With baseball prospects, as with eyesight, the hardest thing to see tends to be what’s farthest from you. The youngest players, who have the most physical and on-field growth to undergo before they make it to the majors, have a wide range of what might happen to them.
Still, we try. We look for skills we know can develop into a strong body of work, players with instincts and makeup they can turn into results, and early holes that are easier or harder to cover up later on. 2017 has the clearest picture of who we can expect to see; 2018 isn’t bad, either, but has more fluctuation and shadows at the edge of our vision. By the time we talk about 2020, we’re relying even more on the word of scouts and experts of prospects and player development to help us differentiate between what could happen and what should happen.
With all that aside, today we’ll do our best to have 20/20 vision.
5 FOR 2020
Franklyn Kilome is a player who’s becoming harder and harder to avoid hearing about in Phillies farm coverage — and that was before he struck out over 10 batters per nine innings in his first season of single-A ball. He only averaged five innings per start in 2016, but finished the year with starts of seven, six and seven innings and zero earned runs. Scouts like his size, which, at 21, he should start being more comfortable with, as well as his velocity, though he still faces some risk. If he spends a year at each step of the minors, he’ll show up in Citizens Bank Park in 2020.
For a while, Kilome was the low-minors pitching prospect most fans didn’t know about but most prospect writers did. Heading into 2017, righty Sixto Sanchez might be the next member of the same club. At 18, he hasn’t been in the system long, but his good command and 0.50 ERA in 54 innings in the Gulf Coast League last year have earned him favorable projections. He’s been ranked as high as the Phillies fourth prospect and as low as being around their 15th. With this being just his third year in the organization, he will be worth keeping an eye on to see how he progresses, what his next step forward will be, and how his secondary pitches will take shape.
Adonis Medina, another righty pitcher, played all of last year at low-A ball for the first time. Despite undesirable walk and strikeout rates (4.73 and 3.34 per nine innings, respectively), he threw to a 2.92 ERA and saw his value as a prospect climb. Evaluators, fortunately, see things the stat lines don’t, especially at the low minors. They like his easy, smooth delivery and apparent work ethic. He came two outs from a no-hitter for the Crosscutters last season, after which pitching coach Hector Berrios praised his intuition and maturity but also noted his need to find consistency. This isn’t to say he’s secretly flawless, however, as his command is as poor as his BB/9 suggests, but he has a lot of the physical and intellectual makeup to continue rising as a prospect.
Presumably, 2020’s promotions won’t be all pitchers. Outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz might get the call, too, assuming he can diversify his assets, so to speak. Presently, rankings praise his raw power but little else — he hit .231 and struck out 26.9% of the time last season. His .363 wOBA and .202 ISO are more promising, as is the fact that the Phillies believed in him enough to give him a $4 million signing bonus. He has a long swing and a bulky body that makes him look more like a first baseman than an outfielder, and some have suggested the possibility of switching positions. Uncertainty seems to be the most certain thing with Ortiz, with most reports seeing disappointing failure and the rewards of success as equally likely for him.
Daniel Brito is a player the rankings can’t agree on – some sources placing him below 30th on the Phillies prospect lists and others having him better than 20th – but his actual skills stack up favorably. He’s not currently seen as a power threat, which may partly be owed to how slender he is, but is otherwise seen as turning into a well-rounded player. Different reports praise his defense, speed, discipline, and especially his contact. He hasn’t played in single-A yet, but his tool-set could see him rise through the system quickly enough to show up in 2020.
And two more
Kevin Gowdy is worth keeping in mind, but the list is pitching-heavy as it is. Gowdy, taken in the second round of last year’s draft but whose talent might have had him go in the first round some years, was seen during the draft as a relatively refined player who might progress through the minors with some pace. This isn’t to say he’ll be a star, but most reports on him expect him to reach the majors without taking a ton of time to get there.
Cole Stobbe, who has been called both a third baseman and a shortstop, is another who might come up in 2020, but most prospect lists have him below those named above. He’s also only played in the Gulf Coast League, but he’s seen by some as the team’s best third base prospect.