This year’s list of top 25 Phillies prospects includes 26 names. I’ll place the blame for that one on the Phillies for making the process of narrowing things down quite difficult with all of their youthful off-season acquisitions. To make things a tad easier on me in locking this list down, I’ve declared a tie for the number 25 slot.
Catcher Andrew Knapp made a quick recovery from off-season Tommy John surgery last year and was back in action in the minors by early May. The six-foot-one 190-pound righty batter joined the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers during the fifth week of the season. Entering the lineup as a designated hitter allowed Knapp to see game action sooner. It was mid-June by the time he would play defense, as his elbow needed additional recovery time before he could throw at 100-percent.
Upon joining the Threshers, Knapp struggled. He posted a .157 average with a home run and seven RBI in 23 games. After a 5-for-48 (.104 avg) stretch that wrapped up on June 1st, Knapp was demoted to Class A Lakewood, where he would rebound offensively. In 75 games with the BlueClaws, the California native tallied a .290 batting average along with five homers and 25 RBI.
Knapp asserted to me in a mid-season interview that his comfort level fully returned once he was able to get back behind the dish. That was evidenced by his numbers, as he batted .320 beginning with the day he started playing both halves of each frame, June 12th.
A switch-hitter, Knapp fared better from the left side with Lakewood, sporting a .309/.371/.487 slash line in 191 at bats. From the right side he produced a .250/.317/.337 line in 92 at bats.
Coaches and scouts praise Knapp’s leadership abilities. His battery mates love his sharp defensive skills and his superior arm, helping to wrangle any errant pitches and keeping opposing base runners in check.
The UC Berkeley product was selected by the Phillies in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. Look for him to return to the Clearwater lineup to open the 2015 season.
The other prospect coming in at the number 25 spot is outfielder Aaron Brown, who made some considerable impressions upon his professional debut last season.
A 3rd round pick out of Pepperdine in 2014, Brown was drafted as a positional player, but was an exceptional pitcher for the Waves during his collegiate career. In his junior season last year, the California native posted a .310/.349/.539 slash line with team highs in homers (12) and RBI (47). Also as a lefty hurler, Brown tallied a 12-1 record with a 2.07 ERA and an 8.28 K/9 mark in 16 contests.
Splitting time at short-season Class A Williamsport and full season A level Lakewood last year, the 22-year-old lefty batter posted a .268 average with four home runs, 21 RBI and eight stolen bases in 61 games.
Upon debuting as a pro, Brown displayed a quick bat and an ability to drive the ball quite a bit. His manager with Lakewood last year, Greg Legg, stated to me prior to the BlueClaws’ final game of the season that Brown had hit three of the five hardest hit balls Legg had seen launched off of players’ bats for the entire season. Brown played for Legg for just two weeks.
The six-foot-two 220-pounder has a passion for playing hard. On the field, Brown’s focus is on out-hustling every other guy on the field and he is steadily focused on taking strides to improve each day at the ball park.
Defensively, Brown has very solid range and a strong arm. He played 42 of his 52 pro games on defense as a center fielder with his remaining contests being played in right field.
Brown cites New Jersey’s own Mike Trout as a player he watches and tries to emulate.
Look for Brown to take a step upward on the developmental ladder, manning the outfield for Class A Advanced Clearwater this year.
To follow along with this year’s full countdown, click HERE.