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Though most Phillies officials expected Byrd to spend the 2001 season at high Class A Clearwater, he fell two home runs shy of becoming the second player in Double-A Eastern League history to record a 30-30 season. A careless accident as a Georgia Tech freshman nearly cost him his athletic future. He karate-kicked a door in jest and sustained muscular damage to his right leg. He came down with an infection that cut off the circulation to the nerves in his leg and required three operations. Byrd ballooned to 315 pounds, a far cry from the days when he was a sought-after high school running back. After transferring to Georgia Perimeter Junior College, he rededicated himself and has been on a mission since. In case there were any doubts about Byrd's breakthrough, he was among the top hitters in the Arizona Fall League. Byrd removed all of his limitations in 2001 and now offers average to above-average tools across the board. He resembles a young Kirby Puckett, but don't be fooled by his stocky frame. Byrd is a fitness freak with a rock-solid physique. He has a quiet, compact stroke, and the ball jumps off his bat to all fields. He stays back on offspeed stuff and is an intelligent hitter with a decent idea of the strike zone. Like Puckett, Byrd uses his instincts well in center field and gets good jumps in all directions. The Phillies call him a manager's dream because he never stops striving for improvement. A year ago, his below-average speed and below-average arm relegated him to left field. He got himself on a long-toss program and improved his throwing. He also worked on his running, resulting in 30 steals. His power was in question, so he built up his upper-body strength and slugged a career-best .555. He doesn't have as much baseball experience as the typical 24-year-old prospect because he lost two years to his leg injury, but he's quickly making up for lost time. Byrd has rapidly emerged as the Phillies' center fielder of the future. He has already caught manager Larry Bowa's attention with his work ethic. Adding him to an outfield with Pat Burrell and Bob Abreu would give Philadelphia two potential 30-30 men in the lineup.
Myers was challenged by jumping past Clearwater into Reading's rotation as one of the youngest players in Double-A in 2001. The fiery righthander answered the call. Myers showcased his overpowering arsenal in two scoreless innings at Safeco Field in the Futures Game. For the second year, Myers got better as the season went on, proving his durability. He added a darting two-seam fastball to a dominant 92-94 mph fourseamer that touches 95-96. He also throws a plus-plus curveball with late, sharp bite, and he has an average changeup. Myers didn't make the Eastern League Top 20 Prospect list because he didn't consistently show his outstanding stuff. Some think his future is in the bullpen because of his intensity and delivery, but he has smoothed out his mechanics and built up his endurance. His emotions sometimes get the best of him. Like he was a year ago behind Jimmy Rollins, Myers is the organization's No. 1A prospect. He'll anchor the staff someday like his idol Curt Schilling, and he shares the same big league swagger. Myers went 6-0, 3.26 after a pep talk from Schilling in Seattle, and he was generally more in control of himself in the second half.
With consecutive picks the Phillies and Rangers selected a pair of Severna Park, Md., neighbors, Floyd and Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira. Floyd's brother Mike, an outfielder, was selected by the Phillies in the 22nd round. The Floyd brothers were enrolled at South Carolina and on campus before Gavin agreed to a club-record $4.2 million bonus. Floyd's arm draws comparisons to Darryl Kile, Wade Miller and Brett Myers. He signed too late to pitch during the 2001 season, but he made a strong first impression in instructional league. Floyd showed his best stuff for Phillies brass, including an explosive 95-96 mph fastball that bores in on righthanders. Roving pitching instructor Gary Ruby, now with the Pirates, called Floyd's punchout curveball the best he's seen in 16 years of coaching in the minors. Floyd hasn't had to use his changeup much, though it could be a plus pitch. He's refined for his age but needs mechanical fine-tuning. He finished his delivery too straight up in instructional league. Spring training will dictate where Floyd debuts. His ceiling is comparable to that of Myers, who spent his first full season in the low Class A South Atlantic League.
After starting his first full season with a 1-10 record, Buchholz kept his composure and reeled off six straight victories, including four complete games and three shutouts. Buchholz slid to the sixth round in the 2000 draft because most teams expected him to attend North Carolina. It took third-round money to sign him, but it looks like a wise investment. Buchholz is an exceptional athlete with a major league body, and the Phillies love his aggressiveness. He goes after hitters with a lively 92 mph fastball that tops out at 94. His curveball and changeup improved throughout the 2001 season as he became more consistent with his delivery. He showed his strong makeup by bouncing back from his ugly start. Buchholz was one of the most consistent starters in a young rotation at low Class A Lakewood, and the Phillies believe that he just needs to improve his situational pitching. The biggest culprit behind his 1-10 start was an offense that averaged 3.7 runs a game. Philadelphia has been willing to move pitchers quickly, but Buchholz will follow a more normal ascent for now. He'll head to Clearwater as one of the youngest starters in the Florida State League.
Machado returned to Clearwater in 2001 and still was one of the youngest everyday players in the Florida State League. He was named the circuit's top defensive shortstop for the second straight year. Machado's slick glovework has landed him in the Double-A playoffs in the last two seasons as a teenager. Machado cut his errors from 43 in 2000 to 25 in 2001. He has a knack for making tough plays in the hole and is close to major league-ready on defense with a strong arm, quick feet, soft hands and body control. He has excellent speed, running the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds. Machado can drive the ball to the opposite field from the left side, but he doesn't have any power in his frail frame. He strikes out much too often. He also suffers through momentary concentration lapses in the field, a product of his youth. After looking overmatched in Reading, Machado headed to Venezuela for the winter. With Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, the Phillies don't need to rush Machado. They have depth at the position but plan to keep him at short for now.
Padilla, a Puerto Rican who attended high school in Florida, has the size and tools that make scouts jump. Inconsistent performance has prevented him from getting the most of his ability since being drafted. A foot injury kept him out for a month in 2000, while a hamstring robbed him of 40 games in 2001. Padilla has tremendous untapped power, which began to surface in 2001. He uses a strong lower half to drive pitches, and he does a good job of staying inside the ball with his swing. He's a solid fielder with an above-average arm and good speed. Padilla nearly doubled his previous career total by stealing 23 bases in 2001. There were some concerns about Padilla's approach prior to 2000, but he has responded well to the criticism and now it's just a matter of staying healthy. His plate discipline also was lacking, but he has made strides there as well. The Phillies compare Padilla's upside to that of White Sox all-star Magglio Ordonez. While Padilla needs to prove his durability, he hasn't allowed injuries to hinder his ascent. Double-A will present a good measuring stick for him in 2002.
Utley was drafted out of Long Beach Poly High, the same school that produced Tony Gwynn and Milton Bradley, before spurning the Dodgers to attend UCLA. A Little League teammate of Padres prospect Sean Burroughs, Utley was reunited with him at the 2001 Futures Game. After Marlon Anderson hit .228 in 2000, the Philadelphia press hailed Utley as his successor. While Anderson had a career year in 2001, Utley was challenged by the Florida State League. Utley profiles as a productive hitter for average and generates good power with a quick bat. He has become more conscious of using the entire field. He will never be a Gold Glover, but the Phillies are thrilled with the progress he made with his range and double-play pivot. He has enough arm to play second base but lacks natural actions around the bag. Utley hit .203 against southpaws and his swing can get long through the strike zone. Utley could have debuted at Lakewood and posted better offensive numbers, but the Phillies wanted to test him. He'll make the jump to Reading with doubleplay partner Anderson Machado.
Valent, who broke Troy Glaus' career home run record at UCLA, got his first opportunity in Philadelphia in 2001. After collecting hits in four of his first five games, he went hitless for the rest of the season. He was leading the International League in RBIs when he was called up. Valent is a solid major league corner outfielder with right-field arm strength and accuracy. He generates above-average pull power with quick hands and hips. Valent hits hard line drives from alley to alley against both lefties and righties. Prior to his big league callup, Valent was able to avoid the peaks and valleys that had led to his label as a streak hitter. After spending time on the Phillies' bench, he took a while to get back into gear in Triple-A. His swing tends to get long when he's trying to do too much at the plate. Valent could be a victim of the organization's outfield depth. He played 27 games at first base and has the potential to be a potent bat off the bench if he isn't dangled in a trade.
The story remains the same on Silva. He has had one of the organization's best arms since signing at age 16, yet has never dominated hitters. He has established himself as a workhorse and finished second in the Eastern League in 2001 with 180 innings. Silva throws a heavy 93- 94 mph sinker from a three-quarters angle, and the pitch moves on a tough downward plane. He'll touch 95-96 on occasion and offers a fringe-average changeup that helps him get tons of groundouts. He's around the plate too much with his fastball. He lacks confidence in his secondary pitches and allowed opponents to settle in and hit him at a .284 clip with 20 home runs in 2001. There had been some discussion of moving Silva into the bullpen due to his lack of a consistent breaking pitch, but that was shelved after he made encouraging progress with his slider in instructional league. The Phillies once again are encouraged that Silva will be a 200-inning starter in the majors. He'll have to use his 84-mph slider and his changeup well in the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation in 2002 to avoid being banished to the bullpen.
It's silly to read too much into Rookie-level Gulf Coast League statistics, but the Phillies were eager to see Hernandez face full-season league competition after he claimed the GCL's ERA title in 2000. Pitching with savvy beyond his youth, he took advantage of the comfortable pitching conditions at Lakewood's new GPU Energy Park. Hernandez displays an advanced feel for changing speeds and commands three pitches for strikes. He locates his 90-92 mph sinker efficiently and mixes in a late-breaking curveball and good changeup. He'll throw any of his offerings in any situation. He's aggressive with his fastball on the inner half of the plate. Hernandez hit 18 batters last year, a number the Phillies like to see. He doesn't own overpowering velocity, so he'll have to continue to be fine with his command and control. He could afford to add some weight, but he proved his stamina by logging 160 innings after spending the winter pitching in Venezuela. Hernandez will spend another winter pitching in his homeland and then start the 2002 season in high Class A. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
The Dodgers released Nunez after one season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League at the age of 18. They soon may regret giving up on him so quickly. To be fair, Nunez never showed the electric stuff for the Dodgers that the Phillies have discovered since. In four years in the Philadelphia organization, Nunez has worked his way up the ladder on the strength of a fastball that reaches 99 mph. He has the best arm in the system but still is trying to corral his command. He has drawn comparisons to Mariano Rivera for his slight build and free and easy arm action, but he lacks Rivera's resilient demeanor and tends to lose his concentration and composure too easily. Nunez' overpowering stuff is best suited for the bullpen, as he never has surpassed 112 innings in a season. But the Phillies have kept him in the rotation to build stamina and provide an opportunity for Nunez to learn to repeat his delivery. At times he loses his rhythm and his mechanics break down. He worked toward improving his slurvy curveball in the Arizona Fall League. With his outstanding fastball, Nunez could jump to the big leagues in a hurry. If everything clicks for him, he could be a dynamic reliever.
Coming off a breakthrough season in the South Atlantic League, Madson got off to a slow start in Clearwater last year. He didn't find his groove until July, when he returned from a month-long DL stint to rest his shoulder. He answered any doubts about his health by going 3-1, 0.98 in August. Long and wiry, Madson has an ideal, projectable frame, making his slightly above-average 90-92 mph velocity more intriguing. More important, his stuff runs and sinks, causing hitters to pound the ball into the ground. He induces groundouts in bunches and was victimized for just four homers in 2001. Madson has made strides with his changeup. After fiddling with both a curveball and slider, he finally settled on an overhand curveball in instructional league. He's always demonstrated solid command of his stuff and he has a clean delivery, but he tries to get too fine at times. He was pitching behind in the count too often during the first half, taking his breaking stuff out of the equation. He lacks an out pitch, though he's better than the .290 average FSL opponents managed against him. He'll be ahead of schedule by spending 2002 in Double-A as a 21-year-old, and he figures to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the future.
Baisley ranked third on this list entering 2001, trailing only Jimmy Rollins and Brett Myers. Elbow tenderness restricted Baisley to 89 innings in 2000, and the repercussions of the injury carried over into last year, when he was at his worst in Double-A. After missing most of spring training, he didn't join Reading until May. He began rushing his delivery, causing him to lose his leverage on his pitches. High hopes remain for the athletic and lanky Baisley, whose velocity didn't return to 91-93 mph until the final month of the season. His curveball is still a potential knockout pitch, and his changeup should be reliable enough to keep hitters off balance. After battling injuries for two years, Baisley desperately needs a healthy season to learn his body and mechanics. With all of the righthanded pitching prospects brewing in the system, he can't afford further setbacks.
Rodriguez debuted on this list last year at No. 11 before ever playing a pro game. He surfaced as one of the top prospects in the 2000 Area Code Games in Long Beach. At the time he was known as Carlos Rosario, and signed shortly after for $700,000. He made a promising pro debut in the Gulf Coast League. At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Rodriguez doesn't command attention with his size but he possesses thrilling shortstop skills. He's a plus-plus runner with a strong arm and soft hands. He won't ever win a home run derby, but he can drive the ball and generates excellent bat speed, especially from the left side of the plate. He faces competition at shortstop with Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia and Anderson Machado, Danny Gonzalez and Esteban de los Santos on the way. Rodriguez will compete for a job in Lakewood in 2002, but Gonzalez likely will relegate him to short-season Batavia.
Howard hit .379 with a Missouri Valley Conference-leading 18 home runs as a sophomore and projected as a first-round pick for 2001. Then he suffered through a miserable junior campaign, batting .271-13-54 while setting Southwest Missouri State's single-season strikeout record. Coupled with his .231 performance with Team USA the previous summer, Howard endured questions about his bat. But his raw power and physical strength remind the Phillies of John Mayberry, a lefthanded slugger who hit 255 home runs in a 15-year career. Howard got untracked in his pro debut, displaying tape-measure power and good strike-zone knowledge. He's a low-ball hitter with power to drive the ball out of any part of the park. Scouts felt he had trouble pulling pitches with authority during the spring, but the Phillies believe it was just a case of draftitis. Despite his size, Howard moves well around first base and should be a solid average defender. Howard is considered the best raw power hitter in the system and the Phillies expect him to handle Class A in 2002 without problems.
The Phillies have groomed Nickle as a closer for three years since stealing him from the Angels for Gregg Jefferies. Nickle has compiled 51 saves over that period after being converted from the rotation to the bullpen. His veloctiy jumped from 88-89 mph as a starter to 93-94 in relief. He has posted a 2.12 ERA since shifting to the bullpen and limited Triple-A hitters to a .206 average last year. Nickle relies on his above-average fastball and a hard, downward-biting knuckle-curve. He worked on a short, tight slider in instructional league. He has demonstrated a closer's mentality and the stamina to handle multiple-inning appearances. Command in the strike zone is the key for Nickle. He hasn't consistently demonstrated the control and mechanics to handle a closer role in the majors. But Nickle could replace disgruntled Turk Wendell and join Ricky Bottalico in Jose Mesa's setup tandem in Philadelphia.
In the 2000 draft, some teams sought Bucktrot for his potent lefthanded bat rather than his live right arm. He was considered a raw, athletic talent coming out of high school, though his draft stock was hurt by off-the-field concerns. The Phillies have seen only positive results since signing Bucktrot, including a seven-inning no-hitter he threw in his second start of last season. He flashed overpowering potential again three starts later, when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning before settling for a two-hit complete game. His first full season was full of ups and downs. He followed his two nine-inning complete games with his worst outings of the season. While his 90-94 mph fastball and curveball are both plus pitches, Bucktrot didn't show the ability to repeat his mechanics from start to start. He also flashed the makings of a solid changeup, but lacked mound presence and a consistent feel for pitching. Bucktrot should continue to move up one level at a time, though he'll need to develop command and a better feel for pitching to avoid stalling along the way.
Jones slipped in the 2001 draft because of his commitment to the University of California. After losing their second- and third-round picks as compensation for signing free agents, Philadelphia gambled its fourth-rounder on Jones and landed him for third-round money. A high school shortstop, he shifted to third base in the Gulf Coast League. He continued to work on the transition in instructional league before requiring hernia surgery. His athleticism draws comparisons to that of Chipper Jones, and the Phillies believe he could remain at short, though they expect him to outgrow the position. His swing should allow him to hit for average and he has raw power. Jones has the lateral mobility, quick hands and strong arm to play the hot corner, and the projectable bat to justify the move. He's just an average runner. The hernia surgery is considered a minor setback and he's ticketed for Batavia in 2002.
Astacio made his U.S. debut last year after tuning up his live, young arm in the Dominican Summer League. His impressive performance earned him recognition as the Gulf Coast League's No. 8 prospect. Astacio flirts with mid-90s velocity already, sitting at 93 mph, and he has a sharp curveball to boot. He has a projectable 6-foot-3, 156-pound frame with long, loose actions and an understanding of how to pitch. The Phillies' underrated Dominican program just keeps producing quality arms. They already are raving about 18-year-old right hander Elizardo Ramirez, who went 10-1, 1.26 in the DSL last summer. Astacio could make the leap to Lakewood this year, like Yoel Hernandez did from the GCL in 2001.
The Phillies may have found a mid-round gem in DeChristofaro, who was considered potential first-round material early in the spring. His velocity fluctuated and was down from 91-92 mph to 86 by the time scouting directors flocked to see him. A late bloomer, DeChristofaro was a soft-tossing lefty who had a 7.42 ERA as a sophomore. He emerged as one of the top hurlers in a well-stocked region as a senior and engaged in a notable duel with crosstown rival Macay McBride, who became a Braves first-rounder. DeChristofaro matched McBride and nationally ranked Screven County High, but suffered a tough loss despite fanning 15. Phillies brass likens DeChristofaro to a young Tom Glavine. He did a fine job of commanding his 86-90 mph fastball to both sides of the plate after signing. He displays outstanding mound presence and owns a clean delivery. His changeup is above average and he shows the makings of a good curveball. In a system stockpiled with righthanders, DeChristofaro projects as the top lefty and could move fast as he fills out his physically immature frame.
Tejada already had an average major league fastball when he signed at age 16 in November 1998. After two years in the Gulf Coast League, he came out of spring training last year throwing harder and landed his first spot in a full-season rotation. He was among the South Atlantic League leaders in strikeouts and dominated at times, including a 14- strikeout performance in July. Tejada pitches comfortably between 92-94. He has cleaned up his delivery, though his offspeed pitches still have a lot of room to improve. He tends to fall in love with his fastball and will complement it with an average changeup, but he lacks confidence in his curveball. He'll spend 2002 in high Class A at age 20.
The Phillies had high hopes for Richardson when he signed out of the Dominican as a 17- year-old in 1998. Then he hit .216 with just eight homers in 388 at-bats over his first two seasons. Though still considered a raw prospect, he made major strides in 2001 under the guidance of Lakewood hitting coach Jeff Manto. Despite striking out 147 times, Richardson showed progress in handling offspeed stuff, tracking pitches better and using the whole field. He also improved in the field, exhibiting a strong arm and improved range at third. Richardson must cut down on his strikeouts, though he owns as much raw power as any prospect in the system. The pitching-friendly Florida State League will provide him a formidable test in 2002.
Serrano's career started slowly after he signed out of Venezuela at age 17. He spent four seasons in short-season ball before reaching Double-A in 2001. He has been used primarily as a reliever, and his future lies as a short man out of the pen. Serrano consistently pumps 92-94 mph fastballs with late, heavy sink. He throws a fringe-average slider with occasional sharp bite, and is trying to develop an effective changeup from a high three-quarters release. Serrano will drop down and vary his arm slot, but being consistent with his delivery has been the key to his turnaround. He has a Jose Mesa-type body and his weight is a concern. Serrano is one of several relief prospect the Phillies are monitoring closely, along with righthanders Franklin Nunez, Doug Nickle, Jesus Cordero, Cary Hiles and Geoff Geary, and lefthander Pete Zamora.
When the Phillies decided to excise Omar Daal's salary, they picked up Cordero and Eric Junge from the Dodgers in November. Philadelphia became Cordero's fourth organization in his young career. Originally signed as an outfielder by the Indians, he was released after playing in the Dominican Summer League. The Marlins signed him to a one-year deal, though they could have locked him up for as many as five years. Cordero's stuff improved so much by the end of his contract that he was highly sought after before the Dodgers signed him for $643,000. Working out of the pen, Cordero has showcased a live arm. He can run his fastball up into the 95-96 mph range with an effortless delivery. He also developed an effective hard slider last year. Because Cordero lacks anything offspeed, he's limited to relief. He finished 2001 on a positive note after a promotion to high Class A Vero Beach.
The Phillies' Latin American program has provided a significant boost to the system's depth under the direction of international supervisor Sal Agostinelli, and the organization hasn't been content to stop there. The signings of Korean righthanders Seung Lee and Il Kim last year represented Philadelphia's first foray into the Pacific Rim, and Sato became its first Japanese player. Pacific Rim supervisor Doug Takargawa discovered Sato playing shortstop in college. Though he lacked the quickness to remain in the middle infield, he has the size and hands to move behind the plate. He has average major league arm strength and threw out 30 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. While learning a new position along with a new culture, Sato was forced to make quick adjustments. He held his own defensively while displaying above-average raw power. Sato, who projects as a .250-.260 hitter, should move to low Class A this year.
A two-way standout at UCLA, Zamora has focused on pitching as a pro. He joined the Phillies as a Triple-A Rule 5 draft pick in 1999 and pitched a seven-inning perfect game in his first start for the organization in June 2000. Working out with college teammates Troy Glaus and Eric Valent in a rigorous plyometrics program gave Zamora improved velocity and stamina in 2001. He generates sink on his 88-90 mph fastball and his aggressiveness always has been a strong suit. He's not afraid to come inside, which is why he hasn't been limited to a situational lefthander's role. He brushed back Pawtucket's Izzy Alcantara last summer, resulting in Alcantara's infamous dropkicking escapade. Zamora will enter spring training vying for the lefthander's job in the bullpen vacated by free agent Dennis Cook.
Michaels has enjoyed a steady climb through the system. He hit a career-low .261 in 2001, though he did bat .313 against lefthanders and overall blasted a career-best 17 home runs in his first year at Triple-A. Michaels followed up by hitting .300-4-21 in the Arizona Fall League. He offers fringe-to-solid average tools across the board and can play all three outfield positions. The Phillies thought of moving him to third base to add versatility was scrapped in spring training, however. Michaels played 104 games in the outfield for Scranton without making an error. His strike-zone judgment has worsened with each promotion. He projects more as a fourth outfielder than as a regular in the big leagues. Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa likes his competitive streak, and he'll compete for a reserve job this spring.
The second of two prospects acquired from the Dodgers for Omar Daal, Junge was a starter for championship teams in the high Class A California League and Double-A Southern League the past two years. He's attractive because of his 91-94 mph fastball. His command wavers at times, and his hard slider and changeup are average at best. He has a big, durable frame and went at least six innings in 20 of his 27 starts in 2001. At times, he doesn't finish off his delivery and loses some of the leverage his size affords him. Phillies general manager Ed Wade envisions Junge as a potential No. 3 or 4 starter. At 25, he's ticketed for a full year at Triple-A.
Though Hiles isn't young for a prospect, he only began pitching in college. He set the Jackson State (Tenn.) CC record for steals as a speedy outfielder before transferring to Memphis as a junior. Despite his small stature, Hiles attacks hitters with a powerful repertoire and pitches with a fearless attitude. His main weapons are a lively 90-94 mph fastball and a nasty slider. He added a splitter to combat lefties and had his best season in Double-A in 2001. Both his slider and splitter need improvement but show signs of becoming average major league pitches. His control got better last year, though he needs to do a better job of locating his pitches in the strike zone. He pitches with a fearless attitude that belies his size. Hiles will move up to Triple-A this year and could compete for a big league bullpen job before long.
Taylor's tools kept him on the club's Top 10 Prospects list for six straight seasons, but his performance rarely matched the hype. Injuries have hampered his progress in three of the last four seasons. He entered 2001 with a chance to put pressure on incumbent center fielder Doug Glanville, but he severely sprained an ankle two games into the season and wasn't healthy until May. His batting average didn't climb above .200 until mid-June. Taylor is the most athletic player in the organization. His strong arm and excellent range give him aboveaverage major league defensive skills. His lack of plate discipline and his inability to make adjustments at the plate have prevented him from reaching his potential. Entering his eighth season in the organization, he still isn't ready for Philadelphia. Taylor's name keeps surfacing in trade rumors, and a change of scenery could be beneficial. He may never be more than an extra outfielder in the majors.