2023 Philadelphia Phillies Top 10 Prospects Chat
Chris Hilburn-Trenkle answered questions regarding the Phillies system from 1-3 p.m. ET. You can read the full transcript below.
- Not a Phillies question but wondering when BA will be publishing league top prospects?
Chris: Hi JD, we will not be publishing league top prospects this year, but we do have league best tools as well as classification all-stars.
- Hey Chris - Just got back from a few days in Arizona watching some AFL games (Thanks to BA for the awesome coverage!). In the 1st game I saw, Carlos de la Cruz hit a bomb and had a few more hard hit balls. He also looked silly on some off-speed stuff. Assuming he can't make the majors as a tight end, do you see him eventually making an impact in the majors? Thanks!
Chris: Hey Neil, I'm not convinced De La Cruz couldn't be used in some two Tight End sets with Goeddert in Philly, but assuming he stays in baseball we're looking at a guy with ridiculous power (30-35 HR potential). As you've noted, he struggles to hit offspeeds and has a high chase rate. The org was impressed with the progress he's made this year—he made more contact and extended his swing—and I think the ceiling is as a second division regular, with a more likely outcome being a dangerous righty power bat off the bench due to the amount of swing and miss and approach concerns.
- Hi there, I was wondering if you could talk about Rickardo Perez. He's young, but seemed to have a good showing in a small sample this year. Seems like he will stick at catcher, do you agree? And can he hit?
Chris: Hey ZP, Perez certainly had an impressive year in the FCL. It's power over hit from the left side, with good barrel awareness, a quick swing and bat-to-ball skills. Potential for above-average hit tool, but there's not much power there currently and the biggest concern is his body. He's got a big lower half that's already contributed to injuries. Likely below-average catcher with a good release behind the plate. The bat will carry the way for him, but i suspect he sticks at catcher because the power isn't there for him to play first base.
Brendan (Boston, MA):
- If you had to make a case AGAINST Andrew Painter right now, how would you frame it?
Chris: Easily the hardest question of the day. It's rare to find a guy at Painter's age with the level of stuff, command, execution, poise and strike-throwing ability. The biggest knock you could make on him currently is that his breaking balls can blend together at times, but it's not a huge concern. There's always some concern with high school righties, but Painter has passed every test with flying colors. There's no reason to believe Painter won't AT LEAST be a mid-rotation starter, and it's likely he's a No. 1 or No. 2.
Warren (New London):
- Kendall Simmons still looks good at times, but he can't seem to generate any consistency. Is there any hope left for him?
Chris: Simmons was certainly a player who was hurt by the canceled 2020 season, and he's had a tough go of it with injuries as well. The tool set is certainly intriguing—impressive bat speed, 20-25 homer potential—but he needs to keep working on tightening up his swing and lowering the swing and miss. The org feels like he took a step forward at High-A, but the 2023 season will be the most important of his career.
Casey (Bothell, WA):
- Where are you from Chris? I haven't heard your name around before. Are you a Phillies fan, or do you just get assigned a team randomly? And, wow, Crawford is intriguing prospect, eh? Have you seen him play, what were your impressions of him? Thanks for doing this, Cheers.
Chris: Hi Casey, thanks for reaching out. I am an N.C. native, but I've covered the Phillies since 2020 for Baseball America in addition to my work as digital editor. Crawford is a really exciting young player. He was one of the top defenders in the 2022 class and is a safe bet to stick in center field with plus-plus speed and an average arm. I wouldn't be surprised to see him enter the Top 100 Prospects list by midseason 2023. He's added some strength to his body, but it's likely always going to be hit over power, with an above-average hit tool. I think we're looking at a table setter hitter with plus defense and the ability to steal 25 bases.
- Jordan Viars' stat line left a lot to be desired in 2022. Is this an instance where I should be scouting the stat line? Has the shine come off his prospect status?
Chris: Viars certainly had a tough 2022. Not only did he struggle, but he missed some time after getting hit by a pitch on his hand and later sprained his ankle. Still someone who the org is excited about, and I don't think there's reason for concern given that it was his first year out of high school. He's got a good approach with big power. He needs to cut down on the length in his swing and improve defensively (likely a left fielder or first baseman), but still one of the better prospects in the system who should hit for big power.
- Phillies have a couple interesting youngsters that seem to have a profile that could pop. How does the org feel about the likes of Emaarion Boyd and Nikau Pouaka Grego to do so?
Chris: Hi JC, Pouaka-Grego is a guy the org has brought up to me multiple times. It was an impressive first season for him in the FCL and he's a guy who has a chance to rise quickly among prospects in the system thanks to his bat-to-ball skills. It's hit over power, and he's a hit-first infielder, but the bat is exciting. Boyd is another fun one as well who had an encouraging debut. He's an impressive athlete with the skills to be a plus center fielder and good feel to hit as well. These are both guys who could take big jumps in full-season ball.
- Thoughts on Nikau Pouka-Grego? Still very, very far away obviously but for a 17 year old his season was pretty surprising.
Chris: Hi Trent, Pouaka-Grego is a fun one. It was a really impressive first season where he showed a good approach, strong bat-to-ball skills and feel to hit. He's going to have to work on improving defensively, but the bat will lead the way for him and I think he could move quickly among prospects in the system in 2023.
Michael (Rochester NY):
- Between Crawford and Rojas the Phils have some blazing speed for their OF. Do you see them both hitting enough to be everyday players in the big leagues?
Chris: Hi Michael, I tend to think Crawford has a better chance at being an everyday guy because of his above-average hit tool, but Rojas provides so much defensive value and explosiveness on the basepaths that he could be a bottom-of-the-order table setter in the big leagues. He's likely never going to be more than an average hitter who needs to work on not pulling the ball so much, but he's got good bat speed. Crawford is more of a first division regular thanks to his hit tool, but Rojas can still be a second division regular with steady improvements to his hit tool.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- So Griff McGarry could be top of rotation, or back end,or in the bullpen - if you had to place a bet on one of these three scenarios, which would it be?
Chris: Hi Karl, the most likely outcome is an elite closer with an explosive arsenal because he struggles at times to be in sync with his delivery and still walks a lot of guys. He's shown improvements in both areas, however, and the Phillies are going to give him every opportunity to prove himself as a starter before they go the bullpen route.
Joe Messina (Philadelphia):
- Do you see Marchan being used as a trade piece or will Phillies value him at a position they do not have any upper level depth
Chris: Hi Joe, I'm not sure how much value Marchan has currently as a trade piece. Donny Sands passed him this year on the depth chart, and while Marchan is an excellent defender he's not shown enough out of his bat. I think he'll continue to be an up/down guy with the organization thanks to the defensive value he brings to the table.
- Thoughts on Casey Martin? Will he hit enough to be a regular? What's his ceiling? Thanks!
Chris: Hi ZP. The Phillies knew they were taking a big gamble with Martin's tools when they drafted him in 2020 and so far he hasn't been able to put it together. Given how much he's struggled in the lower minors it's hard for me to believe he gets a shot in the big leagues. His speed, defense and arm strength are all impressive, but the hit tool is well below-average, and he'll likely need to completely revamp his swing.
Warren (New London):
- Carlos De La Cruz finally started getting to his power in the second half of the season. He's struck out an awful lot in the Fall League, which is concerning, but his other numbers there are respectable. There's only about a month difference in age between him and Ethan Wilson, who looks like a bust to me. Can you explain why Wilson would be ahead of De La Cruz on the 30?
Chris: Hi Warren, I wouldn't be surprised if De La Cruz was ahead of Wilson by midseason 2023, but given Wilson's impressive collegiate track record and the internal belief in him he was the choice to be above De La Cruz currently. De La Cruz's long levers and swing and miss are concerning, but he made big improvements in 2022. The key will be if Wilson shows improvements in his hit tool early in 2023.
- Johan Rojas a viable solution for the big team in CF? Jordan Viars upside? Thanks!
Chris: Hi Joe, Rojas provides plenty of value thanks to his excellent defense and baserunning skills. He certainly could become a regular in center field, but he still needs to show improvements offensively. He has good bat-to-ball skills, but needs to continue improving his chase rate and pitch recognition skills. Given the amount of big bats in the lineup he could conceivably be a bottom-of-the-order table setter. Viars is an intriguing prospect. He's got huge power from the left side, but still young and raw. Unless he can improve against lefthanded pitching I think he's probably a platoon bat, but he's young enough that he has plenty of time to make those adjustments.
Evan (New York):
- Obviously Hans Crouse had a lost year with injuries and has fallen out of the top 10. Going into 2022, there was talk of him opening in the rotation. Is a starting pitcher still his most likely outcome? Where does he fall in the top 30?
Chris: Hi Evan, I tend to think Crouse is a bullpen guy long term. He has a violent delivery that can cause his command to waver at times, but his fastball/slider combo would play up in short stints out of the bullpen. He's a guy who fits in the middle of the system's 30.
- I'm curious what separates Rincones and Wilson for you. It seems they both have lower hit tools, with big power potential, but Wilson has more promise in the field. Is it fair to say they both have big flaws in their swings that need to be worked out for either to take the next step? Why do you feel Rincones is ahead of Wilson at this point?
Chris: Hi ZP, yes both guys have flaws in their swings, but I believe more in Rincones' power potential than I do Wilson's. Right now Wilson's bat path hasn't allowed him to access his power, whereas Rincones has shown an ability to get to his power in games and has hit well against high-level velocity.
Matt Veasey (Philly):
- Dombrowski has said that he is not averse to promoting a talented enough young pitcher to the big club. McGarry looks like a realistic 2023 bullpen option. How about Abel/Painter? What are the realistic chances one or the other, or both, push into the 2023 Phillies rotation? Also, Erik Miller a realistic 2023 southpaw pen option?
Chris: Given how aggressively Painter was moved up this year and the fact that he has the poise, command, strike-throwing ability and execution of a much older arm, I think he could join the rotation late in the season. I think Abel will likely require more time in the minors because he needs to improve his pitch efficiency and command. McGarry certainly looks like a pen option this year, but I imagine he will open the season as a starter in the minors because that's his ideal role long term. If Miller can stay healthy he could also join the big league club next summer.
John (New Jersey):
- Mick Abel’s prospect shine has worn a bit in no small part to Andrew Painter’s historic summer. I watched both pitch several times this summer and felt that Abel’s stuff was equal or better, he just lacked Painter’s command. Abel also has a lot of physical projection left that should give him better body control and hence command. Do you think he could end up being the better MLB starter?
Chris: Hi John, I think Painter ends up as the better starter but it's not crazy to suggest that Abel has a better career. Abel is a really impressive pitcher who's going to require more seasoning in the minors to improve his walk rate and the consistency of his delivery, but as you noted his arsenal is legit and we're talking about a guy who has the potential to be a really good No. 3 starter.
- Mick Abel has been o er shadowed by Painter. But does he still have #2 starter upside or is more solid mid rotation guy? If the latter what’s keeping from being more of a front line starter?
Chris: Hi Jon, the more likely outcome is that Abel develops into a really good No. 3 starter. He's a very good prospect, but some of the concerns include durability and lack of repeatability in his delivery, as well as command issues. These are all aspects that he can improve upon as he matures, but right now I think it's more likely he's a very good No. 3.
- Thoughts on Erik Miller? He had excellent numbers as a starter in 2019. Then he was hurt in 2021 and the Phillies moved him to the pen in 2022 where cumulatively he was very good. Does he stay in the pen or go back to being the adiitional left handed starter the Phillies need?
Chris: Hi Larry, it's likely Miller will stay in the bullpen, where he should be an effective high-leverage option with an impressive fastball/slider combo from the left side. He has trouble repeating his delivery, which has led to injury concerns and struggles to throw strikes, but with two above-average pitches he should be able to put it together in the bullpen.
- Is there any chance Jhailyn Ortiz becomes a productive MLB player?
Chris: Hi Rich, Ortiz's massive power will always make him someone to keep an eye on, but the swing-and-miss issues this year were concerning. He took a step forward in that category in 2021, but seemed to regress during the 2022 season. Due to the amount of swing and miss and holes in his swing he's likely just a situational power bat off the bench.
- Where do you think Viars starts next spring?
Chris: I think he will start the season back at Low-A Clearwater.