Phillies prospects at Reading impress scout

Scott Podsednik ,a former IronPig, homered in his first game for Boston. NICK WASS / Associated Press
Scott Podsednik ,a former IronPig, homered in his first game for Boston. NICK WASS / Associated Press
Posted: May 27, 2012

There's no question the proper destination to see the Phillies' most legitimate prospects this season is Reading, home of the double-A Phillies.

In catcher Sebastian Valle and starting pitchers Jonathan Pettibone and Trevor May, you have three of the organization's top five prospects. Plenty of other players with the R-Phils - most notably second baseman Cesar Hernandez and first baseman Darin Ruf - also have caused some interest and curiosity during the first two months of the season.

An American League scout recently observed the Reading club and walked away believing the Phillies have some truly legitimate prospects at the double-A level. There were also some players, however, that he was not too excited about.

Like most scouts who have observed Reading this spring, he was impressed by May, who is considered the best prospect in the organization. May, after allowing eight hits and seven runs in just two innings Tuesday, is 5-2 with a 4.10 ERA heading into his Sunday start at Harrisburg.

One bad outing is not going to change the overall opinion of what the 22-year-old righthander could become.

"He shows four-plus pitches," the scout said. "The day I saw him he threw between 90 and 95 and he had a real good change-up. He has a plus curveball and a slider that is a work in progress. He has the makings of a guy with four major-league pitches."

The scout was nearly as impressed with Pettibone, who has recovered from a so-so first month at double-A to post a 3-1 record and 2.41 ERA in five May starts.

"I'd put May ahead of him, but I like Pettibone," the scout said. "He has a two-seam and a four-seam fastball and a very good change-up. His slider needs a lot of work, but he has a good feel for pitching. There's not a lot of effort for him to throw 93. You can just see the ball comes out of his hand very easily."

May and Pettibone are the team's top remaining pitching prospects from the Phillies' 2008 draft class that was mislabeled the "Baby Aces." Jarred Cosart had also been part of that group, but he's now with the Houston Astros organization, and Brody Colvin, a 2009 selection, is struggling for a second straight year at single-A Clearwater.

Righthander Julio Rodriguez, another 2008 selection, has climbed through the minors with May and Pettibone, but the scout who watched him recently does not believe he is in the same class as the other two. Still, Rodriguez continues to put up impressive numbers, posting a 3-0 record and 2.64 ERA through nine starts.

"To be honest with you, I didn't like what I saw," the scout said. "There are too many things going on with this kid, meaning with his delivery and his ability to consistently find a release point. His breaking stuff is very spotty and he pitches up in the zone too much."

Valle has also climbed through the system with May, Pettibone, and Rodriguez and is considered by many to be the organization's best position-player prospect.

"He's got a real good presence about him on the field," the scout said. "He's a leader. He receives well, catches and throws. He's an aggressive hitter, a 21-year-old kid who is competing well."

Valle was hitting just .221 with three home runs and 14 RBIs and was batting just .167 in May through Friday's games. He hit a respectable .284 a year ago at single-A Clearwater.

"I think he is going to need to level his swing off," the scout said. "He's got a pretty big leg kick that I think he needs to tone down a little bit, too. But I can see him being a big-league regular."

The Reading player every scout falls in love with after seeing him is Hernandez, a 22-year-old second baseman from Venezuela. He went into Saturday hitting .310 with 12 doubles, four triples, and 23 RBIs.

"This kid reminds me of a mix between Freddy Galvis and [New York Mets shortstop] Ruben Tejada," the scout said. "He's a switch-hitting second baseman who really handles the bat well. I really like his approach.

"He's also very solid in the field. He doesn't have great range, but he throws well and is accurate. He needs a little work around the bag with double plays."

Ruf, a righthanded hitter with power, has also played himself onto the radar. His .345 average through Friday ranked second in the Eastern League. He was first in the league with 35 RBIs and second with a .990 OPS.

Ruf, 25, was a 20th-round pick in 2009 out of Creighton and is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. Matt Rizzotti and Cody Overbeck also excelled with the R-Phils, but were never considered major prospects. After seeing Ruf, the scout felt he was significantly better than both Rizzotti and Overbeck.

"I think he's got a chance," the scout said. "I think he's going to have to find the right opportunity with the right club. He has a short swing and a good knowledge of the strike zone. I saw some better pitching get him out, but I definitely see him competing well in triple-A and getting a shot as an extra guy in the big leagues."

The scout also sees some hope for centerfielder Tyson Gillies, who has finally remained on the field this season at Reading.

"I think he's going to play in the big leagues," he said. "I don't think he's going to be a regular. I think he's going to be an extra outfielder, but he's playing really hard and hustling his butt off. But I think he's shortchanging himself at bat by just putting the ball in play. It looks like he wants to slap the ball around and run like hell."

The scout was not impressed with righthander J.C. Ramirez, who was acquired along with Gillies and Phillippe Aumont in the Cliff Lee trade from Seattle.

Ramirez, now pitching out of the bullpen, is 0-2 with a 3.55 ERA in 14 appearances.



Contact Bob Brookover at or on Twitter @brookob.

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