Much has been made about the “advanced” age of the Phillies as the 2014 season commences. Regardless of the degree of success of the parent club, it is essential for the long-term success of the organization that the team produces major league talent through its farm system.
Here are some thoughts and expectations from some of the Phillies minor leagues players themselves and then more insights on players within the Phillies organization to watch this summer.
Here are more opinions on the Phillies’ prospects…
1) Maikel Franco has spoken often about working hard and doing what’s necessary to improve and become a major league ball player. While he is the most advanced, top prospect within the Phillies organization, he is very focused on trying to improve his overall game. He showed no preference to which position he will ultimately play and said he feels comfortable at playing both first and third base, stating that footwork and improving his mechanicals for the pitchers’ throw-overs are his main defensive goals to work on this season. I was impressed by the lack-of-ego persona he’s exhibited in our conversations this spring and he is a very likeable future star that Phillies fans can easily root for.
2) There is now a sign in the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse that says “Respect the Game”, and that message is being echoed by the players throughout the team’s farm system. Cameron Rupp, Steve Susdorf and Andres Blanco have all repetitively made mentions to me about playing the game the “right way” and the need to make good decisions and to play hard at all times.
3) Barry Enright is one of the “older players” (28) that the Phillies brought in to add starting pitching depth. While his numbers last year were not impressive (a ERA north of 7.00 with the Angels’ Triple-A team last season), I was struck by how much he talked about a young pitcher’s ability to pitch when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Instead of complaining or using that as an excuse, he stressed (and I have a feeling new pitching coach Bob McClure has emphasized) the need to try to throw strikes consistently even when you don’t have good stuff on the mound. Eliminating walks is a major need for this organization’s pitchers, and it’s important that the players seemed to be getting that message.
4) The Phillies look to be in good shape behind the dish. At many levels of the organization, the Phillies can boast two solid catching options. Rupp heads the list of catchers and spoke about the importance of having competition to make everyone better. He also identified some solid goals to work on defensively this season, to go along with his impressive offensive potential. Veteran Koyie Hill also started the year at Triple-A and has major league experience with several teams. Two former blue-chip prospects, Tommy Joseph and Sabastian Valle, still have potential and will share time at Double-A. Andrew Knapp has perhaps the highest ceiling of all the young backstops in the organization and Deivi Grullon is looking to build on a solid season in the Gulf Coast League last summer.
5) I continue to have the same opinion of Jesse Biddle as I did midway through last season. Like in the limited times I saw him pitch at Reading last season, he needs to develop that consistency (there’s that word again) in throwing strikes to reach the parent club. I don’t believe he will be the next Cole Hamels, as I’ve heard some fans assume, and I think he’ll be more of a #3 or a #4-type of pitcher in the major leagues. I would love to be proven wrong as the lefty does have impressive stuff.
Which players do you think can be future stars with the Phillies? Which players would you like to see playing at the Big League level right now? Post your comments below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com with your opinions and baseball observations.