Future Phillies Report: In-depth look at 4 Phils prospects on BP's midseason Top 50

Future Phillies Report: In-depth look at 4 Phils prospects on BP's midseason Top 50

Four Phillies made Baseball Prospectus' midseason Top 50 and two of them are new to the list. 

Right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez and second baseman Scott Kingery join prospect-list staples J.P. Crawford (No. 20) and Jorge Alfaro (No. 34).

RHP Sixto Sanchez (ranked 18th)
Nationally, baseball people have taken notice of Sanchez, an 18-year-old flamethrower at Class A Lakewood. Sanchez, who turns 19 on July 29, has a 3.04 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 10 starts this season. He's struck out 50 and walked five in 50⅓ innings.

What makes Sanchez unique is the command he exhibits for a hard-throwing pitcher his age. It's rare you see a teenager have as much figured out on the mound as Sanchez does. He's a quick worker with a high-90s fastball, a curveball and changeup. 

In 130 pro innings, Sanchez has allowed just one home run. He's the Phillies' highest-upside pitching prospect and perhaps their highest-upside prospect overall. 

But don't expect the organization to get ahead of itself — 2017 is about getting Sanchez through a full-ish season, not necessarily moving him from level to level. It's tough to project when he'll make his major-league debut, but 2020 seems like a realistic year.

SS J.P. Crawford (ranked 20th)
Crawford has been picking it up lately, hitting .292/.387/.569 with 10 extra-base hits in his last 17 games. He's up to .214 on the year with a .329 OBP.

This is a lower ranking than we've seen with Crawford from prospect outlets in recent years. He was Baseball Prospectus' No. 4 prospect entering 2016 and again entering 2017. The drop reflects the disappointing season Crawford has had so far, but also shows that many are still high on his being a productive major-leaguer someday soon.

Crawford turns 23 on Jan. 11. We might see the Phillies start him at Triple A again next season, though, to see if he can get off to a hotter start at that level than he did the previous two years. 

The decision on whether Freddy Galvis or Crawford has the opening-day gig next season might come down to defense. Galvis, a Gold Glove finalist last season and potentially a Gold Glove winner this season, has committed just 14 errors in 240 games since 2016. Crawford has committed 32 in 195 games.

C Jorge Alfaro (ranked 34th)
Alfaro will not be on these lists next year because he'll be in the majors. This year is his final option year because the Rangers added him to their 40-man roster back in November 2014.

What this means is that next season, the Phillies will not be able to send Alfaro back to the minors unless they first place him on waivers. That will not happen because a young player with this much upside would be immediately snatched away.

Thus, Alfaro could be the Phillies' starting catcher in 2017. He has more power than Andrew Knapp, a bit less swing-and-miss in his game than Cameron Rupp, and though there are some defensive concerns with Alfaro, he may be able to control the running game better than either one.

Alfaro has hit a disappointing .256/.310/.382 this season with 11 doubles, two triples, six homers and 38 RBIs in 68 games. 

However, it seems like he's finally gotten the message that his best path to a promotion will involve improved plate selection. Alfaro has walked 11 times in his last 17 games after walking just four times in his first 50 games. Nick Williams' recent call-up occurred only when he began exhibiting more selectivity at the plate and that was no coincidence.

2B Scott Kingery (No. 50)
Baseball Prospectus is protecting itself with this ranking. Kingery gets the last spot on the list, so if he ends up panning out quickly this season or next, he won't have been an omission. But he's 50th, which protects B-Pro in case Kingery's power doesn't translate to the majors.

The thing is, even if Kingery's power doesn't translate, his other skills should. He plays extremely hard, runs fast, and is a very good defensive second baseman. At the very least, Kingery should be able to be a Cesar Hernandez-like player with better defense and baserunning. At the most, he could turn into Dustin Pedroia.

Kingery has hit .325 with a 1.001 OPS, two doubles, four homers, eight RBIs and nine runs in 10 games with Triple A Lehigh Valley. Overall this season, he's hit .314/.373/.616 22 homers, 20 doubles and 21 steals. He entered Thursday night with exactly 100 hits and 47 were extra-base hits.

If the Phillies find a trade partner for Hernandez this summer or winter — keep an eye on the Angels, Rays and White Sox — Kingery could quickly become the Phillies' everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins, despite handling pitching and improving at every level, is not in B-Pro's midseason Top 50. Burly first basemen are usually unheralded prospects because they're not viewed as "great athletes."

But Hoskins can hit, and nobody in the Phillies' organization is going to care much that he didn't make this list. Entering Thursday's game, Hoskins was hitting .292/.386/.584 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs, but what sticks out most is that he has 45 walks and 53 strikeouts. He's a power hitter who controls at-bats and has a solid plan at the plate. 

He's not far away. We might see Hoskins playing every day at first base in South Philadelphia by August, with Tommy Joseph spending a few weeks on the bench. The Phils pretty much know what they have in Joseph but will want to get a good big-league look at Hoskins.

Best of MLB: Cubs take control in NL Central with win over Brewers

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Best of MLB: Cubs take control in NL Central with win over Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella drew a bases-loaded walk off All-Star closer Corey Knebel with one out in the 10th inning, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 on Friday night to tighten their grip on the NL Central.

The Cubs hold a five-game lead with nine days left in the regular season after winning their second straight tense game over the Brewers. Milwaukee dropped into third in the division, 5 1/2 games behind Chicago, after St. Louis beat Pittsburgh earlier Friday.

The Brewers had the tying run at first with one out in the bottom of the 10th, but Eric Sogard was called out at second trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. Shortstop Addison Russell appeared to hold the tag as Sogard's foot lifted off second for a split-second, and the call was confirmed on review (see full recap).

Ryan Goins' hidden-ball trick, grand slam lead Blue Jays over Yankees
TORONTO -- Ryan Goins successfully pulled off a hidden ball trick and hit his second career grand slam, leading the Toronto Blue Jays over Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees 8-1 Friday night and ensuring New York had to wait at least one more day to clinch a playoff berth.

With Todd Frazier on base following a leadoff double in the third, Jose Bautista made a running catch just in front of the right field warning track on Jacoby Ellsbury's one-out drive. Goins caught Bautista's throw while standing near second base, then pretended to toss the ball to pitcher Marco Estrada while slipping in into his glove.

Goins turned his back to Frazier, who had returned to the base, and when Frazier briefly lifted his left foot off the base, Goins tagged him on the left thigh. Frazier insisted he had maintained contact with the base, but umpire Mark Carlson called him out to end the inning (see full recap).

Red Sox rally for win over Reds, extend AL East lead
CINCINNATI -- Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam -- a Reds' season record -- in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games -- most in the majors -- after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young (see full recap).

Cardinals rally past Pirates in 9th
PITTSBURGH -- Randal Grichuk scored after an error by Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer, capping a frantic ninth-rally that lifted the surging St. Louis Cardinals over Pittsburgh 4-3 on Friday night.

The playoff-chasing Cardinals won their fifth straight, despite trailing by a run entering the ninth.

Stephen Piscotty led off with a double to right against closer Felipe Rivero (5-3), and Jedd Gyorko followed with a pinch-hit RBI single. After Tommy Pham's single, Grichuk pinch-ran for Gyorko at third. He scored when Mercer misplayed Dexter Fowler's sharp groundball.

Former Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio (4-5) got the win after working the eighth and ninth. Fowler and Piscotty had two hits each.

David Freese had an RBI double for the Pirates, who have dropped eight of nine. Rivero blew a save for only the second time in 20 chances this season (see full recap).

Twins stay on track in postseason race with win over Tigers
DETROIT -- Max Kepler and Brian Dozier homered, Byron Buxton had three hits and the playoff-chasing Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3 on Friday night.

Buxton's two-run double in the fourth put the Twins ahead to stay against a Detroit team that announced before the game that manager Brad Ausmus will not be back in 2018.

Minnesota came into the night leading the race for the American League's second wild card by 2 games over Texas and the Los Angeles Angels.

Kyle Gibson (12-10) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings for the Twins. He struck out six and walked two.

Daniel Norris (4-8) allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Nicholas Castellanos and Ian Kinsler homered for Detroit, but the Tigers dropped to 4-18 in September (see full recap).

Ben Lively, a fighter, can't recover from disastrous 1st inning in Phillies' loss to Braves

Ben Lively, a fighter, can't recover from disastrous 1st inning in Phillies' loss to Braves


ATLANTA — A few hours before Friday night's game against the Atlanta Braves, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had some words of praise for his starting pitcher, Ben Lively.

"He's just very competitive," Mackanin said of the 25-year-old right-hander. "His stuff is pretty ordinary, but he's deceptive in his delivery and he locates his fastball well.

"He's the kind of guy if you ever got in a fight with him, you'd have to kill him because he never gives up."

Lively lived up to some of his manager's words Friday night, but not all of them. He didn't give up. That's for sure. On a night when he was cut early as they say in the fight business, he managed to stick around for five innings and preserve some bullpen arms.

But the location of his fastball was not crisp. The Braves' first six hitters of the game all reached base on hits (three singles, two doubles and a homer) and five of them scored.

The night ended with the Phillies absorbing a 7-2 loss (see observations).

"Bad first inning," Mackanin said. "Very poor control, command in that first inning. Then he settled down and gave us some good innings. But that first inning, he didn't hit his spots and he didn't change speeds very much. He got hurt. We were out of the game after that first inning."

Mackanin seemed irked that Lively didn't show more breaking balls in the first inning. Only two of Lively's first 15 pitches were breaking balls. He threw all fastballs to the first three hitters and gave up a double, an RBI single and an RBI double.

"I was just trying to find my fastball early in the game," Lively said. "Fifteen pitches too late. The big thing in my game is my fastball. It doesn't help when the fastball is fading toward the middle of the plate.

"Just one of those days."

Lively gave up a sixth run in the second inning and finished with three scoreless frames.

"Really, I just started establishing the inside corner," he said. "It made all my breaking stuff better."

The Phillies were never in the game, not after trailing 5-0 and 6-0. Rookie Nick Williams drove in both of the Phillies' runs with a sacrifice fly and a base hit. He has 52 RBIs in 75 games. Twenty-two of his RBIs have come this month. Williams had two of the Phillies' six hits. Cesar Hernandez walked three times and doubled.

Atlanta rookie Sean Newcomb gave up just two runs over 5 1/3 innings.

Lively joined the Phillies organization before the 2015 season. He came over from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd. He rose to the majors earlier this season and had mostly impressed, delivering a quality start in nine of his first 13 outings before this one. He is 3-7 with a 4.35 ERA in 14 starts.

The Phillies have bodies in the starting pitching department. But a number of them — Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin — have gone down with injuries this season. All three of these pitchers will be ready to go for spring training, but none are assured opening day jobs, according to Mackanin. Lively's work this season and his good health make him a solid candidate to be in the rotation in April, but nothing is certain. The Phillies front office will surely add pitching through trades and free-agent signings in the offseason, a factor that could change the mix.

Mackanin was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of Lively being in next season's rotation.

"He's in the mix for a chance to make the team," Mackanin said. "Nobody is locked in, other than (Aaron) Nola, for me."

Lively would like to end the season by leaving a good impression on the front office. He lines up to make his final start of the season next week at home.

"I'm not happy with this one," Lively said. "The last game of the season, I have to be ready to battle and end the season on a good note."

The loss left the Phillies at 61-93 (.396). With a week to go in the season, they are still in the running to have the worst record in baseball and get the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. But they have company. The White Sox are 62-91 (.405), the Tigers 62-92 (.403) and the Giants 60-94 (.390).

It's a sprint to the basement.