Future Phillies Report: High-upside standouts at lower levels

Future Phillies Report: High-upside standouts at lower levels

On Monday, we took a look at the Phillies' top prospects closest to the majors.

But some of the highest-upside talent in the Phillies' farm system is at the lower levels. Guys like Sixto Sanchez, Mickey Moniak, Jhailyn Ortiz, Cornelius Randolph.

We won't hit everybody today -- I'm assuming you're not looking for 10,000 words -- but we'll focus on the guys with big upside.

Keep in mind these players are not close to the majors.

RHP Sixto Sanchez (18 years old)
It may be a bit much to say the 6-foot, 185-pound Dominican right-hander has become the talk of the farm system, but Sanchez has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation arm.

He has a fastball in the mid-90s that reached as high as 98 mph in spring training, but more importantly, he commands it. There are a lot of guys who can throw a straight 95; what separates the men from the boys is the ability to paint with it.

"Sixto Sanchez, he's an advanced young pitching prospect," Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said on last week's At The Yard podcast with Jim Salisbury. 

"His ability to throw a big fastball where he's trying to a lot ... he's got above-average command of a big fastball. Velocity is everywhere -- but the ability to throw it where you're trying to is what separates him."

Some guys really need to wind their bodies and work hard to generate velocity. Think Tim Lincecum. Sanchez is not like that. His delivery is simple and there isn't a ton of effort involved.

Sanchez went 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in 11 starts in Rookie ball last season. He allowed 33 hits and three earned runs in 54 innings. Ridiculous. 

Sanchez is at Class A Lakewood to begin the season. The Phillies will be cautious with his innings -- don't expect him to go too far past 100. 

RHP Drew Anderson (23)
A 23-year-old right-hander on the rise and a pitcher who some scouts think is the Phillies' best pitching prospect. He's at Double-A Reading to start the year.

Anderson had a very impressive 2016 at Class A Lakewood and High A Clearwater, posting a 2.70 ERA with 78 strikeouts and just three home runs allowed in 70 innings. It was his first year back from Tommy John surgery and he was limited late in the summer because of it.

Anderson was protected on the 40-man roster this past winter and held his own at his first big-league camp. He has a big fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can reach 97, along with a breaking ball and changeup.

"He's got everything," Jordan said, "just gotta get more mound experience."

OF Mickey Moniak (18)
Moniak has grown an inch and put on 20 pounds of muscle since being drafted first overall by the Phillies last June.

Moniak begins the year at Class A Lakewood after compiling 194 plate appearances in Rookie ball last year.

He's off to a good start, going 8 for 28 with three doubles, seven RBIs and three stolen bases already through six games.

The Phillies obviously love Moniak. They saw him as one of the better and more polished hitters in last year's draft, high school or college. He has speed, he plays the outfield well and should be a .300-plus hitter in the majors someday. The popular comparisons when he was drafted were Jacoby Ellsbury and Steve Finley.

2B Scott Kingery (22)
Kingery opened many eyes in spring training, including Pete Mackanin's. He just does so many things well -- hit, run, plays with energy. 

"I heard a lot about Scott Kingery and how good a player he is and he sure looks like one," Mackanin said at the end of February. "He's made a good impression on me and the coaching staff. ... He might be on the fast track to the big leagues."

Kingery batted .293 with a .360 on-base percentage in 420 plate appearances last season with High-A Clearwater, producing enough to earn the everyday second base job at Reading this year.

With Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin, the Phillies have a pair of second basemen who could be ready if Cesar Hernandez is eventually traded. Or if Hernandez firmly establishes himself as a valuable big leaguer, one of Kingery or Valentin could be used in a trade.

The Phillies aren't lacking in middle infield depth. Also keep in mind that when J.P. Crawford is ready, the Phillies are going to have to figure out where Freddy Galvis fits.

LF Cornelius Randolph (19)
The first-round pick in between Aaron Nola in 2014 and Moniak in 2016, Randolph isn't mentioned as much. Probably because he was drafted for his bat and hit just three home runs in his first 503 plate appearances as a pro.

Randolph was just beginning to hit and get into a rhythm in 2016 when a shoulder injury derailed his season. But he's healthy now and hitting for power at Clearwater. He's 7 for 26 through six games with three home runs, a double and eight RBIs.

"Once he got back (last season), he held his own. We're going to challenge him. We think he's ready to go to Clearwater," Jordan said just before the season began. "I think he's going to be a really, really good hitter."

You don't often hear this, but the Phillies want the left-handed hitting Randolph to pull the ball a bit more. He's a natural up-the-middle, opposite-field hitter, but the Phillies didn't pick him 10th overall to hit singles.

RF Jhailyn Ortiz (18)
The Phillies signed Ortiz out of the Dominican Republic for about $4 million in the summer of 2015. He was 16 years old then and was already 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds.

Ortiz spent last season with Moniak on the Gulf Coast League Phillies and hit for power -- nine doubles, a triple and eight homers in 197 plate appearances.

He's far away, but he has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat in four or five years.

Ortiz will be with the Phillies' Class A-Short Season affiliate in Williamsport. 

"I want to go slow because we're going to reach a point where we won't be able to hold him back," Jordan said. "I think he's going to be a tremendous hitter. I think he's going to have above-average or well-above-average major-league power. Breaking balls still give him problems but not as much as they did this time a year ago."

Jordan doesn't think Ortiz is going to be the traditional low-batting average, high-power guy, either.

"I really think he's going to be a force," he said. "I don't think he's going to be a guy who hits .250 with 25 to 30 HR. He's going to be better than that. He can run for his size, he has better than a 60 arm (on the scouting scale which ranges from 20 to 80). Just growing in every phase of his game."

RHP Franklyn Kilome (21)
A sinewy 6-foot-6 right-hander from the Dominican Republic who has a big fastball and has flashed a plus curveball. The hook has two variations -- the get-me-over curve for a strike and the more devastating out-pitch.

Kilome makes the jump this season from Lakewood to High-A Clearwater. In his first start for the Threshers, he allowed three earned runs in 4 2/3 with three walks and five strikeouts. 

Last season at Lakewood, Kilome was 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA and struck out 130 batters in 114 2/3 innings.

The keys for Kilome will be improving his command (3.9 walks per nine innings last season), improving his third pitch (changeup) and just continuing on the path the Phillies have set for him.

A lot of upside and projection there.

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

LOS ANGELES — Aaron Nola is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but that's not going to happen.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Saturday indicated that the pitcher's recovery from a lower back strain was not going as smoothly as hoped.

Did Nola experience a setback?

"If you want to call it that," Mackanin said.

Nola threw a bullpen session on Friday and, according to Mackanin, did not bounce back as well as hoped.

"After he completed it, he had some symptoms, some soreness or tightness, I guess," Mackanin said. "It was decided he will not make his start on Monday. He will be reevaluated to determine his next bullpen.

"A couple of days ago he said he felt great and then [Friday] not so great. He's improving but he's not 100 percent. There's something bugging him. We're just going to take it day to day. We're being cautious with him this early in the season."

Nola experienced soreness in his lower back after his last start, April 20 against the Mets. The Phils have been filling the opening on their pitching staff with reliever Mark Leiter Jr. Nick Pivetta will be activated on Sunday and make his major-league debut with a start against the Dodgers.

Kendrick works at first base
First baseman Tommy Joseph and catcher Cameron Rupp, both hitting under .200, were not in the starting lineup on Saturday night as Mackanin went heavy on lefty hitters against Dodgers' righty Brandon McCarthy.

Mackanin stressed that he doesn't like to make judgments on hitters until they get around the 100 at-bat mark — Joseph has 63; Rupp 50 — but it's worth noting that first baseman Rhys Hoskins and catcher Jorge Alfaro are both off to hot starts at Triple A and could be eventual replacements if the club looks for more production.

There also could be another option brewing at first base.

Howie Kendrick has worked at first base during batting practice the last two days. On Friday, he merely tracked balls off the bat and worked on first-step breaks. He did so with a regular fielder's glove.

But on Saturday, Kendrick brought his first baseman's mitt to the field. He took some groundballs and throws from across the diamond.

This stuff doesn't happen just by accident.

Over an 11-season career, Kendrick has played in 89 games at first base. He opened the season as the Phillies' leftfielder and hit .333 (13 for 39) with an .883 OPS before suffering an oblique injury two weeks ago in Washington. Kendrick probably needs at least another week of recovery time before coming off the disabled list, but it's now reasonable to wonder if he will go back to left field or get time at first base when he returns. Using Kendrick at first would allow the Phillies to keep Aaron Altherr's bat in the lineup in left field.

Joseph can have a say in all this if he gets his bat going. He is hitting .190 (12 for 63) with just a .505 OPS.

Last May, it was Joseph who earned his way to the majors after his hot start in Triple A coincided with Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf struggling in the majors. Joseph got 347 plate appearances in the majors last season and hit .257 with 21 homers, 47 RBIs and a .813 OPS.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, both struggling mightily through the first month of the season, will get Saturday night off when the Phillies take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Joseph is hitting .190 with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 18 games, while Rupp is batting .180 with one homer and 20 strikeouts through 15 games. Last season, Joseph had 21 home runs and Rupp 16.

Brock Stassi will spell Joseph at first base and bat seventh. Andrew Knapp takes over for Rupp behind the plate and will bat eighth.

Daniel Nava also receives a start, playing left field. The first-year Phillie is hitting .346 with a pair of homers and as many walks as strikeouts (seven).

Zach Eflin takes the mound in a meaningful start for the right-hander (see story). He opposes resurgent Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy (see game notes).

Here are tonight's lineups:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P

Dodgers
1. Andrew Toles, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Yasmani Grandal, C
5. Yasiel Puig, RF
6. Cody Bellinger, LF
7. Chase Utley, 2B
8. Chris Taylor, 3B
9. Brandon McCarthy, P