2018-19 International Reviews: Philadelphia Phillies
This is part of Ben Badler's 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 signings: 64
Righthander Starlyn Castillo showed uncanny velocity for a 15-year-old at Major League Baseball's international showcase in February, when he reached 97 mph. He signed with the Phillies on July 2 for $1.6 million, which was the top bonus for an international pitching prospect in the 2018-19 signing period until the Rays paid $2.61 million for Cuban righthander Sandy Gaston in November.
Castillo, now 17, is built like a 5-foot-11 linebacker with a durably, physically mature frame at 210 pounds with broad shoulders and strong legs. He doesn't have much physical projection remaining, but he already sits in the low to mid-90s and has hit 97 mph. As an amateur, Castillo was able to overpower hitters, and while he's not just a one-trick pony, he will need to develop more touch and feel to complement his heater. He has shown feel for a good slider and a solid changeup for his age at times, though both are inconsistent. His control also comes and goes, with a tendency to fly open early and miss the zone. The Phillies are one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to pushing their Latin American prospects to the United States, so Castillo is expected to debut this year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He trained in the Mejia Top 10 program.
The Phillies are among the most aggressive teams scouting players in Venezuela, with several of their top 2018 signings coming from that country. One was 17-year-old lefthander Joalbert Angulo, who signed out of Yasser Mendez's program on July 2. Angulo has an extremely tall, lanky build (6-foot-5, 165 pounds) with a lot of physical projection to throw harder once he gains weight and learns to get his leg more into his delivery, with his fastball reaching 90 mph right now. Like a lot of young, tall pitchers lacking strength, Angulo has long arms and legs that don't always sync up in his delivery, leading to scattered strikes. He throws a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup that he's shown some feel for but is inconsistent.
The Phillies also signed Andrick Nava, a 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher on July 2. Nava is an offensive-minded, switch-hitting catcher who has trended up at the plate. He has good barrel control, reacts well to breaking pitches and doesn't swing and miss much. He takes an all-fields approach and has grown into more power since signing, showing some over-the-fence power now in games. Nava's defense isn't as advanced, but he has a chance to stick behind the plate with an average arm. He trained with Emiro Barboza.
Alexeis Azuaje is a 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop the Phillies signed on July 2 with plenty of quick-burst explosiveness at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds. He's an excellent athlete with a quick first step and 70 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. A lot of scouts felt Azuaje would fit better at second base than shortstop, while his speed would translate to center field as well. The Phillies liked Azuaje's hitting ability, though he has an unconventional stroke from the right side and other clubs saw more crudeness and swing-and-miss to his game. He hit well in brief playing time in the Liga Paralela (the minor league version of the Venezuelan League) after signing, batting .306/.419/.472 with seven walks and 10 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. Azuaje trained with Carlos Yanez.
In addition to Nava, the Phillies added a couple more catching prospects on July 2. One was Javier Vina, a 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher who trained in the same program as Angulo. He's 5-foot-11, 180 pounds with solid catch-and-throw skills for his age and a 55 arm. He's a righthanded hitter with a solid bat for a catcher, though he's more of a defensive-minded player.
Another catcher, 17-year-old Victor Diaz, signed for $250,000 on July 2 from Tony Arias' program. Diaz makes hard contact from the right side when he squares it up, drawing the attention of the Phillies for his hitting ability for the position. At 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Diaz flash average pop times at his best but he will need to keep his conditioning in check to improve his quickness and mobility behind the plate.
Dominican righthander Fernando Ortega signed with the Phillies for $200,000 in July after training with Chapita. Ortega is 17 with a tall, extremely skinny build at 6-foot-4, 160 pounds, without much weight added since signing. He sits at 88-91 mph and can hit 93 mph. With a loose, quick arm and room to add another 50-plus pounds to his frame, Ortega could eventually throw in the mid- to upper 90s. He has a starter's repertoire, with feel for a sharp-breaking curveball that has good shape and tight rotation, along with a changeup that's inconsistent but has good fade with the confidence to throw it to both lefties and righties. There are times when Ortega throws strikes, but that's still inconsistent as he learns to repeat his release point and improve his body control.
In November, the Phillies paid $155,000 to sign Derek Escobar, a 17-year-old Cuban outfielder. Escobar hit well playing for Sancti Spiritus in Cuba's 15U national league in 2017, when he batted .358/.506/.480 with 25 walks and 17 strikeouts in 167 plate appearances. Escobar (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) is a plus runner who can play center field, with a line-drive, spray-type bat from the right side of the plate.
Toward the end of the 2017-18 signing period last year, the Phillies signed a handful of international prospects from outside Latin America to six-figure deals. Last June, they paid $250,000 for 19-year-old righthander Hsin-Chieh Lin out of Taiwan. Lin, who pitched briefly in the GCL after signing, is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds with a loose arm, a fastball that's been up to 92 mph and some feel for a breaking ball that could make him a back-end starter if his stuff ticks up.
Curtis Mead is an 18-year-old Australian third baseman the Phillies signed for $200,000. Mead has an athletic frame (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and stood out to the Phillies for his hitting ability from the right side. He has strong hands at the plate, though his defense will have to take a step forward to avoid a move to an outfield corner.
The Phillies also gave $150,000 in June to 18-year-old Yoan Antonac, a 6-foot-8, 190-pound righthander from France. Antonac stands out for his extremely tall, projectable frame, with a chance to add more velocity to a fastball that's currently in the upper 80s.
Last year, in January, the Phillies signed Kyle Glogoski, a 20-year-old righthander from New Zealand. Glogoski pitched well for Auckland this winter in the Australian Baseball League, where he posted a 1.37 ERA and an 18-3 K-BB mark in 19.2 innings over four starts. He's 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and throws strikes with a fastball that has reached 93 mph and a solid slider.
Injury Setback Helps Garrett Cleavinger Step Forward
A knee injury cost the lefty reliever half of the 2018 season, but he emerged from his rehab a harder-throwing pitcher.
See also: 2017-18 Phillies International Review (Notable prospect Luis Garcia)
See also: 2016-17 Phillies International Review (Notable prospect Francisco Morales)
See also: 2015-16 Phillies International Review (Notable prospect Jhailyn Ortiz)
See also: 2014-15 Phillies International Review
See also: 2013-14 Phillies International Review
See also: 2012-13 Phillies International Review
See also: 2010-11 NL East International Review