By Bob Brookover, Matt Gelb and Marc Narducci, Inquirer Staff Writers | Produced by Matt Mullin, Philly.com
It's time for the midseason installment of The Inquirer's list of the Phillies' top 25 minor-league prospects.
The biggest change from our preseason top 25 is that power-hitting third baseman Maikel Franco has jumped from third to first, replacing lefthander Jesse Biddle at the top.
Nine players on our preseason list - Jonathan Pettibone, Tyler Cloyd, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Brody Colvin, Zach Collier, Tyson Gillies, Dylan Cozens, and Kyle Simon - have been removed. Some of them were deleted because of big-league service time and others because of poor seasons. Cozens is the one most likely to return at some point.
Our nine new players are J.P. Crawford, Cameron Perkins, Aaron Altherr, Zach Green, Mitch Gueller, Cord Sandberg, Mitch Walding, Severino Gonzalez, and Yoel Mecias.
Three scouts from outside the organization were willing to comment on the players, but only players who have performed at low-A Lakewood or above have comments from the scouts.
The centerfielder's numbers do not look good until you realize he is 17 years old in a league filled with 20-somethings. He's like a seventh grader playing varsity baseball. He is already an outstanding defensive centerfielder.
Scout's view: "If anybody is a projection guy, it's him. He makes contact as a 17-year-old playing in a league with 22- and 23-year-olds. That, to me, is impressive. You just never know when it's going to click in for these kinds of guys."
One of the great story lines of this year's draft was that Watson, the Phillies' 2012 first-round pick, was high school teammates with J.P. Crawford, this year's first-round pick. In his first four starts after his childhood buddy was selected, the 19-year-old Watson posted a 0.86 ERA, allowing two earned runs on 12 hits in 21 innings.
Scout's view: "He's got a ceiling as a top-of-the-rotation starter. His fastball was 89 to 93 [m.p.h.] in April, and he has the ability for more. His curveball is potentially an out pitch. I think he's maturing, and in the second half he could make some noise. Everything is advanced for his age."
The Phillies' sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft was part of a tremendous outfield trio at Clearwater before landing on the disabled list after being hit by a pitch in the forearm. Despite missing all of June, the Purdue University product soared into the prospect rankings by batting .337 with 18 doubles, four triples, and three home runs before his injury. He has returned to the lineup in Clearwater.
Scout's view: "I like him a lot. He's a line-drive hitter with gap power and he played a very good outfield. He could be a guy flying underneath the radar."
Always considered a player with good tools and an athletic body, the 6-foot-5 outfielder has never looked better on the field than he has this season. He was named a Florida State League all-star and entered mid-July as the league leader in doubles with 27. Unlike Dugan and Franco, the 22-year-old Altherr is likely to spend the entire season at Clearwater.
Scout’s view: “At worst I think he’s an extra outfielder. I still think his swing is a little long.”
The 26-year-old Ruf got his second call to the big leagues when Ryan Howard landed on the disabled list earlier this month. In his first season at Lehigh Valley, he was extremely streaky and unable to duplicate the extraordinary power numbers he put up last August at Reading. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his season was how he turned himself into a decent left fielder after struggling at the position during spring training.
Scout’s view: “I think this is going to be his big opportunity over the next eight weeks. If he’s going to stay in the big leagues, he’s going to do it right here and right now. Based on my previous observations, I think his best chance is against left-handed pitching. I think he has a chance to be a serviceable platoon player or extra guy.”