By Chuck Hixson, PhillyBaseballInsider.com editor
We begin our look at the top 50 prospects in the Phillies organization by starting at the bottom of the list. Each day we’ll reveal five more names on our 2019 list of the best prospects until we reach the top. We’ll provide the player and the positions he played in 2018, with the number of games at each position in parenthesis. Following that is the side of the plate the player hits from and which arm he throws with. We also list their birth date and age as of April 1, 2019 in parenthesis and provide a short scouting report on each player.
So, let’s get started…
46. Ramon Rosso – RHSP (22), RHRP (1), B: Right, T: Right, June 9, 1996 (22) | Ironically, the Phillies almost signed Rosso as an international free agent, but the Dodgers offered more than double the signing bonus that the Phillies were willing to give and he wound up signing with Los Angeles. The reason for the big difference in money is that apparently, there was something lost in translation and the Phillies thought Rosso wanted to play the outfield and they didn’t think his offensive skills warranted more money. As it turned out, Rosso never did pitch in the Dodgers organization and was eventually released and the Phillies swooped in to sign him.
Rosso split the season equally between Lakewood and Clearwater last summer, posting a combined 11-3, 2.04 ERA between the two stops. Prior to signing with the Phillies, he threw in front of their international scouts and impressed with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, well up from where it was when they initially scouted him. Rosso lives to strike hitters out and gets a lot of swings and misses, striking out 139 in 123 1/3 innings last season. He’s now moved to throwing a cut-fastball that tops out around 94 on the radar guns and gives a lot of late movement, hence the swings and misses. His number-two pitch is an above average slider and he’s got a change-up that is still progressing.
It’s likely that he will start 2019 back at Clearwater, but the Phillies appear to believe they can move him quickly, so figure on him being at Reading at some point in the season if all goes well. It’s also not out of the question that he could start the season with Reading if the Phillies really want to fast track him.
47. Logan Simmons – SS (32), B: Right, T: Right, April 11, 2000 (18) | A sixth round pick of the Phillies in last year’s draft, Simmons was drafted primarily on the potential of his offensive power. He’s got raw power, but will need to learn to make more contact so his power has a chance to be showcased. He struck out in 26-percent of his plate appearances last season and hit just .232 with the GCL Phillies East team, but he also launched three home runs and has the potential to increase that as he becomes more comfortable against better pitching and gets used to the feel of wood in his hands rather than metal.
Defensively, Simmons may eventually wind up at third base. He’s got plenty of arm to play at either short or third, but his range could be a bit of an issue at short. A shift to third base would easily solve that problem and he could likely wind up being an above-average third baseman defensively. Ideally, he’ll be able to develop some better mechanics and agility and stick at short; time will tell.
Figure on Simmons being somewhat of a project and moving slowly at first. Once he gets his feet under him and adjusts, he’ll likely move at a faster pace. He spent all of last summer in the GCL and he could start 2019 either back there or possibly at Williamsport. Unless his offense comes around suddenly, he doesn’t figure to reach Lakewood in 2019.
48. Ben Pelletier – LF (67), RF (2), B: Right, T: Right, September 2, 1998 (20) | There are some question marks with Ben Pelletier. First, there are some holes in his swing that need to be fixed. He gets a little long through the zone with the bat and will make himself look inept at times. When he’s locked in though, he’s got the ability to tear up opposing pitchers and help to carry a team. He’s got power enough that he could become a middle of the order power bat, if can close the holes and gain consistency. His 9-45-.277/.333/.480 line with the Crosscutters in 2018 was respectable enough and it’s likely that he’ll open 2019 with Low-A Lakewood.
Defensively, Pelletier also has some holes, although he managed a .975 fielding percentage in left field last season for Williamsport. He also notched eight outfield assists, showing a strong, accurate arm from the outfield. It’s not out of the question that long-term he winds up at first base, but for now, the Phillies are hoping he can stick in left field.
49. Jake Holmes – 3B (49), B: Right, T: Right, July 2, 1998 (20) | Holmes had the disadvantage of being slightly older than most high school players and it put him behind the bar in the minors. At an age where he normally would have opened the season at Williamsport, he had to wait until August to reach historic Bowman Field. He made the most of it though by hitting an impressive .353 in 31 games in the Gulf Coast League, even though he was repeating where he played in 2017, .353 with a .929 OPS is good for basically any situation. He fell to a .252/.330/.272 performance in 29 games with the Crosscutters.
Holmes has good power and looks like he definitely knows what he’s doing at the plate. His swing is a little long and the Phillies are working with him to cut it down, which will help to bring out more of his natural power. Defensively, Holmes played shortstop in high school, but the Phillies made an early decision that he was better suited to play third base and have moved him out of the shortstop spot after he played there in 2017 in the GCL. He’s got good hands and has adjusted his mechanics well and should eventually be at minimum, a good defensive third baseman and possibly could turn out to be really good at the position. He also has slightly above average speed, but not enough that he’s going to burn up basepaths.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Phillies approach Holmes this spring. Conventional wisdom is that they will keep him in extended camp for a while and that he would open the season back with Williamsport. Age-wise though, the Phillies might take a gamble and move him up to Lakewood to open the season to see if they can make up for some lost time. A lot will depend on what they see from him in minor league camp and how they assess his mental approach and ability to handle potentially struggling at Lakewood before he adjusts.
50. Victor Santos – RHSP (11), B: Right, T: Right, July 12, 2000 (18) | The Phillies signed Santos as an international free agent in November, 2016. Santos isn’t going to blow anybody away with his velocity, which is currently low-90s on a good day. What he blows hitters away with is his control. He pitched to just a 1.7-percent walk rate last summer and thanks to movement on his pitches, he posted a 27-percent strikeout rate. Keep in mind that he was just 17 last summer and his achievements show a lot of promise. His mechanics are smooth and comfortable and he doesn’t try to be something he’s not by forcing more velocity. Instead, he hammers the strike zone and uses movement on his fastball to keep hitters swinging and missing. His change-up is more of a split-finger fastball and is more of an out pitch than is his fastball. When he needs to change things up, he has a plus-slider that drops down to the low-80s in velocity.
Pitchers don’t have to throw hard to be effective. While everybody snaps their head to see the radar readings, good movement and control will be just as good as velocity in pretty much every situation. With a WHIP of just 1.13 last season, Santos showed he can keep hitters off base. He also allowed just 0.6 home runs per nine innings and induced a high rate of groundball outs.
Considering that Santos has his mechanics set and knows how to get hitters out, he’s advanced past his age in expertise. So, if you’re the Phillies, do you challenge him with a move to Lakewood to start 2019. It’s unlikely that happens as he would have to edge a more experienced pitcher out of a spot and he’s still young enough that some time in extended camp and back at Williamsport won’t hurt.