Phils' long-term emphasis remains on youth
MLB Pipeline checks in from Spring Training camp, unveils team's Top 20 Prospects
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Perhaps more than any other team, the Phillies are known for seeking out athletic players with vast, though often raw, potential in the First-Year Player Draft and in the international market. Key members of their core like Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels fit that profile when they were drafted.
The Phillies' system is once again stocked with young players whose impressive tools give them the potential to develop into stars, much like Rollins and Hamels once did. Third baseman Maikel Franco and left-hander Jesse Biddle, both ranked in MLB.com's list of Top 100 Prospects, appear to be on the cusp of joining the long list of homegrown Phils players in the Major Leagues.
The list of toolsy athletes matriculating in the Phillies' system continues throughout the latest edition of their list of Top 20 Prospects, however. Shortstop Roman Quinn, outfielder Dylan Cozens and catcher Deivi Grullon all offer vast upside if the Phils can hone their skills. And perhaps a bit more polished, though still very young, is shortstop J.P. Crawford, the 16th overall pick of the 2013 Draft.
Getting those young players to the Major Leagues is the job of director of player development Joe Jordan. Though Jordan is quick to point out that scouting director Marti Wolever has found college players like Cody Asche and Darin Ruf, he acknowledges the Phillies' reputation is not unfounded. Developing younger, rawer players requires the player development staff to take a more patient approach and Jordan believes the Phils have assembled a unit that is up to the task.
"It's the best group of baseball teachers I've ever been around, as a group," Jordan said. "The reality is we take a lot of high school players. I think we try to find the younger [high-ceiling players], and it takes a while. For me, what we've got to do is be patient, keep working."
In addition to developing their younger prospects, the Phillies are working to help several players return from serious injuries. Quinn, ranked No. 4 on the Top 20, is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Catcher Andrew Knapp, the team's second-round pick last year, had Tommy John surgery in October. Pitchers Adam Morgan and Shane Watson, both ranked in the top 10 a year ago, had shoulder surgery this winter, and Ethan Martin was shut down for three weeks during Spring Training because of a shoulder strain.
With so many well-regarded players working their way back to health, Jordan said helping them get back on the field would be one of the keys to this season.
"We've got some guys that we think very highly of and we think that are going to help us -- eventually," Jordan said. "But we've got to get them healthy."
Three questions with Dylan Cozens
Cozens was the Phillies' second-round pick in the 2012 Draft and is preparing for his first year in a full-season league.
MLBPipeline.com: You were a two-sport star in high school and were committed to playing football at Arizona before the Phils drafted you. What was it like shifting your focus just to baseball?
Cozens: I'd say I made a good adjustment to pro baseball, and I'm getting a lot more used to it now, so I know what to expect and what I've got to do to move forward. I got to focus a lot more on just baseball. I don't have to worry about workouts for football, and I can really just perfect what I'm doing here a lot easier.
MLBPipeline.com: What has been the biggest lesson you've learned as a professional?
Cozens: To really always get better every day at everything you do and never slack and never be lazy in anything that you do. Every practice go 100 percent and try to get yourself as good as you can every day.
MLBPipeline.com: What are you working on in Spring Training?
Cozens: Just be prepared to play the whole season strong. It's going to start a lot earlier than it did last year, so just getting myself mentally and physically prepared for all 100 and however many games it is. It's a lot different from half of that.
Camp standout: Franco
phillies' top prospects
Though Franco, along with the rest of the Phillies' offense, scuffled out of the gate this spring, it did not take long for him to impress the big league coaching staff with his hitting prowess and defensive ability at third base.
"Barring any injuries, he's got a chance to be a very good player," bench coach Larry Bowa said. "He's got some tools."
Franco put everything together last season, hitting .320 with 31 home runs and a .926 OPS between Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading. He has carried that success over into his first big league Spring Training.
"Franco's been impressive," Jordan said, adding that "the young guys have represented themselves very well" in big league camp.
Breakout candidate: Ken Giles
Giles has always been known for his powerful arm and fastball that reaches triple digits on the radar gun. His fastball-slider combination has helped him strike out 152 batters in 112 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues and also has gotten him an invitation to Major League camp this spring.
"He's got the best arm in the system," Jordan said. "It's one of the best arms in baseball."
But Giles has not been able to take full advantage of his powerful right arm because of his poor command. He has averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings, a number that will need to improve if he is to reach his potential as a late-inning reliever.
Jordan said he thought Giles had made some adjustments that would allow him to do just that.
"Giles is starting to figure himself out a little bit," Jordan said. "I think his delivery is much more repeatable.
"I think he's starting to think more now about making pitches. He's starting to get as much satisfaction out of executing a slider as he does out of throwing 100. That, for me, is a sign of growth."
Giles finished last season with a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League and has a chance to build on that as he advances to the upper levels of the Minor Leagues.