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Grapefruiting 2009: Young Guns

And when you’re out on the town, you just might drop in on some Phillies. Notably, some Phillies prospects.

Five to watch in Clearwater

1. Carlos Carrasco
For obvious reasons. You want to see if he’s ready for the big leagues. Catch him in Spring Training games for that answer. He had a busy 2008 between Reading, Lehigh Valley and Venezuela. What’s most important is that he maintains his above-average fastball and stays healthy. Next in importance? Control. If he has that, he’ll be good to go by June.

2. Dominic Brown
Everyone is suddenly tooting Brown’s horn because of his Darryl Strawberry-like physique. He might have the talent, too. Watch if his power remains. Kid already has speed and defensive ability; what’s most important as he reaches the higher levels is his ability to pop the ball out of the park. If that stays strong, he’s a big leaguer in 2010.

3. Anthony Hewitt
The first round pick has a long road until Philadelphia, but this will be his first Spring Training. Moreover, he’ll be with the Phillies for a little while, so you can see how he stacks up against comparable Jimmy Rollins. Of course Rollins makes everything look easy, so you’ll see the holes in Hewitt’s game. But watch for flashes of pop, great speed and his eye. If the eye is there, it’ll come together.

4. John Mayberry Jr
Mayberry is important because of his proximity to the majors. The Phillies might call on him early in 2009, much like they did with Chris Snelling in 2008. Mayberry can hit the longball, so focus on his plate discipline. A better eye means a definite shot at the show. A showing that’s more like his trading partner, Greg Golson? Not a good sign.

5. Travis d’Arnaud
The 20-year-old catching prospect might be better than Lou Marson. Many critics say he’s a lot like Marson, but with power. He hit six home runs in just over 200 at bats in 2008, so it’s possible the critics are correct. d’Arnaud will likely start 2009 in Lakewood, just to get acclimated before the jump to Clearwater. But it isn’t impossible to think he could start 2010 in Reading, at just age 21.

Why it’s not a big deal

Despite these hints, Spring Training isn’t do or die for prospects. At the most, it’s the indicator of where they’ll start their seasons. Really, a prospect can rack up mediocre numbers and still receive a promotion. A lot of movement north and south comes from seeing improvements and flaws in the mechanics of a player’s game. So if Carrasco gets buried in a Spring Training start, don’t think that means he’s starting 2009 back in Reading. Instead, watch their composure. Watch their swing and throwing motion.

And watch their attitude away from the game. Say hi to a prospect when you see him at practice — just don’t be that guy who stalks him for an autograph. Please don’t be that guy.

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