Philadelphia Phillies: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Philadelphia Phillies: Scouting Reports

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2009.

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Philadelphia Phillies

For once, the sequel was actually better than the original.

In 2007, the Phillies trailed the Mets by seven games with 17 games to play but overtook New York on the final day of the season to complete the biggest late-season comeback in baseball history. But the Rockies swept Philadelphia in the Division Series, putting a quick end to the feel-good story.

Philadelphia learned from its demise and built on its successes in 2008, stunning the Mets with another September comeback before winning just the second World Series championship in the franchise's long, tortured history. The two championship teams have several similarities that link them in history, providing symmetry that's hard to ignore.

Both clubs built powerful offenses around the major league home run leader. No one's confusing Ryan Howard with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, yet Howard remains one of the game's most productive hitters after topping the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs. He had more help than Schmidt did, starting with Chase Utley and 2007 MVP Jimmy Rollins.

Lefthanded aces pitched at the front of both rotations. Cole Hamels fills the Steve Carlton role for his generation, with his changeup proving just as unhittable as Lefty's slider. Hamels' California cool was evident as he won the first game of all three postseason series.

Closer Tug McGraw provided the inspiration and the lasting visual images of the Phillies' 1980 title. While Brad Lidge, his 2008 counterpart, can't match McGraw as a quote, he matched him where it mattered, leading a bullpen that was baseball's best.

Philadelphia lost just three games in the postseason, one in each series. Perhaps most gratifying, the Phillies did it with a homegrown core. Rollins (1996), Burrell (1998), Brett Myers (1999), Utley (2000) and Hamels (2002) were first- or second-round picks made good. Howard (fifth round, 2001) and Ryan Madson (ninth, 1998) are also homegrown, the results of drafts orchestrated by Mike Arbuckle and Marti Wolever.

With extra picks in 2008, Wolever fashioned a draft class that could be the best of his tenure—though Hamels alone gives Wolever's first crop special currency. The Phillies gambled on high upsides, taking infielder Anthony Hewitt, outfielders Zach Collier and Anthony Gose, and righthander Jason Knapp with four of the first 71 selections. They also grabbed a promising haul of college pitchers led by third-rounder Vance Worley and 11th-rounder Mike Stutes.

Down on the farm, Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading finished with the worst records in their leagues, a sign that most of the franchise's minor league talent is collected at lower levels. With the big league team coming off consecutive playoff appearances, the Phillies can afford to be patient while prospects develop.

New general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., promoted from assistant GM when Pat Gillick retired after the World Series, inherits a championship club and a farm system with a growing number of high-ceiling talents. He didn't inherit Arbuckle, his fellow assistant GM who took a job with the Royals when he didn't get the GM gig, but other key members of the front office stayed in place.

1.  Dominic Brown, of   Born: Sept. 3, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Redan, Ga, 2006 (20th round)Signed by: Chip Lawrence
Dominic BrownBackground: Brown had committed to play football (as a wide receiver) and baseball for Miami coming out of Redan (Ga.) High—the alma mater of Brandon Phillips, among others—and his camp threw out lofty bonus figures during the spring of 2006. That was enough for many scouts to keep their distance, but Phillies area scout Chip Lawrence followed him all spring. When Brown didn't get a qualifying standardized test score to play for the Hurricanes, Philadelphia was able to sign him for $200,000 as a 20th-round pick. Brown has moved slowly, only reaching low Class A Lakewood in his third pro year, and has benefited from the patient approach. He had a consistent season while splitting time between center and right field in 2008. He took his game up a notch by winning the batting title in Hawaii Winter Baseball, hitting .389 while drawing more walks (15) than strikeouts (14).

Strengths: Being tall, wiry strong and black while playing right field earn plenty of Darryl Strawberry comparisons for Brown. He also emulates Strawberry with his swing, a buggy-whip stroke that features a high back elbow and high finish. Like a young Strawberry, Brown shows athleticism, power and speed, yet he's quite different in that his hitting tool is ahead of his power at the early stages of his career. He has good hand-eye coordination and excellent timing, helping him make consistent hard contact. Brown's swing has plenty of leverage, giving him above-average raw power, and he leaves the bat head in the hitting zone a long time. He has above-average pitch recognition and identifies breaking balls out of the pitcher's hand, helping him lay off pitches he wouldn't be able to do much with. An excellent athlete, Brown is a plus runner presently who should become a premium defender in right field. His arm grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Weaknesses: Ultimately, how much power Brown develops will determine his big league value. He still needs to gain strength, and once he does the Phillies believe his hitting ability will result in more homers. His stroke has some length to it, and at his size, he's always going to have holes in his swing. Some scouts question his long stride at the plate and believe he'll have timing issues as he moves up the ladder. Brown is content for now to simply make contact against lefthanders, batting .268 with just three extra-base hits against them in 2008. He made progress as a basestealer last season, with more improvements necessary in terms of getting better jumps and maximizing his speed.

The Future: While club officials try to temper the enthusiasm for him, scouts in other organizations rue missing out on him in the draft and consider him the Phillies' top talent. He has yet to break out with a big season and seems poised to do so in 2009 at high Class A Clearwater. It may be too much to expect him to hit 335 career homers like Strawberry. But Brown will get to play at Citizens Bank Park, so projecting him to hit 20-25 homers annually while posting above-average on-base percentages and playing stellar right-field defense should make him an all-star down the line.
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lakewood (Lo A) .291 .382 .417 444 17 129 23 3 9 54 64 72 22
2.  Carlos Carrasco, rhp   Born: March 3, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Signed: Venezuela, 2001Signed by: Sal Agostinelli
Carlos CarrascoBackground: Ever since signing for $300,000 in 2003, Carrasco has ranked among the Phillies' Top 10 Prospects, and he topped this list the previous two years. He repeated Double-A Reading in 2008 and showed better command to earn a late-season promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Strengths: Scouts rave about Carrasco's pure stuff. He'll touch 96 mph with his fastball and sits at 91-94 with late life. His changeup has similar depth and fade, and when he locates it and his fastball, he can cruise through a lineup. His curveball, once a liability, now grades out as average consistently and sometimes gives him a third plus pitch.

Weaknesses: For all his stuff, Carrasco lacks consistency and a killer instinct. Opposing managers and scouts use words such as "fold up" or "soft" to describe him, and he's prone to the big inning. He tends to quicken his delivery, causing his fastball to elevate, and falls in love with his changeup. Inconsistent command and wavering focus land him in tight spots.

The Future: Unsure if he could handle pennant-race pressure, Philadelphia didn't call Carrasco up for September. He should challenge J.A. Happ and Kyle Kendrick for the last big league rotation spot in spring training. More likely, he'll head back to Triple-A for more seasoning.
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Reading (AA) 7 7 4.32 20 19 1 0 115 109 13 45 109 .254
Lehigh Valley (AAA) 2 2 1.72 6 6 0 0 37 37 1 13 46 .250
3.  Lou Marson, c   Born: July 26, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., 2004 (4th round)Signed by: Theron Brockish
Lou MarsonBackground: Marson had a breakthrough 2008 season in Double-A and was scheduled to report to the Arizona Fall League, but instead he got a September callup. He made his major league debut in Game 162 by homering off Marco Estrada and throwing out a basestealer.

Strengths: Marson is the Phillies' most polished minor league hitter, with the system's best plate discipline and a professional approach. He doesn't project to hit for plus power but is learning which balls he can pull with authority. He has used his athletic ability to improve quickly defensively, becoming a solid-average receiver and good leader for a pitching staff.

Weaknesses: Most big league catchers have better arms than Marson, whose grades out as fringe-average. He compensates with accuracy and quick transfers, and he threw out 37 percent of basesteales last season. He needs work calling games and setting up hitters.

The Future: Phillies starter Carlos Ruiz is a capable defender, but so is Marson, who brings much more to the table offensively. Once he's ready in terms of game-calling and other nuances of catching, Marson will become the regular in Philadelphia, perhaps as soon as the second half of 2009.
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Reading (AA) .314 .433 .416 322 55 101 18 0 5 46 68 70 3
Philadelphia .500 .500 1.250 4 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 2 0
4.  Jason Donald, ss   Born: Sept. 8, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Drafted: Arizona, 2006 (3rd round)Signed by: Theron Brockish
Jason DonaldBackground: Considered an underachiever in college, Donald has overachieved as a pro. He continued hitting for  power in his first trip to Double-A last year, then was one of Team USA's top players in the Olympics, helping lead the Americans to a bronze medal. He finished up by crushing his way through the Arizona Fall League, ranking second in the league in batting (.407) and extra-base hits (19).

Strengths: Donald is an offensive player with a feel for hitting. He's patient but aggressive, pouncing in hitter's counts and pounding mistakes. He has excellent hands and strong forearms that produce average power to all fields, and he's developing more pop to his pull side. He's a solid, smart runner with an average arm. He prepares well and has excellent work habits.

Weaknesses: A mechanical fielder, Donald grades out as a below-average shortstop and likely won't be a regular at the position in the majors. He should be average at second base and has enough arm for third, though he needs more work there. At times he can be too hard on himself, taking bad at-bats into the field and vice versa.

The Future: Both Chase Utley (hip) and Pedro Feliz (back) had offseason surgeries, and Donald played both of their positions in the AFL. He's the Phillies' top in-house option to fill in for Utley at second and to replace Feliz long-term at third. Donald doesn't fit the classic third-base profile and may fit better as a super utility player.
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Reading (AA) .307 .391 .497 362 57 111 19 1 14 54 47 86 11
5.  Kyle Drabek, rhp   Born: Dec. 8, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—The Woodlands, Texas, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Steve Cohen
Kyle DrabekBackground: The son of former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek turned a corner in 2008, making the most progress of his pro career while returning from Tommy John surgery. The Phillies used his rehabilitation to tweak his mechanics, removing a hip turn from his delivery, and his stuff returned to pre-injury levels with a strong effort in Hawaii Winter Baseball. The 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft, he signed for $1.55 million.

Strengths: Drabek is on his way to having three average-to-plus pitches. His fastball has reached 95 mph during his comeback and sits in the low 90s, though he hasn't had to carry it deep into games yet. His hard curveball is rounding into above-average shape more consistently. The work he did in instructional league improved both his mechanics and his changeup.

Weaknesses: Knocked for his immaturity prior to the 2006 draft, Drabek still is no choirboy. One scout said he has baseball makeup, with great competitiveness, but not "take home your daughter" makeup. He needs better arm speed on his changeup after not throwing one in high school, when he used a knuckleball instead.

The Future: A healthy Drabek could move quickly. He'll start 2009 at high Class A Clearwater due to the warm weather, but should move up to Double-A during the season.
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Phillies (R) 0 1 2.25 4 4 0 0 12 6 0 6 6 .150
Williamsport (SS) 1 2 2.21 4 4 0 0 20 11 1 6 10 .159
6.  Michael Taylor, of   Born: Dec. 19, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 250
 Drafted: Stanford, 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Joey Davis
Michael TaylorBackground: A highly regarded prospect as a prep player in Florida, Taylor didn't hit enough as a high school senior to overcome a Stanford commitment and juvenile diabetes and get drafted high. He spent two nondescript years with the Cardinal before making huge strides late in his junior season. He was named to the low Class A South Atlantic League's midseason all-star game in 2008.

Strengths: A physical specimen, Taylor has strength, athleticism and explosive power potential. He started using his lower half in his swing, getting the bat head out and producing better bat speed. He has average speed that improves to a tick above average once he gets going, and a plus outfield arm. He uses his intelligence on and off the field, studying the game and learning how to prepare like a pro.

Weaknesses: Taylor still isn't a natural hitter and likely will struggle to maintain his batting average against better pitching, as he can lose command of the strike zone at times. His swing can get long and he has some holes, especially inside. His route-running in the outfield could stand some improvement.

The Future: Taylor profiles as the kind of righthanded-hitting corner outfielder the Phillies need and will be a step closer in 2009 at Double-A. If he maintains his 2008 hitting performance, he could reach Philadelphia in 2010.
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lakewood (Lo A) .361 .441 .554 249 40 90 12 3 10 50 31 43 10
Clearwater (Hi A) .329 .380 .560 243 36 80 27 1 9 38 19 46 5
7.  Travis D'Arnaud, c   Born: Feb. 10, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Lakewood, Calif., 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Tim Kissner
Travis D'ArnaudBackground: D'Arnaud's older brother Chase was a fourth-round pick of the Pirates this year as a shortstop. They would have played together in the short-season New York-Penn League all-star game this year before the Phillies promoted their d'Arnaud for Lakewood's stretch run.

Strengths: Defense got d'Arnaud drafted 37th overall in 2007. He's athletic with premium catch-and-throw tools, such as soft hands, quick feet and plenty of arm strength. He has made adjustments to get his body more involved in his throws, improving  accuracy. As a bonus, some club officials now believe his offense will be as good or better than his defense. He has a line-drive swing and gap power and will use the opposite field.

Weaknesses: D'Arnaud's swing lacks natural loft, so he's not expected to hit for a lot of power. He threw out just 19 percent of basestealers and committed 16 passed balls in 2008, numbers that don't square with the scouting reports. Phillies officials believe he just needs to gain experience with the speed of the game at the pro level. He runs like a catcher.

The Future: Lou Marson looks like Philadelphia's catcher of the future, but if he falters, d'Arnaud should be ready soon thereafter. He's on the fast track already and could become trade fodder if he continues his offensive development.
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Williamsport (SS) .309 .371 .463 175 21 54 13 1 4 25 18 29 1
Lakewood (Lo A) .297 .357 .469 64 12 19 5 0 2 5 5 10 0
8.  Zach Collier, of   Born: Sept. 8, 1990B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt:185
 Drafted: HS—Chino Hills, Calif., 2008 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Darrell Conner
Zach CollierBackground: Collier jumped into first-round consideration after homering off his summer-ball teammate, Twins first-rounder Aaron Hicks, on a 93-mph fastball during an April high school tournament. A surgical procedure on his heart, performed in 2006 to improve blood flow, may have scared some clubs away. The Phillies pounced on Collier with the 34th pick in June and signed him for $1.02 million.

Strengths: With a frame and swing that evoke Garret Anderson, Collier brings a combination of offensive polish and athleticism to the table. He has a projectable frame and present hitting ability thanks to a smooth, strong swing. Some scouts see him developing plus power, while others see him as more of a .300 hitter with average pop. He's a plus runner with an average arm.

Weaknesses: Collier probably will slow down and play either left or right field down the line. He'll have to hit for power or be a steady run producer like Anderson to be a regular on a corner.

The Future: Collier's hitting skills should help him hit the ground running in low Class A in 2009. He's similar to Dominic Brown with more polish and less athleticism and should move quickly.
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Phillies (R) .271 .347 .357 129 15 35 9 1 0 19 17 28 5
9.  J.A. Happ, lhp   Born: Oct. 19, 1982B-T: L-LHt: 6-6Wt: 200
 Drafted: Northwestern, 2004 (3rd round)Signed by: Bob Szymkowski
J.A. HappBackground: Happ benefited as much as any Phillies farmhand when the organization's Triple-A affiliate moved from Ottawa to more hospitable Lehigh Valley. He stayed healthy after missing part of 2007 with an elbow strain, led the International League by averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and made four crucial starts for Philadelphia. He netted his first big league victory with six shutout innings at Atlanta on Sept. 17.

Strengths: Happ's fastball sits at 88-91 mph and gets on top of hitters quickly. He has deception in his delivery and average movement on his heater, and he spotted it better than ever in 2008. His improved changeup is his second-best pitch, and he varies his slider from a true breaking ball to a little cutter that helps him get in on righthanders.

Weaknesses: Happ lacks a standout pitch and doesn't figure to get all those strikeouts on fastballs as easily in the majors as he did in Triple-A. He's generally a flyball pitcher, a liability in cozy Citizens Bank Park.

The Future: Happ will compete for Philadelphia's No. 5 starter job in spring training, with the chance to earn a long-relief gig as a fallback. He projects as a fourth starter in the long term.
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lehigh Valley (AAA) 8 7 3.60 24 23 0 0 135 116 14 48 151 .234
Philadelphia 1 0 3.69 8 4 0 0 32 28 3 14 26 .233
10.  Jason Knapp   Born: Aug. 31, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 215
 Signed: HS—Annandale, N.J., 2008 (2nd round)Signed by: Gene Schall
Jason KnappBackground: Knapp jumped up some teams' draft boards with a boost in velocity during an inconsistent spring. He threw a one-hitter in the New Jersey state playoffs, hitting 97 mph, and had an excellent workout for the Phillies, who took him with their fourth selection in June, 71st overall. He signed for $590,000 and threw well in his debut before a tender elbow kept him out of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League playoffs.

Strengths: The Phillies are among those who see Knapp potentially throwing 100 mph in short bursts in the future. He has a high-octane delivery that allows him to pump his fastball into the mid-90s when he's right. He has shown the ability to spin a breaking ball, a power slider with some depth. His changeup also has flashes of plus potential.

Weaknesses: Knapp loses his delivery regularly, dropping his elbow and getting around on his breaking ball frequently. He also loses his arm slot on his fastball, costing him command. He has a lot of work to do and will require patience.

The Future: It's hard to find pitchers with Knapp's physicality and arm strength, but also difficult to harness that power for a starting pitcher. The Phillies will keep him in the rotation for now, mostly likely close to his home at Lakewood in 2009, but scouts already are talking about him as a future power bullpen arm, potentially a closer.
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Phillies (R) 3 1 2.61 7 6 0 0 31 26 1 12 38 .228

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Photo Credits:
Brown (Schofield)
Carrasco, Donald (Wood)
Collier, Knapp (Welch)