As the 2021 regular season quickly approaches, Phillies Nation has updated its rankings of the top 20 prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies minor-league system. This current list was compiled by Phillies Nation‘s Tim Kelly, Destiny Lugardo, Jonny Heller and myself, Ty Daubert.
As stated in our previous prospect lists, assessments of these prospects are based on the play we’ve seen covering these players in-person, analysis of film, conversations with scouts, coaches and other player development personnel and information from outlets such as Baseball America, FanGraphs, Prospects Live and MLB Pipeline.
This list comes out ahead of a crucial year for many prospects throughout baseball. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season in 2020. Some players were invited to the teams’ alternate training sites during the shortened major-league season, while others participated in fall instructional leagues within their own organizations. But for some minor leaguers, 2020 was basically a lost year of development.
The minor leagues, now downsized, restructured and run by Major League Baseball, are scheduled to begin play again in May. The new-look minor leagues will provide the first opportunity to play organized and competitive baseball for an MLB-affiliated team in over a year for many of these players.
Multiple players on this list made their major-league debuts during the 2020 season. Players that have played in the majors but have not yet exceeded their rookie eligibility are still considered prospects.
1. Spencer Howard: RHP
Howard remains the team’s top prospect, despite a disappointing first impression at the major-league level in 2020. He suffered from diminished velocity and could not go deep into his six starts. He had a 5.92 ERA before a right shoulder injury, an issue he also endured in the minor leagues, ended his season.
But all is far from lost when it comes to Howard, who turns 25 in July. His fastball — assuming it’s back up into the upper 90s as it was in the minors — and changeup are two super effective pitches at their best. The right-hander also throws a slider and will mix a curveball into his arsenal. The makings of a future No. 2-type starter are certainly there, with potential for an impactful bullpen role if things do not go as planned. But of course, nothing is guaranteed for a pitcher with a history of arm injuries. Howard will likely not crack the starting rotation to begin this season, but expect him to make an impact during the year in some capacity.
2. Mick Abel: RHP
Abel, the first high school pitcher selected by the Phillies in the opening round of the draft since 2012, has a legitimate ace-level ceiling. His fastball and slider are both plus pitches, and the advanced changeup the right-hander possesses is not seen out of many 19-year-old pitchers. Prep pitchers are probably the riskiest prospects out of any position, but there’s a reason Abel was the first one taken in last year’s draft at No. 15 overall. His professional debut in the minors this season could provide a lot of excitement for what’s to come.
3. Bryson Stott: SS
Earlier this spring training, Bryce Harper called his friend and fellow Las Vegas native Stott “a very good mix of … J.J. Hardy and Brandon Crawford” in the field. To say the least, that’s probably an unfair comparison when considering that Hardy and Crawford are arguably two of the five best defensive shortstops of this century. However, Harper’s offensive comparison of former Angels All-Star Garret Anderson may not be not too far off as long as Stott continues developing. Like Stott, Anderson was a left-handed hitter with gap power that led to a good amount of doubles. The shortstop spent last season at the alternate training site at Lehigh Valley, but likely plays for Double-A Reading for most of the 2021 season.
4. Francisco Morales: RHP
After missing out on having a 2020 minor-league season, Morales showed out at the Phillies’ instructional camp for prospects in the fall. His high-powered fastball and slider could play out of a major-league bullpen right this moment, but the 21-year-old will continue developing as a starting pitcher. He’s shown promising flashes of an exciting starter in the lower minors, striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings, and could get a chance to pitch at the Double-A level at some point this season.
5. Rafael Marchan: C
Marchan showed his floor as a prospect last season when he was called up to back up catcher Andrew Knapp when J.T. Realmuto was injured. He proved to be a reliable backup catcher with solid receiving abilities and a strong arm. He’s also a switch hitter who has above average bat-to-ball skills. If Marchan can keep his smoothness defensively while adding some power at the plate in the minor leagues this year, there’s a good chance another team could be interested in looking at him as candidate to be their starting catcher in the future.
6. Connor Brogdon: RHP
As the Phillies slowly lost their chances of making the playoffs at the end of last season, the right-handed Brogdon was one of the bright spots of the team. Really finding his changeup to go along with his hard four-seamer, he didn’t allow a single run in his last six appearances, pitching over an inning in three of them. The 26-year-old now appears to be a lock for the bullpen this season and a potential closer candidate in the near future.
7. Mickey Moniak: OF
The 2016 first overall pick has been considered a bust by some, but a strong spring training may have changed some minds. He’s batting .273 with two home runs and a 1.112 OPS in 26 plate appearances. Moniak can get the bat on the ball consistently, and is continuing to add power and plate discipline. He is also well beyond capable of playing all three outfield spots with a solid arm and range. Although he made his major-league debut last season, Moniak will benefit from everyday playing time in Triple-A this year. But if the improvements seen this spring can stick, don’t count him out of the (potentially) open left- and center-field spots next season.
8. Luis Garcia: SS
The 2021 season should be a big one for Garcia. After a very successful 17-year-old season in 2018 at the rookie level, he could not handle the much tougher Low-A competition the next season. Garcia is now 20, and will start minor-league play back up much stronger than he was as a teenager. He is a contact hitter with the ability to play three infield positions.
9. Johan Rojas: OF
Rojas has some of the most interesting tools in the organization, especially in the speed and power department. He’s able to cover the ground needed to play all three outfield positions while sporting a strong arm as well. He’s just 20 years old, and, if he’s able to become more selective at the plate, could hit a lot of doubles and triples as he makes his way through the system.
10. Casey Martin: SS
Martin, selected in the third round of last year’s draft out of Arkansas, is another player with an intriguing combination of speed and power. The concern with Martin, however, is that he tends to strike out at a high rate. He should still be able to hit the ball out of the ballpark and play just about any combination of shortstop, second base, third base, left field and center field, but his offensive game would be much more polished if he made more contact.
11. JoJo Romero: LHP
The left-hander went from a soft-tossing junkballer as a starter in the minor leagues to a Redbull-smashing flamethrower out of the bullpen last season, completely changing the trajectory of his career. He stuck with the fastball/slider/changeup arsenal, and averaged 95.3 mph on his four-seam fastball, according to Statcast. He did have a 7.59 ERA in 12 outings in 2020, but showed enough of his stuff to become a virtual lock to be a lefty reliever in the majors at some point this year.
12. Erik Miller: LHP
The 2019 fourth rounder out of Stanford advanced to Low-A by the end of his first season in the minors. He then impressed in the instructional league in Clearwater at the end of 2020. Miller, 23, is a hard throwing lefty with a hard slider, a curveball and a changeup. If he can rely on all three offspeed pitches consistently, he should be able to remain a starter but could also move to the bullpen if needed.
13. Simon Muzziotti: OF
Muzziotti is an excellent runner, both on the basepaths and in the outfield. He is a natural center fielder who can track down fly balls to both sides. The 22-year-old hits for contact well but does not give much power. Like Moniak, Muzziotti could be a candidate for a regular outfield role next season if he plays well.
14. Kendall Simmons: SS
After hitting 12 home runs in 51 games for Williamsport in 2019, Simmons worked on some swing changes this past summer to continue building success. He worked on creating a more compact swing to reduce strikeouts, but it remains to be seen how these adjustments will play out over the course of a season. Simmons, who turns 21 in April, also has speed and the ability to play shortstop, second base and third base.
15. Ramón Rosso: RHP
Rosso became a reliever last year, and pitched well enough before the season that he made the major-league roster on opening day. The regular season did not go as well for the right-hander, but he has pitched five scoreless innings this spring. His slider and fastball with hard cutting action will make him a compelling bullpen option.
16. Yhoswar Garcia: CF
Garcia’s minor-league debut will be another key one to watch this season. The 19-year-old is a quick center fielder with a feel for making contact. Garcia did not participate in the instructional league in the fall, so seeing what he can do in his first season in the minors with the Phillies will be fairly highly anticipated.
17. Nick Maton: SS
Maton will serve as a minor-league infielder, with the potential to get called up if the team needs an infielder on the bench since he is on the 40-man roster. The 24-year-old has mainly played shortstop in his career, but has some experience at second and third. His left-handed bat won’t provide much power, but Maton is a solid contact hitter and draws walks. He likely ends up a utility infielder in the future.
18. Adonis Medina: RHP
Formerly one of the higher-ranking pitchers in the system, Medina hasn’t really been seriously considered for the Phillies’ fifth starter opening throughout this spring by the organization. The writing is on the wall that — at least for now — the 24-year-old is not in the team’s starting pitching plans outside of a possible spot start opportunity similar to the one he had last season. Perhaps his fastball, sinker and slider could play up out of the bullpen if the team tried him there, but Medina likely serves as depth in the Triple-A rotation.
19. Damon Jones: LHP
Jones is a left-hander with big stuff, but hasn’t been able to break into the major leagues as a starting pitcher or a reliever. His control issues have been noted, but the hard fastball and slider are too impressive to completely give up on. He is on the 40-man roster now which gives him a better shot of making his debut this year, but another team could very well try to acquire the 26-year-old if not.
20. Logan O’Hoppe: C
Last year was an interesting one for the young catcher who had never played above the short-season Single-A level. He trained with the major-league team at its summer camp ahead of the shortened season. O’Hoppe then spent the rest of his season at the alternate training site, turning some heads with his offensive production. The 21-year-old has legitimate developing pop in his bat, and can take some unique experience with him as he begins his first full season in the minors.
This story was updated on Sunday, March 28, following the report of former Phillies infield prospect C.J. Chatham’s release from Matt Gelb of The Athletic.
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