Crediting the success of the Phillies minor-league teams and development of prospects, MiLB.com named the Phils farm system the system of the year.
In 2014, the Phillies minor-league affiliates finished with a cumulative record of 303-393 for a .435 win percentage. It was the worst in all of baseball that year. Since then, the team has made it a point to improve the talent in the organization.
The Phillies quickly rebuilt the depth of their farm system in the span of two years, fueled by numerous prospect-driven trades. The Cole Hamels deal landed two top-five prospects in the system – outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro – along with Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff, who both already graduated from the minor-leagues. The Ben Revere, Ken Giles, Jonathan Papelon, and Carlos Ruiz trades all also brought in prospect talent.
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Thanks to the infusion of depth in the minor-league system, Phillies affiliates performed far better in 2016. They finished with a combined record of 482-348, good for the second-best winning percentage across all minor-league systems. With that performance in mind, Minor League Baseball gave the Phillies the 2016 “Best Farm System MiLBY Award”.
Team director of player development Joe Jordan recognized how the trades benefited the farm system. Jordan told Josh Jackson of MiLB.com, “When we got [more depth], they all got to play together, and they all got better. Everybody benefited from that.”
However, Jordan noted that the team also developed prospects internally as well:
“If you really look at the system — this is how it’s supposed to work — we got talent from the Draft and talent from international signings and talent from trades,” Jordan said. “We have a lot of scouts in every venue of player evaluation in the world. We get talent from everywhere, and that’s good — player procurement is what you want. We’ve had people make a lot of good decisions, and we’ve gotten a lot of good recommendations, and we have a great group of teachers working with our players.”
The team preaches patience, especially if they have to change how a player does something. Jordan told Jackson, “It’s just patience, being as patient as you can. I think the worst thing you can do is get in a hurry, especially if you want to make changes.”
Jackson particularly noted the success at Reading of prospects Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins. Cozens, who was named the hitter of the year by MiLB.com, didn’t play baseball full-time until he joined the Phillies. Jordan said Cozens had “a lot to learn” but that he has since “evolved into a baseball player.” Meanwhile, Jordan called Hoskins “a very consistent player at the plate”, saying he was a “mature guy” who is “going to be a productive big league hitter.”
While Jordan and the Phillies try to develop talented players, he also wants them to have “good character people” in the organization. He told Jackson:
“There are things we’re doing, obviously, on the field, but there are things we’re doing off the field, too, with our Latin players and the cultural adjustments, and with cultural development. We really believe that in the National League, the way to win is to build baseball players. Their talent is their talent, but we try to build baseball players. It sounds overly simple, but that’s our approach — if guys know how to play the game, you’re going to win games.”
Frank Cacciatore, Cozens’s and Hoskins’s hitting coach at Double-A, believes the crop of prospects coming through the system will help the team succeed in the future. Cacciatore said “things happen pretty quick. You get one or two extra pieces, and before you know it, you’re back on top.” If the performance of this year’s minor-league affiliates are any indication, the Phillies have the potential for success.