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 36 and 40 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.
36. Colton Eastman, RHSP (8) | B: Right, T: Right | August 22, 1996 (22) | The Phillies drafted Eastman in the fourth round of the 2018 Draft and took it easy on him this past summer after he threw 117 2/3 innings in 17 starts at Cal State Fullerton during the college season. The workload was a huge increase from his 33 2/3 innings of work in 2017 and the Phillies weren’t going to tax his arm much more than it already was last season. He also didn’t throw more than 47 pitches in any of his eight starts with Williamsport.
As often happens with players in Eastman’s situation, his season stats are a little misleading. Allowing three earned runs in his first two innings of pro ball and then allowing one earned run in two innings a few starts later will escalate an ERA. Even with that, Eastman posted just a 3.00 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Take out just that first outing and his ERA drops to 1.69 and his WHIP falls to 1.00 for the year.
Eastman is going to have to see his secondary pitches get better if he is to succeed, because his velocity sits a couple miles per hour on either side of 90, so he’s got to live with other pitches. His college success came thanks in part to a curveball that drops in around 75 mph and has the potential to be a strong out-pitch for the right-hander. His change-up isn’t quite to the level of his curve, but is in the mid-80s. He’s likely not going to get much more velocity, so he’s going to have to depend on his command and mixing his pitches to survive in the big, bad worlds of baseball at the higher levels of the minors that lay ahead of him.
Because he threw a number of innings at a high quality program at Cal State Fullerton and had success at Williamsport, the Phillies will at least consider having him leap-from over Lakewood and go directly to Clearwater. That also keeps him in their Florida complex where they can work with him a little easier than if he were to head north. If all goes well for Eastman, don’t count out at least a few starts at Double-A Reading before the season is over.
37. Jake Scheiner, 3B (59), 1B (30), LF (26) | B: Right, T: Right | August 13, 1995 (23) | The 2018 season was a season of two distinct halves for Scheiner. In the first-half of the season, Scheiner looked like a very average hitter, slashing 8-31-.273/.339/.417 through the end of June. Over the second half, his line was 5-36-.331/.420/.463 with Lakewood. His at-bats per home run stood at 34.8 on the season, which isn’t bad, considering that Lakewood isn’t known for being a hitter’s ballpark. Scheiner has good plate discipline and if he continues the approach that he took in the second half of the season, he’ll be able to have success at the higher level.
Defensively, Scheiner is decent, but not spectacular. The Phillies had him play at first base and in left field and he’s probably got the offensive skills and enough of an arm to play in right field as well. The nomadic defensive experience is a nod to two things; first, since there are some defensive question marks, having him comfortable at a number of positions helps his value. Secondly, the Phillies simply love having young players be as flexible position-wise as they can be.
With the ability to get on-base at a good clip, but not showing overwhelming power, Scheiner needs all the versatility that he can get. While he’s learning to get on-base, he doesn’t have great speed and will need some polishing when it comes to stealing bases – he’s stolen 15 bases in 28 attempts over two minor league seasons – in the minors. Thanks to his strong finish, the Phillies should feel comfortable in moving Scheiner up to Clearwater for 2019.
38. Zach Warren, LHRP (16) | B: Left, T: Left | June 9, 1996 (22) | Warren came through his first full-season opportunity at Lakewood last summer in good shape. The lefty pitched in 39 games, finishing 28 of them and finishing with a 3-2 record and an impressive 1.91 ERA with 15 saves for the BlueClaws. He had an impressive 100 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings of work with Lakewood and has the Phillies front office wanting to see more. In addition to a great strikeout percentage – 44-percent – Warren had a walk percentage of 12-percent.
In college, Warren was primarily a starter until he struggled mightily during his junior season and was bumped out of the rotation. He found the bullpen to be his liking and showed over the past couple of seasons with Williamsport and then with Lakewood, and he has taken well to the roll of closer.
Warren needs a little more work on his curveball to keep it from getting away from him. As it is, he gets good movement and it sits in the upper-70s to lower-80s range. His velocity has ticked up since heading to the bullpen and he could be consistently mid-90s as he continues to straighten out his mechanics. The test will be to see if he can keep more developed hitters chasing his curve and whether he’ll be able to reach back for a little something extra when he pumps up his fastball.
After spending last season with Lakewood, it won’t be surprising if at some point near the middle of the season, the Phillies move Warren up to Reading if he’s pitching well. Odds are that they’ll start to move him into more of a simple late-inning setup roll than a closer, but his repertoire is good enough that he should be able to avoid being labeled as a lefties-only-guy.
39. Darick Hall, 1B (115) | B: Left, T: Right | July 25, 1995 (23) | Darick Hall hit 11-35-.277/.367/.538 in 48 games with Clearwater last season and the Phillies bumped him up to Reading. Unfortunately, Hall took more time to adjust to the better pitching at the Double-A level than hoped and he spent the rest of the season trying to figure them out. In 80 games, he hit 15-52-.224/.296/.417 with the Fightins. In 2017, Hall led the South Atlantic League with 27 home runs and was at the top of the class in the Florida State League when he was bumped up to Reading last season.
A change for Hall came when he learned the wonders of launch angle and retooled his swing in his final college season. Since then, the power numbers started to accumulate and he picked up the label of a power-hitter at the expense of being able to concentrate on making contact. He’s settling into a place where he wants to combine the ability to “launch” with the ability to simply make solid contact and get on-base.
Defensively, Hall is a good, but not great first baseman and his bat is going to be his ticket to the majors. It’s interesting that in the middle of last summer, shortly after arriving at Reading, he told FanGraphs.com that he is realistic about his career and his tone sort of makes it seem like he’s okay with not making it to the majors, although that is his stated goal. “If down the raod I end up looking at myself in the mirror and not really seeing that ahppening, that’s a decision I’ll have to make if the time comes. I have multiple loves. Baseball is one of them. I’m happy with where I’m at and doing everything I can to make the most of it.”
Hall will restart at Reading when the 2019 season opens, with an eye on reaching Triple-A Lehigh Valley around the mid-point of the season. He’s going to have to make more contact and still keep up a high amount of power if he is to achieve his goal of being a major leaguer.
40. Dominic Pipkin, RHSP (8), RHRP (2) | B: Right, T: Right | November 5, 1999 (19) | To be honest, Pipkin has been all over the place. He had somewhat of a mechanics-of-the-week approach to pitching while in college and it worked for a while, but he just lost command last season and it tumbled him down the draft charts. A guy that originally projected to be in the first two or three rounds wound up being there for the Phillies in the ninth round. He still varies his mechanics too much, but his command improved in his first season of pro ball and hopefully, as he matures physically and emotionally, he’ll lock into something that feels comfortable and reap the rewards.
He’s got low-to-mid-90s velocity, but not enough movement on his pitches to keep hitters from squaring him up. He adds a slider and change-up to his arsenal, but neither are high quality pitches at this point and he’ll need to develop at least one of them into an above-average pitch if he is going to stick in the rotation. Without one of them becoming a plus pitch, he might not even have enough to last long-term as a reliever, so there’s a lot of work to be done.
Pipkin will determine his own starting point for the 2019 season in minor league camp this spring. With a good showing in camp and extended camp, he could make it to Williamsport to open the season. Otherwise, it’s back to the Gulf Coast League where he was 1-2 with a 3.64 ERA last season. If all goes well, a taste of Lakewood isn’t out of the question, but he’s going to need to show progress for that to happen.