Phillies Lack Impact Pitching in Upper-Minors but Have Plenty In Lower Levels

The Phillies have few impact pitching prospects in Double and Triple-A, but are flush with talent in lower levels of the farm system.

The Phillies graduated two top-30 pitching prospects in Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson in 2016. Thompson was a top-five prospect on most lists and Eflin was never too far behind. They were the cream of the crop in the upper levels of the minors. Without them, the lower levels take the reins as the more talented part of the system.

On my prospect rankings here at TBOH, the highest-ranked pitcher who pitched in Double-A last year was Ricardo Pinto at No. 12. He is coming off a down season, posting a 4.10 ERA and 4.86 FIP, both of which were career highs. Also, Pinto continued to struggle with striking out batters, retiring just 15.2% of opposing batters on strikeouts.

Outside of Pinto, the other pitchers on the TBOH Top 30 who pitched in Double-A or higher were Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, Ben Lively, and Nick Pivetta. Appel, the former No. 1 pick, is the only one of that group who still has upside above a back-end starter, but that ceiling seems unlikely seeing how his career has gone so far.

Thumbing through the list of pitching prospects who have moved up to the higher levels of the minor-league system, none jumps out as an impact prospect. However, if you bring your gaze to the Class-A leagues and lower, several names jump out at you.

The prospect who made the biggest leap this season is a pitcher from the lower levels, right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez.

He went from being one of numerous pitchers in the Dominican League into the second-best pitching prospect in the Gulf Coast League according to Baseball America. Sanchez allowed just three earned runs in 54 innings of work in the GCL as he struck out 22.7% of opposing hitters and walked just 4.1%. Ben Badler of BA said Sanchez has “a chance to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.”

Another Latin pitcher who could be an impact pitcher is another righty, Franklyn Kilome. After three rough appearances to start the year, Kilome dominated the South Atlantic League with a 2.57 ERA, 2.74 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP in his next 21 starts. He struck out 10.61 batters per nine innings in those starts. Badler said “If Kilome can improve his changeup and tighten his command, he can develop into a mid-rotation starter with a chance for more.”

In addition to those two, the Phillies have two other pitchers in the lower minors who have mid or upper-rotation potential in Kevin Gowdy and Adonis Medina. Gowdy, the team’s second-round pick, has all the pieces to be a mid-rotation starter, if not more as long as he develops as expected. Medina is in the same boat, even though he is coming off a less-than-ideal season with short-season Williamsport.

Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs said, “I already like his chances of being a mid-rotation starter because of his stuff and athletic ability, but I’ll wait for him to mature some more to see where his stuff and delivery goes from here.”

Beyond these prospects, the team has several more prospects of Pivetta and Lively’s caliber in the lower levels. Bailey Falter, Cole Irvin, JoJo Romero, and Alberto Tirado also have the potential to be back-end starters or solid relievers in their future.

Overall, the Phillies watched better some of their better pitching prospects graduate to the majors – even if they may return to Triple-A to start 2017 – but they still have plenty more waiting in the wings below.

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