Something that should be becoming quite clear to Phillies fans is that the division-rival and defending NL East Division champion Atlanta Braves are not going away anytime soon.
And unlike the Phillies, who opened John Middleton‘s deep pockets to bolster their lineup this past off-season, it’s not their wallet that built their ball club. Instead, a deep and plentiful Braves farm system continues to produce top talent.
While the Phillies will have Bryce Harper for the next dozen years and will have strong players such as Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, and Zach Eflin under control for the next handful of seasons, they are going to need young, inexpensive talent to help them compete with Atlanta over the coming decade of the 2020’s.
Just take a look at the talent which the Braves have either developed out of their own farm system or traded for in recent years. In the lineup you have the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year in 21-year-old stud outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. And there are also second baseman Ozzie Albies (22), shortstop Dansby Swanson (25), and the current left fielder who will be the future third baseman in 22-year-old Austin Riley.
Their top prospect, exciting 20-year-old outfielder Cristian Pache, has been called the best defensive outfielder in the minor leagues, and his bat is now catching up to the point where he is being projected as a potential big-league All-Star caliber player in the future.
On the mound, Atlanta boasts a boat-load of options at age 26 or younger who could start: Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara and more. All of them are either in the big-leagues already or are nearly set for their first opportunity. Frankly, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches in minor league talent.
How can the Phillies possibly keep up, as Atlanta continues to bring wave after wave of young, talented ball players to their club over the coming months and years? Certainly they can spend money. But that won’t be enough. The Phillies need to start developing and bringing up their own talented youngsters from the minor leagues as well.
Having the following 3-4 prospects develop into above-average big-league players would go a long way toward allowing the Phillies to remain competitive in the National League East Division for the long haul. If they do not, or others do not emerge from the system to become championship-caliber players, then all of the money in the world won’t be enough to consistently field a winner in Philadelphia.
1. Alec Bohm
It should be no surprise that the organization’s top prospect sits at the top of this list. The 2018 first round draft choice has been phenomenal in his first full year as a pro. In 59 games between Low-A and High-A, Bohm is slashing .332/.398/.518 with a .916 OPS. He’s hit six home runs along with 18 doubles and three triples. He’s driven in 33 runs and has walked 27 times compared to 34 strikeouts.
The biggest concern regardin Bohm was his defense at third base. But the Phillies now seem to be pleased with his development there, and named him their Minor League Fielder of the Month for May.
The 22-year-old seems destined for Double-A Reading by season’s end, and that’s a very good thing for the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a dilemma at third base. Maikel Franco‘s hot start has faded and he has hit just .162 since the start of May with only two home runs.
The Phillies seemd to be planning to use Scott Kingery there more, but Odubel Herrera‘s domestic violence arrest and Andrew McCutchen‘s ACL injury have forced Gabe Kapler to turn Kingery into his primary center fielder. In the short-term, Kingery could still see plenty of time at the hot corner if Roman Quinn can return soon.
Bohm is the total package offensively. He hits for power and average, and has great plate discipline. I have to think that the Phillies envision a future 3-4-5 lineup of Harper, Hoskins, and Bohm.
Coming out of college, Bohm drew comparisons to the Tigers’ Nick Castellanos, who has a .273 batting average for his career and has averaged 20 home runs, 39 doubles, and 83 RBIs per 162 games. I think the Phillies would be pleased to get that kind of production from their third baseman. It would be a level of production that the ball club hasen’t seen from that position since the days of Scott Rolen.
Bohm will not solve any of the Phillies problems this year, but it’s not unreasonable to believe that he could have an impact on the Phillies starting lineup at some point in 2020 should he continue this level of production and current developmental path in the minors.
It doesn’t matter which one it is, but one of the Phillies top two pitching prospects needs to at least turn into a solid mid-rotation starter, if not more. The Phillies sorely need starting pitching, and over-paying for Jake Arrieta seems to have back-fired.
The Phillies already have Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin in the fold, and now perhaps Nick Pivetta as well, as long-term reliable pieces. But it would be nice to have another young arm with years of control in the rotation that they can rely upon.
Medina is currently enjoying a hot streak at Double-A Reading with a 1.24 ERA over his last five outings. For the season, the 22-year-old has a 3.32 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP while pitching his home games in the hitter-friendly First Energy Stadium. Medina could be on the verge of a promotion to Triple-A if he can continue his dominance for a few more starts, putting him one step away from Philly.
Howard isn’t enjoying success currently because he is on the IL with a shoulder injury. Over four starts before this injury, Howard had a 2.25 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 20 innings in High-A ball at Clearwater. A hard thrower with a four-pitch arsenal who can reach 98 MPH with his fastball, his biggest flaw seemed to be his control. But Howard only had four walks in those four starts, so even that concern may be lessening.
The injury is obviously the major concern at this point for the 22-year-old. But if he can come back and return to a high level of performance this season, that would be a success. Per Tony Bps at Prospects 1500 just about 10 days ago: “The shoulder soreness isn’t considered to be serious but the organization isn’t taking any chances and won’t rush him back.”
Both Medina and Howard have a ceiling as a front-line starter, with Medina having the higher floor. Medina is also further along in his development, having been in the organization since he was a teenager and also having stayed relatively healthy throughout his career.
Chances are that Medina will be the first of the two to get a chance to make an impact in Philadelphia. If at least one of the them can become a legitimate front-line starter, the Phillies will be in a great position with their rotation going forward.
3. Adam Haseley
Haseley is currently on the IL with a hip injury, but Phillies fans did get a glimpse of what he can bring to the table in their series against the San Diego Padres earlier this month. With the ACL injury combined with the fact that he’s not an everyday center fielder anymore, plus the likelihood that Herrera may never return, the Phillies are going to need Haseley. They aren’t only going to need him for the latter part of this year, but for the foreseeable future as well.
Haseley is a well-rounded player who makes consistent contact to all fields. He also adds in some pop and has great plate discipline, and provides stellar defense.
Drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Haseley quickly rose through the system, making it to the big-leagues, albeit due to an emergency, in just two years.
The 23-year-old doesn’t project as a superstar, but does have the makings of a solid center fielder capable of doing numerous things to help his team win. Sounds a bit like former Phillies center fielders Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand.
Just take a look at the last game Haseley appeared in before going down with the injury. Trailing by three runs in the top of the 7th inning, Haseley worked a one-out walk. That led to a three-run rally which tied the game at 5-5.
Then in the following inning, with two outs and a runner on first, Haseley got his first career hit on a double down the third base line. Kingery came around from first to score and the Phillies went on to win by a 7-5 score. The Phillies probably do not win that game without Haseley.
Bohm. Haseley. Medina. Howard. They are four of the Phillies current top five prospects according to Major League Baseball. Having them reach the big-leagues over the next year or two and produce quickly would greatly improve the team’s chances of contending well into the next decade. Without it, spending money to keep up is going to be extremely difficult.
MORE PROSPECT/MINORS NEWS FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Larry Shenk’s Phillies Minor League Report: 6/15/19
- Williamsport Crosscutters open the 2019 New York-Penn League season
- 2019 MLB Draft Review: Phillies select 40 players
- Former coaches laud Phillies top draft pick Bryson Stott as a “gem”
- Adonis Medina shining on the mound at Double-A Reading
- Five Phillies prospects who are deserving of more love
- Phillies Top 20 Prospects: April 2019