Mar 7, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp (80) catches as umpire Phil Cuzzi (10) looks on during the seventh inning of a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. The Phillies won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Phillies have several prospects who are worth paying attention to during spring training this year as they try to make an impression on the team.
The storylines at the major-league level could very well wind up overshadowing some of Philadelphia’s prospects. A few may wind up breaking onto the major-league roster, but most may have to wait until later this year. Even then, some will be sure to make an impact on the major-league coaches in their time with the big-league club. Let’s take a look at a few players who could stand to make waves in spring training.
26 Feb 2016: Jorge Alfaro during the Phillies Photo Day workout at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida.
I lumped Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp together because they are both in the same boat this spring. Both are on the 40-man roster and both are expected to compete for the backup catcher position behind Cameron Rupp.
Knapp was added to the 40-man roster this winter after he posted a .266/.330/.390 line with eight home runs for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This came after he hit for a 1.050 OPS with Double-A Reading in the second half of the 2015 season.
Meanwhile, Alfaro battered Double-A pitchers with a .285 batting average and .783 OPS as well as collecting 15 home runs and 67 RBI in 97 games.
He also made strides in his development behind the plate, ensuring he will stay at catcher in the future.
Alfaro got the chance to play in the big-leagues in September once Reading’s season wrapped up. His playing time was limited as Cameron Rupp and now-departed veteran A.J. Ellis both got a majority of the starts. Alfaro made just 17 plate appearances, collecting two singles.
The backup catching position is wide-open as Ellis is now a Marlin. Knapp is more likely to get the job because he spent all of last year in Triple-A. However, if Alfaro can show improvement against major-league caliber pitching, it would give the coaching staff something to consider as they figure out who will be sent back to the major-leagues.
J.P. Crawford is the top prospect in the Phillies system, and has been ranked by Baseball America as the #6 prospect in the game. (Photo Credit: Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)
Shortstop J.P. Crawford
J.P. Crawford opened up the 2016 season well with Double-A Reading, flashing his trademark plate discipline as he walked in 18.1% of his plate appearances. Upon promotion to Triple-A, he struggled as he managed a .244 average and .647 OPS.
It was not the seasons fans expected from Crawford after being named the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. Many hoped to see him in Philadelphia by the end of the year, but he did not crack the roster at the end of the year. Part of the decision to not promote Crawford was due to him not needing Rule 5 protection this winter, but it’s not like he had a great case to be promoted anyway.
Crawford will get some time early in spring training games against major-league caliber pitching, but most of it will come against Triple-A guys. If Crawford can flash some success in the spring, it should hasten his arrival to the majors.
Sep 12, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Roman Quinn (24) hits an RBI double during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Outfielder Roman Quinn
Roman Quinn inserted himself into the major-league conversation last year in his 15-game September cup of coffee. He collected 15 hits in 69 plate appearances with five stolen bases. His debut was by no means perfect, but it was a good start considering his leap from Double-A straight to the majors.
However, injuries hampered his season yet again as he missed more than a month and a half due to a strained oblique earlier in the year. His time in Philadelphia was cut short once again as the oblique injury flared up yet again.
Quinn also acknowledged the need to prove his durability, saying “Getting a full season of at-bats is one of my goals. Playing a full season and whatever happens happens.
“I’m just trying to stay healthy and do whatever I can to remain healthy and stay on the field.”
While Quinn may benefit from a full season at Triple-A, success between spring training and early in the season may force the team’s hand into moving either Saunders of left fielder Howie Kendrick. It may be even more imperative to watch for Quinn in terms of injury, as an early-season injury will only hurt Quinn’s career trajectory even more.
Sep 20, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; From left to right Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and top prospects pitcher Ben Lively and outfielder Dylan Cozens and first baseman Rhys Hoskins prior to a game against the Chicago White Sox at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Hoskins and Cozens both flashed immense power in 2016, and it will be important to see if that power carries over in 2016. Each will have a chance against major-league caliber pitching at some point this spring where they can show if they are for real.