by Chuck Hixson, Philly Baseball Insider editor
We continue our annual look at the top 50 prospects in the Phillies organization by highlighting players ranked between 41 and 45 on 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.
41. Simon Muzziotti – CF (71), RF (1), B: Left, T: Left, December 27, 1998 (20) | The Boston Red Sox initially signed Muzziotti as an international free agent in July, 2015. Unfortunately for them, they were punished by Major League Baseball for manipulating international slot money and the five players that they signed, including Muzziotti, were declared eligible to sign with any team beginning with the international signing period in 2016. That’s when the Phillies snapped up Muzziotti.
Since signing with the Phillies, Muzziotti has developed into much more of a contact hitter than he was when he first signed, which is a key, since he was known for speed and defense when the Red Sox signed him. Along with developing some discipline and the ability to make contact, Muzziotti’s defense has continued to improve, especially where his arm is concerned. At first, he was listed as having a below average arm, but now, some scouts place it as a plus-arm.
Muzziotti played in 68 games with Lakewood last season and hit .263/.299/.331 and swiped 18 bases.
42. Manuel Silva – LHSP (12), B: Left, T: Left, December 18, 1998 (20) | The Phillies signed Silva as an international free agent in July, 2015. He has slowly moved up the ladder after pitching in the Dominican Summer League in 2016 and then coming to the states and pitching in the Gulf Coast League in 2017 and at Williamsport last season, where he went 2-5, 2.60 in 12 starts and one relief appearance.
Silva has begun to fill out a little and at 6′ 2″, 157 pounds, that’s a good thing. As he’s matured, his velocity has ticked up bit-by-bit and by the end of last season, he was starting to enter the mid-90s range with his fastall. He also throws a change-up that needs some work, but continues to improve and he has an average slider that could also continue to get better as he progresses.
There’s nothing truly spectacular about Silva, but he’s improving his command and if the velocity continues to work its way northward, he could turn out to be a back of the rotation major league starter. Look for him to start the season at Low-A Lakewood for his first challenge in a full-season league.
43. Jhordany Mezquita – LHSP (9) | B: Left, T: Left | January 30, 1998 (21) | Mezquita had an up-and-down season this past year and still came away with decent numbers to show for it. For the second season in a row, he started just nine games, having moved up a level from the Gulf Coast League to Williamsport in the South Atlantic League. Not only were his starts less than the Phillies would have liked to see, but he was limited by a pitch count that tended to rise quickly and he didn’t pitch more than five innings in any of his starts with Williamsport and tossed just 35 innings. His 3.60 ERA was good to see, along with his 27.3-percent strikeout rate and his 0.3 home runs per nine innings. Not very pretty was his 11.3-percent strikeout rate.
As for artillery, Mezquita throws a decent fastball that is inching upward on the radar guns and he effectively changes speeds with it, bouncing it between the upper-80s and the low-90s, with one occasionally tossed more in the 94 range. Last season, even with a relatively small sample size, you could see more pronouncement in his curve which helped him get a lot of swing-and-misses, but he needs to develop his change-up better if he is to stay in a starting rotation. If not, then he likely winds up in the bullpen, which is not out of the question even if the change does start to come around.
Missed development time and the fact that Mezquita is already 21 will likely mean one of two things; either the Phillies move him to the bullpen where he can develop quicker or they look to push him up the ladder a little faster to catch-up age wise. Which one they go with likely depends on Mezquita and his continued development this spring. Either way, he will probably fit with Lakewood to open the season, but there’s a slight chance that he stays behind when camp breaks and then heads for Lakewood later or hangs around so he can get a few more starts with Williamsport.
44. Nick Maton – SS (110), 2B (3) | B: Left, T: Right | February 18, 1997 (22) | Back in the ’70s, Stealer’s Wheel did a song called “Stuck in the Middle With You.” That could be Maton’s anthem, because he is seemingly stuck in the middle. He’s a good enough defensive player with just good enough bat that you don’t want to overlook him, but he’s not strong enough at either skill that you’re expecting a lot out of him. We’ll likely see the solution start to play itself out in 2019 and Maton will likely start playing more second and possibly, third base in the Phillies organization. After all, the world needs good utility players and it appears that’s where Maton is headed.
Maton’s glove is adequate at shortstop, but with less range to cover and balls not hit quite as sharply at second, he may tick up defensively if he were to play at second. He could likely play at third base as well, again, benefiting from the reduced square footage that he would be required to cover. Moving him around between the three spots would not only help him defensively, but would start to bend him into the mold that the Phillies like of their young players as being versatile enough to move around. His arm is strong enough for outfield and begs the question if Maton might even see some reps in the outfield for the Phillies this summer.
Offensively, his .256 average last season with Lakewood was decent for a guy playing his first year of full-season ball, but considering his age, it would have been nice if it was just a bit higher. After hitting just two home runs in 246 plate appearances in 2017, Maton launched eight homers last season in 466 plate appearances, showing some decent power. If he can continue his power stroke, it would make him a more intriguing hitter. Or, if he can up his contact numbers and not worry about the power, that would be a plus, too.
Figure on Maton opening with Clearwater and likely playing multiple positions both out of design and necessity. With Daniel Brito and Arquimedes Gamboa ahead of Maton on the depth chart and both possibly being at Clearwater, either somebody gets left behind at Lakewood or Maton is branching into more of a super-utility player. For comparisons, think Rex Hudler; a guy with a decent bat and occasional power.
45. Rodolfo Duran – C (81) | B: Right, T: Right | February 19, 1998 (21) | It’s the age-old baseball question; what do you do with a guy who has an excellent glove, but his bat is somewhat suspect? That guy is Rodolfo Duran, who has wowed scouts defensively since they began looking at him, but has lagged behind what they would like to see from him offensively. That started to change a little in 2018 when out of nowhere, the power that Duran was rumored to have tucked into his small – 5′ 9″, 181 pound – body started to fight its way out and he hit 18 home runs for Lakewood. If the power continues to build, his .260 average from last year doesn’t look so bad and could be enough to change the way he’s thought of.
Defensively, Duran led the South Atlantic League with a .995 fielding percentage behind the plate and tied for the league lead by throwing out 42-percent of would-be basestealers. The prior season with Williamsport, he tossed out 48-percent of base stealers.
One question is just how much catching Duran can do and how much consistent power he can generate with his smallish frame. If he continues to show that he’s durable as he moves to higher levels and if the power can be replicated, he’s on the way to being a much more thought of prospect than he is right now. If not, he becomes a guy who likely winds up as a decent major league backup, but not much more. After a full season with Lakewood, it’s likely that Duran is on the Clearwater Threshers roster to open the season.