I haven’t done a Philadelphia Phillies top prospects piece since the winter 2020 rankings. At that time both Alec Bohm (1) and Bryson Stott (3), both now members of the National League champions starting lineup, featured at the top of the list. High-time to rectify that situation. Watch for these rankings now as a regular off-season feature moving forward, to be released in January of each year.
The Phillies remain an organization looking to build depth of genuine big-league capable talent down through their minor league system. Most of the respected evaluators from places such as MLB Pipeline, Fangraphs, and Baseball America have over the last few years consistently ranked them in the mid-20’s among the 30 Major League Baseball organizations where minor league talent is concerned.
However, the talented prospect depth is now beginning to elevate. Baseball America has moved the Phillies organization up to number 19 overall, based entirely on their top handful of prospects. That includes three talented pitchers who I wrote about just last week. Those three arms will be found at the top of my new Phillies prospect rankings here.
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Let’s get to the top 20 list, with a brief bio and scouting report on each. Following that will be a windup on the state of the system overall.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES TOP 20 PROSPECTS – JANUARY 2023
- Andrew Painter: The 6’7″ right-hander who will turn 20 just after Opening Day 2023 has become the Phillies consensus top prospect across the board with all major evaluators. Upper-90’s fastball with high spin rates which he commands masterfully. Pro-level wipeout slider. Developing curveball and changeup. Also demonstrated the type of maturity that, combined with his elite talent, will see him push for a place in this year’s starting rotation. That could happen right out of spring training, or very early in the season. If he remains healthy, he will be the club’s best homegrown starting pitcher since Cole Hamels, and could surpass the World Series MVP’s career.
- Mick Abel: Only his issues with command and control, as well as a 2021 shoulder injury that cost some development time, put Abel behind Painter as far as upside potential is concerned. A 6’5″ righty with an upper-90’s heater that has a high spin rate. A devastating slider and a changeup that is also a plus offering. Still trying to develop a curveball. He is still just 21 for most of the upcoming season. If the coaching staff can get Abel more under control of his body, the Phillies may have co-aces for years to come. At worst, Abel looks like a 2-3 starting pitcher. He’s a good one.
- Griff McGarry: Another big-armed right-hander, McGarry’s pure stuff does not take a back seat to either Painter or Abel. High-90’s four-seam fastball. Also throws a slider, changeup, and curve that, when he is under control, are all plus pitches. Added a cutter last year as well. He had major command and control issues, and those make it tougher to hang the Painter and Abel ‘sure thing’ label on him. Some see McGarry as a quality back-end bullpen piece. Turning 24 in June, we may see him elevated to help the relief corps as soon as this coming summer. His pure arsenal is at such an elite level that the Phillies have to see if they can get him under control as a starter. If he finds that, he has ace potential.
- Hao-Yu Lee: Currently the best hitting prospect in the entire Phillies farm system, Lee will be just 20-years-old all year. A second baseman from Taiwan, his bat is well ahead of his glove at this stage. Already with a quick stroke from the right side, Phillies coaching will be pushing his strength to elevate his power potential. They’ll also continue working on his overall defensive play at the keystone position. Should end up playing mostly at Reading at some point this coming season. Probably a 2024-25 first look as far as the big-leagues are concerned.
- Johan Rojas: The 22-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic is essentially today what Roman Quinn was a decade ago. Lightning fast, easily the fastest player in the Phillies farm system, and a top-notch defensive center fielder. However, unlike Quinn, Rojas has been able to remain healthy. This gives him a shot at becoming at least an impactful reserve outfielder at the big-league level. That opportunity could come as soon as some point later in this coming season.
- Justin Crawford: Former big-leaguer Carl Crawford was the Tampa Bay Rays starting left fielder when the Phillies defeated them in the 2008 World Series. Crawford is his son, the club’s top draft pick at 17th overall last June. Right now he is a similar player to Rojas, but with more upside potential. But he also just turned 19 in early January, so it is way too early to say much more. Let’s see how he develops over the next couple of years. If it all clicks this summer, Crawford could top this list a year from now.
- William Bergolla: I’m being a bit aggressive here with Bergolla, who just signed out of Venezuela only one year ago and will play all of this coming season at age 19. But he is already a strong defender at shortstop with an idea at the plate. Quick, short stroke that should allow him to be an effective line-drive type hitter. Looked good running the bases and had stolen base success in the Dominican Summer League last season. He’ll begin his climb up the organizational ladder this year when he comes stateside, and along with Crawford will make for an intriguing developmental watch.
- Jesus Starlyn Caba: If Bergolla will make for that kind of intriguing watch, Caba will be even more so. The Phillies just signed the 17-year-old in mid-January out of the Dominican Republic for $3 million. Sal Agostinelli, the club’s director of international scouting, stated “I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and I’ve never seen a shortstop move around like he did.” Agostinelli is one of the most respected talent evaluators in the business, so that is not a statement to be taken lightly. Caba is expected to be a line-drive type hitter. If his bat can even approximate what Agostinelli says about his glove, the Phils might have something very special here. But it is going to take a year or two here in the states to start really talking that kind of talk.
- Gabriel Rincones Jr: Evaluators are all over the place on Rincones, who was drafted last summer in the third round. A big 6’4″ lefty-hitting outfielder with pop who will turn 22 early in spring training, we might see the organization switch him to first base when he makes his pro debut this coming season. If it all clicks, we could be looking at the Rhys Hoskins‘ successor somewhere down the line.
- Alex McFarlane: A 6’4″ righty who has the stuff to shoot up this list over the next couple of years, McFarlane was drafted in the fourth round last summer out of the University of Miami where he mostly pitched out of the bullpen. Stop me if you’ve heard this before on a Phillies pitching prospect: he has an elite arsenal but is held back by command and control issues. How well he can adjust to throwing strikes more consistently will determine his long-term role.
- Andrew Baker: Baker’s fastball-curveball combo is so good that the 11th round 2021 draftee should put himself into the conversation for a big-league relief role as soon as a year from now. If he can gain just a bit more command as he continues to develop, we are looking at the 6’4″ right-hander becoming a Phillies late innings bullpen contributor by the middle of this decade.
- Francisco Morales: This is where the system really begins to thin out. A 23-year-old from Venezuela who made his big-league debut last summer, he appeared in three games with the Phillies. His debut was a strong two-inning appearance on May 9 in Seattle. But his next at Dodger Stadium on May 13 and his final on August 2 at Atlanta left much to be desired. Morales was developed as a starter but switched to a pure bullpen role a year ago by the organization. A 6’5″ righty, Morales has a big arm, but has always struggled with command. Unless he has a sudden epiphany in that regard, he is destined to be a Triple-A arm who gets the occasional promotion due to injuries.
- Ethan Wilson: Both he and the next guy on this list are fringy talents as far as big-league potential are concerned. Wilson is a 23-year-old drafted in the second round in 2021 out of South Alabama who saw 18 games with Double-A Reading last season. An impressive college hitter, he looked lost for much of his pro debut. If he can recover most of that offensive profile, he deserves this ranking ahead of Muzziotti. This coming season should reveal whether he has any legitimate shot at reaching the bigs as Muzziotti did – albeit briefly – last season.
- Simon Muzziotti: For me, Muzziotti has slightly more overall present talent, but slightly less impact potential, than Wilson. Signed as a teenager out of Venezuela back in 2016, he advanced through four levels of the minors last season. The year included an early nine-game debut stint in the big-leagues as the Phillies were trying to sort out their center field mess. That debut was highlighted by his first and only big-league hit, a line single off Pablo Lopez, then of Miami, on April 15th at loanDepot Park. A solid defender, Muzziotti has a chance to be a reserve outfielder in the bigs.
- Hans Crouse: Maybe I’m hanging on to Crouse longer than I should. But he will still be just 24 years of age all of this coming season. Since being drafted in the second round by Texas back in 2017, the 6’4″ righty has struggled to remain healthy. Crouse did make his big-league debut with two less-than-stellar starts towards the end of the 2021 campaign. While his stuff has backed up over the years, his command remains solid. The injuries likely make him a bullpen piece. But he has the makeup and command to be successful in that role.
- Rafael Marchan: A strong defender, Marchan made his big-league debut back in 2021 when he saw 20 games and 65 plate appearances as the number three catcher behind J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp. Though he did receive a pair of callups last year, he never got into game action. His 2022 season was affected by injuries in the minors, but did appear in 70 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. His light bat and solid defense give him a backup catcher profile at best, but that has some value. Marchan likely returns to the IronPigs and would be back if anything happens to Realmuto or Phillies backup Garrett Stubbs.
- Rickardo Perez: The polar opposite of Marchan, Perez is a bat-first backstop. Signed back in 2021 as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela, he put up solid numbers over his first two pro seasons. But Perez has to show that he can hit at higher levels and must improve his defense if he ever wants to taste the big-leagues. Catchers often take longer to develop, and Perez is probably at least four years away. His offensive potential as a catcher puts him in this spot for now. But his limitations and risk also demonstrate perfectly how much the Phillies prospect talent pool thins out at this range.
- Yhoswar Garcia: Signed in 2020 out of Venezuela, the now 21-year-old outfielder has suffered through two injury-riddled pro campaigns. His reputation is that of a speedy center fielder. But his overall talent profile remains raw. Garcia needs a full, healthy season for us to really know what the Phillies may or may not have here. The upside of his original scouting reports and his defensive ability in center field get him this spot for now.
- Jordan Viars: He was the Phillies third round pick at 84th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft out of a Texas high school. Viars showed well in rookie ball that first summer after signing but then saw his 2022 campaign reduced to just 52 games due to injuries. A big 6’4″ athletic outfielder with power potential, Viars needs that same healthy season as Garcia in order for us to figure out his true potential.
- Carlos De La Cruz: I originally had De La Cruz just off this list and mistakenly included lefty reliever Erik Miller, who was dealt to San Francisco earlier this month. With that trade, the 23-year-old De La Cruz pushes onto the rankings. The outfielder made great strides last season, blasting 24 homers across two levels, including seven with Double-A Reading. However, his strikeout totals also remained very high. Right now, he looks more like an organizational depth first baseman over the longer term.
The Phillies farm system appears to be making incremental steps forward in the realm of developing top-talent prospects who can actually impact the big-league roster. Remember, prospects can also help improve that roster as trade chips. We saw that last season when the center field problem was, hopefully, resolved with the acquisition of Brandon Marsh from the Los Angeles Angels, which cost the club well-regarded prospect catcher Logan O’Hoppe.
There are enough prospects with potential but who have ultimate profiles that are still to be determined – players on the above list such as Bergolla, Crawford, Caba, McFarlane, Viars, and Perez – that given the right outcome could begin to elevate the system even further in the coming years.
The Phillies enter the 2023 campaign as defending National League champions. After winning the eighth NL pennant in franchise history, the club will be looking to take the next step and win a third World Series title. Being able to develop impact talent from within the minor league system is what the organization needs in order to maintain at a contending level throughout the 2020’s and beyond.
MORE PHILLIES PIECES
1.12.23 – 10 questions with Chris Coste
11.14.22 – Phillies have a Rhys Hoskins problem