In mid-season 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies organization was ranked 21st among the 30 Major League Baseball teams by Baseball America where prospect talent is concerned. That was a slight bump up from their 27th ranking in 2021 and 26th in 2020. At the ranking was even lower, 25th in mid-season 2022, a fifth consecutive 23rd or lower MLB ranking of the Phillies prospect pool.

The most frequent criticism has been that the Phillies minor league system is not very deep in prospects who are likely to make a big-league impact. There are a handful of interesting position players, but most of them are of the “project” type, years away from possibly helping the big club.

However, there is one area of strength found at the very top of the system. The Phillies are developing three arms looked upon favorably by nearly all evaluators, pitchers Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry.

Andrew Painter

Painter will turn 20-years-old in mid-April. He was the club’s first round pick at 13th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Calvary Christian High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The 6’7” right-hander dominated the opposition over four starts at the Florida Complex League after signing that summer.

In 2022, Painter was even more impressive. While rising through three levels of the minor league system he amassed 155 strikeouts while walking just 25 batters over 103.2 innings across 22 starts. That included his final five outings at Double-A Reading in which he produced a 2.54 ERA, 0.953 WHIP, and a 37/2 K:BB over 28.1 innings.

Painter was named as both the MLB Pipeline and Baseball America Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Jonathan Mayo’s piece at back in early October included the following quote on Painter by farm director Preston Mattingly:

Especially for his age, the command he has is impressive. He struggled the most command-wise at the lowest level. As we pushed him to higher levels, he rose to that challenge and his stuff got better, as did his pitch mix. He used all of his weapons.”

At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper expanded on that evaluation: “Beyond just the impressive numbers, Painter displays dominant characteristics on par with some of the game’s best pitchers. Armed with a four-pitch arsenal, his fastball sits 96-98 mph with plus-plus induced vertical break. He features a sweepy low-80s slider as his primary secondary pitch. It averages nearly a foot of horizontal break. His high-70s curveball and upper-80s changeup provide change-of-pace offerings to play off of his fearsome one-two punch. It’s a powerful and refined pitch mix rare among even the best teenage pitchers.”

Mick Abel

A year ago, Abel was the jewel of the Phillies system and a possible ace. Now, the outlook for his future upside has become just a bit more tempered after a 2022 season that saw him exhibit somewhat spotty command and control.

Abel is a 21-year-old who will pitch at that age for nearly all the coming season. He was the club’s first round pick at 15th overall in the 2020 MLB Draft out of Jesuit High School in Beaverton, Oregon. The 6’5” righty debuted in 2021, making 14 starts at Low-A Clearwater before being shut down early due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.

In 2022, Abel pitched most of the season with High-A Jersey Shore (18 starts) and was promoted to High-A Reading where he enjoyed five more outings. He combined for a 3.90 ERA and 1.329 WHIP with 94 hits allowed over 108.1 innings while striking out 130 batters.

What is the problem with Abel that has caused his stock to slip? He produced eight starts, including three of his final four, in which he walked at least three batters. Abel had individual outings in which he walked four, five, and six hitters.

Really he’s kind of getting back just getting a good understanding with what he’s doing,” said Jersey Shore pitching coach Brad Bergesen per Alyssa Gomez at after an early August outing. “Conviction and really keeping the quote-unquote ‘foot on the gas’ has been a big thing for him. And really just getting him to trust his stuff and buy into it and really attacking the zone, being aggressive and working ahead.”

Griff McGarry

Currently ranked third by Baseball America, fourth by, among Phillies overall prospects, McGarry is the oldest of this trio and the one arm among them most frequently looked at as likely to switch to a bullpen role. With his stuff, that might not be such a bad thing in the end. For now, the Phils will continue to develop him as a starter.

McGarry will turn 24-years-old in early June. The right-hander was the club’s fifth round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft out of the University of Virginia. He signed in time to make eight starts across two levels that first summer.

McGarry then continued his development in 2022, rising through three levels to become the only one of these three to reach Triple-A. Overall he produced a 3.71 ERA and 1.214 WHIP, allowing just 53 hits over 87.1 innings and amassing 130 strikeouts across 27 outings, including 19 starts.

Much as with Abel, the problem for McGarry came with bases on balls. He walked 53 batters last season. Moved to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in September for possible inclusion on the club’s postseason roster, he put the kibosh on that possibility with a 10.1 K/9 rate over seven relief outings for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Some of his late-season problems stemmed from what was described by Matt Gelb of The Athletic as “a nagging blister on his pitching hand.” Gelb went on to encapsulate well the current industry consensus on the power righty: “Rival evaluators are somewhat split on McGarry. Some see him as a mid-rotation starter…Other evaluators wonder about McGarry’s command and see him as someone who would benefit from a simplified, two-pitch power arsenal as a reliever.”

The 2008 Phillies team that won a World Series saw Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Adam Eaton, and J.A. Happ perform in the starting rotation. Each of those pitchers had developed in their farm system. This trio holds the promise of bringing that same type of impact. All three appear nearly ready for what promises to be impactful big-league careers.


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