Reading catcher Deivi Grullon is like a lot of recent prospects in the Phillies system: He’s seen his game go to the next level in the upper levels of the minors.
Grullon was signed as a 16-year-old way back on July 2, 2012, out of the Dominican Republic. By age 19 he was in Single-A Lakewood and appeared on the bottom half of several Phillies top-30 prospects lists. Some even thought that Grullon could possibly be Carlos Ruiz’s long-term replacement, but he met some struggles in 2015. Almost three years younger than the average age of players in low-A ball, he struggled, hitting only .221 with 14 passed balls.
By 2016, Grullon disappeared from the top-30 lists and the newly acquired Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, who came out of nowhere and set the world on fire in Reading, captured all the catching hype. Meanwhile Grullon produced well in high-A Clearwater in 2016, hitting .256 with six homers and 20 doubles in only 87 games. In 2017 he reached double-A Reading at age 21. Grullon played only 23 games with Reading then, but he launched four homers.
Like numerous prospects before him, Grullon has found something in Reading that may jump-start his career. Grullon, now 22, returned to Reading this season, but got off to a slow start, hitting only .200 with three home runs in April. Then the calendar turned to May and Grullon exploded. He hit .386 in the month of May, along with seven home runs. For the season he’s hitting .294 with 10 homers and 27 RBI. He has also produced well defensively, throwing out 35 percent of would-be base stealers.
Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s the ballpark, not him. And you have reason to think that way, as we’ve seen Scott Kingery, Dylan Cozens, Darin Ruf, Knapp and numerous others put up eye-popping numbers in Reading only to see them struggle to replicate those stats once they reached triple-A and eventually the majors. Grullon’s hitting numbers show that this isn’t necessarily the case for him: he’s hitting .297 at home (18 games) but is still hitting a solid .290 on the road (16 games). His power numbers may point toward some help at Reading’s hitter-friendly FirstEnergy Stadium, as he’s launched seven homers at home compared to three away.
Grullon still has work to do with his game, especially defensively. He’s already allowed five passed balls this year and has a fielding percentage of .977. He also needs to work on plate discipline as his OBP is only .328 and he has only walked six times. There are similarities to Alfaro here.
If Grullon can continue these offensive numbers, he should find himself in Lehigh Valley sooner rather than later. Once there, he’ll have to work on his play behind the plate and become a more disciplined hitter while showing his stats weren’t a result of Reading. If he can do even some of that, Grullon may be the one backing up Alfaro by 2019. At the very least, he should return to the top-30 list and become an intriguing prospect for trades.