We continue our annual look at the top 50 prospects in the Phillies organization by highlighting players ranked between 31 and 35 on the list. We’ll keep revealing five 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.
31. Abrahan Gutierrez – C (28) | B: Right, T: Right | October 31, 1999 (19) – After being declared a free agent after signing with the Braves as an international free agent, the Phillies grabbed Gutierrez when he was cut loose as punishment for the Braves violating international signing laws. While Gutierrez hasn’t had the quick, huge impact that a lot of people thought he would have after signing, there is still a lot to like.
As with most young players, there are some holes in his swing, but generally, he makes good contact and has a decent approach to his at-bats. In the Gulf Coast League last season, hitters put up a combined strikeout percentage of 21-percent, much higher than that of Gutierrez, who posted a strikeout percentage of just nine-percent. He was right at the league average walk percentage of five-percent. Those stats show that he’s got an idea what he’s doing at the plate and that the rest of the numbers .315/.362/.407 were no fluke. Yes, it was his second season in the league, but the numbers were a vast improvement over 2017 (14 K%, .264/.319/.357), although his walk percentage was higher in 2017 at seven-percent.
Defensively, Gutierrez has shown improvement with the glove, but he fell from a 38-percent caught stealing percentage in 2017 to 21-percent last season. In 452 minor league innings, Gutierrez has been charged with just five passed balls. While it would admittedly be interesting to see the Phillies challenge Gutierrez, the smart money is a trip one rung up the ladder to Williamsport for the 2019 season. Maybe a late season challenge to Lakewood will happen.
32. Tom Eshelman – RHSP (26) | B: Right, T: Right | June 20, 1994 (24) – Tom Eshelman probably tossed out his 2018 calendar and had a 2019 calendar hanging on the wall even before September was through. The guy went through a summer that was completely unexpected as he lost everything that made him the Paul Owens Award Winner as the best pitcher in the Phillies organization just a year before. Mentally – at least on the outside – Eshelman handled it all well and just kept plugging away, but there had to be times when he wondered what was going on and when would it end.
Eshelman would turn in a strong outing, or even two, and then implode right back to the struggles he had encountered all season long. His ERA went from a combined 2.40 between Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2017 to 5.84 with Lehigh Valley in 2018. While his strikeout percentage remained pretty steady, his walk percentage ballooned from three-percent to just under seven-percent from one summer to the next.
The Phillies took him off of the 40-man roster and nobody took a shot on selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft, so he sticks with the Phillies organization as he seeks a do-over on the 2018 season. Eshelman won’t compete for a job with the Phillies in camp, but will look to turn things around with Lehigh Valley. A new pitching coach with the IronPigs may be a fresh set of eyes to help him and if all goes right, the old Tom Eshelman will resurface and the Phillies will have another bona fide pitching prospect.
Defensively, Gomez excels in the middle infield and made just four errors in 56 games between second and short this season. Somebody in the Phillies organization must have either found the key to getting Gomez to click defensively or at least gotten through to him, because his defense wasn’t always a strong point. In 2017 he made 15 errors at shortsop alone and made 22 errors at short in 2016.
Offensively he struggled to bat just .224, after batting a combined .310 in three stops last season with Colorado and the Phillies. Gomez had put up good numbers offensively early in his career, but just couldn’t find a groove with the Threshers last season. Odds are that he’s not as good as he showed early in his career and he’s not as bad as he showed last season, which would likely leave him as a .250-.260 hitter, which with his new found defensive skills and his speed, which is plus speed, might be enough for him to fill a utility role.
Like Eshelman, Gomez was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, but was not taken by another club. With Gomez back with the Phillies, he’ll be repeating the season at High-A Clearwater, hoping to rediscover some of what he had the previous season while playing in lower levels. It’s very likely that he will just become one of those players who move through the system slowly, some of whom fizzle out completely and others just put it all together at some point and take off. Right now, Gomez figures to profile as a utility infielder if he can produce enough offense to thrive in that type of role.
34. Bailey Falter – LHSP (19) | B: Right, T: Left | Aril 24, 1997 (21) – Falter went on the DL July 10th with Clearwater and didn’t return to the Threshers until almost a month later. Prior to going on the DL, he was 5-4 with a 3.39 ERA overall but a 5.12 ERA in June and July. Following the DL stint he returned to form and was 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA over the rest of the season, including a 0.78 ERA in four August starts with 17 strikeouts in 23 innings.
One of the issues with Falter is that none of his pitches are much, if anything, above average. His fastball is generally in the low-90s, occasionally hitting 95, and with decent, but not overwhelming movement. His change-up is average, but he struggles to throw it with a consistent velocity and to hit his spots with the pitch. Lagging behind both pitches is a curveball that isn’t disguised well coming out of his hand and not commanded well enough that he can throw it for strikes consistently, leading hitters to just spit on it as it goes by.
This season is where Falter will really need to show if he has promise. He’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft following the season and will need to really make a good impression this season to be protected. With other prospects that are more deserving, it’s very possible that he could wind up being exposed. Because of the injury issue and just 17 starts at Clearwater, he’s likely going to pitch there to open the season and look for a bump up to Reading at some point.
35. Matt Vierling – LF (22), RF (17), CF (11) | B: Right, T: Right | September 16, 1996 (22) – The Phillies took Vierling in the fifth round of the 2018 Draft and he played for both Williamsport and Lakewood last season with success at both stops. He struck out just twice in 53 plate appearances with the Crosscutters (3.8 K%) and as would be expected, saw that move up to 18.6-percent with the BlueClaws, still better than the South Atlantic League average of 23-percent. Keep in mind that he suffered through a horrible adjustment period when he first arrived at Lakewood and that 21 of his 38 strikeouts came in the month of July. In August and September, his strikeout percentage was impressive at 15.7-percent. Vierling has some raw power and he hit seven home runs in his debut pro season, which isn’t a bad number, especially when you consider his struggles with adjusting to Lakewood.
Defensively, Vierling is adequate at the least and slightly above average at the best. He showed the ability to play all three outfield spots, but the Phillies focused on him as a left fielder in his time with Lakewood and it’s likely he will be marked for playing the corner outfield positions throughout his career with some token time in center field to improve his versatility. He pitched for Notre Dame in college and while his arm doesn’t translate to that role in the pros, it is strong enough for him to handle any of the outfield positions.