Franco tops rankings of Phillies prospects

Maikel Franco proved himself at the plate in Clearwater and is even more impressive
Maikel Franco proved himself at the plate in Clearwater and is even more impressive (at Reading. The third baseman took over the No. 1 spot in The Inquirer's rankings of Phillies prospects.    RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: July 19, 2013

It's time for the midseason installment of The Inquirer's list of the Phillies' top 25 minor-league prospects. The biggest change from our preseason top 25 is that power-hitting third baseman Maikel Franco has jumped from third to first, replacing lefthander Jesse Biddle at the top.

Nine players on our preseason list - Jonathan Pettibone, Tyler Cloyd, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Brody Colvin, Zach Collier, Tyson Gillies, Dylan Cozens, and Kyle Simon - have been removed. Some of them were deleted because of big-league service time and others because of poor seasons. Cozens is the one most likely to return at some point.

Our nine new players are J.P. Crawford, Cameron Perkins, Aaron Altherr, Zach Green, Mitch Gueller, Cord Sandberg, Mitch Walding, Severino Gonzalez, and Yoel Mecias.

Three scouts from outside the organization were willing to comment on the players, but only players who have performed at low-A Lakewood or above have comments from the scouts.

1. Maikel Franco, 3B, high-A Clearwater, AA Reading

The 20-year-old Dominican Republic native soared to the top by posting huge power numbers at high-A Clearwater before earning a promotion to double-A Reading and playing even better for the Fightin Phils.

Scout's view: "He's a young, energetic, and aggressive hitter with a big upside. I see him being a solid everyday third baseman. He reminds me of a young Edwin Encarnacion."

2. Jesse Biddle, LHP, AA Reading

Biddle drops one spot to No. 2, but that is a reflection of how well Franco has performed and not how the 21-year-old lefthander has pitched. There have been some growing pains for the Philadelphia native and Germantown Friends graduate. He led the Eastern League in strikeouts and walks at the all-star break. After going 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA in April, he went 1-7 with a 3.68 ERA in his next 12 starts. He also has battled whooping cough for most of the season.

Scout's view: "A tough competitor who has a ways to go with control and command. I would say he's a back-end-of-the-rotation starting pitcher."

3. Roman Quinn, SS, low-A Lakewood

The 20-year-old switch-hitting shortstop has endured some extreme growing pains in his first full professional season and is on the disabled list with a broken left wrist after being hit by a pitch last month. In early May his average dipped to .196, but he rebounded to hit .270 with a .366 on-base percentage in his next 39 games. He also had 31 errors in 66 games, but Derek Jeter once made 56 errors in the South Atlantic League and recovered quite nicely.

Scout's view: "He needs to work on his small ball because his game obviously revolves around speed, which is off the charts. He's a little erratic on defense. He gloves everything, but has some problems throwing. I'm not sure he'll be a shortstop, but I love his energy."

4. Cesar Hernandez, 2B, AAA Lehigh Valley, Phillies

The 23-year-old second baseman got his first taste of the big leagues and hit .250 during a nine-game stretch in late May and early June. Most impressive, however, is the way he responded after being sent back to the IronPigs. Hernandez still has some work to do defensively, but he has the ability to be a top-of-the-order hitter who can steal a lot of bases and score a lot of runs. The Phils also are looking at him as a centerfielder.

Scout's view: "He's Freddy Galvis with more offensive upside. I see him as a solid but unspectacular major-league regular."

5. Cody Asche, 3B, AAA Lehigh Valley

The 23-year-old third baseman has made a fast rise through the farm system since being selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, and he has excelled in his first season at the highest minor-league level. Asche also has proved to be solid defensively at third base, and it's possible he could be in the big leagues by the end of the month if the Phillies decide to trade Michael Young.

Scout's view: "I like this kid. He's a tough grinder who gets after it every day. He reminds me of Darin Erstad and Pete Orr, physically. I see him being an everyday third baseman."

6. Tommy Joseph, C, AAA Lehigh Valley, AA Reading, high-A Clearwater

A concussion that the catcher suffered in early May turned the first half of this season into a nightmare. Joseph, who turned 22 on Tuesday, got off to a slow start at Lehigh Valley, then missed more than a month because of the concussion. He went 1 for 18 in a brief return at Clearwater before sitting out 11 more days. After suffering the concussion, he went 6 for 52 in 14 games playing for Clearwater, Reading, and the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team.

Scout's view: "He's really had a rough time. You almost have to view it as a lost season. Just get him healthy and push the reset button in 2014."

7. Ethan Martin, RHP, AAA Lehigh Valley

Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Shane Victorino deal last summer, the 24-year-old righthander has been inconsistent during his first full season in the Phillies organization. He was 1-2 with a 7.54 ERA after his first five starts, but went 9-2 with a 3.93 ERA in his next 13 starts. Command has been an issue. He has walked four or more batters eight times in 18 starts.

Scout's view: "I see this guy as a very serviceable bullpen piece. I don't see him as a starter. His control and command are very spotty. I see him as a bullpen guy."

8. Adam Morgan, LHP, AAA Lehigh Valley

When spring training ended, Morgan was considered among the most likely to get a call to the big leagues this season. Instead, he has been on the disabled list and rehabilitating in Clearwater, Fla., since the middle of May because of a small tear in his shoulder. Morgan, 23, gave a brief glimpse of his ability by posting a 1.42 ERA in his first three starts with the IronPigs.

Scout's view: "I like him a lot. I see him as a more polished version of Biddle. I think he has better stuff, but I still see him as a number-four starter in the big leagues."

9. J.P. Crawford, SS, Gulf Coast League Phillies

The Phillies' 2013 first-round draft choice started his career with a nine-game hitting streak for the GCL Phillies. Unlike Roman Quinn, who was an outfielder, the 18-year-old Crawford was a high school shortstop and projects to remain at that position, which should make things interesting as the two climb through the system.

10. Kelly Dugan, OF, high-A Clearwater, AA Reading

The Phillies' first overall pick in 2009 had a slow start to his professional career because of an assortment of injuries. He dealt with another injury at the start of this season, but once he got on the field at Clearwater he excelled, hitting 10 home runs and posting a .940 OPS in 56 games before being promoted to Reading.

Scout's view: "He was hurt when I was in Clearwater this year, but I liked him a lot last year at Lakewood. It's impressive that he made it to double A this season."

11. Carlos Tocci, OF, low-A Lakewood

The centerfielder's numbers do not look good until you realize he is 17 years old in a league filled with 20-somethings. He's like a seventh grader playing varsity baseball. He is already an outstanding defensive centerfielder.

Scout's view: "If anybody is a projection guy, it's him. He makes contact as a 17-year-old playing in a league with 22- and 23-year-olds. That, to me, is impressive. You just never know when it's going to click in for these kinds of guys."

12. Shane Watson, RHP, low-A Lakewood

One of the great story lines of this year's draft was that Watson, the Phillies' 2012 first-round pick, was high school teammates with J.P. Crawford, this year's first-round pick. In his first four starts after his childhood buddy was selected, the 19-year-old Watson posted a 0.86 ERA, allowing two earned runs on 12 hits in 21 innings.

Scout's view: "He's got a ceiling as a top-of-the-rotation starter. His fastball was 89 to 93 [m.p.h.] in April, and he has the ability for more. His curveball is potentially an out pitch. I think he's maturing, and in the second half he could make some noise. Everything is advanced for his age."

13. Cameron Perkins, OF, high-A Clearwater

The Phillies' sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft was part of a tremendous outfield trio at Clearwater before landing on the disabled list after being hit by a pitch in the forearm. Despite missing all of June, the Purdue University product soared into the prospect rankings by batting .337 with 18 doubles, four triples, and three home runs before his injury. He has returned to the lineup in Clearwater.

Scout's view: "I like him a lot. He's a line-drive hitter with gap power and he played a very good outfield. He could be a guy flying underneath the radar."

On Friday: Nos. 14 through 25.

Contact Bob Brookover at Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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