Philadelphia Phillies 2021 MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Bryson Stott (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)

Following today’s new Phillies Top 10 list for 2021, we answered Phillies farm system questions below. 

Chamaco (Mexico):

     Spencer Howard has now had multiple shoulder issues that have required him to be temporarily shut down. How concerning is this for his ability to be a starter long-term?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Charmaco, thanks for the question. It’s certainly concerning any time you see a young pitcher with shoulder problems, but it’s not something that officials I’ve spoken with are worried about. In a normal year Howard would likely have gotten about 50-60 innings in the minor leagues, but instead got his shot at the big leagues quickly. The people I’ve spoken to were encouraged by what they saw. He’s a guy with four above-average weapons and they want to see him adjust to big league hitters and pitch different ways to different guys.

Warren (New London):

     Is Baron Radcliff, an underslot 5th rounder who hasn’t taken a professional AB yet, really a better bet to be a major league power hitter than Kendall Simmons, who is a year younger and hit a lot of home runs at Williamsport in 2019? Did Radcliff look that good (or Simmons that bad) in instructional league? The system isn’t good, and it’s particularly weak in this area, but Simmons seems intriguing to me.

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Warren, thanks for the question. Radcliff has really impressive power and impressed officials at instructs. He’s got top-of-the-scale power and had exit velocities approaching 120 mph. The tool is legit. As an overall prospect, Simmons is a guy I am more excited about. He’s also got some impressive power and is a really good athlete, but his power isn’t at the level of Radcliff. Simmons bulked up this summer and was another player who stood out to officials at instructs. He’s one of my favorites in the system and I agree with you that he’s an intriguing prospect. I’m excited to see how he does in his first taste of full-season ball in 2021 and am looking to see him cut down on his strikeout percentage.

Jacob (Wilmington, NC):

     From 2005 to present the Phillies have drafted and signed only four players with a career bWAR of 5.0 or higher (Vance Worley, Ken Giles, Rhys Hoskins, and Aaron Nola). Are the Phillies falling short on selection, development, or both?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Jacob, there have certainly been some swings and misses in the past from the organization, but I can tell you the team is moving in the right direction with its new scouting director Brian Barber, who took over the gig in 2019. Their first-round pick, Mick Abel, has great upside and was throwing 95-99 with good command at instructs. He’s someone that Phillies fans should be optimistic about, and Casey Martin is a really toolsy prospect. They also were very aggressive with undrafted free agents, adding multiple pitchers who we had ranked in the BA500 and would have gone in the 6-15 round range in a normal year. And don’t forget about Spencer Howard, who should be a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues. The team is headed in the right direction now.

Chris (State College):

     Garcia and Rojas seem like the most exciting players in the system. What do their ceilings look like?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Chris, Garcia and Rojas are two guys that Phillies officials are really excited about. Garcia is a bit more of an unknown since he hasn’t yet played in the United States, but he’s someone that the Phillies feel could develop five above-average tools in the future. He’s someone I see as a top of the order hitter with really good speed and above-average defense in center field. The power is more gap to gap, but he should hit enough for average for it not to matter. As far as Rojas, he’s a guy who’s just scratching the surface of his potential. Really good defender in the outfield, good speed and had exit velocities above 110 mph at times in 2019. It’s sneaky good power and it should continue to tick up with strength gains.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Relating to the alternate training site evaluations last season and the likelihood of a smaller number of minor league teams going forward… do you think that may actually accelerate younger players to the majors since some of the youngest/least experienced competed against stronger competition at the alternate training site? (Bryson Stott, Nick Maton, Rafael Marchan, etc.) Also wonder about any progress report on Mick Abel… surprised that he lasted until the 16th pick… will he be the leader of the Phillies rotation in 2023?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Bill, thanks for the question. To answer the first part of your question, I think the contraction of the minor leagues means that some of the younger players are going to get acclimated into full-season ball more quickly than they might have otherwise and I think its conceivable to believe that Marchan, Howard and Stott will all be in the big leagues at some point in 2021. The guys it affects the most would be Mick Abel or Kendall Simmons, who should both start at A ball next season. As far as your question about Abel, the guy is a stud. I was told the Phillies were delighted to have him fall in their lap. He’s a guy who has a higher ceiling than Howard and is already throwing consistently in the mid 90s and hitting 99 no problem. He’s got good command and his slider was the best breaking ball of any prep pitcher in the class. He was impressive at instructs and before that he was in Oregon facing other minor leaguers and he struck out 12 of 15 in one outing. I think he could very well be the top guy in 2024 or sooner.

Zak (RI):

     Thanks for the chat Mickey Moniak got a cup of coffee at the end of the year. Was this because he was making a good impression at the alternative site, or was it more of a “let’s see what we got in him” kind of promotion?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Zak, thanks for the question. At the alternate site, the Phillies were working with Moniak on his plate discipline and having him not pull the ball as much. They also worked on making some mechanical changes with his swing to increase his bat speed and they liked what they saw enough to let him get his feet wet in the majors. In his first handful of at-bats they liked that he was being more patient at the plate and not chasing, but he started to press after that and it’s something he must work on to be able to stick in the big leagues.

Steve (NJ):

     When it’s all said and done, do you think Mick Abel looks more like an ace than Spencer Howard?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Steve, I do think Mick Abel has a higher ceiling than Spencer Howard. The combination of Abel’s fastball and slider are really impressive, not to mention he has good command for his age. The reason I had Spencer higher at the moment is because he’s big league ready and is still a mid-rotation level pitcher. I believe Abel can be a staff ace and I thought he was one of the biggest steals of the draft. Once he puts on a bit more weight, we could see even more from his fastball, which is already hitting the mid 90s easily and touching 99-100 at times. His changeup gives him a third average or better pitch, but I want to see his curveball develop as well.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     2016 1st and 2nd round choices Moniak and Kevin Goudy have had limited success so far – what is your prophesy for each in the future?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Karl, I see Moniak as a fourth or fifth outfielder at the big league level. The Phillies worked on making some mechanical adjustments with his swing to try and increase his bat speed—he’s too much of a free swinger at the moment. He’s a solid defender, but he doesn’t give you enough with the bat to profile as a starter. Gowdy has had a tough go of it in pro ball, with him having Tommy John surgery and not pitching again until 2019. The jury is still out on him, but he wasn’t at instructs or the alt site this summer and will really need to get back on track next year.

Jonathan (OH):

     Thoughts on jamari baylor? Like his game coming out of HS, what are your expectations? Any reports on him?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Jonathan, I like Jamari Baylor and I know the Phillies do, too. The big thing with him are injuries that have slowed him down, but the Phillies included him for their fall instructs and they thought he looked good there, getting exit velocities of 105-106 mph. He swings the bat well and is a really good runner with a lot of athleticism. He needs to increase his bat speed and do a better job of hitting high-end velocity, but he’s a guy to keep an eye on.

Fanatic (Philly):

     Will Damon Jones be added to the 40 man?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Fanatic, I think Jones is certainly a candidate to be added to the 40-man roster. He was at the alternate site, which is encouraging for how the club feels about him. The Phillies feel he has a chance to be a starter and I think he’s likely to start at Double-A or higher next season since he’s already 26. With the bullpen issues the Phillies have had, don’t be surprised to see him in relief at some point next year.

Warren (New London):

     Are the Phillies just going to keep signing Venezuelan center fielders (Carlos Tocci, Muzz, and now Yhoswar Garcia) until one of them pans out?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Warren, I think there’s a good chance that both Muzziotti and Garcia are big league players. Muzziotti’s hit tool is impressive and the Phillies feel he is very close to being big league ready. He’s a solid defender in center field and could hit .290 with 10 home runs. He’s a guy I think could be a good table-setter at the top of the order. Garcia is another guy with high upside who the Phillies were really excited to sign. They believe he has five above-average tools, including impressive speed, and I’m excited to see what he does in 2021.


     Thanks for taking the time to chat. Any reports on Adonis Medina? He seems to have dropped off a cliff since last year.

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Ben, thanks for the question. Medina was at the alt site and obviously got a taste of the big leagues in 2020. I think the concern with him is he doesn’t have a third pitch to help him profile as a starter. Officials I’ve spoken to believe he could be a good setup man in the bullpen, where his fastball and slider combo would play up. If he can improve the consistency of his changeup and learn to spot the pitch more effectively, the Phillies could be looking at a back-end starter.

Phillie (Honolulu):

     How is the catching prospects in the organization

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Phillie, catcher is the deepest position in the system. Rafael Marchan is a really good defender and is loved by Joe Girardi and other evaluators. He’s a leader behind the plate and one person I spoke with compared him to Carlos Ruiz. Logan O’Hoppe is another guy who the Phillies are excited about. He’s got a huge build and could add more power as he gets stronger, but he should at least be a solid backup catcher in the big leagues. Abrahan Gutierrez and Andrick Nava are both talented as well, with Nava having the best bat speed of the bunch.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown Delaware):

     Although sort of a journeyman at this point pitcher Garrett Clevenger was called up to the Phillies for a day or two, but didn’t get to appear in a ballgame. Does 2021 look brighter for his major league aspirations?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Karl, Cleavinger did appear in one game but lasted two-thirds of an inning. I don’t see him having much of a future at the big league level, but he did show improvement at Double-A in 2019. I think he’s probably a guy who will pitch at Triple-A and can provide depth in a doubleheader.

Louis (NJ):

     This is a singularly unimpressive list of players who can impact the ball. I know that’s not a question, but am I wrong to view the Phillies need to overhaul scouting, drafting, and player development as paramount, especially given the outlooks of their division foes? If you owned the team, which executive from another organization would be at the top of your list to turn things around? McPhail is out of friends to hire, right?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Louis, there have been some struggles in the past, but the Phillies new scouting director Brian Barber had a strong draft in his first year, grabbing the top high school pitcher in the draft and getting Casey Martin, who has the upside of a first-rounder but has some swing-and-miss concerns. I was also impressed by the players the Phillies got in the undrafted free agent class. The organization has made a concerted effort to beef up on quality pitchers in the next year and the next step will be to add more quality bats. I really like what AJ Preller has done with the Padres and I love his aggressive approach to dealing. I think he would be a fun GM for any team looking to make that next jump.

Dylan (Toronto):

     How close was Kendall Simmons to making the top 10?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Dylan, Kendall Simmons is a really talented prospect, but he’s had some injury issues and I want to see what he does in his full-season debut. He isn’t far off from being a Top 10 guy if he has a good year at A ball. Really good athlete with good power in his bat.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown Delaware):

     Of the pitchers moving from the short season teams to full season ball in 2021 with Lakewood and Clearwater, who are your favorites?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Karl, I like Erik Miller, the Phillies fourth-rounder from Stanford in 2019 who got just one appearance at full-season ball. He got his fastball up to 96 mph at instructs and impressed officials and his slider is an impressive offspeed offering. He needs to improve his changeup to start in the big leagues. Carson Ragsdale is an under-the-radar guy who was the Phillies fourth-rounder this year and could make his full-season debut in 2021. The Phillies like him a lot and are impressed with his mid-90s fastball. He’s got a good breaking ball as well.

Zak (RI):

     Sorry for a slightly off-topic question, but would Connor Seabold have ranked in the top 10, if he was still with the organization?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Zak, Seabold would not have ranked in the top 10. He would be in the range of guys like Ragsdale and Llovera at the back of the 30.

Spencer Howard (Philly):

     Is the club satisfied with my initial MLB stint?

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle: Hey Spencer, don’t worry the Phillies were encouraged with what they saw from you in your debut. They want to see you continue to work on attacking hitters and mixing up your pitches depending on who you’re facing, but they were impressed with your four-pitch arsenal and believe that you will be in their rotation for the foreseeable future.

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