHP Brody Colvin and OFs Tyson Gillies, Aaron Altherr, Leandro Castro, and Jiwan James, who Sickels believes is a “lost cause”.