Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Phillies Farm Lacks Quality Depth

ESPN's resident expert on baseball prospecting, Keith Law, released his Major League Baseball organization prospect talent rankings today. 
The Phillies were ranked just 25th of the 30 MLB clubs in terms of that minor league talent. That low ranking reflects the quality depth in the Phillies farm system.
Few would dispute that the Phillies have a handful of legitimate highly thought-of baseball prospects. 
But beyond that top four of shortstop J.P. Crawford, 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, and pitchers Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin, there are few prospects who can be considered much more than longshots at this point. 
The evaluators at MLB Pipeline have ranked Crawford the #5 shortstop, no embarrassment since the first four are among the game's top 10-15 overall prospects. Franco is the #5 ranked 3rd base prospect. Nola at #43 is the only other Phils prospect besides those two ranked in their Top 100 overall in the game today.
If you toss in CF Roman Quinn, ranked 4th in the organization by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, and ranked 9th in the organization in the TBOH Phillies Top 10 Prospects released last month, as well as pitchers Tom WindleJesse Biddle, and Ben Lively, you get about 8 prospects who most sources feel good about at this stage of their development.
Beyond those 8 players, there are few who elicit excitement outside the Phillies organization and those talent evaluators closest to the team. 
Over at the website That Ball's Outta Here, where the rankings were released prior to the trade acquisition of Lively, who clearly would have made our Top 10, we ranked outfielders Carlos Tocci (6), Dylan Cozens (7), and lefty pitcher Matt Imhof (8) on our list.
The problem for the Phillies is that beyond those first 8 players, there are about as many opinions on both the current talents and the long-term possibilities of the rest of the players as there are stars in the sky. Not only are there no sure things, there are tremendous question marks.
 "It's a very, very bad system." ~ Josh Norris, Baseball America
When asked in a chat format with fans following the release of their Phillies prospects Top 10 about the state of the system in comparison to others, Baseball America's Josh Norris commented "It's a very, very bad system." 
When asked about so-called "untouchable" prospects, Norris later commented "The only guys I’d be really hesitant to move are the top three: Crawford, Nola and Franco, and even Franco would be available in the right deal."
In fairness to the Phils, almost every organization is similar. There are a handful of top talents, and then a drop-off to kids with question marks, and then a further drop-off to what can only be generously called suspects. 
But most organizations either simply have more top talents than the Phils, or an overall deeper pool of non-suspect talents, or both.
Phillies Farm Crawford
SS J.P. Crawford is the consensus Phils top prospect (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
As we noted in our commentary on current club president Pat Gillick, this failure to develop productive prospects from the minor leagues to supplement the current aging core of once-greats is a key factor in the current dismal situation facing the organization. 
The Phillies need to make better draft picks, and need to do a better job in developing them into major league players.
Phillies fans and some local talent evaluators may not like it, but Law's assessment of the organizational minor league talent is fair. Even if the club could rank a half-dozen places higher on some other evaluator's list, it wouldn't be much higher. 
There is a lot of work to be done to turn the Phillies ship around, and a good portion of that needs to be done in the scouting department and at the minor league levels.

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