The Phillies hit the trade deadline in the midst of their hottest streak of the season. They’re still, by MLB standards, a bad team, but with the bats coming alive and the starting pitching showing the kind of promise many fans expected when the season began, there’s a bit of excitement down at Citizens Bank Park these days. The Phillies have won five straight and head into August with some positive signs of life, and a look to the future.
Only, now we can start to wonder which players will be a part of that future. And for those who won’t be, why weren’t they traded to make room for the ones who will?
GM Matt Klentak made one last move at the trade deadline, dealing reliever Joaquin Benoit and cash to Pittsburgh for Single-A right-hander Seth McGarry. The Phillies made several deals in the days leading up to the deadline, but none were anything close to a blockbuster deal. No Tommy Joseph. No Freddy Galvis. No Odubel Herrera. The only notable players dealt before the deadline were guys we all expected to go: Howie Kendrick, Jeremy Hellickson, Pat Neshek and Benoit; each ostensibly a veteran rental who brought back moderate returns.
And so, as the poor 2017 season turns the calendar to August, with still a month before the minor league call-ups flood into the clubhouse to get their late-season tires kicked at the major league level, it’s a good time to posit which players on the current roster are really part of the future. And moreover, who in the minors might be clamoring for a call-up that pushes one of the regulars out of town.
Trust the Process? For the Phillies (made popular by The Good Phight and the guys behind Felske Files) the Phillies will soon be asking fans to Trust the Prospects.
The Phillies have some decent young prospects, it just seems like they play the same positions as some of their best major leaguers.. Of the top 12 prospects in the Phillies’ system, five are outfielders (that includes Nick Williams, who is with the major league club already) and three are right-handed pitchers. Yet it’s the other four — all infielders — who might be the most ready for the Big Show.
The Phillies’ top-rated prospect, Mickey Moniak, is playing in Single-A Lakewood right now. He has a world of potential, but his organizational ranking is based more on his draft position — first overall last season — than anything he’s done in the minors. Through 96 games, Moniak is hitting .258 with 93 hits, including 27 extra-base hits.
Sixto Sanchez is the second-rated prospect in the organization. In just 13 games in Lakewood — 67.1 IP as of Monday’s games — he’s shown he’s the goods, routinely hitting 100-plus mph on radar guns, while limiting batters to a .191 batting average against and a 0.82 WHIP. But he’s just 19 years old, and he’s not expected to hit the majors until 2020.
Then come the Phillies’ third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-rated prospects, who are all in Triple-A and are all seemingly ready to make the jump to the majors very soon. And yet, as much as we talk up the likes of Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and Rhys Hoskins, none of them are in the top 50 in MLB’s most recent prospect rankings, which begs the question if any of them will be can’t-miss MLB stars.
— IronPigs (@IronPigs) July 30, 2017
Kingery is the heir apparent at second base. The Phils’ third-ranked prospect is rated 56th in baseball and is batting a team-best .303 in Lehigh Valley through Monday’s games. Kingery has been fast-tracking his way through the system, starting this season in Reading before getting the promotion to the IronPigs in late June. But with Cesar Hernandez under team control through 2021, there’s no real reason to rush Kingery to the majors. Which means he could be trade bait in the off-season.
— IronPigs (@IronPigs) July 27, 2017
At shortstop, J.P. Crawford has been the hot name in the minor league system for years, but as his production for Lehigh Valley got off to a slow start this season, his reputation in the game tanked. As Matt Breen at Philly.com pointed out in July, Crawford dropped 80 spots in Baseball America’s prospect rankings this season. And yet, he’s started to come around. In 96 at-bats in July, Crawford hit .281 with 15 extra-base hits, including eight home runs.
Meanwhile, Freddy Galvis continued to show his value for the Phillies at shortstop, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense with a bat that has come around as well lately. Since June 1, Galvis is hitting better than .280 with seven homers and 19 extra-base hits.
Galvis is making $4.35 million this year and is eligible for arbitration next season. He can become a free agent in 2019. There was a time not long ago where it felt Galvis was doing little more than keeping the shortstop position warm for Crawford. Now, he might have made the prospect expendable entirely.
Catcher is a problem. The Phillies would love for Alfaro to come and take the major league catching role, a position that’s been of concern once Carlos Ruiz started showing his age nearly five years ago. Alfaro hit .285 last year in Double-A Reading with 15 homers, driving in 67 runs. But his 81 games in Lehigh Valley this year haven’t been as solid. He’s batting just .240 so far this season with an OPS of .652. He has 108 strikeouts in 312 at bats, walking just 17 times. That’s…not great.
It’s also not great that the Phillies weren’t able (or willing, perhaps) to trade Tommy Joseph at first base. Joseph had a woeful start to the season, but has come around in the second half, now batting .256 and tied for the team lead with 16 home runs. Waiting in the wings at first base, however, is Hoskins, who has a team-best 24 homers in Lehigh Valley with a near 1:1 strikeout to walk rate. Hoskins is batting .281 with a .942 OPS in Triple-A, adding 22 doubles and four triples as part of his 103 hits in 106 games.
Of all the current farmhands, chances are the only one who would make the Phillies better right now is Hoskins. Why and how Joseph wasn’t dealt at the deadline is a surprise.
While the infield could totally change over within the next two seasons and the pitching could take a while to manifest in the minors, the outfield may have some future clarity.
Moniak is young, so he’s got at least two to three years in the minors and with Odubel Herrera in center field, there’s no reason to rush him along. Say what you want about Herrera, but the Phillies were right not to trade him. The question becomes the corners, and if Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams, both brought up this year, can be consistent performers at the major-league level.
Through 84 games (289 at bats) Altherr has basically been the Phillies’ best hitter, with a .291 batting average and a .919 OPS. Altherr is tied for the team lead in homers with Joseph and Maikel Franco (whose job seems safe right now, unless Galvis or Crawford can make the switch to third base), but Altherr’s 16 dingers have come in 67 fewer at bats than Joseph and 92 fewer than Franco.
With Kendrick gone and 34-year old journeyman Daniel Nava on the DL, Alterr has the best batting average on the team.
Williams, in a very small sample size — 94 at bats in 25 games — has shown his potential in the bigs. He’s hitting .277 with an .831 OPS (third best this season behind Altherr and Kendrick), adding 11 extra-base hits including four home runs.
A year after taking Moniak first overall, the Phillies drafted another outfielder, Adam Haseley, with the eighth pick this season. They’re both three or four years away, assuming both make it all the way to Philadelphia, so Herrera, Altherr and Williams may have some time to grow together as an outfield. That is, unless Dylan Cozens — hitting just .225 in Lehigh Valley but 23 of his 85 hits have been homers — gets his bat more consistent. Or Roman Quinn — who has only seen action in 45 games for the IronPigs this season while dealing with injury — gets himself healthy.
Or, all this could be blown up if the Phillies deal half their farm system and guys in the majors for Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich this offseason instead of at the deadline. But that seems less likely now. With Aaron Nola looking every bit the ace on the mound and the rest of the starting staff coming around, the clear focus heading into next year will be long-term solutions in the bullpen and figuring out the future of the infield.
Is Franco a third baseman for a contending team, or will they need to address that in free agency?
Can Alfaro eventually take over behind the dish?
Is the outfield set, or will a big-name free agent or blockbuster trade change that?
What combination of Galvis or Crawford, Hernandez or Kingery, Hoskins or Joseph will be starting next year?
Some thought this trade deadline would bring clarity to a few of those questions. There’s still time to make a few deals this year before the waiver deadline, so clarity may still come in August. But if we’re supposed to be trusting the prospects, it will be a while until we find out which ones to trade, and which to trust.