Minor Leagues

Howard, Bohm continue to top Phillies prospect lists


Spencer Howard is one of the Phillies top prospects. (Steven Kiebach)

Although the Philadelphia Phillies don’t play a regular season game for another four months, there is a lot going on in the organization. They have a new manager in Joe Girardi, a new pitching coach in Bryan Price and continue to search for a hitting coach.

In addition to the coaching changes, a number of Phillies top prospects participated in the Arizona Fall League, which concluded at the end of October. Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard have been the two big name prospects for the Phillies in 2019 and will continue to be through the offseason and into Spring Training.

Aside from those guys, who are the top prospects in the organization, though? There has been plenty of criticism going around about the Phillies inability to draft and get value in the international market. Sure, Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, Cesar Hernandez and Seranthony Dominguez have made impacts at the major league level, but there has been a true shortage of talent coming from the minor leagues to Philadelphia over the past decade.

The lack of development in the minor leagues has put the Phillies in a position to have to dip their feet deep into free agency. It’s a bit different than how their 2008 World Championship team was built — primarily from within. Having a depth issue in the minors not only puts you in a situation to rely on free agents, but it also hinders you from making trades if your young talent is not producing.

As the Phillies continue to try and turn things around behind their new head of amateur scouting, Brian Barber, their current top prospects aim to progress in their development and ideally reverse the poor outlook that has been plaguing Philadelphia’s minor league system for a while now.

Each year, Baseball America releases a number of prospect lists for each time. The first one of the offseason has been unveiled for the Phillies and beyond the top three guys, there are a lot of question marks.

1. Spencer Howard (RHP) – Howard is one of four right-handers on the Phillies top 10 prospect list heading into the offseason. Following a an injury stint with shoulder soreness, Howard returned to the field with reckless abandon, putting together a tremendous 2019 campaign. Between four minor league levels, Howard posted a 3-1 record to go a long with a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts. He continued his success in six Arizona Fall League outings, allowing five runs in 21.1 innings, striking out 27 and walking 10. Expect Howard to get a hard look during Spring Training with a high likelihood of a major league debut in 2020.

Here’s a snippet of his scouting report from Baseball America:

Howard has a starter’s build and the potential for three above-average or better offspeed pitches, although the consistency of his breaking balls varies dramatically. His 93-99 mph fastball is a reliable, plus-plus weapon. He’s touched triple-digits and, unlike many fireballers, can stay on the edges of the strike zone. Howard’s mid-80s changeup was below-average when he signed, started flashing average last year and by the end of 2019 it was regularly flashing plus thanks to solid deception and some late tumble. He can break off a swing-and-miss curveball as well, although it’s not all that reliable.

Alec Bohm is the Phillies No. 1 hitting prospect (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

2. Alec Bohm (3B) – In just his second professional season in the Phillies organization, Bohm looks like the next strong hitter to come out of the minor league system. After slashing .252/.335/.324 in 40 games during the 2018 season, Bohm improved in nearly every area. Between three minor league levels, he slashed .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs and 80 RBIs. He finished the season in Reading, where he hit 14 homers a posted a strong OBP of .344, walking 28 times to 38 strikeouts. Bohm was one of the offensive stars of the Arizona Fall League, hitting .361 in 19 games, tallying 38 total bases. Don’t rule out Bohm starting the 2020 season as the Phillies starting third baseman, especially if he has a strong spring.

The long-limbed Bohm has a straightforward swing that generates plenty of long fly balls. He has good plate coverage and uses the entire field, with the power to hit the ball out to center and right field. He has solid strike zone awareness and shows solid barrel control despite a long swing and long levers. He projects be an above-average hitter with above-average power.  He most likely will end up as an average defender at first, although he could equal or top Rhys Hoskins’ efforts in left field.

Bryson Stott was drafted by the Phillies in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft. (UNLV)

3. Bryson Stott (SS) – The Phillies top pick from 2019 came into the organization after leading all Division I hitters in doubles (30) in his sophomore season at UNLV. He played 44 games with Philadelphia’s Short Season affiliate in Williamsport, PA, hitting .274 with eight doubles, two triples, five home runs and 24 RBIs. Stott posted an on-base percentage of .391, which will likely drop in his second season as he progresses through the system. Expect Stott to start in either Class ‘A’ Lakewood or Advanced ‘A’ Clearwater in 2020.

Stott has few clear weaknesses, but also few standout tools. He quickly showed that he can string together tough at-bats. He knows the strike zone and punishes mistakes. He can be beat by high heat but rarely chases pitches out of the zone. Stott’s plate coverage needs to improve because he’ll sometimes get pull-happy even though he has the strength to drive the ball to the opposite field. He has average bat speed. Defensively, Stott has continued to improve. He has a shortstop’s easy actions and above-average range to go with an above-average arm.

4. Francisco Morales (RHP) – The 20-year-old native of Venezuela was signed by the Phils as an international free agent in 2016. Morales came out of the international market with the best fastball in his class and per Baseball America, it’s only gotten better. He played his first full professional season after spending time in the GCL and Williamsport in 2017 and 2018. During the 2019 campaign in Lakewood, Morales posted a 3.82 ERA in 27 games (15 starts), striking out 129 batters while walking 46.

Morales has a simple delivery, which utilizes a modest hip turn to load to his balance point on the rubber before exploding to the plate. When he repeated his delivery and stayed on top of his release point, he dominated hitters with his 93-97 mph fastball and plus 85-89 mph slider. Morales’ changeup remains more of an idea than a usable pitch—it’s hard (86-88 mph) without much action or deception. Morales throws enough strikes but his command needs to improve.

5. Adonis Medina (RHP) – Medina has been in the Phillies organization since 2014 and slowly made his way to the top of their prospect charts only to stumble over the past two seasons. In 2017, his first year of full season ball, Medina posted a 3.01 ERA in 22 starts, tallying 133 strikeouts and walking just 39. He held the opposition to a .227 average. That has gotten worse in each of the past two years, with opponents hitting a combined .245 and .254 against him in 2018 and 2019, respectively. This past season with Double- A Reading, Medina posted a 4.94 ERA in 22 games (21 starts), but was abysmal in the second half, where he sported an ERA of 6.75. With his regression, it makes sense for Medina to start the 2020 season back with Reading to try and regain some of his successes from seasons past. Left-handers were especially good against Medina in 2019, slashing .302/.385/.473

Medina still has the ingredients to end up as a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter. He sits 91-96 mph with an above-average fastball that has average life. His slider will sporadically flash the two-plane tilt that can make it a true weapon, but too often he gets on the side of it and it becomes a slurvier pitch. His fringe-average changeup, which has long flashed plus potential, has not developed into a true weapon. Instead, more advanced hitters have found he struggles to throw it for strikes, so they can quickly recognize and eliminate the pitch. 

6. Rafael Marchan (C) – Signed out of Venezuela in 2015, Marchan has improved defensively as a catcher, but has yet to find any sort of power stroke. In 85 minor league games, Marchan has yet to hit a home run. The 20-year-old switch-hitter slashed .261/.333/.325 between Lakewood and Clearwater in 2019. He struggled in a pitcher friendly Florida State League, hitting just .231 with a .291 on-base percentage with Clearwater. Marchan will almost definitely head back to Clearwater to start the 202 season.

Marchan’s an excellent defensive catcher with few weaknesses behind the plate. He is an agile backstop with soft, quiet hands that pluck strikes from the bottom and sides of the strike zone. He also embraces the challenge of working with pitchers on calling a good game. He also has an accurate, plus arm that can produce 1.9-second pop times. Marchan’s glove is going to need to be excellent because he doesn’t provide much value as a hitter.

7. Luis Garcia (SS) – At just 19 years of age, Garcia ranked as the 12th best prospect in a 2017 international class that also included the likes of Wander Franco and Julio Rodriguez. After winning the GCL batting title in 2018 with a .369 average in 43 games, he came back to Earth in a bad way in 2019. It was his first full season and he managed a .186 average, which was 10th worst among all minor league hitters with 400+ plate appearances, per Baseball America. His .255 on-base percentage was fifth-worst. There’s no doubt that Garcia will spent 2020 back in Lakewood with Bryson Stott having the potential to skip a level and go straight to Clearwater.

Garcia’s lack of physicality was apparent all season—he didn’t get steadily better as he caught up to the league. Instead, he hit below .200 in all but one month of the season. He puts together solid at-bats, has excellent hand-eye coordination is and he has solid pitch recognition for his age. Because of a lack of snap in his wrists, Garcia simply doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to make pitchers respect him. When pitchers challenge him, he makes a lot of soft contact. Outfielders played him shallow because they didn’t need to worry about him hitting it over their heads.

8. Enyel De Los Santos (RHP) – The 6-foot-3 right-hander out of the Dominican is the only player on the top 10 list that has seen time in the big leagues. He came to Philadelphia in a trade that sent Freddy Galvis to San Diego and looked like a solid addition after finishing second in the Triple-A International League in ERA in 2018. Unfortunately, that success didn’t roll over to 2019. He started 19 games for the Ironpigs, posting an ERA of 4.40, while also making five appearances for the Phillies, where the opposition hit .317 off of him.

To be able to establish roots in Philadelphia, de los Santos is going to need to show he can locate his 92-98 mph above-average fastball to both sides of the plate. His control is fine, but his command is below-average. His fastball has exceptional armside run, but that run means when he tries to get to the outer corner against righthanded hitters the ball often leaks back over the middle of the plate. It’s more effective when it runs in on righthanders.

9. Mickey Moniak (OF) – Moniak, 21, is one of the most talked about Phillies prospect having been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. Over his four years in the Phillies system, he hasn’t done much to live up to that reputation, but in 2019, he made strides with Double-A Reading. Although he hit just .252, Moniak posted career highs in triples (13), RBIs, (67), walks (33), runs (63) and slugging percentage (.439). Moniak hit a combined .291 with 27 RBIs between May and June before cooling off. He struggled in the Arizona Fall League, hitting just .186 in 70 at-bats. Despite that, there’s a good chance he begins the 2020 season in Triple-A.

Scouts regularly note that if you forget that Moniak went 1-1, he’s an OK prospect as a potential fourth outfielder. Moniak provides a reasonably well-rounded tool set, although there are no plus tools. He has gotten strong enough to project fringe-average power. He has some ability to put barrel on ball with a pull-heavy approach that suits his swing and his power, but he doesn’t draw walks and it’s hard to see him posting even league-average on-base percentages.

10. Nick Maton (SS) – Selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft, Maton has shown improvement at nearly every level until he got to Double-A towards the end of 2019. In 93 games with Clearwater, Maton slashed .276/.358/.380 with 13 doubles, five home runs and 45 RBIs. He finished the season in Reading, where he’ll almost definitely start in 2020, and hit .210. Still, he drew nine walks and has posted an OBP over .330 at every other level until Double-A, which doesn’t yet have a large enough sample size.

Maton needs to continue to get stronger, but he’s developed some wiry power, giving him a chance to hit 10-12 home runs down the road. He’s altered his setup to try to hit the ball in the air—he now lays his bat across his shoulder to begin his swing. Maton’s bat speed is average, but he’s consistently shown that he can catch up to premium velocity —in fact he seems to prefer when a pitcher tries to blow him away. Maton has gone from being a reliable defender with limited range to a reliable defender with average range at second or shortstop who can sometimes make a highlight-level play. 

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