Joe Jordan has spent most of his winter reading. With every report ever written on every Phillies minor-league player at his disposal, the team's new farm director started there. Then, Jordan picked the brains of his assistants and traveled to Arizona, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela to see some players with his own eyes.
It's a system that was ranked 10th in the majors by Baseball America entering the 2011 season and one that was victim of another blockbuster trade depleting it of top talent. That ranking figures to be slightly lower in 2012, but the Phillies still likely rank in the top half of the majors.
And as Jordan, hired from Baltimore last November to replace Chuck LaMar, scanned the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park last week, he saw the strength. Seven of the 10 players the Phillies invited to their prospect development seminar were pitchers. Four of them -- Trevor May, Brody Colvin, Jon Pettibone and Julio Rodriguez — make up the so-called "Baby Aces." They will be in double-A Reading, possibly with the exception of Colvin who could begin at single-A Clearwater.
Jordan acknowledged the system is weighted toward pitching. Here's a brief Q&A with the new farm director, who tells us how one goes about learning a whole system.
What was your main task this winter?
JJ: I've spent a lot of the time over the last three months talking to the staff that's here — whether it's front office staff, pro staff, the scouts, the minor-league staff. I've gotten a lot of opinions on the players from them. So I've let them paint a picture. I have all of the reports in the organization that have been written on any player. That's where my familiarity has come from. I've seen a lot of them as amateurs. At Baltimore, we were in the Eastern League and the South Atlantic League. I mean, you have to see them first-hand. But I feel like I'm in pretty good shape. The staff is really good here. I'm pretty comfortable. I'm just ready to get started.
So you've done a lot of reading.
JJ: Absolutely. But it's been good. We've just been working on so many things — whether it's budget stuff, philosophy, administrative. Pretty soon we get to put that all up and turn our attention to the players. Hell, that's what it's about.
What's your initial impression of the system as the whole?
JJ: It seems like to be that there is some ability in the system. It's a little weighted toward the arms, which I don't think is very different from most systems. It sounds like there are some guys in our minor-league system who are ready or soon-to-be ready to help the major-league club when they're needed.
As far as the overall system, everyone knows Hunter Pence came from another club. We sent really good players there to get him. There have been several of those. It is what it is. We have what we have. Our job is to get them ready. That's what we'll do. I like what's here. I'm familiar with a lot of them.
I had a specific question for both Jordan and assistant general manager Benny Looper about how they'll handle three recent draft picks. Roman Quinn (2nd round), Mitch Walding (5th) and Tyler Greene (11th) are all shortstops. The team spent $1.95 million in bonuses to convince them to sign — specifically, Walding and Greene were rewarded well over the recommended slot for their respective picks.
Numerous team officials have expressed their high opinion on all three players. Knowing the draft compensation rules were to change in the next collective bargaining agreement, the Phillies loosened the purse strings and spent more money than usual in last June's draft. Walding and Greene were the primary benefactors.
All three are high school players, meaning there likely isn't room for all three to be shortstops as they begin their professional careers. Looper said Walding will start spring training as a third baseman while Quinn and Greene stay at shortstop. The hope, Looper said, is that one of Quinn or Greene can show enough in the spring to warrant a spot on single-A Lakewood's roster for the entire season. The other will play for short-season single-A Williamsport.
"Shortstop, what I've heard, I don't think this organization is short on — defensively," Jordan said. "Now, the bat is going to decide what all of them are; if they are everyday players or backup utility guys."
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