Rising Phillies Pitchers To Know, Plus Four Insights | Friday Intel


Image credit: George Klassen (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

The Phillies identification process when it comes to amateur pitching is an interesting one. Over the last several drafts, the organization has stockpiled college arms with below-average strike-throwing abilities but well above-average stuff.

There haven’t been any overwhelming success stories in the majors yet, but there’s certainly something interesting brewing. The first name that comes to mind in this class is Orion Kerkering, who made his way to the major leagues in 2023 and has one of the better sliders among young relief pitchers in the game. Griff McGarry has made a successful jump to the bullpen, where he’s made 12 appearances to date for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. McGarry’s strike-throwing is still fringe, but he’s managed the difficulty of the ABS and challenge systems at Triple-A as well as could be expected. Other players who fall into this archetype are the injured Alex McFarlane and George Klassen.

Among this particular target demographic for the Phillies, Klassen might be the pitcher who offers the most potential upside, as he has a realistic chance of starting. Drafted out of Minnesota in the sixth round in July 2023, Klassen might have the worst collegiate track record of any of the aforementioned colleagues. However, after a full offseason with the Phillies, Klassen looks like a different pitcher. The Phillies quieted down his arm path so it wasn’t so big and they worked on targeting, helping Klassen to understand how and where they miss consistently. We’ve seen Klassen take this advice and transform over the first month of the season. 

Klassen has been inactive for two weeks, last appearing on May 3. Prior to that, he spent a handful of days on the development list. Whether the Phillies are being cautious with Klassen or if he’s dealing with some sort of injury remains to be seen. When Klassen has been on the mound, he’s shown elite stuff and command he’s never shown as an amateur.

Klassen has pitched five times this season, going a total of 25 innings while walking eight batters and striking out 39. Klassen went five or more innings in his first four starts, before going four his last time out. He’s mixing serious stuff as well.

Klassen’s fastball sits 96-98 mph, touching 100 mph at peak. While his shape is fairly pedestrian, the power on the fastball and heavy armside run allows it to play above its below-average ride. He’s mixing two breaking ball shapes in a high-80s gyro slider and a power curveball in the mid 80s. At the moment, all of Klassen’s pitches boast whiff rates of 38% or higher with above-average strike rates. In watching, you can see Klassen’s command isn’t all the way there, but it’s a significant upgrade from what we’ve witnessed previously. 

Another pitcher on the verge of breaking out for the Phillies is Italian lefthander Samuel Aldegheri. A true European prospect, Aldegheri signed out of Verona, Italy in 2019 and has steadily climbed the Phillies minor league ladder, spending all of 2023 at full season, seeing both A-ball levels. In 2024, he’s returned to High-A Jersey Shore and has dominated over six starts. Over 32 innings, Aldegheri has struck out 37 to 16 walks and has allowed just six earned runs. Up until Aldegheri’s most recent start, where he allowed four earned runs, he had been on a run of five or more innings with one run or less allowed over his previous four starts. 

Aldegheri mixes four pitches in a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, and while he lacks power across his pitch mixes, he shows four distinctive shapes. His fastball sits 91-93 mph, touching 95 mph at peak. While his fastball velocity is pedestrian, he generates 18-19 inches of induced vertical break from a 6-foot-2 release. His primary secondary is a slider at 83-84 mph with gyro shape that misses an above-average rate of bats. His changeup has both tumble and heavy fade and is his best bat-misser. Aldegheri will infrequently show a mid-70s curveball with two-plane break. Aldegheri lacks the stuff to push to mid-rotation starter status, but could be a viable backend option as he matures. 

While his numbers may not be on par with Klassen and Aldegheri to begin the season, righthander Jean Cabrera is another name to know in the Phillies minor league pitching corps. After seven starts this season, Cabrera has struck out 41 to 10 walks across 38.1 innings pitched. Outside of his last start on Tuesday, he went five to seven innings in his previous six starts and showed both efficiency and stuff. An undersized righthander listed at 6-feet and 145 pounds, Cabrera has room to add some good weight in the coming years. Whether or not his frame can put on the extra weight and handle it is another story. 

Stuff wise, Cabrera mixes four pitch shapes. He has a pair of fastball shapes in a four-seam fastball that sits 93-95 mph, touching 96 mph at peak. The movement on the pitch is fairly generic, and despite Cabrera’s smaller stature, his release traits aren’t that unusual. He’ll show a two-seam variation on his fastball as well with less ride and more run. He pairs that with two secondaries: a sweepy slider in the low 80s that generates over a foot of sweep on average and a changeup in the mid-to-high 80s with tumble and heavy fade. His changeup is his standout pitch, generating whiffs in 2024 at a rate of 50%. An undersized righthander with a changeup-first plan of attack is not the most exciting profile, but it’s a name to know. 

  • We recently completed volume 2.0 of our staff mock draft, and this class is fascinating. While it’s not fascinating in the way the last three to four draft classes were, which were laden with talent, this class is fascinating because outside of the top nine-11 picks, it’s a complete crapshoot the rest of the first round. Those who have spent time around decision-makers, cross-checkers and scouts know opinions on the 12-50 group can vary greatly from evaluator to evaluator. These are the drafts where good front offices show their mettle—when there’s a chunk of players pooled together in a similar talent range, the work of your scouts and analysts are magnified. It will be interesting to see who rises and falls in the final two months leading up to the draft. 
  • Speaking of the draft and the work of analysts in the front office, deciphering signal from noise when analyzing college-hitter data has become harder than ever. I’ve spoken with a few MLB analysts as well as some analysts with Power Five college programs and it’s a hot-button topic among them. Max and 90th percentile exit velocities in college far exceed those of professionals with wooden bats. What I would view as a 60-grade 90th percentile for a 20- to 21-year-old at High-A or Double-A is 105 mph. There are currently 360 players at the Division I level with a minimum of 40 batted-ball events who have a 90th percentile EV of 105 mph or above. By the same token, there are 190 players with a 90th percentile exit velocity above 105 in the minor leagues with a minimum of 20 batted-ball events. It’s leading to major questions around how to grade out game power for a variety of the draft’s top collegiate players. We’ll explore how teams are handling this more next week. 
  • The bat-speed data released over the weekend has taken the public analyst space by storm. While there’s been lots of good work already on the findings, I find myself intrigued by our ability to connect bat speed and swing length to other metrics like variable bat angle. We’re getting to a point publicly where we’re going to be able to analyze not only what players hit well, but also what pitches in what locations they attack and the traits of their swing that allow them to have success. Imagine being able to identify why Jose Altuve is able to remain flush at the point of contact in a variety of areas in the zone, and then being able to map out those traits in prospects? These are the things that get me up in the morning, the idea that we can more accurately bucket players and project future development based on inherent traits. 
  • The early-season narrative that the Triple-A Norfolk Tides could take down the Oakland Athletics in a series has aged like milk. The Athletics are currently 19-27 in the midst of a five-game losing streak, but they have shown glimmers of hope over the first seven weeks of the season. Norfolk on the other hand is 20-22 and tied for fifth in the International East Division. This should put into perspective just how large the gap is between a bad major league team and a talented minor league team. The details matter, and those of us who watch a solid amount of both major league and minor league baseball realize there’s a significant difference. Just ask Jackson Holliday.

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