Prospect writer Alec Whitaker is back with a preview of the Phils’ full-season minor league affiliates.
The Major League season may already be week old, but the minor league season is just getting started. The Phillies have top prospects scattered all over the system, so let’s take a look at who is where and what to expect.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (AAA)
Last season, this squad was carried by a high-powered lineup that included Jorge Alfaro, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery; those five are now starters for the big club. This year the triple-A team will be led by a solid rotation. The group includes Zach Eflin, who is no longer considered a prospect; Enyel De Los Santos, who was acquired in the Freddy Galvis trade and is the team’s No. 15 prospect; Tom Eshelman, the No. 16 prospect; Cole Irvin, the No. 26 prospect; and No. 25 Drew Anderson. Notable position players include outfielders Roman Quinn (No. 17) and Dylan Cozens (No. 19). Quinn almost made the majors out of camp while Cozens is trying to bounce back from a bad 2017 season in which he hit .210 and struck out 194 times. This club won’t be as good as last year, but the starting rotation should keep them competitive.
Reading Fightin’ Phils (AA)
This team fell plenty short of Eastern League contention after having really good rosters in 2015 and 2016. This should be a bounce-back year for Reading with a loaded rotation, hitters with upside and big arms in the pen. The rotation includes the top lefty in the Phils system, No. 9 JoJo Romero; big righty Franklyn Kilome (No. 10); Ranger Suarez, the No. 12 prospect; plus Harold Arauz and Jake Waguespack. Elniery Garcia is currently injured, but he will join the rotation later in the year. Phillies No. 13 prospect Seranthony Dominguez will come out of the bullpen, and he will likely dominate with his velocity (upper 90s). Position players include former first-round pick and No. 18 prospect, outfielder Cornelius Randolph, who is looking to stay healthy and show he can be a major league player. Malquin Canelo will be slotted in at shortstop, and there’s Deivi Grullon at catcher, both once considered top-30 prospects in the system. This group may get some reinforcements later in the year if Adonis Medina and Sixto Sanchez join the rotation, and if Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley join the outfield. This Reading team may struggle offensively, but they won’t be giving up many runs.
Clearwater Threshers (A+)
Personally, I think this squad will be the most exciting in the system. The rotation is led by Phillies top prospect, teenage superstar Sixto Sanchez. He is joined by No. 4 prospect Adonis Medina and No. 24 McKenzie Mills. J.D. Hammer, the No. 29 prospect, will be in the bullpen. Former first-overall pick and Phillies No. 5 prospect Mickey Moniak will man center field; he’ll be joined in the outfield by last year’s first-round pick, No. 6 Adam Haseley. Other position players include shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa, the No. 11 prospect; and infielder Jose Gomez (No. 20). Moniak has the most to prove after a disappointing season last year, in which he only hit .236. This squad will be very competitive in the Florida State League, although I do believe Medina and Haseley will end the season in Reading, with Moniak and Sanchez having a chance to join them. They may get some additions of their own if Jhailyn Ortiz and Daniel Brito tear it up in low-A.
Lakewood BlueClaws (A)
The low-A team will be led by slugger Jhailyn Ortiz, who is now the Phillies No. 8 prospect, and has a chance to break out this year as I discussed last month. Joining Ortiz in the lineup will be second baseman Daniel Brito, the No. 14 prospect who is looking for a breakout season of his own. The rotation will be headlined by last year’s second-round pick and No. 23 prospect Spencer Howard. This group is thin with top talent to start the year, but the hope is that No. 21 prospect, the 6’10” lefty Kyle Young, and 2016 second-rounder Kevin Gowdy will get a taste of low-A ball by the end of the year.
The Phillies have even more talent in the rookie levels of the minors with the aforementioned Young and Gowdy, who will start in Williamsport, and No. 27, shortstop Luis Garcia; and No. 22, pitcher Francisco Morales, who will start in the Gulf Coast League.
The Phillies have depth in the minors and at all different levels; the job that Ruben Amaro Jr. started and Matt Klentak continued may be finally completed. This year will be a big year for numerous Phillies prospects – most notably Moniak, who must rise to the expectations that come with being a first-overall pick. Overall, it should be a very exciting year for the Phillies minor league affiliates.