Phillies Prospects 2-10
Age: 24. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: UCLA, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Matt Lundin.
Background: While his Little League teammate Sean Burroughs move from third base to second failed in 2002, Utleys switch from second to third was successful. He also improved his offensive numbers while making the jump from high Class A to Triple-A.
Strengths: Utleys sweet line-drive stroke and alley-to-alley power produced an International League-leading 39 doubles last year. He displayed a solid approach and handled breaking pitches well, especially for a player skipping Double-A. He moved closer to the plate and showed the ability to drive the ball hard to the opposite field. Utleys makeup allowed him to handle the position switch and skip a level at the same time.
Weaknesses: Utley never was a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman, and he wont win the award at the hot corner either. There are questions about his footwork and arm strength at third base. With hard work, he can be an average defender at either position.
The Future: Until the Phillies signed David Bell, Utley was a natural choice to replace Scott Rolen. Its unclear where Utley will play in Triple-A, but hed make a lot of sense as an offensive second baseman.
3. Marlon Byrd, of
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Georgia Perimeter JC, 1999 (10th round). Signed by: Steve Gillispie.
Background: Dont let his Kirby Puckett build fool you. Byrd has 30-30 potential. Hes a gym rat who has worked hard to reshape his body after ballooning to 315 pounds following an accident as a Georgia Tech freshman. Byrd severely injured his right leg after karate-kicking a door in jest, and required three surgeries.
Strengths: Byrd has above-average speed, can hit for average and will show power. He has a working knowledge of the strike zone and uses the entire field. He makes good reads and shows solid range in center field. He works as hard as any player to improve his game every day.
Weaknesses: Byrd focused too much on homers while hitting in the middle of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre order. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and be more aggressive on the bases. He was charged with assault after an August confrontation with his girlfriend. The matter was resolved, and the club hopes hell learn from it.
The Future: Byrd will be an upgrade over Doug Glanville and Ricky Ledee in center fieldr. His experience, maturity and minor league accomplishments should allow him to make the jump to the majors.
4. Taylor Buchholz, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSSpringfield, Pa., 2000 (6th round). Signed by: Ken Hultzapple.
Background: Buchholz commitment to North Carolina caused him to slip in the draft, but the Phillies persuaded the local product to sign by offering him $365,000, equivalent to fourth-round money. After starting his pro career with a 3-13 record, Buchholz rebounded to go 18-12 since.
Strengths: Like Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd, Buchholz has developed into a durable pitcher with the potential for three above-average pitches. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, generating plus life and sitting at 88-93 mph with a high of 96. Buchholz learned a new curveball grip at low Class A Lakewood in 2001, and now his breaking ball has more velocity than Floyds and equal bite. His conditioning, athleticism and sound delivery have made him durable.
Weaknesses: Like Floyd, Buchholz needs to refine his command in the strike zone. He tends to overthrow, causing him to leave his pitches up. His circle changeup is a work in progress.
The Future: Buchholz was knocked around a bit in four late-season starts at Double-A Reading, and will head back there in 2003. He gives the Phillies another potential front-of-the rotation starter.
5. Cole Hamels, lhp
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSSan Diego, 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Darrell Conner.
Background: Some clubs considered Hamels the best pitcher in the 2002 draft, but his medical history allowed the Phillies to get him with the 17th overall pick. He broke the humerus in his left arm as a high school sophomore, but it's not the same injury that ended the careers of major league lefthanders Tom Browning, Dave Dravecky and Tony Saunders. Hamels first injured the arm in an off-field accident before aggravating it while he was pitching. He had surgery performed by the Padres team doctor and rehabbed with pitching guru Tom House, sitting out his junior year but pitching well as a senior.
Strengths: Hamels fastball reaches 93-94 mph with good lefthanded life, though he often pitches closer to 90. He shows exceptional control of his curveball and already has a solid changeup. Hamels has an easy delivery and an advanced feel for pitching.
Weaknesses: The Phillies arent worried about his arm, yet Hamels will have to establish his durability. In any case, he must get stronger.
The Future: Hamels might have a better feel for pitching than Gavin Floyd and Brett Myers did at the same stage of their careers. He could make his pro debut in low Class A and move quickly from there.
6. Ryan Madson, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSMoreno Valley, Calif., 1998 (9th round). Signed by: Jim Fregosi Jr.
Background: Madson followed a breakout 2000 season with a less impressive encore in 2001, missing time with a tired shoulder. He bounced back last year to lead the Double-A Eastern League in victories, ranking second in strikeouts and third in ERA and innings.
Strengths: Despite his size, Madson reaches only the low 90s with his fastball. He struggled in 2001 as he tried to pitch around hitters, but he became more aggressive and worked inside more last season. That made his overhand curveball and changeup, which rates as the organzations best and a major league out pitch, even more effective. Madson keeps the ball down in the zone, enticing groundouts and preventing homers.
Weaknesses: Madson is growing into his 6-foot-6 frame, but still could stand to add some more muscle, especially in his lower half. Theres nothing specific for him to work on mechanically. He just needs the experience of facing hitters at the highest levels.
The Future: Madson doesnt blow hitters away with electric stuff, but he stays around the plate and keeps the ball in the park. He figures to slide into the big league rotation after spending 2003 in Triple-A.
7. Anderson Machado, ss
Age: 22. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165. Signed: Venezuela, 1998. Signed by: Jesus Mendez.
Background: Machados defense has always been first-rate, as he has drawn Dave Concepcion comparisons for his build and actions. The Phillies have waited patiently for his bat to develop, and they were rewarded with his best offensive season in 2002. He has been among the youngest regulars in his league for the last three years.
Strengths: Machado has the hands, arm, range and instincts to play shortstop in the majors right now. He reads the ball off the bat well. His 28 errors last year caused little concern because most were the result of his aggressive nature and confidence in his arm. Machados best offensive tool is plus-plus speed that he easily translates into steals. He also showed improved plate discipline and power in 2002.
Weaknesses: Machado has to prove that his offensive performance wasnt a fluke. His swing mechanics are fine, but he needs to add strength to increase his bat speed and drive balls more often.
The Future: With Jimmy Rollins in place, the Phillies have no need to rush Machado. Hell spend 2003 in Triple-A. He could be the second baseman of the future if Chase Utley cant move back there.
8. Ryan Howard, 1b
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Southwest Missouri State, 2001 (5th round). Signed by: Jerry Lafferty.
Background: Following Rangers prospect Jason Hart as a slugging first baseman at Southwest Missouri State, Howard projected as a 2001 first-round pick. Then he succumbed to draft pressure and batted just .271-13-54 with a school-record 74 strikeouts, so the Phillies landed him that year as a fifth-rounder.
Strengths: Howard shows plus raw power from left-center field to the right-field corner, and he can drive low pitches. He blasted a homer off the batters eye behind the center-field wall 400 feet from home plate in Lakewood. He did a good job of making adjustments during his first full pro season. Howard has good hands and agility for a big man and should become at least an average first baseman.
Weaknesses: Howards swing tends to get long, giving him trouble with breaking balls. He draws walks but must adjust his approach to make more consistent contact. A shorter stroke could boost both his power and average.
The Future: The signing of Jim Thome means Howard will get plenty of time to develop. The large ballparks in the Class A Florida State League will provide a stiff test for Howard and his power in 2003.
9. Elizardo Ramirez, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 145. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1999. Signed by: Wil Tejada.
Background: Ramirez carries the nickname "Easy" because of his arm action and ability to throw strikes. He led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a 1.10 ERA and tossed a two-hit shutout in the playoffs. He has the same body type and command as Pedro Martinez, but he doesnt have nearly the same stuff.
Strength: Ramirez has an exceptional approach, shown by his 73-2 strikeout-walk ratio. He can throw any of his three pitchesa fastball that touches 92 mph, a solid curveball and an average changeupfor strikes. Better yet, Ramirez can place them wherever he wants in the strike zone. Hes unflappable on the mound and demonstrates a great feel for a pitcher his agewhich isnt questioned, except by those who believe the baby-faced pitcher is still a teenager.
Weaknesses: The Phillies want Ramirez to bulk up his slight frame, improving his velocity and durability. He also would benefit from working off his fastball more and using it to set up his offspeed pitches.
The Future: Ramirez has demonstrated the savvy to succeed in the FSL, though the organizations pitching depth may dictate that he at least begins 2003 at Lakewood.
10. Zach Segovia, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSForney, Texas, 2002 (2nd round). Signed by: Paul Scott.
Background: Segovia outpitched Mets first-rounder Scott Kazmir on the 2001 U.S. junior national team, striking out 15 and not allowing an earned run in eight innings at a tournament in Cuba. By getting into better shape as a high school senior, Segovia pitched himself into the second round of the 2002 draft and signed for $712,500. The Phillies hired his high school coach, Ron Ortegon, to manage short-season Batavia in 2002.
Strengths: Segovias fastball sits at 92-93 mph. His best pitch is a tight-breaking slider, but Segovia used it so much that the Phillies took it away from him in the Gulf Coast League. They wanted him to refine his changeup, which improved rapidly. He got his slider back in instructional league, where he dominated by going after hitters with all three pitches.
Weaknesses: While the Phillies like Segovias strength, hes on the thick side and must monitor his weight so he doesnt get soft. He needs to improve his changeup and work off his fastball more often.
The Future: Segovia will spend his first full pro season at Lakewood. If he gets blocked by the starting pitchers ahead of him, he has the approach and stuff to become a future closer.
Best of the Rest
The free-agent signing of third baseman David Bell gives the Phillies enviable depth at third base, even in the wake of Scott Rolens departure. Bells arrival likely will force Chase Utley, who had moved from second base and was being groomed as Rolens replacement, back to the middle of the diamond. Bell still blocks two of the Phillies better power prospects in Juan Richardson and Jake Blalock, however.
Despite having two years added to his age before the 2002 season, Richardson still has promise He hit 15 home runs in the pitcher-friendly high Class A Florida State League in 2002 after socking 22 the year before at low Class A Lakewood. Defensively, Richardson shows a plus arm, good hands and average range. Blalock has as much or more raw power as his brother Hank, a budding star with the Rangers. A 2002 fifth-round pick out of San Diegos Rancho Bernardo High, Blalock has a solid approach for a young hitter, using the whole field and recognizing breaking balls. He has average range and arm strength for a third baseman, and has played on the outfield corners.
The Phillies will be even deeper if Travis Chapman returns. Chapman, who was taken by the Indians in the major league Rule 5 draft and traded to the Tigers, is a career .300 hitter who has added power and plays solid defense.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.
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