Roman Quinn is Phillies' most exciting prospect

Roman Quinn, 19, plays for single-A Clearwater, where he's the leadoff hitter. His transition to shortstop has been a little rocky.
Roman Quinn, 19, plays for single-A Clearwater, where he's the leadoff hitter. His transition to shortstop has been a little rocky. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: April 15, 2013

You can argue about who the best player is in the Phillies' farm system, but there's no room for debate about who is the most exciting.

That title belongs to single-A Lakewood's Roman Quinn, the 19-year-old switch-hitting shortstop from the Florida panhandle.

Speed is the tool that makes Quinn so scintillating.

"It is never a double off his bat," said Phillies hitting instructor Steve Henderson, who worked with Quinn last season. "I saw him hit a ball off the wall and it bounced right back to the outfielder. He was still standing on third base. That's how fast he is. He's always thinking three out of the box. And once he gets on base, you know he's stealing."

Quinn, a second-round pick in 2011, embraces his reputation as an extraordinary baserunner but warns that his power should not be underestimated.

"I would say for my size [generously listed at 5-foot-10] that I've got a little bit of pop, and at shortstop I've got a real strong arm," Quinn said during spring training.

Quinn hit 11 triples and stole 30 bases in 36 attempts in his first professional season at Williamsport last year. The 11 triples in 66 games led the New York-Penn League and were as many as any player in the Phillies organization.

"I would have to say the 11 triples I got, that was kind of unexpected," Quinn said. "My goal was to get six or seven, but then I had that halfway through the season. But I dig triples, man. I dig them."

Through Lakewood's first eight games, Quinn did not have a triple, but he did hit an inside-the-park home run Tuesday against Hagerstown. He said his goal this season is to hit five or six more triples and to double his stolen bases.

That would give him 16 triples and 60 steals, which would still leave him far short of the 155 stolen bases that Cincinnati prospect Billy Hamilton posted last year.

"I saw [Hamilton] play in the Arizona Fall League," Henderson said. "I'd like to see him and Quinn race. That would be a good one."

Quinn still has plenty to work on. He was neither a switch-hitter nor a shortstop at Port St. Joe High School in Florida. According to Henderson, he picked up the switch-hitting aspect of the game fast.

"It was a real big adjustment," Quinn said. "At first, it was real tough, especially against the pitching I was facing. Once I got the reps, it became easier."

The fact he was learning to switch-hit made his .281 batting average and .370 on-base percentage at Williamsport even more impressive. Through eight games this season, he was hitting .294 with a .333 on-base percentage.

"He knows his role is as a leadoff hitter, and he works at it," Henderson said. "He worked at taking walks and he worked at bunting and he showed that he had great baseball instincts."

Adjusting to shortstop has not gone quite as smoothly. Quinn had 27 errors last season and six in Lakewood's first eight games, including three in one game and two in another.

Some great players, of course, have made their share of errors in the South Atlantic League. Derek Jeter had 56 errors at Greensboro in 1993 and Jimmy Rollins made 26 errors at Piedmont in 1997.

"I don't think you expect it, but you know it can happen, especially with him," said Benny Looper, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player development. "He was an outfielder when we drafted him. He has not been at shortstop too long and he gets in a bad habit sometimes of dropping his arm down instead of keeping it up when he's throwing.

"He's got a chance to be a well-above-average shortstop. He's got the arm strength, he's got the range and the speed. Hopefully he'll learn from his mistakes and get better."

Top pick off to a good start in Phillies' system

Righthander Shane Watson, the Phillies' first selection in last year's draft and the 40th overall, has gotten off to a good start at low single-A Lakewood. Watson, who turns 20 in August, is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA but has struck out nine and walked just one.

"He has a great arm, a plus fastball and breaking ball," Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini said. "He continues to improve his change-up, and once he gets that down, he is going to be a really good pitcher."

What Morandini likes most about Watson is his competitive nature.

"He's not afraid to take that ball, and he has guts out there," Morandini said. "He will pitch inside, and he has the full package."

Franco impresses

The big name to watch at Clearwater is third baseman Maikel Franco, The Inquirer's No. 3-ranked Phillies prospect. Franco, who turns 21 in August, hit .280 with 14 home runs and 84 RBIs last year at Lakewood. He was hitting .267 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 30 at-bats for Clearwater.

"He has a chance to be a really good ballplayer," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "He has played a tremendous third base, and to me he is a guy who is going to be a really good run producer."

Biddle struggles

Lefthander Jesse Biddle, The Inquirer's No. 1 Phillies prospect, had a more difficult second outing than his first. After allowing just one run over six innings in a 6-1 win over New Hampshire in his Reading debut, Biddle allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings of Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Portland, Maine.

Biddle, the 2010 first-round draft choice from Germantown Friends, walked two and didn't strike out a batter.

Hot at second

Lehigh Valley second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who hit .248 in 30 games with the IronPigs after being called up last season from Reading, is off to a much better start.

Hernandez, who turns 23 in May, had five multihit games in his first six contests for the IronPigs. Entering Saturday he was batting .462 (12 for 26). He had three doubles and scored five runs in his first six games.

Before being promoted to Lehigh Valley last season, Hernandez hit .304 with 26 doubles and 51 RBIs for Reading.

Contact Marc Narducci at Follow on Twitter @sjnard on Twitter.

Contact Bob Brookover at Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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