For weeks the talk of the town – even in the midst of the Phillies blistering hot July – focused on the future. While the big club used its big bats to reel off one win after the next, the organization and its fans directed their attention to the minor leagues, where the stars of tomorrow reside. Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor grabbed headlines, as fans across the Delaware Valley begged management to keep the team’s prospects in-house.
With the trade deadline fixed squarely in the rearview mirror, the farm system is still largely intact. Four high-ranking players were shipped out to bring in Cliff Lee, but there is still plenty of depth left in the minors. So today Phillies Nation begins to roll out its own Prospect Rankings, beginning with No. 25 Drew Naylor.
The list was composed for several reasons, the most important being so that you, the fans, can become well-versed in the next generation of talent. Many of these players will suit up in red pinstripes over the next several years, while many others will never get to touch the grass at Citizens Bank Park. But each is important to the organization, as we saw last week when four prospects – three of whom had never sniffed the majors – brought a hefty ransom from the Cleveland Indians. A year from now these will be the young guns coming up in trade talks when the Phillies need an injury replacement or bullpen help. And if they continue their growth each one has a shot to earn some major league service time.
The prospects on the list are ranked in order of potential impact on the Phillies. Some are struggling to post impressive statistics at the moment, or will in the near future, but their overall makeup and ceiling make them worthy prospects. Placing young athletes in order of ability is hit-or-miss, so these rankings will be updated from time to time, but they will provide a basic understanding of each player’s talent and where he fits into the grand scheme with the Phillies. Rather than print the entire list right now, one prospect will get an in-depth analysis every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the list is completed.
Drew Naylor, RHP
Born: 5/31/1986 in Brisbane, Australia
Naylor is a testament to the Phillies’ ability to scout outside American borders, as he was signed out of Australia as an amateur free agent in March of 2004. The club allowed Naylor to stay at home for two years after signing him before he made his professional debut in 2006 with the Gulf Coast Phillies. After a very strong year in Williamsport in 2007, Naylor spent last season splitting time between Lakewood and Clearwater, faring much better against hitters at single-A Lakewood than he did once he arrived at the advanced-A Florida State League.
This year brought Naylor a full season of work with the Threshers, and his results have been a mixed bag. His K/9 rate is the lowest since he was playing rookie ball, sitting at 6.4 compared to the 10.0 K/9 he posted at Lakewood last season. Still, with a career K:BB ratio of 3.01 he has shown good control of his pitches and the strike zone.
Naylor attacks batters with three pitches, all of which show promise. His fastball sits in the 88-92 range, generally toward the lower end, and he has shown an ability to use it well on both sides of the plate. The curveball that Naylor throws is of the 12-6 variety and is especially difficult for right-handed batters to pick up. It has room to become an above-average major league pitch. Naylor uses his changeup infrequently, but it has enough sink in it to work as a strong third pitch. It’s possible that his future is in the bullpen, where he could keep his fastball around 91-93 for an inning at a time and complement it with a knee-buckling curve.
At 23 years old Naylor is a little delayed in his progress, which is as much due to his background as anything else. He may get a taste of double-A with Reading before the season closes out, or stay on track to begin there next year. Any major league aspirations should be on hold for at least another year or two, but if he can master his curve and produce an average changeup he could climb the ranks.
Year Level W L ERA IP H ER BB K K/9
2006 GCL 2 3 4.66 36.2 43 19 9 22 5.4
2007 Low-A 8 6 3.28 93.1 78 34 28 97 9.4
2008 A 5 3 2.99 87.1 69 29 21 97 10.0
2008 High-A 3 7 4.85 78.0 86 42 31 59 6.8
2009 High-A 6 9 4.40 116.2 123 57 30 83 6.4