Top Ten Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Will Kimmey
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
Philadelphia had raised its Opening Day payroll from $57 million in 2002 to $93 million in 2004, and pundits figured the reinforcements would enable the Phillies to overcome the seemingly sagging Braves in the National League East. Bad call. Two days before Atlanta won its 13th straight division title, the Phillies fired manager Larry Bowa after four tumultuous years. It was the only move they could make. They have given out too many long-term, big-money contracts to meaningfully shake up their nucleus.
General manager Ed Wade rightly predicted the new park would play like a bandbox and that the pitching staff might be thin. Since the end of the 2003 season, he dealt nine pitchers ranked on Baseball America’s Phillies top 30 prospects list to add Billy Wagner, Eric Milton, Cory Lidle, Felix Rodriguez and Todd Jones. He also signed free agents Kevin Millwood, Todd Worrell and Roberto Hernandez.
All those deals, plus the loss since 2000 of five draft picks in the top three rounds as free-agent compensation, have rendered the farm system thin at the upper levels. Aside from Ryan Howard and Gavin Floyd, the Phillies have few prospects with more than cursory experience above low Class A.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Philadelphia’s player-development system has been unproductive. It has produced four of the club’s eight starting position players in addition to all that trade fodder.
To increase the flow of talent into the organization, the Phillies have renewed their efforts in Latin America after letting them lapse for years. They’re one of the few teams with academies in both the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Instructors travel back and forth from the academies to the club’s Clearwater, Fla., training complex to develop a rapport with the players. That creates an early support system that helps them adjust to American culture as well as baseball once they come to the United States.
“This is all part of a master plan that’s paying dividends,” Latin American operations director Sal Artiaga said, crediting international scouting surpervisor Sal Agostinelli’s aggressive mentality for securing nine of the members of the organization’s top 30 list. Agostinelli and the Phillies have continued to expand the breadth of the scouting operation, pushing into Nicaragua and creating a strong focus in Australia.
The Phillies’ international efforts haven’t been as costly or as flashy as those of other clubs, but team officials say they’ve been just as successful. It’s part of their plan of continuing to improve the club through a productive farm system. But if they’re to dethrone the Braves in 2005, they’ll probably have to look outside the organization for help.
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