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Rollins has been among his league's youngest players at every level since coming out of high school in the East Bay, but that hasn't stopped him from turning heads. Traditionally a slow starter, Rollins hit .134 in April and was below .200 through mid-May last year, before busting out and hitting .327 in the last two months. He was one of the final candidates to join the U.S. Olympic team, and many thought he would have been a better choice at shortstop than Adam Everett or Gookie Dawkins, who went a combined 1-for-29. Rollins continued to exceed expectations by shining in his September callup. He's the cousin of former big league outfielder Tony Tarasco. Rollins' play belies his stature, as he has improved all facets of his game each year. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all have increased steadily in each of the last three seasons. He displays surprising pop from both sides of the plate and puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his quickness. At shortstop, he's a slick fielder with great range in the hole and up the middle, and he possesses the arm strength to make those plays. Rollins has all of the tools to become an exciting leadoff hitter, including bunting skills, basestealing success and bat control. The fact he starts slow and makes necessary in-season adjustments is a tribute to his work ethic and instincts. At times Rollins gets anxious at the plate and chases pitches early in the count. His pitch selection improved during the year and has been solid throughout his career, but he'll be tested again against big league hurlers. The Phillies want him to concentrate on doing the little things atop the lineup, and he'll need to draw a few more walks to be effective in the No. 1 slot. He tends to get home run conscious and needs to stay within his limitations. New manager Larry Bowa got his first look at Rollins in the Arizona Fall League and was inspired. Rollins was named to the AFL's all-prospect team, setting the stage for his arrival atop Bowa's first lineup card. He could set the tone for the offense in the same way Rafael Furcal did for Atlanta last year.
After an All-America high school career, Myers took the first step last year toward backing up his claim to be the next Curt Schilling. He's built along the same lines and displayed similar workhorse capabilities by logging at least six innings in 15 consecutive starts last summer. Myers appeared to get stronger and more polished as the season went on. Armed with the best fastball in the system, Myers comes right after hitters with a pure power arsenal. He fires his lively heater consistently at 92-93 mph and can pump it up as high as 96. His hard-breaking curveball already is becoming a second plus pitch to put hitters away with. A former amateur boxer, Myers brings a fighting mentality to the mound at times. He still is learning to control his emotions and his pitches. His mindset and his maximum-effort delivery have led some to wonder if his future is as a closer. Myers' performance last year buried many of those concerns. He's a future No. 1 prospect and potential ace. He'll be handled with care, progressing one step at a time, though it will be hard to hold him back when he starts to overpower Class A hitters.
On the heels of Baisley's breakout 1999 campaign, expectations were sky-high entering last season. A tender elbow forced the lanky righthander to sit out most of the summer as a precautionary measure. He was back on track by instructional league. At 6-foot-9, Baisley uses his size as a weapon, bearing down on hitters with a lively 89-93 mph fastball that could improve, and a sharp curveball. His balanced delivery also gives him an advantage, as his stuff bores on hitters from a tough downward angle. Like many of the young Phillies pitchers, Baisley demonstrates an advanced understanding of what he's doing on the mound. Baisley changes speeds well, though his changeup lacks consistency at this point. It shows promise as an effective third option. His body still is growing and there may be some necessary mechanical adjustments to make along the way to avoid further injury. Despite having last season interrupted by tendinitis, Baisley is expected to compete for a spot in Double-A Reading's rotation in 2001. His ceiling ranks right below Brett Myers', as a potential No. 2 or 3 starter who should be ready for the majors in a couple of years.
After he had two .500 seasons in short-season leagues, Madson's stock soared in his first exposure to full-season ball. He tied teammate Frank Brooks for the South Atlantic League lead in wins while ranking third in ERA. Madson fits the mold of the young, projectable arms the Phillies are trying to build their future rotation around. He has imposing size on the mound, and his stuff further sets him apart. Like Baisley, he throws an effortless 91-93 mph fastball that still has room to add velocity, along with a biting, overhand curveball. He's sound mechanically and able to consistently repeat his delivery. Madson already displays good control, but he could use a little refinement of his offspeed offerings. He's working on tightening the spin on his 12-to-6 curve, while his changeup is showing signs of improvement already. The Phillies think the towering trio of Brett Myers, Brad Baisley and Madson can be special. Baisley is one step ahead right now, but they could climb the ladder together. Madson will pitch at high Class A Clearwater in 2001.
Drafted as a shortstop in the second round out of high school by the Dodgers, Utley spurned their offer to attend UCLA. He achieved All-America honors as a junior, batting .382 and leading the Pacific-10 Conference with 82 runs scored, before the Phillies used the 15th overall pick and $1.7 million to sign him. Utley was considered the best pure hitter available among college draft prospects, and he has plenty of sock for a middle infielder. He lived up to his reputation in his pro debut. He always has demonstrated a good idea of the strike zone and handles the bat well. Utley has drawn comparisons to Todd Walker (Rockies) and Adam Kennedy (Angels), two former first-round picks, based on both his offensive prowess and defensive shortcomings. At the plate, Utley needs to use the whole field more effectively. He's improving in that regard by staying inside pitches better and driving them to left-center. He's adjusting to the finer points of playing second base and will have to prove he can stick there. The Phillies envision Utley's bat fitting in nicely with their young nucleus in the near future. He's expected to begin a rapid ascent through the system by beginning 2001 in Clearwater.
Signed just days before his 17th birthday, Machado did little offensively during his first two years that would merit a promotion all the way to the Florida State League last season. But not only did he hold his own as one of the FSL's youngest everyday players, he started for Double-A Reading in the Eastern League playoffs. Machado has drawn comparisons to countryman Dave Concepcion for his smooth actions, cannon arm and flashy range. Despite committing 43 errors, managers ranked him the FSL's best defensive shortstop as a teenager. The Phillies applaud his instincts. But he hasn't shown proficiency from either side of the plate and has struggled to make consistent contact. Power is the one tool he'll never have, but Machado should have more success ripping balls into the gaps as he matures physically. His speed is raw, as he was caught stealing 18 times in 2000. With Jimmy Rollins set to take over in Philadelphia, there's no need to continue rushing Machado through the system. He'll be able to develop at a more natural pace, starting back at Reading.
Taylor has made the top 10 six straight years since being drafted in the first round. A separated shoulder in the Venezuelan League nearly derailed his 2000 season, but to his credit he battled back to return by the end of May. He still had time to show off his five-tool potential and tie a career-high in home runs. Some scouts believe Taylor would be among the best defensive center fielders in the majors right now. He can close the gaps with impressive bursts of speed, while his powerful throwing arm cuts down runners with its strength and accuracy. He generates above-average pop with a quick bat and his wiry athletic strength. Considered a raw athlete six years ago, Taylor has yet to shed that label. His lack of concern for working counts is the key factor holding him back. A career .296 on-base percentage is a major concern, no matter how impressive his tools may be. Taylor is the most athletic player in the system, bar none, but the perennial top prospect is entering a pivotal season. He showed steady improvement in Venezuela this winter.
Valent broke Troy Glaus' home run record at UCLA, but won't approach his power exploits in the majors. Valent was drafted with the compensation pick the Phillies received for failing to sign J.D. Drew in 1997. He finished third in the Eastern League in home runs and RBIs en route to earning recognition as the loop's sixth-best prospect. Valent's 30-point decline in average from 1999 to 2000 isn't a major concern because of his excellent plate discipline. Dating back to college, he has shown a knack for driving in runs. His intensity and solid makeup also will work to his advantage in the upper levels. His arm is one of the best in the organization, and he displays good all-around skills in right field. Valent hit just .238 from July on last year. He has been prone to peaks and valleys and can become too pull conscious at times, compounding his slumps. He's no more than an average runner. Entering his third full season, Valent will have to turn up his offensive production a notch and make the adjustments to avoid stagnating in Triple-A. With Bobby Abreu in Philadelphia, Valent projects as a left fielder in the majors.
Duckworth has risen from not getting drafted after his senior college season to the verge of the Phillies rotation. Coming off a subpar 1999 season in Clearwater, Duckworth led the Eastern League in strikeouts and earned recognition as an all-star and as the circuit's No. 5 prospect. Duckworth doesn't try to blow hitters away, but he can show surprising pop and movement on his fastball. It regularly sits in the 87-92 mph range, topping out at 94. His sharp, 12-to-6 curveball was rated the best breaking pitch in the EL, and he also has a changeup. He'll throw any of his three pitches at any point in the count. There are no glaring weaknesses in Duckworth's arsenal, but at the age of 25, he may have to prove that his breakthrough was no fluke. Often labeled as a finesse guy, he'll need to maintain his increased velocity to enjoy success in the majors. Duckworth effectively placed himself on the fast track by outdueling hitters in Double-A. He'll get a long look in spring training, and has the inside track over rookies Dave Coggin and Evan Thomas for consideration on the big league staff.
Byrd attended Georgia Tech intending to play football out of high school, but quickly changed his path by focusing solely on baseball and transferring to Georgia Perimeter JC. Physically, he resembles Dee Brown, a high school gridiron standout-turned-Royals prospect. Byrd's assault on the South Atlantic League earned him the organization's minor league player of the year award. Byrd generates tremendous power with his muscular build and compact stroke. He can mash fastballs into the gaps and his over-the-fence power should increase with experience. He's a gifted baserunner and a potential 30-30 threat in the future. Though he pulverized the Sally League, Byrd wasn't young for the level and needs to prove he can hit pitching at the higher levels by sharpening his command of the strike zone. His arm is his biggest weakness and almost certainly will relegate him to left field. Given his lack of baseball experience, the Phillies were thrilled with the aptitude Byrd showed in a full-season league in 2000. His work ethic is off the charts, which should give him an edge as he takes on the challenges of the upper levels.
When the Angels made Nickle the player to be named in a 1998 trade for the now-retired Gregg Jefferies, most people saw a 23-year-old starting pitcher toiling in Class A. But the Phillies saw something different altogether. An immediate shift to the bullpen and some mechanical tinkering increased Nickle's velocity from the high 80s to the 94-mph range. In his first year in the Philadelphia system, he slammed the door on 28 saves and emerged as a closer prospect on the fast track. He continued to flourish last season, when managers named him the Eastern League's best reliever. He relies primarily on his fastball and a good knuckle-curve, and he also will mix in a slider and change. He has the ideal demeanor of a closer, but he still needs to hone his command and learn to put hitters away. Nickle completely overpowered righthanders in Double-A last year, limiting them to a .164 average, a factor that could help his chances of breaking into the Phillies' veteran relief corps. The additions of free agents Ricky Bottalico, Rheal Cormier and Jose Mesa buy him time and will allow him to be eased into a lesser relief role.
One of the most pleasant surprises in the organization last year, Hernandez made his U.S. debut an overwhelming success by winning the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League's ERA title and recognition as the circuit's No. 6 prospect. The Phillies would have been happy if the teenager kept his head above water during his pro debut, but instead they came away raving about his advanced feel for pitching. Hernandez already demonstrates the ability to locate four quality pitches: a projectable 89-92 mph fastball, a good curveball and changeup, and a developing slider. After his encouraging effort in the GCL, he continued to show his poise and pitchability by competing in the Venezuelan Winter League. Hernandez has shown that he's more than capable of handling the challenge of a promotion to the full-season South Atlantic League this year.
The Phillies view Padilla as an exciting tools prospect who only has begun to scratch the surface of his potential. He was rated the organization's No. 7 prospect two years ago, but he turned in a disappointing effort when he showed up out of shape in 1999 and left a lot to be desired with his overall approach. Padilla responded to the organization's criticism and turned the corner last year by showing up in tremendous physical shape. He displays an above-average arm and plays a solid right field. He uses the whole field and is beginning to develop some of the power that Philadelphia's scouts projected when they drafted the Puerto Rican native out of a Florida high school. He's still impatient at the plate and needs to lay off of breaking stuff out of the zone. He can put a charge into the ball just based on his raw strength, but he still is learning which pitches to turn on. Padilla should continue to improve and will play in the Florida State League this year.
A member of Miami's 1999 College World Series champions, Jacobson didn't play in Omaha because he was sidelined with a broken hand. A much-improved commodity in scout's eyes before the injury, the big receiver hit .380 for the Hurricanes and was regarded as one of the draft's best defensive players before the Phillies nabbed him in the third round. When he was healthy enough to make his pro debut in 2000, he lived up to his billing as a catcher. Jacobson sets a good target for pitchers and works well with them. Basestealers will have to run at their own risk, as he owns excellent arm strength that produces good carry on his throws. He has raw power potential that's really evident in batting practice, when he tattoos pitches and the ball jumps off of his bat. In games, pro pitchers were able to exploit his long swing and questionable strike-zone judgment. If he can address those weaknesses in the Florida State League this year, he'll be on his way to developing into a double threat as a catcher.
Since ranking as the organization's No. 2 prospect entering 1996, Coggin's career has rarely looked like that of a high-profile first-rounder. Drafted as a power pitcher, he had a scholarship to play quarterback at Clemson before the Phillies convinced him to turn pro. He never has lived up to expectations and all but disappeared from prospect consideration when shoulder injuries limited him to just 42 innings in 1999. He worked hard to regain his velocity by building lower-body strength, and found himself filling Robert Person's shoes in the Phillies rotation briefly last summer. Coggin's four-pitch arsenal isn't overpowering, but he mixes a solid array of breaking pitches along with a 91-93 mph fastball to keep hitters off balance. Controlling his stuff, specifically his fastball, has been an issue that has plagued Coggin as a pro. His 169-141 strikeout-walk ratio over the past three seasons underscores his difficulties. Now that he has his confidence and stamina back, and he has had a taste of the majors, he'll try to establish himself as a legitimate callup candidate in Triple-A this year.
The Phillies have had some success delving into the junior college ranks, with Marlon Byrd, Espy, Johnny Estrada and Nick Punto showing upside. Espy torched the South Atlantic League last year, finishing in the top five in batting average, home runs, on-base percentage (.439) and slugging percentage (.531). A big masher, he owns the best raw power in the system. He's a baseball junkie with outstanding work habits keeping his muscular physique in shape throughout the season. Espy isn't a feast-or-famine slugger either. He was one of just eight minor leaguers to surpass the 100-walk plateau. In the field, he operates with limited mobility, but has good hands and isn't a liability. Many have been quick to discredit his monster offensive campaign due to his age, so he'll have to continue to prove himself at each level. The pitcher-friendly Florida State League is up next for Espy.
Estrada has shown marked improvement since coming out of junior college in 1996. He has added 20 pounds to his stocky frame and has made himself into a prospect worth noting through hard work. As a switch-hitting catcher, Estrada already has one thing going for him, and he puts the bat on nearly everything. He rarely strikes out, going down just once in every 16 plate appearance over the course of his career. On the flip side, however, Estrada has drawn just 44 walks in 365 career games. He possesses some gap power and swings the bat well from both sides of the plate, hitting .338 against southpaws last season. Managers named Estrada the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League last season, and he rates solid average across the board. He has become a good signal caller and his pitchers like to have him as a target. After a stint in the Arizona Fall League, he'll head into 2001 as the starting backstop at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a chance to backup Mike Lieberthal in the not-too-distant future. It will be interesting to see how his ultra-aggressive approach works against more experienced pitching, though.
Silva's live arm rivals those of the system's best. But since signing five years ago, he hasn't developed the secondary pitches and polish to accompany his blazing fastball. For a guy who consistently blows his fastball in the mid- to upper 90s, Silva has been surprisingly hittable. He also has averaged a mere 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Last year, he led the Florida State League in innings pitched, losses and complete games, and it may have been his last experience as a starter. The Phillies liked what they saw from him in shorter relief stints during instructional league and think he could have a future in that capacity. Silva's changeup is showing signs of coming around. He has experimented with a curveball and slider that he's struggled to throw consistently. A shift to the pen could prove to be the turning point in his career.
Some teams might have drafted and developed the athletic Bucktrot as a slugging lefthanded-hitting outfielder, but the Phillies were enamored with his powerful right arm. He fires an above-average fastball into the low 90s and also has a sharp-breaking curveball. He's still learning how to put it all together and showed some dominating potential in the Gulf Coast League. Given his two-way background, Bucktrot still is learning how to set up hitters. Because he was able to rely on two power pitches in high school, he never threw a changeup, but he'll get a chance to develop one as a starter. With his lively arm and projectable 6-foot-3 frame, Bucktrot is a candidate to have a breakthrough season. The Phillies believe he'll be able to handle the South Atlantic League this year.
Rated the Braves' 10th-best prospect before Tommy John surgery claimed him in 1997, Osting was acquired by the Phillies last summer along with fellow southpaw Bruce Chen for Andy Ashby. After missing the entire 1998 season, Osting dominated the South Atlantic League in 1999 and pitched well in Double-A last year. He always has been a control pitcher, relying on spotting his lively 86-90 mph fastball on both sides of the plate. He changes speed effectively, using his curveball and changeup to keep hitters off balance. The Phillies would like to see him become more aggressive and improve the arc on his big breaking ball to help combat righties. His up-and-down performance in the Venezuelan Winter League factored into Philadelphia's decision to leave Osting off the 40-man roster. He's expected to compete for a job in Triple-A, but because he's not overpowering his ceiling as a starter is just average. He should have a future role in the majors as a middle reliever if he continues to get lefties out, however.
Michaels was drafted in the 15th round by the Cardinals in 1997, after hitting .411 with 32 doubles and 15 home runs as a junior in the shadows of Pat Burrell at Miami. Unsatisfied with his draft position, Michaels returned for a senior season and batted .378 with 19 home runs to cap off a standout collegiate career. In the process he improved his draft status, as the Phillies scooped him up three rounds after taking Burrell with the first overall choice in 1998. Michaels' tools are solid across the board. He can play all three outfield positions, though he's best suited for a corner. Until last year, he exhibited a professional understanding of pitch selection. Michaels hits the ball hard and can drive pitches the other way into the gaps. He has proven he can hit, though his lack of power may preclude him from earning a regular role in the majors. Seemingly destined to be a fourth outfielder or a platoon player, he'll play everyday in Triple-A this year.
Sitzman was overshadowed at Arizona State and not highly regarded as a pro prospect, a sentiment reflected by his status as a 32nd-round pick. He did flourish as a junior, however, hitting .373 and leading the Pacific-10 Conference with 33 steals in 1999. In his full-season debut, speed was his most evident tool again as he led all Philadelphia farmhands with 53 steals in 65 attempts. Sitzman's 6.38-second 60-yard-dash time is the best in the organization, and the fact that he knows how to use his speed makes him an intriguing player to watch. He was able to eliminate the loop in his swing that scared away scouts during college and finished second in the South Atlantic League batting race. As expected, he covers a lot of ground in center field and his wheels augment his average arm strength a little bit. Sitzman sprays line drives to all fields, but doesn't drive the ball with much authority. He's expected to move up to Clearwater, where he'll need to focus more on getting on base to maximize the value of his speed.
Though the Phillies didn't have a second-round pick in 2000, they were able to land a few prizes in the first 10 rounds because of scouting director Mike Arbuckle's willingness to take chances. Keith Bucktrot, Buchholz and Danny Gonzalez all had been projected to go higher than they did. Buchholz was strongly committed to attend North Carolina, but Philadelphia believed it owned a regional advantage and selected the Pennsylvania high school product. It still took third-round money ($365,000) to sign him, but the move could pay off. Buchholz has the size of a future workhorse and he's developing the repertoire to go with it. He consistently can hit 90 mph and has topped out at 92. He has the makings of an above-average curveball and already owns a great feel for his changeup. Buchholz shows an impressive aptitude considering he's not even a year removed from the prep ranks. His command and poise should help him as he's expected to jump to a full-season circuit this year.
Like Padilla, Gonzalez was drafted in the top five rounds out of the Florida Air Academy via Puerto Rico. The Phillies believe if it weren't for his lack of speed, Gonzalez would have been regarded among the upper echelon of 2000 draft prospects. But as it is, they may have uncovered a gem with promising potential on both sides of the ball. In instructional league, Gonzalez provided a glimpse of his impressive tools. In particular, his bat shows signs of being a plus, with the potential to add some loft power as he bulks up his frame. At shortstop, he displays soft hands and a strong arm, but his range and the presence of Jimmy Rollins, Anderson Machado and Carlos Rosario in the system could force Gonzalez to shift to second base. The next look the Phillies will get at him will be in extended spring training, before deciding which short-season club he should debut with.
Originally signed in 1994 by the Dodgers, Nunez was released after just one season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. After he spent two years out of baseball, the Phillies discovered he had physically matured and signed him in 1998. He finally made his stateside debut that year, following a second and more decisive tour of the DSL. His fastball, which touches 98 mph, was rated the best in the South Atlantic League in 1999. Because he lacks an above-average secondary offering, Nunez will be used in short relief. The Phillies hoped his time in the rotation would help him develop his breaking stuff. He was able to air out his heater and became more effective in his nine relief appearances last year. A late bloomer, he may see his ascent helped by the shift to the bullpen. Improving his rudimentary curve or changeup would raise his profile even more.
Drafted as a shortstop, Punto has spent all of his first three years in the system at that position. But the Phillies' abundance of shortstop prospects has forced him across the bag to second base. The scrappy Punto made a relatively smooth transition to the keystone in the Arizona Fall League. He has the hands and footwork to handle the move. In an effort to mold him into a utility player, Punto also got some work at the hot corner in Arizona. He plays the game hard and is a solid line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate who battles and works the count. His speed adds another necessary dimension to becoming a quality utility player, though his lack of power should prevent him from earning a full-time job. He's slated to learn the nuances of second base in Triple-A this year.
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