After dealing the organization's top two prospects - first baseman Jonathan Singleton and pitcher Jarred Cosart - for Pence last July, there's no way the team's farm system can be considered as strong as it was a year ago at this time.
The strength, as is the case at the big-league level, lies in starting pitching, most of which figures to open the 2012 season at double-A Reading.
The weakness is a lack of quality position players, a problem the Phillies hope they addressed during last year's draft.
Some minor-leaguers will be in the big-league camp, and the others will report to Clearwater March 1.
Here's a look at just a few of the minor-league story lines worth following this season:
Can Domonic Brown fulfill his potential?
Despite a brief and unsuccessful winter-ball stint in the Dominican Republic, Domonic Brown went to spring training a year ago with a chance to win the job as the starting rightfielder. Instead, he landed on the disabled list with a fractured hook of the hamate bone in his right hand.
That was the beginning of a difficult season for Brown that has left his future with the Phillies in doubt. With the addition of Pence at the trade deadline, the Phillies sent Brown to triple-A Lehigh Valley and moved him to left field. For the first time since rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, he also struggled at the minor-league level.
The plan going into this season is to send Brown, 24, back to Lehigh Valley in the hope he reemerges as a rising star.
Can the Baby Aces continue their climb?
Cosart is in the Houston Astros' system, but the quartet of Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone, Brody Colvin, and the surprising Julio Rodriguez remain. May, 22, is considered the best pitching prospect in the organization, while Pettibone, 21, has impressed with his ability to throw quality strikes. Rodriguez, 21, may have the least impressive stuff of the group, but he had perhaps the most impressive season a year ago at Clearwater. The 21-year-old Colvin, on the other hand, struggled last season at Clearwater and is the only one of the four who may have to begin the season again in the dreaded Florida State League. The other three are sure to pitch at double-A Reading.
The Biddle watch
Former Germantown Friends School star Jesse Biddle did not seem to mind the pressure that comes with being a local first-round draft pick during his first full professional season. His 2.98 ERA was fourth best in the South Atlantic League, and he was the only pitcher under the age of 20 in the league with an ERA below 3.00.
The jump from low-A ball to high-A Clearwater is a difficult one, so it will be interesting to see how Biddle handles the challenge.
What about the 2011 draft class?
The Phillies went heavy on position players in the early portion of last year's draft, taking nine among their first 12 picks.
Power-hitting outfielder Larry Greene and shortstop Roman Quinn - the team's first two picks - will get their first exposure to professional baseball, and it should be interesting to see if they show enough in spring training to open the season at single-A Lakewood. If not, they'll participate in extended spring training before likely landing at Williamsport in June.
Who's ready for the show?
A year ago, Mike Stutes caught the Phillies' eye in spring training and, after a brief stint at Lehigh Valley at the start of the season, Stutes was called to the big leagues in late April and remained there.
Relievers Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, and Joe Savery have a chance to do the same thing in this year's camp.
Shortstop Freddy Galvis is back for his third spring training, but for the first time last season he proved he may be able to do enough with his bat to one day replace Jimmy Rollins.
Bob Brookover's Top 10 Prospects
Here is one man's opinion of the Phillies' top 10 minor-league prospects going into the 2012 season.
Player Age Pos. Projected 2012 team
1. Domonic Brown 24 LF AAA Lehigh Valley
2. Trevor May 22 RHP AA Reading
3. Jesse Biddle 20 LHP High A Clearwater
4. Sebastian Valle 21 C AA Reading
5. Freddy Galvis 22 SS AAA Lehigh Valley
6. Jonathan Pettibone 21 RHP AA Reading
7. Phillippe Aumont 23 RHP AAA Lehigh Valley
8. Justin De Fratus 24 RHP AAA Lehigh Valley
9. Julio Rodriguez 21 RHP AA Reading
10. Brody Colvin 21 RHP AA Reading
Others to watch: Jiwan James, OF, Reading; Kyrell Hudson, OF, Lakewood; Harold Garcia, 2B, Reading; Joe Savery, LHP, Lehigh Valley; Michael Schwimer, RHP, Lehigh Valley; Maikel Franco, 3B, Lakewood; Aaron Altherr, OF, Lakewood; Lisalberto Bonilla, RHP, Clearwater; Ervis Manzanillo, LHP, Clearwater; Austin Hyatt, RHP, Lehigh Valley; Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Reading; David Buchanan, RHP, Clearwater; Cameron Rupp, C, Clearwater; Garrett Claypool, RHP, Clearwater; Anthony Hewitt, OF, Clearwater; Zach Collier, OF, Clearwater; Matt Rizzotti, 1B, Lehigh Valley; Cody Overbeck, 1B, Lehigh Valley; Jake Diekman, LHP, Lehigh Valley.
- Bob Brookover
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover
at email@example.com or @brookob on Twitter.