First of a three-part series reviewing the Phillies' 2018 minor-league system.
The overhaul at the major-league level came last offseason when general manager Matt Klentak replaced manager Pete Mackanin with Gabe Kapler, who, in turn, installed a new coaching staff and a lot of new ways to do things.
Major changes at the minor-league level are taking shape now. The Phillies are searching for Joe Jordan's replacement after the director of player development resigned in early September. A batch of new hitting coaches is also needed after the Phillies purged that part of their minor-league system. The dismissals included Rhys Hoskins' minor-league mentors, Frank Cacciatore and Sal Rende. A field coordinator is also needed to replace the hard-working and respected Doug Mansolino.
"I think in general we have a pretty good operation," said Bryan Minniti, the Phillies assistant general manager in charge of player development as well as amateur and international scouting. "Yes, we made some changes recently, but a lot of the people that have been here are going to still be here. We are always looking to get better, and we are trying to improve on instruction. There are ways for us to get better."
Truth is, the Phillies had a farm system on the rise under Jordan's leadership and this year was another example of that. Sure, there are questions about first-round picks Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph, and this was not a good year for Jhailyn Ortiz, the $4 million right fielder from the Dominican Republic whom the organization signed as a 16-year-old in 2015.
But the Phillies are a pitching-rich organization led by Sixto Sanchez, who remains one of minor-league baseball's premier pitching prospects despite missing much of this season because of elbow inflammation. He was also recently scratched from pitching in the Arizona Fall League because of a collarbone injury.
While Sanchez is the most prized prospect in the system, he was hardly the only one. Thanks to strong pitching, the Phillies' nine minor-league affiliates posted a .539 winning percentage (474-406), fifth best among baseball's 30 teams. The Phillies' combined minor-league ERA of 3.61 was tied for fourth best.
While those things are not vital to developmental success, it is encouraging that the teams ahead of them in winning percentage – Houston, the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay – have what are considered among the best farm systems in the game.
"Joe and I had a lot of things we believed in the same way for sure," Minniti said. "It is always about development first, but winning while you develop is really important. First, you want to have an age-appropriate team for every league, and we have that. Then teaching in general is just easier when you're winning. It's harder to teach when you're not winning. The best of all worlds is to develop and win, and that is what we've done the last few years."
With input from Minniti and several scouts familiar with the Phillies' minor-league system, we will take a position-by-position look in a three-part review of the 2018 minor-league season. We start with the infield.
There is no projected superstar at the position, but there is a lot of raw power.
1. Darick Hall: A 14th-round pick in 2016, the lefthanded-hitting slugger has 64 home runs in 306 minor-league games. He got off to a fast start at high-A Clearwater but struggled for the first time after being promoted to double-A Reading.
Minniti: "It's not always easy changing levels. You take your lumps and adjust. We've sent him to the Arizona Fall League, and we'll see how he does there."
Scout's view: "I like Darick Hall some. He's an interesting lefthanded power bat. He needs to make some adjustments, but if he does, I think he might even have a chance to be an everyday guy at first base."
2. Zach Green: A third-round pick in 2012, the former high school teammate of Rhys Hoskins led the organization in extra-base hits (58) and slugging percentage (.532). Green, 24, batted a combined .281 with 35 doubles, 20 home runs and 75 RBIs at Reading and Lehigh Valley. It was his best season. He also plays third base.
Minniti: "The big thing for him was he stayed healthy and stayed on the field."
Scout's view: "He had a good year, but I still think he's an organizational guy."
3. Joey Meneses: The Phillies, at the urging of amateur scouting director Johnny Almarez, signed the 26-year-old Mexico native after he was released by Atlanta, and he emerged as the International League player of the year, batting .311 with 27 home runs and 82 RBIs. It's unlikely the Phillies will keep him on the 40-man roster, which means he will play elsewhere next season.
Minniti: "If we don't add him, he'll be sought after by a lot of other clubs."
Scout's view: "Maybe they try to trade him now and see how strong the interest is. He had a hell of a year, but I don't really see him as a guy on a 25-man roster."
Worth watching: Matt Kroon, this year's 18th-round pick out of Oklahoma State, had a .377 on-base percentage in 38 games at Williamsport.
It was a weak position for the Phillies at the upper levels of the minor leagues.
1. Daniel Brito: Still only 20, the native Venezuelan showed improvement at the plate, hitting a combined .252 at Lakewood and Clearwater. He also made only six errors in 116 games. He signed for $650,000 in 2014.
Scout's view: "I'm not as high as a lot of other people. I see him as a big-league utility guy.
Another scout's view: "I still think he's the guy in their system at that position. He will eventually hit, and he already plays defense."
2. Nick Maton: A seventh-round pick last year, Maton has played mostly at shortstop during his first two professional seasons, but some scouts see him more as a second baseman. He had a solid season for Lakewood, finishing with 26 doubles and 39 extra-base hits.
Scout's view: "I can see him being a super utility guy."
3. Nicolas Torres: Signed for $665,000 two years ago, he hit .302 with eight doubles in 39 games as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. He also stole seven bases in eight attempts.
Given how little J.P. Crawford played this season, he could still be considered a prospect, but not one nearly as valued as he was two years ago. The new hot prospect at the position is Luis Garcia, who made his professional debut this season in the Gulf Coast League down in Clearwater, Fla., and has created a real buzz within the organization.
1. Luis Garcia: At 17, he led the GCL in hitting with a .369 average while also posting a .921 OPS and a .433 on-base percentage. The Dominican Republic native was the Phillies' second-biggest international investment in club history, signing for $2.5 million in July 2017.
Scout's view: "I know it's only the Gulf Coast League, but that's some way to start a professional career."
Another scout's view: "He is going to be a player."
2. Arquimedes Gamboa: Signed for $900,000 in 2014, he has hit just .221 with a .296 on-base percentage in four pro seasons. The 21-year-old Venezuelan is a wizard with the glove. He made just 12 errors in 109 games.
Scout's view: "Very talented but immature at this point. He was about as big a dog as I saw this year."
3. Logan Simmons: The Phillies' sixth-round pick out of Tattnall Square Academy in Georgia had three home runs, 10 extra-base hits, and 11 RBIs in 32 GCL games.
Minniti: "He's one of the guys you haven't heard of yet, but you will soon."
Worth watching: Malquin Canelo had to repeat double-A Reading and showed some improvement, increasing his batting average by 25 points and his OPS by 31 points and stealing a career-high 24 bases in 29 attempts, but he is still a long way from being big-league-ready.
With Maikel Franco possibly on his way out and Carlos Santana possibly becoming the short-term solution at the position, it's a good time to be a third-base prospect in the Phillies system.
1. Alec Bohm: The third overall pick in this year's draft, the right-handed power hitter out of Wichita State has failed to hit a home run in his first 40 professional games, and he also was sidelined for a month after being hit by a pitch in the knee. He had 17 RBIs in those 40 games and batted .252 with a .335 on-base percentage.
Minniti: "Things were a little disjointed for him, but he's a really talented kid and he will be fine."
Scout's view: "Most of the time college players come into professional baseball, you don't see the guy at his best. You'll see the real guy in 2019. I do not think he will be a third baseman."
2. Jake Scheiner: He was the best and most versatile player on the Lakewood roster, hitting a team-high .296 with 67 RBIs and an .842 OPS that ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League. In addition to his 59 games at third base, he played 30 at first base and 26 in left field.
Minniti: "You will find a place for a guy with that kind of bat to play."
Scout's view: "I didn't like him as much as the Phillies' people did. I think I had him as fringe prospect. Don't see him as an impact guy at the big-league level."
3. Mitch Walding: The fifth-round pick from the 2011 draft had a rough go of it during his brief stints in the big leagues, but he had by far his best minor-league season, finishing second in the International League, behind teammate Meneses, with an .864 OPS.
Minniti: "Whenever he'd have a tough time of it in the big leagues, he'd go right back down and pick up where he left off."
Scout's view: "I think he's getting better, but he's still more of an up-and-down-type guy. Not a real impact roster guy."
Worth watching: Jake Holmes, an 11th-round pick out of high school in 2017, batted a combined .306 with Williamsport and in the GCL.