Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
The Philadelphia Phillies
If you were perusing this series back in 2009, you would have read this:
The Graduate: J.A. Happ, LHP: Happ did not garner a lot of attention while rising through the minors, but the left-hander had a solid rookie season for the Phillies. He did a nice job of keeping runners off base with just 149 hits allowed and a walk rate of 3.04 BB/9 in 166.0 innings. Happ’s strikeout rate dipped from his minor-league average, but it was still reasonable at 6.45 K/9. If he can utilize his curveball more often, it might help him with his strikeout rate, because it will change the hitters’ eye levels. One of the biggest ugly marks on his stats line is the 38.4% ground-ball rate.
Now on to the new stuff:
First Taste of The Show: Seranthony Dominguez, RHP: A mostly unheralded minor league hurler, Dominguez burst onto the scene and overpowered big league hitters with an excellent fastball-slider mix. He also induced a strong number of ground-ball outs and even tossed in an occasional effective changeup. Dominguez’s control wavered at times but most of that occurred in the second half when he might have been getting tired (He walked 16 batters in 24.1 second-half innings, but just 22 overall for the year). The Phillies will look to be contenders in 2019 and this young, hard-throwing hurler has earned the right to open the year as the team’s closer — but veteran reliever David Robertson will be waiting in the wings.
The Draft Pick: Alec Bohm, 3B: Selected third overall in 2018, Bohm had an excellent track record of producing with the bat in college ball. He had a bit of a rough debut but also battled injury and was likely tired after a long year. It’s worth noting, Bohm, 22, was also a little older than the typical college junior but he possesses the offensive skills to be a very good professional ball player. He has natural raw pop and lots of room to add muscle to his frame but his swing isn’t geared for fly balls so I’m not sure I see 30+ homer potential. His swing gets long at times (something I observed in both his college and early pro at-bats) so he may be susceptible to some swing-and-miss as he moves up. Bohm will take a walk but off-speed stuff can give him trouble. Defensively and on the base paths he offers very little and he mostly a bat-first player.
The Riser: Spencer Howard, RHP: Velocity jumps will do wonders for pitchers’ value and results. Such was the case with Howard, who saw his heater improve in 2018 and his results skyrocketed. A former 45th overall draft pick, he can now work consistently in the mid-90s and gear it up into the upper 90s. Howard struck out 147 batters in just 112 innings. On the down side, he’s shown inconsistent control as a pro, and he became an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Left in low-A ball year in 2018, look for Howard to jump on the fast track and, ideally, hit double-A around mid-year in the coming season. He has mid-rotation potential with a potential for more as he gets more consistent with his secondary offerings (Howard spent a lot of time overpowering young hitters with the fastball).
The Fallen: Jhailyn Ortiz, OF: I had high hopes for Ortiz in 2018 but he fell on his face as a 19-year-old slugger receiving his first taste of full-season ball. Loaded with raw power, he sold out for power far too often and had massive contact issues (148 Ks in 110 games). Ortiz also lacks dynamic bat speed and hits his balls a long way via brute strength. He has a good reputation, though, so his strong make-up should help him rebound, even if he has to open 2019 back in low-A (which I recommend). Physically mature, he’s also going to need to work on his lower half, which has gotten thick.
The 2019 Contributor: JoJo Romero, LHP: The more I see Romero, the lower my projections go. The southpaw isn’t a huge guy but he has his athletic ability going for him. That helps him find the strike zone more often than I would expect with his funky arm action. He comes to the plate with a very low 3/4 arm slot and is almost side arm. He induces a lot of ground balls and threw a lot of sinkers and changeups before he got hurt. I’m not sure I see more than a No. 5 starter here and he might be most valuable as a reliever at the big league level throwing a variety of pitches to disrupt hitters’ timings.
The 2019 Sleeper: Luis Garcia, SS: Garcia has the potential to be a nifty, little baseball player for the Phillies. He shows good balance at the plate and utilizes a leg kick with his line-drive swing. He has a chance to hit for average because he makes a good amount of contact and can run well but there isn’t a ton of bat speed so, along with the swing, we’re looking at single-digit homer totals. Off-speed stuff still gives him trouble but he’s also just a teenager with limited experience against really good pitching. He has decent athleticism, a strong arm and the potential to be a steady, above-average fielder.
The 2019 Lottery Ticket: Rafael Marchan, C: Young catchers are always difficult to project but Marchan has shown potential early on in his career. The 19-year-old Venezuelan doesn’t generate much extra base pop but he makes a ton of contact and has exceptional bat-to-ball skill, which also doesn’t result in many walks. I’d like to see him quiet his hands, as they’re very busy before he swings. He’s also a switch-hitter who looks good from both sides, which increases his value. Defensively, he has strong, mature legs which provides a sturdy base but I’d like to see him, once again, keep his hands quieter while receiving the ball. Marchan should open 2019 in full-season ball for the first time.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.