Ben Badler: I loved writing up this system. I also sort of hated it by the time I got to the back end of their Top 30 because there's another 15 or so prospects who would fit comfortably in the Top 30 of another team that I had to leave out. All the trades and a strong international program help create that type of depth. A lot of prospects to talk about in this organization, so let's get started.
Karl of Delaware (Delaware): Name a sleeper from the low low minors - lower than fuil season.
Ben Badler: Is Daniel Brito still considered a sleeper? I ran him up our GCL Top 20 list already, but there's a lot to like with Brito. High contact hitter with the ability to hit all types of pitches and control the strike zone with good defense at second base. He's super skinny and waiting on mother nature to help him fill out and develop, but I could see him jumping into their Top 10 next year.
Rob (Toronto, ON): Is Mickey Moniak a future all-star or steady regular?
Ben Badler: I think he can be a star. Not many weaknesses in his game.
John Wahoski (Boston): How confident are you that Franklyn Kilome will stick as a starter? And is it a consensus opinion that Sixto Sanchez has more potential than Kilome? Is that why he is ranked higher?
Ben Badler: I think Kilome is a starter. He needs to throw the changeup more to develop that pitch and improve his fastball command, but there's nothing with him that screams reliever. You can make a good argument either way on Sanchez vs. Kilome, but I have Sanchez ahead because Sanchez's stuff across the board is better, he has better command, an easier delivery and he's a better athlete. Kilome is a little further along, but they're only going to be a level apart this year, and Sanchez's command is good enough that they might be teammates by the end of the year. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Sanchez ended up getting to the big leagues faster than Kilome despite Kilome’s head start.
Jeff (Lakewood): Where does SAL K leader Jose Taveraz rank?
Ben Badler: Taveras is in the Top 30. No true 60 pitch, but his combination of size, deception and extension he generates makes his fastball sneak up on hitters faster than the radar gun suggests it should. Then he keeps hitters off balance with a solid changeup and fills the strike zone, which allowed him to pick apart Low-A hitters. He should breeze through High-A this year and will probably face his next big test once he gets to Double-A to see if he can keep fooling more advanced hitters, but man, that's already $5,000 well spent by the Phillies.
Nate (Denver): No Adonis Medina? I assume he just missed the cut, and its more indicative of how good the system is, correct?
Ben Badler: Part of it is the system, part of it is that Medina still has quite a bit to work on to get better finish on his offspeed stuff. Good athlete with a repeatable delivery, quick arm and a lively fastball, but he doesn't have a true out pitch among his secondary pitches right now, which is why he only had 4.7 K/9 in the NY-Penn League. Good prospect, but that’s something he needs to improve.
Kevin (Lake Tahoe): What do we even make of Mark Appel at this point?
Ben Badler: There's about a billion Mark Appel questions in here. He's been a disappointment relative to where he was drafted, but I do think there's a major league future for him. The injury is a setback, but h still shows two pitches that grade out plus or better in his fastball and slider, and the fastball still touches the upper-90s. I would like to see him follow the footsteps of guys like Wade Davis, Dellin Betances and Luke Hochevar as longer-limbed pitchers who struggled as starters into their mid-20s, then moved to the bullpen where the stuff ticked up and the light bulb went on. The problem for that with Appel is that a lot of his struggles come out of the stretch when he has to pitch with runners on base. The Phillies are planning to keep him as a starter, but I would be very intrigued to see if he could transform his career letting the stuff play up in short stints.
Mike (New York City): Ben, did the Phillies make a wise choice in drafting Kevin Gowdy where they did?
Ben Badler: I liked the pick and came close to putting Gowdy in the Top 10. Starter's mix with a chance for three average to plus pitches, he's athletic with a simple, easy delivery and good command for his age.
Lorenzo De Castro (Philippines, Muntinlupa): Why is Rhys Hoskins ranked higher than teammate Dylan Cozens. This isn't taking away anything from Hoskins who had a great season this year too but Dylan Cozens had an arguably better year and plays a more premium position (Corner Outfield) compared to Hoskins position (1B)
Ben Badler: There's a big split camp from scouts who saw that club on which player they preferred, and a wide range of opinions internally at BA on where we wanted to put those two players. For me, Hoskins is the better hitter with fewer major risk factors. Hoskins has his doubters, but he's hit well everywhere he's gone, the power is real, he has a patient approach and he doesn't have Cozens' alarming strikeout rate. There's definitely a concern he could end up more of a 4A guy like a Jerry Sands, Ryan Strieby type, but I don't see bat speed as a concern with him, and I think there's a path for him to become an average to perhaps better everyday guy at first base. Cozens has louder tools, bigger raw power, but there are a lot of holes in that swing, especially trying to cover a big strike zone like he has, that it's going to be hard to cut down on all the swing-and-miss, especially as he faces better pitching.
Brian (Philly): Thanks Ben. Is there anybody who wasn't stateside this year that we should watch out for?
Ben Badler: Jonathan Guzman. True shortstop with great feel for the barrel. He'll play next year as a 17-year-old in the GCL.
Matt (Scranton, PA): I realize it's also a case of others passing him, but just how far has Cornelius Randolph fallen in the last year? Feels like a big fall to me
Ben Badler: His stock dropped, but he's still in that next group just outside the top 10. Good bat control of a short, quick swing, but for a LF who doesn't bring too much to the table defensively, he's going to have to hit for a lot more power. Randolph’s approach is line-drive oriented and focused on using the opposite field, so if he learns which pitches to try to pull and do damage on, there’s hope the power could start to show up more in games.
Rex (Canada): JP Crawford. His last year was a bit of a disappointment but what are the chances he starts the year in the bigs? Also, can JP be an elite offensive option?
Ben Badler: He will start in Triple-A. That’s not a service time manipulation thing either, he just needs to prove he can hit Triple-A pitching first before they bring him up. I do think he can be an above-average offensive player for a shortstop and one of the best shortstops in the game (although man, we’ve got a lot of great young players at that position around the game right now) once he gets stronger and stays with the simple swing that allowed him to have success earlier in his career instead of pulling off the ball early to try to do too much.
Tyrell (Pittsburgh, PA): Does Eshelman project as a future reliever to you, or does his command still suggest starter?
Ben Badler: Starter. Likely 4th or 5th SP upside with a finesse/command profile.
John (NJ): Will Jose A. Pujols ever cut down on that strike out rate? I saw him a boatload of times at Low-A Lakewood this past season and his power is pretty legitimate. If he does, what is a reasonable comp for him?
Ben Badler: He does have huge raw power and a big arm. I just see too many holes in his swing for him to be able to get those strikeouts under control.
Dan (New Jersey): With a new hard cap for international free agency, does that benefit the Phils? Sal Agostinelli has been great at finding guys on the cheap, but I like his chances of bringing in higher-profile talent if teams are less likely to hand out big bonuses due to the cap.
Ben Badler: Long term I think it's good for the Phillies. At some point in the near future, the Phillies are going to be a playoff team again. If you want to be built to win every year and continue to replenish the farm system, a draft hurts your ability to compete for the top talent because where you pick restricts your access to players and limits your freedom to sign the prospects you want to go after. And for a team that wasn't willing to exceed its bonus pool previously, a hard cap is probably a benefit for them. One of the strengths of their international program has been the ability to find under-the-radar pitching--Sixto Sanchez, Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina, Jose Taveras, Ricardo Pinto, Elniery Garcia, Mauricio Llovera, these guys all signed for less than $100,000. To have the freedom to go out, find those guys and get them signed on the spot is something that should work to the Phillies' benefit.
George (Philadelphia): Who has the higher upside, Roman Quinn or Nick Williams? Also, does Dylan Cozens have legit star potential, or Russell Branyan potential?
Ben Badler: If everything clicks, Nick Williams. He had a rough year, but all the physical talent is still intact. On Cozens, you can’t overlook the obvious potential with his power, just a risky bet that he gets to that potential.
Hinkie (S Jersey): Drew Anderson is healthy and took a big step forward this season. What are your thoughts on him?
Ben Badler: I think they were smart to put him on the 40-man roster because someone would have picked him in the Rule 5 draft. Fastball is low-to-mid 90s, average curveball, changeup needs work but that’s understandable given the time he has missed. Durability has to be a question mark on him but like you said, that’s a big step forward for him this season.
Bret (Philly): Will Hoskins and Cozens repeat Darin Ruf's career or do they have real shots to be very day starters?
Ben Badler: I put Darin Ruf in a different bucket than Hoskins or Cozens. Ruf was 25 and then turned 26 midseason when he had his big year in Reading, so he was 2-3 years older than Hoskins and 3-4 years older than Cozens at the same level. There are risks with each player, but I think Ruf belongs in a different category than these two.
Dan (Augusta, ME): I have read in a few places that Sixto Sanchez is not even his listed 6 feet and that he has a very slight frame. Have you heard this and how confident are you that he can stick as a starter given his size limitations? Thanks
Ben Badler: He's about 6 feet, but I wouldn't call him slightly built at all. Between the delivery, arm action, repertoire and command, I don't see any big red flags that would lead him to the bullpen.
Bucosmfg (Delhi): Is there still hope for Nick Williams? Is the plate discipline an actual discipline issue or inability to pick-up spin?
Ben Badler: He had a brutal season, but there are reasons to still believe in Williams. He still has electric hand speed and can whip the barrel through the zone to generate plus power and he’s still a plus runner and a great athlete. Plate discipline and pitch recognition have always been the risk factors on him, and the very real progress he made in those areas in 2015 seemed to vanish in 2016. If you’re an optimist (or an apologist, depending on your perspective), Williams was in his first full season in a new organization, he just got to Triple-A and was knocking on the big league door, and you could see once he started to struggle he started pressing, at which point things only spiraled backwards and made things worse. Wouldn’t be the first or the last guy to do that. He’s never going to be Joey Votto, but if he can settle down, keep his head locked in during his swing to help him track pitches better and not expand the strike zone so much, there’s still upside for him to turn into an above-average regular.
Owais (Philly): Ben, Appreciate and look forward to your work as always. Any DSL Phillies player to look out for in the future?
Ben Badler: Beyond Guzman, two other position players to watch are Rafael Marchan and Keudy Bocio.
John (NJ): I am greatly optimistic regarding Jhailyn Ortiz. Granted he was only in the GCL, but 8 home runs for a 17 year old is quite impressive. What is a logical ceiling for him? Thanks as always, Ben!
Ben Badler: Ortiz has 70 raw power and he showed the ability to apply that power better than I would have expected as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. He has size, strength, bat speed and can punish a fastball when it's in his kill zone. Pitch recognition, strike-zone discipline and maintaining his balance at the plate are still the big risk factors with him, but the power is there for him to be a 30 home run hitter.
Zac (NY): Hi Ben- If you had to choose a greater upside between Blake Rutherford and Mickey Moniak who would you pick? Why?
Ben Badler: Moniak. I like both of them a lot, but I’m a big believer in Moniak’s bat and I think he’s going to be a better defender than Rutherford.
Romus (Phila, PA): Ben, Phillies' Latin signing, Francisco Morales, your impressions of his stuff and his FV rotational upside?
Ben Badler: Huge frame, huge fastball for a kid who just turned 17 last month. It’s hard to talk upside and ceiling on a player being evaluated at 16 years old, but aside from the more advanced Cuban pitchers like Adrian Morejon, Morales was one of if not the best pitching prospect available for July 2 last year.
Chris (Philadelphia): Hey Ben, who would you tag as a sleeper in the Phils system? Nick Fanti?
Ben Badler: I mentioned Brito and Guzman earlier, but on the pitching side, I love what Victor Arano did this year. You don’t see many pitchers with his type of repertoire and pitchability in the bullpen, but Arano loves pitching in that role and his stuff ticked up in short bursts. I could see him helping the big league bullpen by the end of the year.
Patrick Guttin (Sandpoint, Idaho): Andrew Knapp sure took a drop in AAA from his amazing 2015 AA numbers......is his bat simply regressing and is he not quite a hitting prospect? Can he still hopefully hit at the MLB level? I know he will backup in 2017 but Alfaro is gonna leap by him soon enough anyhow, can he start elsewhere in the majors?
Ben Badler: Knapp’s strike-zone discipline regressed and his swing got a little big as he tried to show power rather than stay within his strengths this season. I think there’s enough there to be at least a steady backup with a chance to be a low-end regular, but yeah, he’s got some competition there already in Philadelphia and with Alfaro coming.
Erik (Madison, WI): What took a bigger hit following JP Crawford's slightly disappointing season, his floor or his ceiling?
Ben Badler: Crawford’s upside is still the same, but the 2016 season raised some of the risk because I thought the jump to Triple-A would be a lot smoother than it ended up being for him.. In Triple-A, you start to see more veteran arms with big league experience, especially late in games compared to Double-A relievers who are mostly org guys, but it's usually not that big of a jump for most hitters, especially someone with Crawford's talent. If it’s July 2017 we’re seeing the same things as last year, I’ll be more concerned, but I still think he’s one of the premium shortstop prospects in the game with a chance to be an impact player.
Bill (Wisconsin): What are your thoughts are on a couple of young international middle infielders, Jonathan Guzman and Arquimedes Gamboa?
Ben Badler: I like Guzman. Gamboa has a ways to go for the baseball skills to catch up to the raw athleticism.
Ray (NYC): Love your work, Ben. Is Hoskins a top 100 prospect in your opinion? He has done nothing but hit and exceed expectations in the minors. What kind of major league hitter can he be?
Ben Badler: I think he has a chance to fit into the back of the Top 100. When we get together as a staff to compile our individual lists internally, he’ll probably be in that range on some of them and outside a top 150-200 on others.
Erik (Madison, WI): How important are those 15 or so prospects who fall just outside the top 30 to the overall quality of the system? Would it be overly optimistic to expect more than one average major leaguer out of those 15?
Ben Badler: The elite, top-level talent drives the value of a farm system, but the depth of prospects the Phillies have is important. The majority of these players won't work out, but when you have enough volume, someone from the group entering the system this year like Brayan Gonzalez, Simon Muzziotti, Cole Stobbe, Cole Irvin or Jojo Romero will break through, or a lower-level or seemingly lower upside guy will quietly progress into a quality big leaguer.
Erik (Madison, WI): Is Alfaro's bat strong enough for him to be am average regular if moved to right field?
Ben Badler: He’s athletic enough with plenty of arm to play right field, but I don’t have the confidence in his bat to feel comfortable with him as an everyday guy there.
Steve (Chicago): What do you see Nick Williams' role with the Phillies being this year?
Ben Badler: Proving he can hit Triple-A pitching first.
Derek (Detroit): Tirado...thoughts on him staying as a starter and potential to harness his stuff.
Ben Badler: When he was starting, having that scheduled routine seemed to help him more than being in the bullpen, so the Phillies are planning to develop him as a starter, but I think ultimately he fits best in relief. He has to figure out how to put the ball in the strike zone, but in short stints it’s electric stuff up to 100 mph with a swing-and-miss slider.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): I see that Moniak is projected for Lakewood - do you figure he will be there the whole season, or jump to Clearwater at some point in the 2017season?
Ben Badler: Probably all season at Lakewood, but we’ve seen some recent high school first-rounders like Kyle Tucker, Byron Buxton, even Josh Naylor get to High-A by the end of their first full season. So I wouldn’t rule out a late promotion, although big picture I don’t think it matters too much.
Ben Badler: I’ve got to get back to working on the Prospect Handbook now, but thanks for all the questions today. We have Top 10s for 20 teams up on the site right now with the NL Central lists starting tomorrow with the Pirates. Thanks as always for reading and subscribing to BA.