Taking stock of Phillies' farm system

Posted: June 22, 2007

It's getting better.

Halfway through the minor-league season, that might be the fairest assessment of the Phillies' farm system.

It is by no means strong - Baseball America rated it 21st out of 30 teams entering the season - but it is not bankrupt, either.

"I think we're deeper," said assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle, reflecting on the first 21/2 months of the season. "We're getting restocked. We're still thin at the upper levels, still not where we need to be, but we have some good-looking prospects at the class-A level."

One of those good-looking prospects is no longer in single A.

Righthander Carlos Carrasco, widely rated as the organization's top prospect, pitched himself into a promotion to double-A Reading after a strong start at single-A Clearwater.

The 20-year-old Venezuelan was the organization's minor-league pitcher of the year after going 12-6 with a 2.26 ERA in 26 starts at low-single-A Lakewood last season. He continued to pitch well this season, going 6-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 starts in the more rugged Florida State League, and won his double-A debut last night.

In another year, Carrasco, who signed for $300,000 in November 2003, could be knocking on the Phillies' clubhouse door.

"He's gotten better and better," Arbuckle said. "It started last year and has continued this year. He's matured on and off the mound. He's developed a better feel for pitching, and his stuff is excellent. It'll be very interesting to see how he handles double A, but from what we saw at Clearwater, he's ready."

Carrasco features a three-pitch mix - a fastball that can reach 93 m.p.h., a plus curveball and an above-average change-up. He leads an intriguing crop of pitching prospects that soon will include first-round draft pick Joe Savery, a Rice University lefty who will likely be assigned to Williamsport of the New York-Penn League.

Last year's first-round pick, righthander Kyle Drabek, has held his own in his first full pro season, going 5-1 with a 4.22 ERA after 10 starts at Lakewood. However, Drabek recently experienced elbow tightness and inflammation and is on the disabled list. Arbuckle said the organization is not alarmed by Drabek's elbow problem - clinical exams have ruled out serious injury - and the pitcher should be back in a couple of weeks.

"Unfortunately, it's part of pitching," Arbuckle said. "Sometimes pitchers get tender."

Drabek isn't the only pitcher to get tender. J.A. Happ, a lefty with triple-A Ottawa who looked good in spring training, was briefly shut down with a tender elbow. Had he stayed healthy, he probably would have been called up instead of Kyle Kendrick. Happ is back pitching and could be in Philadelphia before long. Righthanded reliever Joe Bisenius, who opened the season in the majors, is on the DL with shoulder stiffness.

Two Clearwater pitchers - Josh Outman and Andrew Carpenter - have impressed. So have Pat Overholt and Matt Maloney at Reading. Lakewood righthander Edgar Garcia, a 19-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic who scored a $500,000 signing bonus in 2004, has had his ups and downs at Lakewood but remains a top prospect.

Kendrick and lefthander Mike Zagurski were standouts and are now helping at the big-league level. The organization remains high on lefty Fabio Castro, who is at triple A. Righthander Zack Segovia has struggled and has been demoted from Ottawa to Reading.

The Phillies remain thin in position-player prospects and power bats, but there are some players opening eyes.

Team officials like the progression of catcher Jason Jaramillo, whose all-around game has improved at triple-A Ottawa. Lakewood second baseman Adrian Cardenas, last year's Baseball America high school player of the year, projects to be an excellent big-leaguer, and Clearwater catcher Lou Marson, a fourth-round pick in 2004, is putting it together with the bat.

Reading third baseman Mike Costanzo, an Archbishop Carroll graduate, was hitting .252 with 13 home runs in his first 68 games, but he had struck out 91 times and made 22 errors. Despite this, Arbuckle remains high on Costanzo, 23.

"Since April, he's really improved," Arbuckle said. "He's starting to adjust to off-speed stuff. I watched him play the other night. He made four or five plays that would have been good plays in the big leagues. From a scouting standpoint, I think those numbers [strikeouts and errors] will come down because all the ingredients are there."

Shortstop Jason Donald, last year's third-round pick, played himself into a promotion from Lakewood to Clearwater. Outfielder Javon Moran is battling a sore hamstring but is ready for triple A when healthy.

Outfielder Greg Golson, the team's top pick in 2004, has been inconsistent offensively at Clearwater. Third baseman Welinson Baez struggled badly at Clearwater and has been shipped back to Lakewood. Will the light ever go on for the once highly touted Dominican?

Way down in the low minors, short-season Williamsport has some players to watch, especially outfielders D'Arby Myers and Dominic Brown, a pair of brilliant athletes, and 17-year-old shortstop Freddy Galvis, a 5-foot-9 Venezuelan who reminds Arbuckle of a young Omar Vizquel.

Myers opened the season by going 4 for 4 on Wednesday night.


Phillies Prospects at a Glance

CREAM OF THE CROP

RHP Carlos Carrasco, 20. He earned a promotion to double A by going 6-2 with a 2.84 ERA and a .199 opponents' batting average at single-A Clearwater. He continues to project as a frontline major-league starter.

2B Adrian Cardenas, 19. He has adapted well to a new position, second base, while knocking in 45 runs in 61 games at single-A Lakewood.

NOT TOO SHABBY

RHP Kyle Drabek, 19. He went 5-1 in his first 10 starts at Lakewood. He's currently shut down with a tender elbow, but it is not believed to be serious.

SS Jason Donald, 22. Last year's third-round draft pick excelled at Lakewood and earned a promotion to Clearwater.

LHP Josh Outman, 22. He went 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 13 starts at Clearwater and made the Florida State League all-stars.

C Jason Jaramillo, 24. He has improved offensively and defensively and continues to project as a major-leaguer.

KEEP AN EYE ON

RHP Patrick Overholt, 23. He pitched well in Clearwater and is now at Reading.

RHP Andrew Carpenter, 22. Last year's second-round pick out of Long Beach State is holding his own in the Florida State League.

RHP Edgar Garcia, 19. He reached 95 m.p.h. in his last outing at Lakewood.

LHP J.A. Happ, 24. He's a phone call away.

LHP Fabio Castro, 22. The little lefty has an electric arm; he just needs innings.

OF D'Arby Myers, 18; OF Dominic Brown, 19; and SS Freddy Galvis, 17: The exciting young trio headlines the list of prospects at short-season Williamsport.

THE JURY'S STILL OUT

3B Mike Costanzo, 23. He's got big power and a big arm, but he also has high strikeout and error totals at double A.

OF Greg Golson, 21. He has all the tools, but continues to be inconsistent in his third full season in single A.   

BIGGEST RISE

RHP Kyle Kendrick, 22, and LHP Mike Zagurski, 24. Neither was in big-league spring-training camp. Both pitched themselves to the majors.

C Lou Marson, 20. The outstanding receiver is starting to hit at Clearwater.

BIGGEST DROP

RHP Zack Segovia, 24. He made the big-league team out of spring training, but has fallen to double A after losing the sink on his fastball.

3B Welinson Baez, 22. The Dominican bonus baby struck out 86 times in 63 games at Clearwater and was sent back to Lakewood.

2B/SS Brad Harman, 21. The highly regarded Australian continues to struggle at Clearwater.

- Jim Salisbury


Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@phillynews.com.

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